Christmas ornaments produced in Germany during the rise and rule of Adolf Hitler.
In the 1930s as Hitler and his Nazis were coming to power in Germany, they began a war on Christmas, a quest to dismantle age-old Christmas traditions and replace them with Nordic/pagan practices and folklore. The Nazis wanted everyone to follow their lead when it came to their image of the holiday—which at some point included displaying swastikas on Christmas trees. In Germany, Christmas is called “Weihnachten” which the Nazis also took it upon themselves to rename Rauhnacht, which translates in English to “the rough night.”
The Nazis’ changes to Christmas included anti-Semitic activities such as actively avoiding doing business at Jewish-owned establishments during the holiday so that their celebrations would be “free of Jews.” Christmas carols were modified to reflect socialist Nazi beliefs and ideology including replacing references to the “Savior” with a nod to Hitler himself, “Savior Führer.” While many of the Reich’s changes to Christmas took hold, there was one aspect of the holiday that they could not do away with—the image the jolly old fat man, Santa Claus—even in Hitler’s Germany, Santa remained a fixture of the newly Nazified celebration.
Other changes inflicted by the Nazis during the period before their eventual fall in the mid-1940s was the use of Christmas decorations. If you were not already aware, the tradition of decorating a tree at Christmas time got its start in Germany in the 16th century. The most problematic issue for the Nazis was the gleaming star on the top of the tree—a six-pointed star signified Judaism and the Jewish community. A five-pointed star was associated with communism which was less than appealing to the Nazis as well. Instead, Germans were encouraged to replace tree-topping stars with, you guessed it, a swastika or the symbol for the SS (the “Schutzstaffel” or “Protection Squadron” formed under Hitler). Ornaments were transformed to contain Nazi images, slogans like “Sieg Heil!,” and glass-blown baubles in the image of their beloved leader Adolf Hitler. The metamorphosis took approximately six years to complete, though it would all come to an end in 1944 which marked the very last Nazified Christmas. Hitler would meet his maker four months later on April 30th, 1945.
The images that follow are haunting historical documents of how the Nazis tried to change Christmas (and the world) and failed.
More chilling Nazi Christmas images after the jump…
Ajit Pai, who is on the fast track to becoming this season’s Martin Shkreli, has gotten major press the past few days as the FCC Chairman blamed for “murdering net neutrality.” In most of the press photos, Pai is pictured drinking from a ridiculous novelty mug, as large as his head, emblazoned with the Reese’s candy logo.
This mug is so absurdly stupid that John Oliver made fun of it last May in a “Last Week Tonight” segment in which he asked viewers to flood the FCC with calls and comments to urge the agency to retain net neutrality. Oliver drank from a bucket-sized replica of the Reese’s mug. Pai’s response was to film a segment drinking from an even larger mug than Oliver, garbage-can sized.
Pai recently drew Internet ire all over again by releasing what AV Club called “a dumb new video” which openly mocks net neutrality supporters, culminating in a collective public head-explosion when the Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to ultimately dismantle rules regulating Internet service providers, effectively “murdering net neutrality” in the public’s view.
An interesting aside to net neutrality supporters hatred of Pai has been numerous demands on the Reese’s Facebook page to “do something” about him. Though certainly most of these posts are misguided anger, one must wonder what a company might have to do to protect their brand from the negative association with one of the most-hated men in the country. Pai’s mugging with the mug is product placement of the worst possible order. Perhaps these protester’s pleas to the candy company are simply a misguided hope that someone, ANYONE will listen to their frustration. Clearly, the FCC wasn’t listening to the estimated 83% of Americans who support net neutrality. The angry masses await word from Reese’s.
Don’t know much about art history. Don’t know much about graphology. Don’t know much about comic books. Don’t know much about the way things look. But what I do know is what I like and what I currently like are these big, colorful, classical, fantasy, pulp fiction-type canvases by artist Dave Lebow.
Lebow’s paintings mix pop culture with fairy tales and horror fiction. His byline sez he’s “old school” with “a wickedly contemporary retro style that recalls the pulp magazines of long ago.” That’s probably why his work hits the spot and fits snugly like a blue suede shoe on my size ten feet.
