This will be the first year I don’t do fireworks. Daughter is working; no one’s coming over, as in years past. For many years I made a trek (ahem) to get some substantial stuff, but never any rockets. I assume a rocket will go sideways into the crowd, or land on a neighbor’s roof and burn the house down. I may have had some things that went BANG very, very loudly, and a few items that rose on a pillar of sparks, making a frightening metallic hiss that sounded like some motorized saw coming for your throat, but I never felt comfortable with anything like that. The kids loved what I provided, though, and I enjoyed doing it. Saved the best for the evening, when it was just me and Daughter and Wife, two of which were not as enraptured by fireworks as I was.

It’s been five years since the Old Gang came over for the Fourth. Maybe four. I miss it; I don’t miss the work of getting everyone fed, but I miss it.



  Growing up, the sign of high summer and hot blazing noise-joy:



Their website has videos of the really fun stuff, complete with screeching shrieks guaranteed to make the dog unhappy. This video, for example - the page has a list of all the different types of explosions.

1. Brocade Crown
2. Silver glittering star
3. Red wave with crackling star
4. Brocade with crackling pistil

And so on.

I can’t tell the difference between some of them. Pistil I get, and why yes I think I understand the crackling part. But brocades, stars, and so forth - perhaps this is industry lingo I really don't need to learn.

Anyway, I did a whole fireworks column yesterday, so that's where I said my piece.









A few weeks ago I discussed the half-submarine movie, Ice Station Zebra. By which I mean the movie was about one half of a submarine, the other half not shown at all. HA ha no, I mean the first half of the very long movie was about the sub. The second was about people engaging in international skulduggery in the Arctic without anyone’s breath being visible. I mentioned there are basic notes all sub movies have to hit, including the Bad Thing from which it seems they will not recover.

At the beginning of the TV show Das Boot, -

Hold on there, fella, what? Yes. Das Boot, the TV show! It's German. Just showed up on Hulu, and I thought "of course. Claustrophobia and diesel fumes and tiny spaces and bad food and everyone smoking in a ship with limited quantities of air, that's for me." At the start, right away, there is the Bad Thing, and man, it is a bad, bad thing. It’s every nightmare you’d have about being on a sub.

I can recommend half the show, because only half takes place on a boat. The rest is an espionage / partisan story that takes place in France, and I’m sure the stories will knit more closely together than they did the first 4 or 5 eps, but I don’t particularly care. Perhaps the producers realized that no one wanted to spend 8 hours in the confines of a sub, and I think they may be right.

So how to Das Boot and German naval enthusiasts respond to the show? THEY HATE IT, if you believe the comments. The espionage story particularly annoyed them, since they wanted to see a long show about life on a sub, not the devious deviltry of a coupla commie lesbos, man. (I'm paraphrasing; don't think anyone actually said "coupla.") Again, I get the frustration with switching back and forth - it’s like the first episodes of Star Trek constantly cutting back to San Francisco to delve into Starfleet politics. But it’s interesting to see how the German production handles the Nazi story. The Nazis in the boat are not really Nazis at all, except for a couple fanatics.

They belong to the Kriegsmarine first and foremost to the exclusion of any other ideology. Oh, there's the occasional anti-Semitic remark, but there’s no Hitler-heiling. A lot of noble frowning about duty and honor, of course, but no swastika-talk.

Now that I think of it, there weren't even many swastikas.

On the land, the action takes place in an occupied city run by the Churmans, and they’re all decked out in their uniforms with the appropriate iconography, and while one orders a brutal reprisal after a terrorist attack, they are not portrayed as . . . how do I put this? Evil people. They are military men first, and only Nazis by some peculiar turn of events. The worst of them seems motivated by nothing more than the particulars of his job description:

1. Wear black

2. Fight partisans who are killing civilians

It’s almost as if the Germans involved believe that a nuanced appreciation of history - which I’m all for - requires recontextualizing the actions of the military in a way that absolves them from an ideological connection to Nazism. Sure, they're Nazis, but they're not Nazi Nazis.

They used the Amway soap, but they didn’t try to enlist friends to sell it, y’see?

