Friday, November 16, 2012

Nazi Fetishism in BDSM and Other Subcultures

I would have liked to have posted this on HubPages, but they don't allow any sort of sexual or fetish content, so I'll just have to post it here. Once again, sorry about the formatting.

Portrait of a young Totenkopf SS officer
(Source: Weaxzezz & Proud)
There are going to be two groups of people: those who find this provocative and interesting, and those who are flabbergasted and revolted even if they manage to read through it. Because of the controversial nature of both these topics - let alone the combination - people simply haven't written much about them as a counterculture phenomenon, and as I've found this interesting for some time, I figured, why not. I'm not doing it for shock value or to offend anyone, and am taking it quite seriously. 

Both the Nazis and how they've been portrayed in popular media as time has gone on are fascinating subjects and should be studied instead of being immediately dismissed, written off, or ignored; forgetting important parts of history is what allows them to repeat themselves.
I mean, they were horrible, but now that Nazi ideology is enjoying a shocking resurgence, several years after I wrote this, I figure this post is getting more attention again, so I've come back and edited it as of early 2018. Many extreme political and religious groups, subcultures, art movements, and bands enjoy long-lived cult followings, but sometimes they manifest themselves in ways that are totally counterintuitive or even outright ignorant. That's what I'm interested in here.
In case you're already or still completely incensed that I would do a Nazi fetish post anyway, here's the disclaimer: I am not ignorant of the various and grandiose atrocities committed by the Nazis, and might even be aware of a few specific and especially sickening ones that you are not. Human experimentation, genocide, and torture are unequivocally and literally the worst things that people can do, and if you've found your way here as someone with white supremacist, anti-Semitic, or similar leanings, you should look at photos of the many thousands of children who died terrified in the arms of their mothers and grandmothers and watch interviews with survivors of these atrocities until you make yourself physically sick, because you need to. You are deeply wrong to harbour racist ideologies begotten from your own misplaced anger and disenfranchisement. Please do the world a favour and educate yourself.
Further, I believe that people who are aroused by torture and murder ought to seek professional help expediently instead of indulging their fantasies, even in seemingly harmless ways.
Alright, so what this is, at its core, is a look into the nature of the eroticism of power and domination, in the context of a specific historical cult with one of the most fascinating and comprehensive propaganda campaigns ever conceived. People probably wouldn't be nearly as revolted and offended if it were the Soviets who had been so stylish and interesting, for example, even though Stalin murdered scores more than Hitler (though I am certainly not trying to be so petty as to keep a tally).
I've been wanting to delve into this topic for some time, and having just finished Fifty Shades of Derp and realised that BDSM is working its way into mainstream American pop culture as a poorly-construed flavour of the month trilogy and probably being largely misunderstood by average women, I've at last gotten the last little push I needed. Sadomasochism is really a very small aspect of that story, merely serving as a semi-justification for Christian Grey's preferences, and without that detail the book would just be Twilight all over again, or one of the countless cheesy romance novels of the 90's in which a powerful man controls and subdues a naïve, uninteresting woman into loving him, possibly even raping her, because even though he makes her miserable and they're fundamentally incompatible, he's just so damn good looking that she can't help herself. 