You may have seen his specially commissioned paintings (giant biblical canvases) on the cult TV series Dexter or maybe his paintings on ABC’s October Road or the History Channel’s Strange Rituals. His artworks look like gorgeous illustrations from old classic storybooks by the Brothers Grimm, H. P. Lovecraft, or even Stephen King. They impart a scene from a dream-like narrative which you the viewer are invited to make up as you go along, as Lebow has said:
I want my images to grab you and drag you, if not willingly, then kicking and screaming into my picture. I’m inspired and interested in imaginative storytelling pictures that evoke an emotional response.
Originally from Oklahoma, Lebow graduated in Painting from Boston University and has an MFA in Experimental Animation from Cal Arts. Now based in California, he creates his pictures by first sketching out his idea before blocking out a version in oils then painting the full image in all its fabulous technicolor glory.
More recently, Lebow’s paintings have included some pointedly political/satirical portraits of President Trump—one as a member of the KKK another as a Nazi—which don’t seem out of place beside his more fantastical work of demons and devils and two-headed monsters. In fact, he looks right at home.
Lebow certainly gets my vote and you can see more of his work here or maybe buy a print here.
‘All That Glitters.’
Many more of Lebow’s wondrous artworks, after the jump…...
Each December 8th, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, families in the Catalonian region of Spain bring out Tió de Nadal or Caga Tió (which means “shitting log”). The log is painted with a smiling face and stands on two tiny stick legs.
Every night until the 24th, as tradition dictates, the children are instructed to give the Tió a little bite to “eat” and cover him with a blanket to keep him warm and cozy. On Christmas Eve, the Tió is placed partly under his blanket and the children order it to defecate. The children beat the log with sticks, while singing the Tió de Nadal song, in order to make it shit presents.
Parents place presents under the log’s blanket while the children close their eyes and pray for the really good shit.
The children’s song to Caga Tió is absolutely adorable:
avellanes i mató,
si no cagues bé
et daré un cop de bastó.
hazelnuts and mató cheese,
if you don’t shit well,
I’ll hit you with a stick,
Coaxing turds from Caga Tió is a wonderful Christmas custom, but not the only scatalogical Catalonian tradition. Even more popular and beloved is the Caganer, whose name literally translates to “the crapper” or “the shitter”. The Caganer is a figurine, traditionally in peasant garb, who is bent over and taking a dump. This figurine is placed among the other figures in the Nativity Scene. The figure is hidden away in the Nativity and the children are instructed to try and find the Caganer.
It’s not known for certain why the pooping character has been added to the Nativity, but it seems to have been around since at least the 18th Century. Some claim that the character represents fertilization of the Earth and others believe the Caganer represents “the spoil-sport we all have within us.” No one is really sure, but the character maintains a massive popularity despite some governmental attempts to ban the public display.
The Caganer statuettes are sometimes fashioned in the likeness of well-known figures from pop culture or politics, including what is certain to be this year’s hottest selling nativity-shitter, Donald J. Trump.
Pop-surrealist Ron English gained fame through billboard liberation and other Situationist-style pranks like his amazingcereal-box détournement project. He’s waged war against Camel cigarettes for overtly marketing to children, and against Apple for appropriating crucial 20th-Century social justice figures who were too dead to object to their commercial exploitation. But his broad critique of consumer culture has, like the work of his fellow street-art godhead Banksy, long since found its way into the gallery world, and in contrast with his billboard hijackings, his paintings are slick, highly-polished satires of corporate America’s propaganda campaigns (“…like if Walt Disney was a left-wing propagandist,” he once said in a Hypebeast interview).
English’s newest body of work goes on display this week at DTLA’s Corey Helford Gallery, in a solo exhibit titled “TOYBOX: America in the Visuals.” 36 new paintings will be included, as will installation pieces and sculpture, plus a musical performance by English’s alter-ego DJ POPaganda—the name being derived from a term he coined for his work, and which has served as the title for a book and a documentary, as well. The collected work seeks to examine self-creation and the development of identity as an act of the imagination, a process that starts in childhood through play—particularly play with toys, which can serve as proxy identities—but which continues throughout one’s life. We reached out to English for a comment, and he was kind enough to respond:
It seems these days everyone has an opinion, no one has a clue. Opinions and beliefs have become the currency of modern civilization, and we are in the midst of creating the new mythologies that will define us in the future. This show is a visual and musical intervention into that process.
Here’s a small sampling of the new paintings. A few of them were provided exclusively to Dangerous Minds, and we’re grateful to the Corey Helford Gallery for that extremely cool consideration. Click an image to spawn an enlargement.