Anyway, from the Wikipedia entry on the movie:

In the film, there is only one ardent Nazi in the crew of 40, namely the First Watch Officer (referred to comically in one scene as Unser Hitlerjugendführer or "Our Hitler Youth Leader"). The rest of the officers are either indifferent or openly anti-Nazi (the Captain). The enlisted sailors and NCO are portrayed as apolitical. In his book Iron Coffins, former U-boat commander Herbert A. Werner states that the selection of naval personnel based on their loyalty to the party only occurred later in the war (from 1943 onward) when the U-boats were suffering high casualties and when morale was declining. Such a degree of skepticism may or may not have occurred.

In support of Das Boot on this subject, U-boat historian Michael Gannon maintains that the U-boat navy was one of the least pro-Nazi branches of the German armed forces.

You can understand why. But the non-ideological setting and the remoteness of the Allied targets - when a ship is sunk we don’t see the Yanks on fire, screaming, dying - means we want to believe that the guys down there aren’t Nazi Nazis, but ordinary Germans who probably had no opinion at all about that Hitler guy.

UPDATE: finished the series, and it comes together well. I'm not saying it makes the Nazis out to be the good guys; er no. But it is odd that the second-worst guy in the whole show is a Jewish American Greedy Capitalist.

Damned odd, that.




It's 1919.

WAR! GREAT, HORRIBLE WAR was still on everyone’s mind, along with patriotic pride, so naturally you’d use the navy to sell . . . well, what? Now the brand is dead, but can you guess from the picture what they were selling?

“Of course, ordinary swabbies below decks smoke them too, but it’s mostly the officer’s endorsement we prefer to think about.”

Smile! Smile! Smile! It’s over over there and you’re not going to be gassed in a filthy trench

It’s easy! It’s always been easy. Just drink oil, throw up everything, and watch the pounds melt away.

The term “reduce” was a popular euphemism for decades, until “Diet” took over. “I’m on a diet” meant you were on a specific regimen of items to eat, but then it was applied to the act of, well, reducing.

I just made that up but it sounds right.


Because you wouldn’t be reading this ad.

That wasn’t his real name. He was born Max Unger, in Germany.

The thing that brought him the greatest fame was the "Human Bridge Act", based only on his arms and legs he kept the weight of the bridge through which he drove a car with six passengers. In the first years of the twentieth century, he stopped showing, settled in the USA and took up the correspondence course, sales of books, sports equipment and dietary supplements.

Strongfortism, as his regimen was called, may have included vegetarianism; he was a lacto-ovo man, himself, but:

Similar to Eugene Sandow and other strongmen of the period, Strongfort equated the muscular male body with heterosexuality. In his book Do It With Muscle!, he commented that "it is a wise law of nature that woman shall ever be drawn to the strong and vital man.”

Real men ate beef, you know, so that might have been a hard sell.

Ahem: “every lady should have a revolver, and know how to use it.”

Johnson Smith? Really? Still around, you know. They sell rubber chickens.

Hey, this vampire thing doesn’t look that bad:

You might be thinking someone capitalized on the Draw fad, but read the copy: Johnathan Harker. So they’re selling the original, with the promise of nighttime sex with undead babes.

Easier than Strongfortism, probably.

You might be consuming sufficient iron, but you iron may not be Nuxated:

  You might be consuming sufficient iron, but your iron may not be Nuxated.

From the FDA’s Flickr page:

Nuxated Iron, the brainchild of E. Virgil Neal, a former hypnotist with a conviction for mail fraud and a profitable French cosmetics company, promised to invigorate, rejuvenate, and enhance athletic performance. Neal used cutting-edge marketing tactics, including paid celebrity testimonials to hawks these tablets, which consisted of iron and nux vomica, a derivative of the potentially lethal strychnine plant. At least one young boy died from consuming nearly an entire bottle of Nuxated Iron.

Worse than useless.

Get the DROP on that COUGH.

Get it? Get it? Drop? Cough? Cough? Drop?

“Good for the throat, bad for the cough.”

Would you use something that said it was good for that cough you got there? Yes.

Now let's visit the world of 1916, as interpreted by Clare Briggs. See you around.



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