This model is offensive and even misogynistic in its vapidity, distorting sadism and masochism to the casual observer. It walks an awkward line between S&M and a depiction of Stockholm syndrome, which does not constitute a loving, trusting relationship and usually puts someone or all parties at risk of serious harm or even death.
I've also said "American pop culture" specifically because American society is unique, especially in the context of how sexuality is perceived. It's easily the most diverse society on the planet but is rooted in Puritan tradition, and no other developed nation has comparable numbers of very religious citizens with correspondingly fundamentalist, conservative views. The founding Puritans are why words like "crap" are censored on Cartoon Network, why a brief glimpse of Janet Jackson's nipple brought everything to a screeching halt, and why we have a ubiquitous national uniform of T-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes.
We as a nation simultaneously embrace and condemn the superficial, dressing toddlers up to look like toy dolls and prostitutes while outright condemning teens who are sexually active. We won't legalise prostitution even though it's proven that regulating it would largely prevent young runaways from being snatched off the street and sold into slavery, would largely prevent vicious assaults, forced and voluntary hard drug use, the spread of STD's, et cetera, because even though it's the world's oldest profession, our society cannot wrap its pointy, self-righteous head around doing so. I believe that this draconian system of moral checks and balances that interfere so egregiously in peoples' personal lives is a big part of why there is such tension and division in the U.S., as so many diverse people obviously do not conform to it at all, and yet for some reason it persists. There is pressure to be normal, and talking openly about sex is shocking, especially if it's not the hetero, under-the-covers-and-in-the-dark, safely vanilla type.
Europe, by contrast, is generally more liberal about these things, and the Japanese simply turn every fetish you can think of into an adorable neon-lit sex playground complete with an inflatable slide and snacks and probably staffed by underaged girls, even though most Japanese people are thoroughly oppressed and conservative. Northern European countries, including the former Nazi country, are the happiest and enjoy the highest quality of life civilisation currently has to offer, while the U.S. and Japan, both puritanical, oppressive, and fascist in their own ways, barely qualify as developed nations in comparison. Kind of forces one to conclude that being able to talk openly about complex and sometimes uncomfortable things like this is healthier than shoving it all away. But I digress.

Two countries that were actually involved with the Nazis in the Great War - Italy and England - are where this fetish originates. I wouldn't doubt that it existed in some form immediately, and it would be interesting to do serious research into old letters and other documents, but as far as I know, it began in earnest with a controversial 1974 film by Liliana Cavani called Il Portiere di notteThe Night Porter. 
Charlotte Rampling as Lucia Atherton in
 The Night Porter  (Source: Russh Magazine)
The Wiki synopsis is well-written and concise, so I'll just use it:
Dirk Bogarde plays Maximilian Theo Aldorfer, a former Nazi SS officer, and Charlotte Rampling plays Lucia Atherton, a concentration camp survivor who has an ambiguous relationship with Aldorfer. Flashbacks show Max tormenting Lucia, but also acting as her protector. In an iconic scene, Lucia sings a Marlene Dietrich song to the concentration camp guards while wearing pieces of an SS uniform, and Max "rewards" her with the severed head of a male inmate who had been bullying the other inmates, a reference to Salome.
Thirteen years after World War II, Lucia meets Aldorfer again; he is now the night porter at a Vienna hotel. There, they fall back into their sadomasochistic relationship.

At first glance maybe you'd think that this was just another racy European softcore-ish film, as they were becoming quite common by the mid 70's, but that's not the case. It's actually pretty tasteful, and the concentration camp flashbacks emphasise how psychologically warped yet apparently inevitable this bond between prisoner and captor is. 
Lucia, as a grown woman, feels compelled to fulfill her deep sexual desire to be dominated by Max, and lies to her unsuspecting husband so she can skulk off and relive it with him. The dynamic of cruelty, submission, power and mutual trust that evolved between the two shaped Lucia's understanding of a sexual relationship in her formative years, and she cannot dissociate arousal and the thrill of being tormented.
Again, where is the line between domination and submission and Stockholm syndrome? After going over this previously it seems like we should know, but how often do situations really fit snugly within the confines of a textbook definition? A literal prisoner and captor in this type of relationship, in the context of a horrifying political situation and humanitarian crisis, is certainly unique, and valid arguments could be made from both sides. Regardless of whether or not Max is a horrible person for what he has done and participated in, perhaps he genuinely understands and loves Lucia. Perhaps Lucia had been dehumanised to the extent that she is simply willing to do anything to survive the situation, and involuntarily regresses when she encounters her tormentor again later in life.

If this were the sort of thought-provoking discourse going on concerning Filthy Shades of Lame it would still be a terribly-written piece of mommy porn, but at least it would be making people think.
Siouxsie Sioux and Sid Vicious 
Il Portiere di notte also introduced people to Nazi chic as sexy fetish wear for women when Lucia put on SS officer accessories (sans shirt) and sang Marlene Dietrich for her captors. 

Ballsier London punks started wearing Nazi symbols soon afterward, as punk rock developed there from 1974-1976. Sid Vicious and Siouxsie Sioux are the most notable people I'm aware of who sported Nazi regalia. 

