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Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

Insect Typewriter Companions

In Art, Cinema, Ephemera, Industry, Insects, Literature, Surrealism on December 27, 2009 at 9:28 pm

*Penumbra Report owes its creative genesis in part to the delicate midwifery of an anthropomorphic machine.  I was at Blue Moon Camera and Machine developing film and visiting my friend Christie Spillane, when my partner in slime, Lady Quackery, noticed the elegantly framed poster of NAKED LUNCH above what appeared to be a shrine / display of beautifully refurbished typewriters.  We became hysterical.  In a frenzy we rushed to the display and began typing on the mahines.  After caressing and groping each and every one of those beautiful machines, we tucked in our shirts, pulled up our stockings, fixed our hair, decided we had somehow descended into some sort of temporary madness, and promptly left the store.  We were mere feet from the car when that hot, typological fever took hold of our loins and dragged us back inside hysterically screaming until an early 1930s Underwood No. 5 was purchased.  It’s been true love ever since.

When most people think “typewriter,” they picture something much like the Underwood No. 5.  Why? Because this is the most successful typewriter design in history.  When the Underwood was first introduced, it was only one of hundreds of competing and extremely varied typewriter designs.  But by 1920, this machine, succeeded in defining the stereotype of a typewriter: a machine with four rows of keys and a shift, typing with typebars through a ribbon onto the front of a cylindrical rubber platen. This is the form that still determines our concept of what a typewriter is — or “was.”  The No. 5 was the quintessential Underwood.

The CURE for modern machine angst resides within. Does our disposable culture leave you worried? Fed up with squandering your hard-earned equipment budget on devices rendered obsolete before they are even broken in? Searching for a companion machine with which you might actually have time to become intimately familiar?

Within our Portland, Oregon based facility you will discover a veritable treasure trove of functional, durable, fully warranted mechanical devices, from tried-and-true photographic apparatus to the west coast’s largest selection of refurbished and eager mechanical typewriting machines.

::Blue Moon Camera and Machine::

In some ways typewriters are fascinating because they are the predecessors of the electric processors used today.  As Walter J. Ong puts it, “Since writing came into existence, the evolution of the word and the evolution of consciousness have been intimately tied in with technologies and technological developments.”  Although, the most alluring characteristic about these machines is that they can be seen not only as tools of a bygone era, but independent psychological entities autonomous of human will.  There is something inherently different about a MacBook Pro and an Underwood No.5.  The MacBook is like an inanimate terminal, sterile and often cold to the touch.  On the other hand, the Underwood is pulsating, arousing, virile… almost sentient.  It comes down to the feel of these machines.  A typewriter can be a guiding tutelary spirit or, contrastingly, a demonic presence or pet-like familiar.  The only difference between familiars and demons are the specific ways in which a familiar possesses an individual.  In contrast to demons, familiars do not possess the body.  They rather possess the personality, the soul, the human affective relations and the psychological processes of a victim, but the familiar spirit maintains a differentiated personality with those who attack.  Sometimes the familiar spirit entices the human spirit by appearing friendly and comforting when things go wrong, thus developing a progressive dependence on the spirit and the diminishing reliance of one’s individuality.  Akin to a mercurial spirit, the typewriter acts as a medium (think both senses of the word), that creates a vortex and tearing a hole into other realms.  It has magical powers because it is, in fact, a window — a hole in the wholeness of our world (which is never a seamless wholeness), through which our imagination may come in contact with the symbolic dimension.

The invention of the typewriter changed the course of Western culture, forever mutating the topographical landscape of literature.  Many authors and writers have had unusual relationships with typewriters. Friedrich Nietzsche used a typewriter in an attempt to stem his migraine headaches and his incipient blindness. Mark Twain claimed in his autobiography that he was the first important writer to present a publisher with a typewritten manuscript, for Life on the Mississippi. E. E. Cummings may have been the first poet to deliberately use a typewriter for poetic effect.  Jack Kerouac, a fast typist at 100 words per minute, typed On the Road on a roll of paper so he wouldn’t be interrupted by having to change the paper. Within two weeks of starting to write On the Road, Kerouac had one single-spaced paragraph, 120 feet long.  Another fast typist of the Beat period was Richard Brautigan, who said that he thought out the plots of his books in detail beforehand, then typed them out at speeds approaching 90 to 100 words a minute.  Ernest Hemingway used to write his books standing up in front of a Royal typewriter suitably placed on a tall bookshelf. Tom Robbins waxes philosophical about the Remington SL3, a typewriter that he bought to write Still Life with Woodpecker, and eventually does away with it because it is too complicated and inhuman of a machine for the writing of poetry.  After completing the novel Beautiful Losers, Leonard Cohen is said to have flung his typewriter into the Aegean Sea. William S. Burroughs wrote in some of his novels that “a machine he called the ‘Soft Typewriter’ was writing our lives, and our books, into existence,” according to a book review in The New Yorker (the image to the right is Claes Oldenburg’s eponymous sculpture).

Of course, David Cronenberg’s film adaptation of Burroughs’ novel, Naked Lunch, is perhaps the greatest example of the morbid and perverse relationship between man and typewriter.  In the film, Burroughs’ typewriter is a living, insect-like entity (voiced by Canadian actor Peter Boretski) and actually dictates the book to him.

Onscreen Naked Lunch recalls both The Sheltering Sky and Barton Fink in its respective evocations of the life of the literary exile and the torment of trying to write. Mr. Cronenberg’s hideously clever contribution in the latter realm is the insect-cum-typewriter that supposedly assists Bill in his efforts but clearly has a mind of its own. Both the writing bug and the Mugwump, a man-sized and rather soigné strain of monster, are capable of registering their approval by oozing viscous, intoxicating substances from various parts of their anatomies. “I’d like you to meet a friend of mine,” Bill is told upon encountering his first cigarette-smoking Mugwump on a bar stool in Interzone. “He specializes in sexual ambivalence.”

::Janet Maslin, Drifting In and Out of a Kafkaesque Reality::

Cronenberg and Burroughs share a biologist’s detached view of humans as species.  They view the species in evolutionary terms.  A post-humanist stance that visualizes man as being in a brave new denatured world of permeable boundaries.  Technology reaches directly into unseen depths, stimulating the ganglia and the viscera, caressing and remolding the interior volume of the body.  In this way, Kafka’s Metamorphosis of industrial man into primordial insect parallels the current transformation of mediated man into futuristic machine.