While some people find themselves sapped of the will to live by Donald Trump, Heidecker clearly finds him creatively inspiring, albeit in a bitter/rancorous sense. Steadily rolled out since that dark day the most horrible human being of all time managed to squeak into the White House and get handed the nuclear football, Heidecker says “Most of these songs were written and recorded quickly, with the blood still boiling from whatever indignity or absurdity had popped up on my newsfeed that day.”
Too Dumb For Suicide features a credible Elvis Costello pastiche about POTUS squeezing out a toxic and painful black KFC turd and ultimately dying whilst taking a shit on his gilded toilet; an inspiring number about beating neo-Nazi goofball Richard Spencer about the face and neck; an explication in jaunty song about what exactly it will take to make America great again and a beautifully-backhanded Randy Newman-esque “tribute” to Trump’s weasel-like Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. There’s even a cover version “bonus track” of Heidecker’s “Trump’s Private Pilot” by Josh Tillman doing his very best Father John Misty impression as a pilot ready to sacrifice himself for the good of the human race and asking everyone to support a Kickstarter for his kids.
Too Dumb For Suicide is all this and more, although noted weenie Paul Simon refused to allow “I Am A Cuck” (an alt-right take-off on his “I Am A Rock”) to be included. I asked Heidecker a few questions via email.
Dangerous Minds: Is it safe to assume that you don’t really like Donald Trump all that much?
Tim Heidecker: What’s to like? He’s everything we’re taught not to be. But he’s also totally absurd and very funny to me. So I reflect those two sides; some funny stuff, but also some very dark stuff.
Tell me how you really feel…
Tim Heidecker: It’s all broken and pointless and folks should start thinking about living in the woods again.
Last year, I was very fortunate to see an early cut of Rupert Russell’s documentary on the rise of fake democracy Freedom of the Wolf, which will be on release soon and is currently screening at the International Documentary Festival (IDFA) over the next two weeks. The title of the film comes from the renowned philosopher Isaiah Berlin who once said, “Freedom for the wolves has often meant death to the sheep.” This quote provides a starting-point for Russell who goes in search of the world’s most dangerous idea Freedom.
The end result is an excellent and indispensable documentary which provides one helluva ride across continents to meet the people battling on the frontline like the demonstrators occupying the streets of Hong Kong against the Chinese government’s removal of their democratic rights; or the youngsters in Tunisia who are left frustrated and isolated after the failure of the Arab Spring where telling a joke now can land them in jail; and to death on the streets of America, #BlackLivesMatter, and the game-changing election of Donald Trump in 2016. Freedom of the Wolf is the essential documentary to go and see if you want to get a handle on what is happening to freedom and democracy in the world right now .
I caught-up with Russell who has been screening Freedom of the Wolf at film festivals across the world to great acclaim. I started by asking him what had the response to his film been like at film the festivals?
Rupert Russell: The screenings have been fantastic; with a few cultural differences. In the UK, people have been responding to the dark humor – there’s a low-level absurdity that runs through the whole film, which the Brits pick up on pretty quickly. In Poland, the audiences were anxious to discuss how to mount successful protests; which, for them, is understandable!
DM: Was it what you expected?
Russell: To be honest, I think it’s wise to have no expectations. Sure, you screen the film to your friends and family who are supportive and tell you it’s great. I’m sure even Ed Wood had words of encouragement when he played a cut of Plan 9 From Outer Space or Tommy Wiseau with The Room. So I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the reaction.
DM: What do you think Trump will do? Where do you think he’s going as President?
Russell: After the Republicans take a pummeling in the 2018 elections, Trump will be rattled. He’ll provoke a foreign war to consolidate his base and divide the Democrats. Where? Who knows. Australia and Canada appear as villains in Trump’s twitter feed as much as North Korea. I’m guessing that Trump is going to surprise us by invading a U.S. territory. Remember in 2015 how the InfoWars crowd was stoking a heated conspiracy for months that Obama was going to “invade” Texas? It may sound insane, but Trump’s favorite website reported that this kind of action is a normal response to a “hostile” enemy – even if it is already under the control of the Pentagon. Puerto Rico would be the obvious contender for a self-invasion. But Trump is never predictable, so I’m putting my money on California.
DM: Do you think revolutionary acts “keep the status in the quo”?—as a character in one of Derek Jarman’s films once ironically pointed out?