I'm not sure who did it first, but Sioux also wore rubber and leather fetish wear on stage, went topless, carried whips, and was quite openly into BDSM sex, or at least vividly portraying herself as if she were. She's also the icon of trad (short for traditional) goth, and naturally this sort of dark, intentionally offensive style and behaviour permeates that subculture as well. I'm sure her stage presence constituted a genuine love for exhibitionism, which doesn't have to be a sadistic or masochistic fetish but is often used in the context of creating arousing shame in such circumstances. Vicious often wore handcuffs on his belt and bondage gear, and probably lived a similar lifestyle.

But why, why would extreme leftists wear the symbols of the most extreme incarnation of fascism? This would be so, so unacceptable today; these performers would be over. Extreme music scenes are overwhelmingly far left to the point of being Marxist and anarchist at times, and this would never be tolerated. These bands, these careers, these very people, would be over.
Nazi chic among London punks in the 70's
(Source: Nazruel d'Cokrow)
Worn together, though, it may be that Nazi regalia and restraint devices represent an anti-authoritarian sociopolitical statement. Were Sid and Siouxsie criticising the British government and accusing the upper rungs of society of being Nazi sympathisers?

I would love to ask them, but as is popularly known, Sid is dead, and I have unfortunately never seen Siouxsie live (if you're thinking she was way before my time, she released a well-received solo album my first year of college that I was very excited about); this is just speculation.
The swastika shirt, complete with leather and hardware, started popping up elsewhere, probably for shock value. Anarchy in the U.K. was the new cool thing, right? Piss off your parents, your teachers, the pigs, everyone. Yeah! 

Lower middle-class urban youth have always been and always will be frustrated and stifled, in need of a sometimes destructive outlet. This is where things start getting complicated and convoluted, though, and where it's essential to understand the difference between skinheads and Neo-Nazis. There are multiple subdivisions of skinhead within punk and other scenes, and as this post already covers a lot of ground I'm not going to get into the nitty-gritty of it, but suggest anyone unclear on the subject do some reading on it before continuing.
In short, though, the NF, or the British National Front, saw the peak of its popularity at exactly this time, and the whites-only nationalist organisation indoctrinated some of these angry disaffected kids into its cause. The exact same phenomenon also happens in every poor  and predominantly white neighbourhood in America today, American History X-style. 
Believe me, I know. I was there.
I went to high school in a neighbourhood full of skinheads, one notably anti-Nazi and others not; white supremacist rock and metal are quite popular in thoroughly Caucasian, uneducated, gun-toting, working-poor places like the one I come from.
When people without enough resources are already angry enough to be violent and are looking for someone to blame for being on the fringes of the economy and/or society, it's not exactly a huge step for extremist organisations to approach and cajole them. From there, it's no longer a huge step to commit a hate crime, to kill someone, or to carry out a terrorist attack.
The point is, though, that kids on both sides of the aisle, whatever their individual motivations, started wearing Nazi regalia as a fashion statement when punk was born in London in the mid-1970's. 
One of the most popular and iconic shirts aside from that red swastika one was actually designed by Vivienne Westwood circa 1978 - 1979, and features another enormous swastika with the word "DESTROY" across it, a crucified Jesus, and a postage stamp of the Queen superimposed over it all. This more or less supports my theory (since I wasn't there and can't claim to have a perfect bead on the cultural zeitgeist) that the original punks not only hated their government but considered it full-on racist and fascist, just like punks the world over today. Luckily for her, Westwood had the presence of mind never to put her name on this and I can't prove definitively that she designed and sold this shirt, but all evidence points to it. 
Intentionally vague, offensive and provocative? You bet. 
She also designed fetish wear at the time. 
Source: Style Pantry
I've referred to the Nazis themselves as "stylish" at least once already, and maybe you think it's terrible and sick of me to attribute any positive adjective to SS officers, but there's simply no disputing the effectiveness of sharp, well-designed and well-tailored uniforms. They exude a sense of authority and make people - especially impressionable children and teens - look up to you as a legitimate figure of authority, a representative of an ideal career path, even national hero. That's the whole point: the Nazis spent years gradually solidifying their grasp on power and it obviously helps a lot to look good while doing that.