In this video, a robot re-enacts the typing of a love letter from Franz Kafka to Felize Bauer, in which Kafka makes reference to typing the letter on a typewriter and expresses the impact the new writing device has on his train of thought:

The link between insects and technology is not new. To quote Virgil’s Aeneid, “And now Aeneas saw in a side valley a secluded grove with copses of rustling trees where the river Lethe glided along past peaceful dwelling houses. Around it fluttered numberless races and tribes of men, like bees in a meadow on a clear summer day, settling on all the many-coloured flowers and crowding round the gleaming white lilies while the whole plain is loud with their buzzing.” The souls of the dead draw from the rivers of forgetfulness to re-format their hard drives and enter a new life back on earth. Virgil, the son of a beekeeper, makes the comparison between human and bee society throughout his verse. As in the Roman ideal, the world of the bee depends on the rule of a single monarch, and members are ready to sacrifice their lives for the whole. Insect colonies offer themselves up as mirrors for their human hosts. They provide a symbolic language for arguing between the needs of the collective and the individual. Like insects themselves, these representations mutate over time and evolve into exotic models of human behavior. McLuhan spoke of the mission of humans to ‘fecundate’ technology. It was a tenuous metaphor to begin with. Today it barely rates as a metaphor – more like a description.  The industrial nature of insects have made them the perfect symbol for the modern age.

Ladislaw Starewicz (1882-1965), born in Russia from Polish parents was a stop-motion animator who used insects and animals as his protagonists. Biologist, in 1920 he became director of the Natural History Museum in Kaunas. Inspired by the stop-motion animation work of Emile Cohl he began producing nature documentaries about the lives of insects, experimenting with the use of live insects at first and then the animation of small articulated puppets created with the carcasses of dead insects. His insects’ nimble gestures lead one through an array of human emotions, and to a heightened sense of sympathy and forgiveness. This may be why his insects and animals are so easy to relate to, and why they are so notably Eastern European.   Important author, had a great influence on the cinema of animation following up to authors such as Terry Gilliam and Tim BurtonThe Cameraman’s Revenge (1912) is a story of betrayal and jealousy, artistic struggle, with a bit of recursive humor too.

Krampus // Pelznickle

In Animals, History, Language, Myth, Religion, Society on December 26, 2009 at 2:06 am

A DARK FIGURE hides behind the grinning countenance of Ole’ Saint Nick.  Sometimes he rides on a white horse, and sometimes he is accompanied by fairies or men in blackface dressed as old women.  Sometimes he is in rags and a long black beard, and sometimes he is covered in fur with the horns of a goat and a long red tongue.  He is just one of the many murderers and child molesters that make up Santa Claus’ posse.  Truth is, Jolly Santa’s “companions” are a hodgepodge assortment of rough-and-tumble characters; assorted fiends with sordid pasts and nightmarish agendas.  The companions travel with St. Nicholas or his various equivalents (Father Christmas, Santa Claus), carrying with them a rod (sometimes a stick, a mace, switchblade, sythe, revolver, a magic top hat, rusty chains, a birch branch, bundle of switches or a whip, and in modern times often a broom) and a sack. They are sometimes dressed in black rags, bearing a black face and unruly black hair. In many contemporary portrayals the companions look like dark, sinister, or rustic versions of Nicholas himself, with a similar costume but with a darker color scheme.

Santa and the Gang “Spring Break ’34″

The companion of the French St. Nicholas, Père Fouettard, is said to be the butcher of three children.  St. Nicholas discovered the murder and resurrected the three children. He also shamed Père Fouettard, who, in repentance, became a servant of St. Nicholas. Fouettard travels with the saint and punishes naughty children by whipping them.

In Germanic folklore, Knecht Ruprecht, meaning Knight Rupert, accompanies St Nicholas when delivering gifts and represents the more frightening side of this custom. He is also known as Black Peter, so called from the soot in the chimneys he goes down.  According to tradition, Knecht Ruprecht asks children whether they can pray. If they can, they receive apples, nuts, and gingerbread. If they cannot, he beats the children with his bag of ashes.  In some of the Ruprecht traditions the children would be summoned to the door to perform special tricks, such as a dance or singing a song to impress upon Santa and Ruprecht that they were indeed good children. Those who performed badly would be beaten soundly by Servant Ruprecht, and those who performed well were given a gift or some treats. Those who performed really badly were put into Ruprecht’s sack and taken away, variously to Ruprecht’s home in the Black Forest, or to be tossed into a river, or to be dumped into the fiery pits of Hell.  Over time, the image of St Nicholas has merged with Knecht Ruprecht to form “Ru Klaus” meaning Rough Nicholas, so named because of his rugged appearance; “Aschen Klaus”, meaning Ash Nicholas because of the bag of ashes he carries with him; and “Pelznickle”, meaning Furry Nicholas, referring to his fur-clad appearance.

One of the most notorious incarnations is Santa’s old pal, Krampus.  To say that Krampus is a bad seed is would be an understatement. The word Krampus originates from the Old High German word for claw (Krampen). In the Alpine regions, Krampus is represented by an incubus-like creature. Traditionally, young men dress up as the Krampus in the first two weeks of December, particularly on the evening of December 5, and roam the streets in drunken revelry: dressing in pagan costumes and frightening children and women with rusty chains and bells.

It would seem that Krampus is an amalgamation of several pagan traditions and trickster archetypes leftover from the Pre-Christian Era of Germanic history like the Yule Goat. Yule was a winter solstice festival that was connected to the Wild Hunt and/or influenced by Saturnalia, the Roman winter festival. A description of Yule can be found Old Norse King’s Saga Heimskringla:

It was ancient custom that when sacrifice was to be made, all farmers were to come to the heathen temple and bring along with them the food they needed while the feast lasted. At this feast all were to take part of the drinking of ale. Also all kinds of livestock were killed in connection with it, horses also; and all the blood from them was called hlaut [ sacrificial blood ], and hlautbolli, the vessel holding the blood; and hlautteinar, the sacrificial twigs. These were fashioned like sprinklers, and with them were to be smeared all over with blood the pedestals of the idols and also the walls of the temple within and without; and likewise the men present were to be sprinkled with blood. But the meat of the animals was to be boiled and served as food at the banquet. Fires were to be lighted in the middle of the temple floor, and kettles hung over them. The sacrificial beaker was to be borne around the fire, and he who made the feast and was chieftain, was to bless the beaker as well as all the sacrificial meat.  Later, toasts were to be drunk. The first toast was to be drunk to Odin “for victory and power to the king”, the second to the gods Njörðr and Freyr “for good harvests and for peace”, and thirdly a beaker was to be drunk to the king himself.  In addition, toasts were drunk to the memory of departed kinsfolk… [This continues until everyone is plastered - sounds like Christmas, right?]