Russell: If your bar for success is the elimination of inequality, sexism, racism and other forms of oppression in their entirety, then yes, every act – revolutionary or not – is unlikely to eliminate them. There’s something ingrained in us to create distinctions and hierarchies. Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels captured this flaw in human nature elegantly in the sectarian conflict between Big-Endians and the Little-Endians; that is, between those who crack open an egg on the big or little end. If we can’t find a real reason to divide ourselves, we’ll find one: no matter how arbitrary or absurd.
But if you lower the bar, to say, improvement, then I think even small – let alone revolutionary – acts can make a big difference. If you thought the global women’s marches on January 21 were going to lead to the removal of Donald Trump or the overthrow of patriarchy, then yes, you will have been disappointed. But the current pushback against famous men who have sexually assaulted, harassed, and demeaned women, then I think you have the Women’s March to thank for it. It generated grassroots organizations - in both real life and online - that gave women spaces, opportunities, and platforms to articulate and understand what, until then, had been largely private interactions.
And if you take the two most successful civil disobedient campaigns in history – the civil rights struggle in the US and campaign for independence in India – the striking thing is how long they took. Change takes decades. Sometimes a protest resulted in a step backward with more oppression; other times they moved things forward. But the individuals knew that their struggle was historic and may even take multiple generations to complete. That’s why the arc of history is “long” – and not conveniently contained within a 24-hour news cycle.
DM: What do you think will happen in Hong Kong? And in Tunisia?
Russell: In Hong Kong, the short term looks very bleak. Young leaders are in prison, and pro-democracy legislators have been banned from the legislature. In the long term, I’m optimistic. There’s a body of research in psychology that has found that the events that happen in your early adult life – from 18 to 22 – have an incredible impact on the rest of your life. So in Hong Kong, you have an entire generation who has teargassed by the police and slept under highways for democracy; they’re not going to forget that. And in twenty, thirty years, these will be the people who will be running the banks, the civil service, and even the police in Hong Kong.
Tunisia is sadly predictable. The President, Beji Essebsi, has used the police to drive motorcycles in protests and kept laws that prohibit the criticizing of public officials on the books (inherited from the dictatorship, which he served in). He has made some important reforms on women’s issues, freeing Muslim women from the necessity of having to marry another Muslim. This shouldn’t surprise us though. He was the Minister of the Interior – the heart of the police state – under the secular dictator Ben Ali. So a mixture of authoritarianism and anti-Islamism was to be expected. The unfortunate thing is that while progress on women’s issue is reported in the Western press, his illiberal actions are not. Perhaps this is because we want to keep in our (Western) minds the notion that Tunisia is a “success” and “progress” is being made. It’s a narcissistic reflection of our own ideals; our values flourishing outside of our immediate cultural orbit. And if we look too closely, we may not like what we see.
DM: What next for you? What are you making?
Russell: I have just completed an animated web-series for the online streaming platform, Yaddo. It’s called How the World Went Mad and it uses a mixture of satire and science to try to explain the rise of Trump. Each episode takes a lesson from social science to explain a different aspect of this “disease” – diagnosis, symptoms, transmission, epidemic, and cure. It’s been a lot of fun and I can’t wait to put them out there. Not sure how the episode on suicide bombing is going to be received. But I’m ready for the trolls (the episode might be the one thing that will unite ISIS and the Alt-Right).
Apparently, Donald Trump has unwittingly produced a book of poetry. Not just your run-of-the-mill rhyming couplets or iambic pentameter, but short sentences artfully clipped from speeches, Tweets, and interviews and then edited by Rob Sears. The resulting work reveal the “little known alternative fact that the 45th President, Donald J. Trump, has long been a remarkable poet.”
Who knew? you may well ask. Nobody, that is, until now.
With The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump, renowned fiction and comedy writer Sears hopes to redress this glaring oversight by the literary world and show that Trump is no slouch, no dunderhead, “no fabulous whiner,” when it comes to the aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language, but “a modern-day Basho or Larkin” with smaller hands.
As Sears explains in his introduction to this “groundbreaking” collection of verse:
The greatest misapprehension about DJT corrected by this volume, however, may be the idea that he sees money and power as ends in themselves. In fact, just as Wilfred Owen turned his wartime experiences into poetry, and Slyvia Plath found the dark beauty in her own depression, Trump is able to transform his unique experiences of being a winner into 24-karat verse. He didn’t build a huge real-estate empire for the billions; he did it so he could write poems…
Not that anyone normal would ever recognize this from Trump’s rambling, incoherent, monosyllabic outpourings, but somehow Sears has toiled heroically to cut and reorder the President’s pronouncements into “a trove of beautiful verse waiting to be discovered.”