Uniforms create a powerful sense of unity and of belonging to something much bigger and more significant than yourself, and, well, you know what they say about how much the ladies dig them. If I were talking about naval officers or Marines people be nodding, or at least quietly acquiescing. Charisma, pro-you, anti-not-even-human-them propaganda, and presenting an all-around positive image to people are the things you use to win them over, regardless of your platform or intentions. 
Portrait of a young SS officer
(Source: tumblr.)
That Vivienne Westwood is not the only huge designer name to come up while we're on this subject, then, is not surprising: it's common knowledge that Hugo Boss joined the Nazi party and produced many of their SS uniforms using forced concentration camp labour. His sales increased exponentially as a result, which he needed, as he'd been forced to declare bankruptcy and his business was all but completely dismantled only two years before he started supporting the Party. Boss became the official supplier of uniforms not only for the infamous SS, but also for the Hitler Youth, the Storm Detachment (or more commonly, the Brownshirts), and the National Socialist Motor Corps.
Uniform fetishes are not uncommon, and when you combine this with the fact that the ideal German - according to incredibly screwed-up eugenic ideals that have no basis in science or reason but function fairly well as a positive stereotype - is fair, blue-eyed, chiseled, and generally extremely good-looking, even the most flabbergasted of sexually conservative readers can start to get the idea. The same goes for men: squeeze a blonde, blue-eyed bombshell with an hourglass figure into a tight black uniform with mean leather boots or pumps and tell me you're not instantly having a good time.
That what she's wearing represents something totally heinous and socially unacceptable just makes it more exciting for more than a few people.
Most everyone knows about Prince Harry's now-infamous Halloween costume, but Nazi fetishism has also slunk and slithered into American popular culture more than people realise. Everyone knows that Michael Jackson was one of the most bizarre celebrities ever, but multiple different media outlets have reported that he studied Hitler and his regime extensively, especially in the context of troubled youths, and that he owned an extensive collection of Nazi memorabilia, documentaries, and other films. Perhaps you're more casually familiar with the fact that he, too, was a huge fan of military uniforms as a fashion statement. 
If you're wondering where I personally would draw the line between acceptable and creepy in the context of this fetish, I have to say that seeing those kinds of images and symbols in your home every day and having to consider the atrocities behind them as you drink your coffee or stroll to the bathroom is way over the line. How the hell do you explain that to visitors? Who wouldn't run right back out the door? More pressingly, who exactly was preserving those things and received large sums of money for them? How is it possible to want to collect them if you're not a Nazi sympathiser? Again, this person was known for being deeply strange and misunderstood and is also dead, so we may never know. One thing is clear, though: if these allegations are true, MJ had a full-blown Nazi fetish.
Another prominent celebrity accused of having a thing for Nazis is none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, the oft-imitated arguably multi-talented Governator. 
He has a belt buckle depicting the logo of the Totenkopf, the 3rd SS division, infamous because of that "Death's Head" logo and because of the fact that most of its members were concentration camp guards. He even brandished it very clearly on the cover of Time with Michael Bloomberg, who's Jewish! 

What the actual fuck, Arnie?