In his Dictionary of Northern Mythology, Rudolf Simek says that focus was not on the gods of the Vanir, but instead the god Odin, and he notes that one of Odin’s many names is Jólnir (Old Norse for “yule figure”).  Simek says that Odin was associated with Yule, and that the tradition of the Wild Hunt undoubtedly contributed to the association of the two.  According to Simek “it is uncertain whether the Germanic Yule feast still had a function in the cult of the dead and in the veneration of the ancestors, a function which the mid-winter sacrifice certainly held for the West European Stone and Bronze Ages.”

This is fascinating since the Norse Odin is directly related to the Roman Mercury / Hermes.  For instance, the name of the day “Wednesday” comes from the Middle English Wednes dei, which is from Old English Wōdnesdæg, meaning the day of the English god Woden or Odin.  When the Romans described the gods of Celtic and Germanic tribes, rather than considering them separate deities, the Romans interpreted them as local manifestations or aspects of their own gods, a cultural trait called the interpretatio Romana. Mercury in particular was reported as becoming extremely popular among the nations the Roman Empire conquered; Julius Caesar wrote of Mercury being the most popular god in Britain and Gaul, regarded as the inventor of all the arts.  Romans associated Mercury with the Germanic god Wotan, by interpretatio Romana; 1st-century Roman writer Tacitus identifies the two as being the same, and describes him as the chief god of the Germanic peoples.  Julius Caesar, in a section of his “Gallic Wars” describing the customs of the German tribes, wrote “The Germans most worship Mercury,” apparently identifying Wotan with Mercury.  That is why the Romantic languages use the Latin dies Mercurii (“Mercury’s day”) for Wednesday while the Germanic languages kept their Norse equivalent!

Father Christmas riding a Yule Goat

To tie it all together:  Krampus is related to the “Horned God” an archetype represents the personification of the life force energy in animals and the wilderness, fertility, sexual virility and the Hunt. Gods like Baphomet, Cernunnos, Pan, Faunus, and Innus are personified as being sex crazed or shown as having a large erect phallus.  Fertility, fecundity and the symbolism of the phallus all denote a connection to the rites, rituals, and celebrations of Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice.  Pan is the alleged offspring of Hermes/Mercury and follows in his progenitor’s footsteps as both trickster and psychopomp (a guide for the souls of the dead into the Underworld).  Pan is also equated with the Astrological sign Capricornus.

This is where it gets interesting.

capricornusCapricornus has one of the oldest mythological associations, having been consistently represented as a hybrid of a goat and a fish since the Middle Bronze Age, first attested in depictions on boundary stones, and explicitly recorded in the Babylonian star catalogs as “The Goat-Fish” before 1000 BC. The constellation was a symbol of Ea and in the Early Bronze Age marked the winter solstice.

Among the Greeks and Italians St. Nicholas is a favourite of sailors, fishermen, ships and sailing. As such he has become over time the patron saint of several cities maintaining harbors. In centuries of Greek folklore, Nicholas was seen as “The Lord of the Sea”, often described by modern Greek scholars as a kind of Christianized version of Poseidon.  Capricornus is a union between St. Nick and Krampus.  Half goat, half fish.

So what we have here is Santa Claus/St. Nick/Father Christmas as personification of Winter Solstice accompanied by his servant and messenger Krampus/Horned God/Hermes as the personification of Summer Solstice.  Basically a resurrection myth.  In a Christian sense we have the birth of the Christ Child as the celebrated rebirth of the Divine.  A promise that man will be redeemed through a Savior but also a forewarning of the suffering/death that he will have to endure before redemption.  Enlightenment that comes after a period of Darkness (Ignorance), i.e., “Out of Darkness, Cometh Light.”  In a Pagan sense we have the Horned Fertility God acting as psychopomp and leading us into the Underworld with the expectation of a later resurgence in reproductive energy come Springtime.  In an Astronomical sense we have Winter Solstice being the longest night of the year and the onslaught of deathly cold, but also the return of the Sun and the guarantee that the Summer will eventually save us from starvation.

And so the Holiday is really a celebration of the dualistic nature of reality.  An agreement that with the good comes the bad and vice-verse.  An alchemical union of opposites.  Christmas solved!


Nazi // Occult // High Fashion

In Government, History, Mystery, Religion on December 22, 2009 at 9:51 am

Nazi Propaganda depicting America as a monstrous war machine destroying European culture.

On December 18th, I read an article on BBC News about the Arbeit Macht Frei sign that was stolen from the entrance to the Auschwitz Nazi Death Camp .  Hundreds of thousands of prisoners passed under the sign into the camp during the Holocaust, but the majority were murdered or worked to death.  My sister Hannah alerted me to the fact that the date the article was published held a special meaning.  Our grandfather, Max Heinz Cahn, was born in Königswinter, Germany on December 18th, 1915.  He was a prisoner at Buchenwald but managed to escape and changed the spelling of his name after coming to America.  This synchronous event encouraged further sibling investigation.  My sister took the time to delve further into our family lineage and uncovered several gems.  On such beauty is this poem by English poet and wit, C. S. Calverley (born on this very day in 1831) that notes our family brow and peculiar disposition:

I love to gaze upon a child ;

A young bud bursting into blossom ;

Artless, as Eve yet unbeguiled,
And agile as a young opossum :

And such was he. A cahn-brow’d lad,
Yet mad, at moments, as a hatter :

Why hatters as a race are mad
I never knew, nor does it matter.

She also discovered that we have distant cousin who was a corsetière and left Germany for Australia in the late 19th Century.  As whalebone is a key component in the construction of corsets, placing herself so close to the Ocean must have proved quite lucrative.  Fashion holds an extreme power in human society.  Men and women will go to great lengths to “possess” the right aesthetic.  Indeed, the desire is not merely to possess the style, but also to be possessed by it.  Like a haunted mask, anyone who adorns their body in the distinct aesthetic will be magically transformed into something new and different.  Sometimes ideas and experiences organically form around a growing fashion trend, giving the style a historical context and an particular psychological feel.  In the opposing scenario, a unique aesthetic is consciously fabricated to be the material manifestation of a specific ideology.  This type of propaganda may be exemplified by the attractive qualities sown into the psychic fabric of the Third Reich Fashion.

