Tuesday, March 29, 2011

“Go through the lights, take the third reich”

I’ve been busy and Madonna of the Toast has not been a priority of late, but work and deadlines be damned in the name of some Hitler pareidolia! The internet has been aflutter with re-posts, re-Tweets and Facebook likes responding to Charli Dickenson’s Twitter pic of this home in Swansea, Wales. Stuck in traffic, she decided the slanted roofline bears an uncanny resemblance to Hitler. As we all know, all it takes is one random associative leap of faith, or fuhrer, and the whole world tunes in, especially when it comes to one of history’s greatest villains.

If the roof is the hairline, I guess the lintel is the mustache and the second floor windows the eyes. Hitler is deserving of many labels, but fat is not one of them, so I find the ground level windows to be distracting, as he never had jowls as far as I know. Admittedly, I am not a Hitler buff so maybe I’m wrong about this.

Poking around the various media outlets that have picked up this story, everyone seems to be taking it all in stride, with most reactions keeping it classy with clever wordplay and puns, like this WalesOnline report from which I borrowed the title of this post: “Various sites across the world are adding their own comments including one which offers these directions to the house: ‘Go through the lights, take the third reich and you’ll find it on your extreme right.’”

Of course, Hitler’s face is one of the most salient and disturbing icons of the twentieth century. A story like this reminds us of that, but plenty of ink has been dedicated to examining Hitler’s legacy, and all of that ink has resulted in a whole realm of publishing, filmmaking and art that makes money off of this image, such is the power of an icon.

My buddy Noma Bar has just created new covers for Picador editions of Don Delillo novels, including Running Dog. This is a riff on a previous illustration Bar did for an Esquire UK article about the demand for books about Hitler.

For all you diehard fans, you’ll remember that this is not the first instance of dictator pareidolia. Who can forget Lenin in the shower curtain?!?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Banksy Didn't Win, Maybe I Will

For those of you who keep up with Hollywood's awards season you know that Banksy's documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop was nominated for an Oscar. It didn't win the Oscar, though it did win an Independent Spirit Award. The iconoclast street artist made a brilliant film that skewers the consumer culture that has made him a star. Because I've worked on numerous graffiti and street art books, I was lucky enough to attend an exclusive screening of the film. It floored me, and prompted me to write Chasing the Whale: Banksy, Obsession, and the Sea for The Millions.

Now I'm trying to drum up votes for the piece to make it to the next round of the 3 Quarks Daily Prize in Arts and Literature. Actual judges will decide the winners and award cash prizes, but for them to even consider this essay I need enough votes to get it in front of their eyes.

Here's the essay's opening to whet your appetite:

There is nothing positive about the dictionary definition of “obsession” – it haunts, is abnormal and persistent, like a bad rash. Tossing the word into a conversation typically indicates some form of criticism about a person and that person’s particular pursuit. Obsessions can lead to stalkers, delusion and great creations (the last two are not mutually exclusive); they can limit and restrict you to minutia or endow a unique vision that changes how you and others view the world at large. People indulge obsession in different ways – live it like a lifestyle or stir it into a creation like a minor but crucial recipe ingredient where it doesn’t overpower anything and complements everything.

Go ahead and read the whole thing, or don't, but vote for #50 either way!