It's not unknown or difficult to find out that Schwarzenegger's father was an Austrian police chief and a member of the Nazi Party, too, so you'd think that such a prominent public figure would want to put as much distance between himself and something so flagrantly controversial as this as humanly possible, but then, I mean, there it is. The Totenkopf staring us right in the face.
The man may be swinging far to the left as he ages, but he was a member of and rose through the ranks of the GOP, the nasty, moneyed, white supremacists of America, and one can't dismiss that.
Speaking of idiotically sporting Nazi regalia in public as a rabid fan of America's Republican Party, a lot of people also noticed the Bundeswehr uniform, Soviet cap, and red background Glenn Beck wore for the cover of his book as an apparent parody of the people who criticism him. If this weren't taken so grossly and ignorantly out of context even I, a genuine and vehement hater of this man as a living organism, would concede that it was a clever shock marketing tactic. But when you combine it with all-too-frequent Nazi references he and other mass media talking heads have made, it makes you wonder to what extent a fascination of and appreciation for this fetish has cropped up among these foaming-at-the-mouth demagogues. A list of some of these extremist comments and references can be found here, though they're far too ubiquitous to compile in their entirety and that list is by no means exhaustive.
Moving away from politicising this fetish by proponents of things like Southern Strategy and teleevangelism, I've also wondered for some time why it's popular in Japan. Cosplay, or the costume play of popular anime, video game and other characters, for those who are unfamiliar, is practically an Olympic sport there. Even though the Japanese, on the other side of the world, were not impacted by Nazi war crimes, experimentation, expansionism or horror in general, they were an Axis power and obviously aware of what was going on. They committed many similar atrocities themselves, and their ruling party - the LDP - retains the same attitudes to this very day. Unlike Germany, they have never had to answer or atone for what they did throughout Asia, and they simply re-write their history books to exclude things like the Rape of Nanking, when they bother teaching kids about their own country's 20th century history at all. I have researched this and kept up while I was living in Japan with smaller, more local news items and comments that wouldn't normally make it abroad, and it is, sadly, very true.
When I finish railing as hard as I can on Japan over their territorial dispute with Korea in another post, I'll link you to it, but for now, enjoy this article for a summary of how Japan is considered an exemplary supremacist 'ethnostate' by all of the most prominent Neo-Nazi alt-right figures we have the spectacular misfortune of knowing about today.

I would expect to see and have seen Nazi regalia in visual kei, or basically the Marilyn Manson-esque shock rock / fashion metal that ranges in musical style from ballad-peppered arena rock to thrash metal, the same way I would have expected to and did see Siouxsie Sioux wearing it. In addition to being spectacularly ignorant of politics and anything that went on or goes on outside of Japan, though, there are a couple of additional reasons why this might not be considered quite as shocking for Japanese youths. 

Pretty much everything is a superficial novelty in Japan, from thoroughly sexualised elementary school girls to endangered animals. (Kiddie porn was perfectly legal there up until 2014, and actually, that's just when they finally passed a law against it; the law didn't go into effect until the following year. And it doesn't include anime or manga, which are absolutely rife with the animated version of the same thing.)

This one is quite basic; others that I regularly saw even
in my own neighbourhood are more dramatic and still
more old-fashioned, with tasseled hats and more buttons.
The swastika, as is common knowledge once again, is just the universal Buddhist symbol for peace spinning in the other direction to represent its antithesis, so it also doesn't produce the same instantaneous reaction of abhorrence as it does in the West. East Asians are accustomed to seeing it in its original form as a part of daily life.

Finally, Japan has essentially always been an authoritarian society, and for much of its history it has been a military dictatorship: as a result, Japan has a massive uniform fetish. There are uniforms for absolutely everything, and that is not necessarily a good thing. There are plenty of elementary school kids, even in central Tokyo, who are literally required to wear a tiny version of a late-19th century military uniform every day. 
Arm bands are also still common there, even for harmless groups of people like student volunteers at events or the fans of a perfectly innocuous rock band. Because of deeply-ingrained nationalism, institutionalised racism, and concepts of inherent ethnic purity and superiority, one realises, none of this is actually surprising.
The recent Internet buzz-worthy trend of Nazi uniforms in Chinese weddings, on the other hand, kind of takes things to the next level:
Source: (China Smack!)
I really can't purport to know what these brides and grooms to be are thinking. Is it that they're glorifying their own oppressive communist government, or romanticising another about which they, like the Japanese, have been systematically misinformed?

Over the course of my years living in Asia I wanted very badly to visit Thailand, but never made it there. Any number of coworkers, friends, and friends of friends did, though, including one British woman who was both a coworker and friend who lived there for a couple of years, and more than once these people reported back about seeing and/or shared photos of things like T-shirts for sale.. with swastikas on them. There's a Coca Cola polar bear one, there's a Beatles shirt, an Iron Maiden shirt, one with Elmo on it, aaaaand... a Nazi shirt. Here we are again, wondering what in the hell Asians are thinking and why this is acceptable to them, as if Nazi symbols and uniforms are just another of the countless innocuous pop culture icons out there, like Mickey Mouse or the Superman logo. 