The art of propaganda consists precisely in being able to awaken the imagination of the public through an appeal to their feelings, in finding the appropriate psychological form that will arrest the attention and appeal to the hearts of the national masses.

::Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf::

The most dramatic uniforms were worn by the Nazi soldiers of the German army. With their mania for black leather, brass buttons, medals, and armbands, the Nazis proved as bold in their fashions as they were brutal on the battlefield. The German uniform style during the Nazi period was so eccentric that the American novelist Kurt Vonnegut called it “madly theatrical.”  Where other totalitarian societies, such as Russia, opted for functional dress codes and muted color schemes that de-emphasized individuality, the Nazis preferred expressive styles designed to make the ordinary citizen feel like part of a grand national enterprise. The development of smart looking uniforms for everybody provided visible evidence of German unity.

Nowhere was this sense of identity more evident than in the German military. The Nazis believed that their army represented a modern recreation of the Teutonic (or ancient German) Knights, the mysterious military order of medieval Europe. Instead of the chain mail and plate armor the knights would have worn, the Nazis substituted black leather.  No one in the Nazi high command, not even Adolf Hitler himself, felt fully “equipped” without an extensive leather wardrobe.

In the case of the Nazis, black leather acted as the mercurial solutio allowing individuals to be possessed by a collective fervor.  In the book Black Sun, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke reports how Carl Gustav Jung described “Hitler as possessed by the archetype of the collective Aryan unconscious and could not help obeying the commands of an inner voice”. In a series of interviews between 1936 and 1939, Jung characterized Hitler as an archetype, often manifesting itself to the complete exclusion of his own personality. “‘Hitler is a spiritual vessel, a demi-divinity; even better, a myth …the messiah of Germany who teaches the virtue of the sword. ‘The voice he hears is that of the collective unconscious of his race.’”  The early Jung was influenced by Theosophy, solar mysticism and völkisch nationalism in developing the ideas on the collective unconscious and the archetypes.  Jung’s suggestion that Hitler personified the collective Aryan unconscious deeply interested and influenced Miguel Serrano, who later concluded that Jung was merely psychologizing the ancient, sacred mystery of archetypal possession by the gods, independent metaphysical powers that rule over their respective races and “occasionally” possess their members.

The actual design and construction of Nazi fashion is even more fascinating.  The all-black uniform of the Nazi S.S. was designed by Prof. Dr. Karl Diebitsch and graphic designer Walter Heck who worked intimately with HUGO BOSS.  From 1933, the Hugo Boss company was the main firm that produced these black uniforms along with the brown SA shirts and the black-and-brown uniforms of the Hitler Youth.  Some workers are acknowledged to have been prisoners of war forced into labor.  This information is striking when looking at the 2009 Hugo Boss Men’s Line.  Note the familiar black, white, and red color scheme and the carefully selected Aryan specimens that would make Himmler’s rotting skeleton smile with appreciation…

And why not?  Even if the Third Reich was a failure, the imagery was a success.  This is because the minimalist design evokes an emotional response independent of Hitler’s ideology.  Visually, black and white with red highlights is a very seductive color scheme.  The black and white create a visual contrast that is clean and orderly, while the provocative touches of red stimulate and awaken the senses.  Success stories of this combo abound from typewriter ink to Sin City to the design of this very blog.  The infamous adage “the medium is the message” fits snugly inside the realm of aesthetics.  Adagium (Latin) or Adage or  can be further separated into two to create Ad Age, a clever nod toward the symbolic reality.  The Nazi’s weren’t the first to understand the power of symbols.  The Catholic Church, Tibetan Buddhism, Medieval Alchemy, Surrealism, all owe their success to symbols.  Man needs a world of symbols as well as a world of signs.  Both sign and symbol are necessary but they should not be confused with one another.  A sign is a token of meaning that stands for a known entity.  By this definition, language is a system of signs, not symbols.  A symbol, on the other hand hand, is an image or representation which points to something essentially unknown, a mystery.  A sign communicates abstract, objective meaning while a symbol conveys living, subjective meaning.  A symbol has a subjective dynamism which exerts a powerful attraction and fascination on the individual.  It is a living, organic entity which acts as a carrier, releaser, and transformer of psychic energy.  Symbols are spontaneous products of the archetypal psyche.  The archetypal psyche is constantly creating a steady stream of of living symbolic imagery.  Ordinarily this stream of images is not consciously perceived except through dreams or through waking fantasy when the conscious level of attention has been lowered.  However, even fully awake this stream continues to flow underneath  the ego without notice.  Symbols seep into the ego, causing it to identify with them and act them out unconsciously; or they spill out into the external environment via projection, causing the individual to become fascinated and involved with external objects and activities.  This is what Jung was viewing in Hitler.

No wonder there is such obsession with Nazism and the Occult.  According to Goodricke-Clarke the speculation of Nazi occultism originated from “post-war fascination with Nazism.”  The “horrid fascination” of Nazism upon the Western mind emerges from the “uncanny interlude in modern history” that it presents to an observer a few decades later. The idolization of Hitler in Nazi Germany, its short lived and brutal dominion on the European continent and Nazism’s irrational and gruesome Antisemitism set it apart from other periods of modern history. “Outside a purely secular frame of reference, Nazism was felt to be the embodiment of evil in a modern twentieth-century regime, a monstrous pagan relapse in the Christian community of Europe.”  By the early 1960s, “one could now clearly detect a mystique of Nazism.” A sensationalistic and fanciful presentation of its figures and symbols, shorn of all political and historical contexts gained ground with thrillers, non-fiction books and films and permeated “the milieu of popular culture.”  Both Nazism and the Occult fulfill a deep human need to become part of of something that transcends the individual in the realm of the archetypes.  Catholicism and Tibetan Buddhism provide a similar structure. When this desire is suppressed by a culture, there is danger of sudden eruptions or perverse fetishism.