I can see that you don’t believe him, or me. Well, here are just a few of the many delights waiting to be discovered in The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump:
Well, we’ve had some disasters, but this is the worst
I’ve known some bad dudes
I’ve been at parties
They want to do serious harm
I’ve seen and I’ve watched things like with guns
I know a lot of tough guys but they’re not smart
We’re dealing with people like animals
But they are the folks I like the best—by far!
I am the least racist person there is
I’ve always had a great relationship with the blacks
I remained strong for Tiger Woods during his difficult
Oprah, I love Oprah. Oprah would always be my first choice
Kanye West—I love him
I think Eminem is fantastic, and most people think I
wouldn’t like Eminem
And did you know my name is in more black songs than any
other name in hip-hop?
You are the racist, not I
I respect women, I love women, I cherish women
Vagina is expensive
No more apologies—take the offensive!
Hot little girl in high school
I’m a very compassionate person (with a very high IQ)
Just think, in a couple of years I’ll be dating you
It must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees
Come here, I’ll show how life works. Please.
We’ve got to stop the stupid
You know what uranium is, right?
It’s a thing called nuclear weapons and other things like lots
of things that are done with uranium including some bad
I have to explain this to these people, they don’t even understand basic
physics, basic mathematics, whatever you call it
I mean, they’re like stupid
Look at the way I’ve been treated lately
I should have been TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year
Just like I should have gotten the Emmy for The Apprentice
I should have easily won the Trump University case
I should have won New York state but I didn’t
I unfairly get audited by the I.R.S. almost every
No politician in history—and I say this with great surety—
has been treated worse or more unfairly
You may have heard of Postman Pat or rather, “Postman Pat, Postman Pat, Postman Pat and his black and white cat.” If you know what I’m talking about, then you’ll know how goddamned difficult it is to say “Postman Pat” without singing the show’s catchy little jingle.
Anyway, Postman Pat is a kids’ series on British TV that’s been running long enough for the big-nosed puppet Pat to claim his pension. It’s been so successful the series has been sold to who knows how many different countries across the world. One day, no doubt, there will a gathering of all the world’s bigwigs at the UN who will suddenly agree on global peace and prosperity after bursting into several rousing renditions of the Postman Pat theme tune.
Ole Fick is the Danish actor who provides the voice for the series in Denmark where it’s known as Postmand Per. Fick has voiced a whole bunch of kids TV and movie imports as far back as Disney’s The Aristocats,. As an actor, he’s starred in quite a few big screen movies and acclaimed TV series.
But acting is just one of the many things with which Fick (b. 1948) has achieved great success in his life. He’s also well-known as a comic who has worked alongside comedy duo Monrad & Rislund—think Rowan and Martin or Morecambe and Wise. He writes kids’ books and draws cartoons. But Fick’s probably best known in Denmark as singer and guitarist with the jazz-funk-prog rock band Burnin Red Ivanhoe—who coincidentally celebrate their 50th anniversary this year.
If this weren’t enough to make you want to re-evaluate your own productivity, Fick is a painter who since 2010 has been exhibiting his surreal and satirical paintings across Denmark to considerable success. Fick paints pictures of the various kinds of deluded men who seem to have an overly large part in running the world. The men who feast on havoc and chaos, exploitation and greed. Fick’s paintings are chronicles of the world in which we all live—between the devourer and the devoured—where manners and etiquette don’t soften the damage done. See more of Fick’s work here.
I suppose some may say, “It’s not big. It’s not clever.” But still, it is quite amusing. Artist provocateur Hogre is waging a war against capitalism, consumerism, right-wing politics, and religion one advert at a time.
Hogre illegally takes over large billboards and bus stop advertising displays across London and reinvents them with subversive messages. Santa Claus is no longer celebrating Christmas with a Coke but preparing to start the revolution with a fiery Molotov cocktail. Neighborhood Watch is really Neighborhood Snitch. And car companies are shitting all over the world because “Why worry about Global Warming? We all die anyway!”
Originally from Italy, Hogre’s been making his presence known for about ten years with his clever, amusing stencils and inventive acts of vandalism. It’s all jolly good fun and thought-provoking to boot but I do wonder if such well-intended artistic anarchy is more likely to result in Hogre’s work being curated in an art gallery than awakening the “sheeple” from their addiction to consumerism. But I suppose one can hope.