Nazi chic refers to the approving use of Nazi-era style, imagery, and paraphernalia in clothing and popular culture.  In the 1970s Punk Subculture, several items of clothing designed to shock and offend became popular. Among these punk fashion items was a T-shirt displaying a Swastika, an upside-down crucifix and the word DESTROY — which was worn by J. Rotten.  Uniforms and other imagery related to Nazi Germany have been on sale in East-Asia, where some considered it cool. Hong Kong and Japan have each witnessed a growth in the casual wearing of SS-uniforms, as well as increased interest in the music-genre known as Rock Against Communism. Sometimes in east Asia, Nazi uniforms are used as part of cosplay. In South-Korea, an area generally isolated from Nazi cultural influences during the Nazi era, TIME Magazine observed in 2000 “an unthinking fascination with the icons and imagery of the Third Reich.” Nazi-inspired imagery are also featured in various early releases from Japanese band The 5, 6, 7, 8′s.  This trend will continue to thrive until another significant channel can be created to redirect psychic energy.

Still there is something disturbing about the overwhelming interest in Nazi Fashion.  Hetalia: Axis Powers is a webcomic, later adapted as a manga and an anime series, by Hidekaz Himaruya. The series presents an allegorical interpretation of political and historic events, particularly of the World War II era, in which the various countries are represented by anthropomorphic characters. Hetalia is a portmanteau combining hetare (Japanese for “useless”) and Italia.  This is to make light of Italy’s apparent cowardice during World War II.  This fan video seems to glorify the style.  I could tell you what I think about it, but it’s better to simply let the comments speak for themselves. WARNING: THE FOLLOWING MONTAGE IS EPIC.

Black Melancholia // Saturn

In Alchemy, Art, History, Image, Myth, Pharmacopeia, Psychology on December 9, 2009 at 9:55 am

Certain poisons worked by an occult and specifick property and have their essence from the stars and celestial influence which is apt to destroy the strength of man’s body, because being taken but even in a small quantity, yet are so precious a quality that they kill almost in a moment.

::Ambroise Paré::

Ambroise Paré was a French surgeon renowned for his ingenious experiments.  He once used a solution of egg yolk, oil of roses, and turpentine for war wounds instead of boiling oil and cauterization.  In 1565, Ambroise Paré described an experiment to test the properties of the Bezoar Stone.  At the time, the Bezoar stone was commonly believed to be able to cure the effects of any poison, but Paré believed this to be impossible. It happened that a cook at Paré’s court was caught stealing fine silver cutlery, and was condemned to be hanged. The cook agreed to be poisoned, on the conditions that he would be given some bezoar straight after the poison and go free in case he survived. The stone did not cure him, and he died in agony seven hours after being poisoned. Thus Paré had proved that the Bezoar Stone could not cure all poisons.

Albrecht Dürer, Melancholia I

The Mütter Museum has an interesting exhibit up about Lead.  The quote above was a reference to the physical dangers of that element. In alchemy, the planet / diety associated with lead was Saturn/Cronus.  A Saturnine disposition has been a common ailment of artists and philosophers since the beginning of time and is better known by its  synonym:  Melancholia.  The name “melancholia” comes from the old medical theory of the four humours: disease or ailment being caused by an imbalance in one or other of the four basic bodily fluids, or humours.  Personality types were similarly determined by the dominant humour in a particular person. Melancholia was caused by an excess of black bile; hence the name, which means ‘black bile’ (Ancient Greek μέλας, melas, “black”, + χολή, kholé, “bile”); a person whose constitution tended to have a preponderance of black bile had a melancholic disposition. The other humors are yellow bile, blood, and phlegm.

In 1921 Swedish physician Fahråeus suggested that the four humours were based upon the observation of blood clotting in a transparent container. When blood is drawn in a glass container and left undisturbed for about an hour, four different layers can be seen. A dark clot forms at the bottom (the “black bile”). Above the clot is a layer of red blood cells (the “blood”).  Above this is a whitish layer of white blood cells (the “phlegm”, now called the buffy coat). The top layer is clear yellow serum (the “yellow bile”).

The print-maker and theorist Albrecht Dürer ties all this together with his masterpiece “Melancolia 1.”

The alchemist’s lot was such that he was often depicted as a melancholy and frustrated being, as, for example, by Chaucer, Weiditz, Brueghel, and Teniers. In a wider sense, melancholy was held to be an attribute of students or seekers after knowledge. The doctrine of melancholy, moreover, is inseparable from the Saturnine mysticism that permeates alchemy. One of the elements of Saturnine mysticism is measurement, typified by the compasses, balance, and hour-glass.

The polyhedron lying beside the foot of the ladder (representing the base metal, lead) may be an image of the Philosopher’s Stone, or more immediately, of the so-called ” Stone of Saturn,” which Saturn (or Kronos), “swallowed and spewed up instead of Jupiter.” Saturn, who is often represented in alchemy as an old man with an hour-glass upon his head, was addicted to swallowing his own children; for this reason, infants, usually shown at play, enter into the Saturnine elements of alchemy.

::John Read::

Francisco Goya, Saturn Devouring His Children

Cronus envied the power of his father, the ruler of the universe, Uranus.   Gaia created a great adamant sickle and gathered together Cronus and his brothers to persuade them to castrate Uranus. Only Cronus was willing to do the deed, so Gaia gave him the sickle and placed him in ambush. When Uranus met with Gaia, Cronus attacked him with the sickle by cutting off his genitals, castrating him and casting the severed member into the sea. From the blood and semen that spilled out from Uranus and fell upon the earth, the Gigantes, Erinyes, and Meliae were produced. From the member that was cast into the sea, Venus later emerged. For this, Uranus threatened vengeance.  After dispatching Uranus, Cronus re-imprisoned the Hecatonchires, the Gigantes, and the Cyclopes and set the dragon Campe to guard them. He and his sister Rhea took the throne of the world as king and queen. This period of Cronus’ rule was called the Golden Age, as the people of the time had no need for laws or rules; everyone did the right thing, and immorality was absent.

Cronus learned from Gaia and Uranus that he was destined to be overcome by his own son, just as he had overthrown his father. As a result, although he sired the gods Demeter, Hera, Hades, Hestia, and Poseidon by Rhea, he devoured them all as soon as they were born to preempt the prophecy. When the sixth child, Zeus, was born Rhea sought Gaia to devise a plan to save them and to eventually get retribution on Cronus for his acts against his father and children. Rhea secretly gave birth to Zeus in Crete, and handed Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, also known as the Omphalos Stone, which he promptly devoured, thinking that it was his son.  Once he had grown up, Zeus used a poison given to him by Gaia to force Cronus to disgorge the contents of his stomach in reverse order.

Cronus spent the last of his life as a prisoner of Tartarus, a dark, gloomy place that can be described as a pit of blackness.  Feelings of shame, fear, guilt and humiliation shackle us and keep us confined to the pit of darkness. Its mutations have become so ramified with time, so contradictory that soon one could no longer say just what melancholy was in the first place. Yet we all have a feeling for what it is being referred to, a sort of enormous black abyss which contaminates and sucks up everything in its vicinity.  Having recognised, for example, a sickle, a scythe, a broom, an oar, ankle shackles a crutch, or even an old man preparing to devour a child, the viewer would immediately recognize Saturn, who, in turn, he would automatically associate with melancholy.  If a picture contained devices alluding to geometry or mathematics, these too led back to the same theme, since in the Middle Ages, mathematicians and geometricians were regarded as melancholic. “The mathematician is a mirthless fellow,” wrote Martin Luther, and equipment related to that science is also visible in Dürer’s engraving.  Conspicuously present in the background of Dürer’s engraving is an enigmatic, eight-sided, and up to the present inscrutable polyhedron, one whose very inscrutability makes it mysterious, even uncanny. This polyhedron not only alludes to melancholy, it also radiates it, so to speak. It is no riddle, but rather a mystery. Nonetheless, by virtue of this polyhedron, Dürer’s image could be referred to as melancholic.  In place of transmissibility, the inexpressible aspect of melancholy moves to the foreground. In place of the concrete, the abstract.  Melancholy is the dark unknowable.

The Goya painting is also of note.  It is one of the series of Black Paintings that Goya painted directly onto the walls of his house sometime between 1819 and 1823.  Goya produced a series of 14 works, which he painted with oils directly onto the walls of the house. At the age of 73, and having survived two life-threatening illnesses, Goya was likely to have been concerned with his own mortality, and was increasingly embittered by the civil strife occurring in Spain.

Blackness, in alchemy means putrefaction or decomposition. The alchemists believed that as a first step in the pathway to the philosopher’s stone all alchemical ingredients had to be cleansed and cooked extensively to a uniform black matter. In depth psychology, Carl Jung interpreted alchemical blackness as a moment of maximum despair, that is a prerequisite to personal development.  James Hillman writes, “The rotting and blackening process of alchemy, dreadful wounds and suppurating sores, the ritual butchery of animals or their contagion and poisoning, and other such shocking imagery point to where something material is losing its substance and thrust, where a physical impulse or animal drive is descending toward the underworld.”

Every night and every morn

Some to misery are born.

Every morn and every night

Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,

Some are born to endless night.

::William Blake, Auguries of Innocence ::

Dionysian Mystery and Laughing Gas Teeth

In Dreams, History, Image, Inner Space, Mystery, Pharmacopeia, Science on December 8, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Candy and Cronus take their toll.  I had my wisdom teeth extracted on the 4th.  I was given local anesthesia for my face as well as nitrous oxide and a general anesthesia to dip me into a semi-conscious state for the procedure.  The day before the operation I traveled to Philadelphia to visit the tter Museum.  This vast and eclectic collection of medical curiosities is managed by the prestigious College of Physicians and is truly a spectacular exhibition.   Glass cabinets line velvet walls providing temporary shelters for partial skeletal fragments, waxen fetal reproductions, medical journals and anatomy textbooks bound with human skin, and photographic documentation depicting an endless amount of bizarre cases that would keep Victorian scholars  baffled and intrigued for years.  That night I had a terrible nightmare wherein I was shrunk down to the size of a rodent and dissected in a dark amphitheater to a hostile (and possibly, sinister) public.  And reclining on that dentist’s chair at 7:45 in the morning, I could not help but think of all the butchering that had happened in the name of science and all those rusty, archaic instruments now resting in glass cabinets… waiting to be picked up, and used again.  As the gas kicked in, I briefly hallucinated the surgeon pulling out what could only have been some sort of bone-crushing device meant for extracting brain matter.  Those Bastards, I thought, they are going to butcher me here on this slab and sell the profitable parts to the Black Market… possibly even back to the Museum. I braced myself for a frontal lobotomy, but nothing came and eventually I lost interest as the drugs set in.  I was “awake” for the entire operation.  I heard the crunching, slicing, and whizzing of the drill used break up the teeth, sending tiny splinters across the room.  I distinctly recall the dentist informing me that they would “have to remove an infected molar, as well.”  I used my free arm to give him a big “O.K.” symbol with my hand and managed to mumble something to the degree of, “That’s totally fine with me, dude.”

Re-enactment of the first operation under anesthesia (ether). The actual operation took place on October 16, 1846; this re-enactment took place shortly afterwards.

After the operation I asked for my teeth back.  They told me that I could not have them because they were now a BIO-HAZARD.  “At least let me say goodbye to them… to my babies.”  They consented and brought me to the recovery lounge.  The nurse came in with an extended arm and opened her hand, palm up.  There they were, exposed to the open air:  five half-rotted teeth laying in a pool of blood on her cold, rubber glove.   And observing the teeth for the first time without possession and function, I appreciated them for what they truly were:  five overturned tombstones from a graveyard.  “Now that the gums are unplugged, the souls are bound to escape,” I told the nurse, but she seemed nonplussed.  It was probably too late, anyway.  The ghosts and demons once held at bay by those ivory monuments were now free to roam the far reaches of Earth and pursue their dark, inhuman desires.  “You fools,” I shouted as I was discretely escorted from the premises.  They were all doomed, but I didn’t care.  They had unleashed their own destruction, and there was no escape.  So be it.  Good luck and Godspeed, my babies… Godspeed.

I went home and turned on the television.  Twin Peaks was on the Chiller Network. It was the episode where David Duchovny plays FBI Agent Denise/Dennis Bryson.  It is unclear from the series whether Bryson would self-identify as a cross-dresser, a transvestite or transgender.  Bryson began wearing women’s clothing during a DEA undercover operation and found that it relaxed him. Bryson identifies as “Denise,” wears women’s clothing and presents female behavior during working hours and otherwise. When required for a sting operation, Bryson dons a man’s suit and goes by “Dennis.”  This was interesting for two reasons:

First, there is an obvious connection to Dionysus.  In Greek mythology, Dionysus is described as being womanly or “man-womanish”.  He is the god of duality and was raised by Hermes.  He has two separate origin stories that accent his “twice-born” character.  In one he is the offspring of Zeus and the mortal woman Semele.   The mortal demands Zeus to reveal himself in all his glory as proof of his godhood. He comes to her wreathed in bolts of lightning; mortals, however, can not look upon an undisguised god without dying, and she perished in the ensuing blaze. Zeus rescued the fetal Dionysus by sewing him into his testicles.  In the other origin story, Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Persephone, the queen of the Greek underworld.  A  jealous Hera attempted to kill the child by sending Titans to rip Dionysus to pieces after luring the baby with toys. (See Dionysus and his Mirror)  Zeus drove the Titans away with his thunderbolts, but only after the Titans ate everything but the heart, which was saved, variously, by Athena, Rhea, or Demeter.  Zeus used the heart to recreate him in the womb of Semele, hence he was again “the twice-born.”  As a champion of androgyny, the allusion is obvious.

Two Denises

Secondly, “Denise” Duchovny in drag looks surprisingly like my mother, whose name is also “Denise.”  To further the coincidence, my mother was named after her older brother Dennis who died soon after childbirth.  Their visual similarity is superficial, of course, being two people with Czech/Slavic descent and similar hairstyles.  I was pondering the implications of these events and enjoying the “Percs” of the operation when it occurred to me that losing teeth was a powerful symbol of death and rebirth.  Also, the dream in which I was “transformed” and “dissected” was about a dramatic psychological change.   Manifestations of Dionysus are manifold in this reality and it is necessary to acknowledge and understand the intentions of this divine entity if one is to maintain psychological health.  Therefore, it is imperative that one give respect by honoring the god in the traditional way:  Bacchanalia.

Dionysus is a god who transcends boundaries,  subverting preexisting borders between life and death, man and woman, wilderness and society. The earliest rites took place in the wilderness – in the forests and woods, the marshes, and particularly high in the mountains, where the lower oxygen content was suitable for trance induction. Later the ‘priest’ would simply cast their staff into the ground, at any suitable location, and hang a mask and an animal skin from it, the circle drawn around this center becoming the sacred precinct for however long the staff remained.  Underground chambers were also often used for initiations, which may have originally taken place in natural caves, particularly those by the shoreline. Liminal boundary zones being especially sacred to Dionysos.  The Orphic texts of the late period record a boukolos, or ‘cowherd’, as an offerer of sacrifice, sayer of prayers, and hymn singer, who seems to have been the nearest thing they ever had to a priest. Other inscriptions record an archiboukolos, or ‘chief cowherd’ presiding over these boukoloi, and in some records there is also mention of boukoloi hieroi, ‘holy cowherders’ as well as hymnodidaskaloi,’hymn teachers’.  The cowherds were necessary because the “sacred wine” used in the ceremonies contained hallucinogenic mushrooms that grew on the feces of local cattle.

In intoxication, physical or spiritual, the initiate recovers an intensity of feeling which prudence had destroyed; he finds the world full of delight and beauty, and his imagination is suddenly liberated from the prison of everyday preoccupations. The Bacchic ritual produced what was called ‘enthusiasm’, which means etymologically having the god enter the worshipper, who believed that he became one with the god.

::Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy::

Traditional offerings to Dionysus include but are not limited to the following: musk, civet, frankincense, storax, ivy, grapes, pine, fig, wine, honey, apples, Indian Hemp, orchis root, thistle, all wild and domestic trees, black diamonds.

I call upon loud-roaring and revelling Dionysus,

primeval, double-natured, thrice-born, Bacchic lord,

wild, ineffable, secretive, two-horned and two-shaped.

Ivy-covered, bull-faced, warlike, howling, pure,

You take raw flesh, you have feasts, wrapt in foliage, decked with grape clusters.

Resourceful Eubouleus, immortal god sired by Zeus

When he mated with Persephone in unspeakable union.

Hearken to my voice, O blessed one,

and with your fair-girdled nymphs breathe on me in a spirit of perfect agape.

Superficial Identities in Emerging Æsthetics

In Art, Image, Internet, Myth, Society on December 4, 2009 at 5:06 pm

Laura Brothers, Danger Dialogue

Who are you? Who cares? With proper self-branding, not only will you find out who you are, you will make the right people care, opening up a slew of the right opportunities specifically tailored for you. Maximize marketing potential and get the type of work and respect one deserves.

::Excerpt, www.artofselfbranding.com::

REVIEW:  EXPENSIVE DEATHSTYLE

In his new project, Santiago Vernetti invites each of us to redefine “selling out”.  Repackaging commodified party culture in Los Angeles to make it appear palatable to intellectual scrutiny, Monsieur Vernetti’s images of lost children slide down our corroded psychic arteries easier than a Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks.

The superficiality of a youth culture obsessed with AND TRAPPED BY an oversaturation of images, readily available for consumption, causes excessive narcissism and a preoccupation with oneself (not to mention an unpleasant feeling of self-consciousness when one realizes that one is being watched or observed, the feeling that “everyone is looking” at oneself, i.e. paranoia).  This leads to a state of constant performance in the struggle to secure a public identity.  Private identity has dissolved giving rise to self-branding and the art of discrimination.  In laymen terms, what Facebook pictures do I choose to associate with myself?  How do I craft a profile that accurately reflects the identity I am trying to sell?

But if all is performance than EDS and FB could be seen as historical documentation of a never-ending, continuous spectacle.  Mr. Vernetti gives us each front row tickets to the Fall of the Times New Roman Empire.  His website gives public access to a fun house of seemingly perverted mirrors.  It is only after a deeper glance do we see the truth: each picture is a portrait of Dorian Gray.

Party photography on the internet as vehicle for the dissolution of celebrity // or // a hypocritical exercise that participates in the creation of celebrity albeit an illusory one // or // things I go to, and the people I see there as platform to launch a moonlighting career // or // just something to pass the time… ::Santi Vernetti::

…this time however I come as the victorious Dionysus, who will turn the world into a holiday…Not that I have much time…  ::Nietzsche, Letter to Cosima Wagner::

Indeed, as reported in his mythic death/rebirth:  unable to recognize himself in the vague and distorted reflection produced by the mirror, Dionysus nods his head in a vain search for his own image and identity.  The Titans interpret this action, in its telling motions and gestures, as his consent to be sacrificed. They kill and dismember him, and then proceed to boil and broil his flesh. After which they party.  Dismemberment can be unserstood psychologically as a transformative process.  It is original unity submitting to dispersal and multiplicity for the sake of realization in spatio-temporal existence.  Party Photography as a dissolution of celebrity is a psychological transformation of a non-event:  The Autonomous Zone:

Stephen Pearl Andrews once offered, as an image of anarchist society, the dinner party, in which all structure of authority dissolves in conviviality and celebration…  The media invite us to “come celebrate the moments of your life” with the spurious unification of commodity and spectacle, the famous non-event of pure representation.  In response to this obscenity we have, on the one hand, the spectrum of refusal and on the other hand, the emergence of a festal culture removed and even hidden from the would-be managers of our leisure. “Fight for the right to party” is in fact not a parody of the radical struggle but a new manifestation of it, appropriate to an age which offers social networking sites as ways to “reach out and touch” other human beings, ways to “Be There!”

Pearl Andrews was right: the dinner party is already “the seed of the new society taking shape within the shell of the old” (IWW Preamble). The sixties-style “tribal gathering,” the forest conclave of eco-saboteurs, the idyllic Beltane of the neo-pagans, anarchist conferences, gay faery circles…Harlem rent parties of the twenties, nightclubs, banquets, old-time libertarian picnics–we should realize that all these are already “liberated zones” of a sort, or at least potential TAZs. Whether open only to a few friends, like a dinner party, or to thousands of celebrants, like a Be-In, the party is always “open” because it is not “ordered”; it may be planned, but unless it “happens” it’s a failure. The element of spontaneity is crucial.

The essence of the party: face-to-face, a group of humans synergize their efforts to realize mutual desires, whether for good food and cheer, dance, conversation, the arts of life; perhaps even for erotic pleasure, or to create a communal artwork, or to attain the very transport of bliss– in short, a “union of egoists” (as Stirner put it) in its simplest form–or else, in Kropotkin’s terms, a basic biological drive to “mutual aid.”

::Hakim Bey, T.A.Z.::

Primitive / Occult Revival in Modern Æsthetics

What is clear now is that the West’s fascination with the primitive has to do with its own crises in identity, with its own need to clearly demarcate subject and object even while flirting with other ways of experiencing the universe.   ::Bell Hooks::

We find ourselves in an uncertain state.  We seek structure and security.  This mediated world increasingly produces feelings of alienation and loss.  In our desperate attempt to understand our own nature, we seek the company of others. Obsessed with the material reality of the flesh we long to touch one another.   The intimacy once conferred by community and religion in tribal life has dissolved into a state metaphysical restlessness.  We travel from city to city but all is the same.  Italo Calvino recognizes that, “arriving in each new city, the traveler finds again a past of his that he did not know he had:  the foreignness of what you no longer are or no longer possess lies in wait for you in foreign, unpossessed places.”  What we look for is value and meaning.  “What is the meaning of life?”  The question cannot be answered in this form because it confuses objective, abstract meaning with subjective, living meaning.  In this case, it is an actual or possible derivation from sentience, which is not associated with signs that have any original or primary intent of communication.  Occult imagery, with its emphasis on the unknowable and its use of highly potent symbols allows exploration without limitations.

Laura Brothers, Robo Pop Float Void

Surrealism / Collage

In Art, Dreams, Image, Surrealism on December 1, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Lou Beach, World Of Men C

Lou Beach, Preggers

The Futurists and the Dadaists employed collage to protest entrenched values, while the artists of the Russian avant-garde used photomontage, an outgrowth of collage, to demonstrate their support for a progressive world order. For the Surrealists, collage served as a surrogate for the subconscious. Pop artists recognized it as a means of directly incorporating elements of popular culture into their work. Robert Rauschenberg expanded collage in his own way by creating Combines, assemblages of paintings and found objects that were intended, he said, to act in the gap between art and life.

Emphasizing concept and process over end product, collage has brought the incongruous into meaningful congress with the ordinary. With its capacity for change, speed, immediacy, and ephemerality, collage is ideally suited to the demands of this and the prior century. It is a medium of materiality, a record of our civilization, a document of the timely and the transitory. It is no wonder that today’s artists continue to use collage as a way of giving expression to the unorthodox, both in art and life.

::DIANE WALDMAN::

Max Ernst, image from “Une Semaine de Bonté”

Each of these… projects recurrent themes of sexuality, anti-clericalism and violence, by dislocating the visual significance of the source material to suggest what has been repressed.

Jindřich Štyrský, Marriage

Alexis Mackenzie, Just This Once

Alexis Mackenzie, Jade Moon

PREVIEW:   Digital Collage as a Popular New Aesthetic?  What are the roots/implications of this resurgence in occult imagery?  Stay tuned for a follow-up post.

Laura Brothers, Earth Chant

Santi Vernetti, whatiseesometimes

Dreams That Money Can Buy / Digesting Automatons

In Art, Cinema, Dreams, Industry, Surrealism, Technology on December 1, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Dreams That Money Can Buy is a 1947 American experimental feature color film written, produced, and directed by surrealist artist and dada film-theorist Hans Richter.  Collaborators included Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Darius Milhaud and Fernand Léger.

Oh Venus was born out of sea foam

Oh Venus was born out of brine

But a goddess today if she is Grade A

Is assembled upon the assembly line

Her chromium nerves and her platinum brain

Were chastely encased in cellophane

She was equipped with a prefabricated heart

Mannequins and robots seem intimately connected, but what exactly is their relation?  Would you say that the former is the ancestor of the latter?  Are they synonymous twins born from the same human desire, or do they satisfy different longings?  A robot may not be anthropomorphic, but a mannequin must seem human.  Mannequins are always artificial, but are robots artificial only when they feign organic nature?

The Canard Digérateur, or Digesting Duck, was an automaton in the form of a duck, created by Jacques de Vaucanson in 1739. The mechanical duck appeared to have the ability to eat kernels of grain, and to metabolize and defecate them. While the duck did not actually have the ability to do this – the food was collected in one inner container, and the pre-stored feces was ‘produced’ from a second, so that no actual digestion took place – Vaucanson hoped that a truly digesting automaton could one day be designed.

Voltaire wrote that “without [...] the duck of Vaucanson, you have nothing to remind you of the glory of France.” (“Sans…le canard de Vaucanson vous n’auriez rien qui fit ressouvenir de la gloire de la France.”)

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