A lot of people, including this guy, have come to some of the same conclusions in the case of Thailand that I did with Japan, albeit with less solid historical and political evidence to go on: these people, mostly young people, are totally ignorant of basic world history, and especially Western history, through their own fault but also through that of their sub-par educational system. Also, again, there is this very long history of the swastika being a ubiquitous Buddhist symbol of peace; apparently, in combination with total ignorance of what Nazis are and what they stand for, this produces not only confusion but adolation.

Even with these additional years and experiences under my belt, the Chinese, Thai, and any other non-Japanese Asian pop culture fetishes with Nazi figures, symbols, and regalia remain mysterious to me. There is a tumblr all about Asians cluelessly thinking Nazi stuff is cool and fun, though.

Back on more familiar and relatable Western territory, Nazis will also be eternally popular as villains in film, from Inglorious Basterds and Captain America to The Pianist, Schindler's List and Defiance, but also as more human and sympathetic - though admittedly much less frequent - characters in movies such as Das Boot, Valkyrie, and The Reader

Thomas Kretschmann in The Pianist (Source:
Either way, we see them constantly, and it's very possible that an actor you personally find physically attractive has played a Nazi. I've got a thing for Thomas Kretschmann, who you've probably seen a few times and never noticed, and well, he looks really good in those uniforms. (On an interesting and nearly-relevant note, he also escaped East Germany on foot when he was 19. ) How do you reconcile something like that? They are good uniforms.
And once again, I've just illustrated the disconnect. The fact that I think Thomas Kretschmann makes a very attractive Nazi in movies has nothing to do with actual Nazis, what they did or what they stood for, now does it? 

Consider another example: the heavy, ongoing, 1960's-style fetishisation of flight attendants.
If I were a middle-aged man who frequently traveled for business and found them irresistible, would you think that it was the concept of being a sky waitress that drove me wild? The little packets of peanuts, helping people cram things into the overhead bins? Bracing for impact? No, dude. It's those tight, stylish uniforms. Including the hats. 

You don't have to be full-on dressed in a Nazi uniform in a war drama or sporting a swastika armband while stage diving into a bunch of sweaty punks to fit the description of "Nazi chic" and look sexy while doing it, either: anybody remember this shocking little number? 
Lady Gaga made a whole album worth of catchy hit songs that were pretty unabashedly re-vamped Madonna hits, but instead of some generic tanned tropical sunset fantasy, the video for her version of La Isla Bonita was a massively homoerotic, dark, Nazi chic, short film, art piece thing. I miss when she was super edgy and interesting.

Is it inappropriate to wear Nazi regalia in public for any reason, be you a famous political figure, a mostly-innocent Thai high school kid who unfortunately doesn't know shit about history, or an aging guitarist in a less-than-spectacular shock rock band looking for attention and photo ops? Pretty definitively, yes. 
Even if you don't have evil ideas and are not trying to hurt anyone, for all you know, you could pass someone on the street whose parents were Auschwitz survivors. 
Is it weird to be obsessed with the Nazis and own an enormous collection of films, propaganda, accessories and other paraphernalia? I'd say so, and so would most people, and if someone would like to disagree, they're more than welcome to try. 

I haven't even mentioned Michelle McGee, because her infamous Nazi pin-up photos are just distasteful all-around; there's not even anything redeeming about them aesthetically (which is where the interesting contradictions lie). 

Are Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Glenn Beck, Siouxsie Sioux, and the counterculture London kids of the 70's Nazi sympathisers? Well, I don't know. Not necessarily and probably not. 
Are people who are into a bit of kink, black vinyl, riding crops, and military uniforms supportive of and in agreement with the sentiments of said fascist regime? Undoubtedly some people out there are, but on the whole, of course not! 
People who are sadistic or masochistic - and they're usually both, with heavier emphasis on one - are thrilled and sexually aroused by control and power. If you're reading this looking to understand the BDSM dynamic better, consider this: it is thrilling and therapeutic for someone who works very hard, takes command of every aspect of their life and constantly has to supply answers, advice, and solutions to completely relinquish control to their partner sexually. It's like, really, do I always have to take the initiative be in charge of that, too? 
Of course that's not what you want to do at the end of a long, stressful, physically and mentally exhausting day. And vice versa. If someone who has a psychological need to be controlling finds, as all of us do, that many aspects of their life are out of their control and generally unsatisfying, then at least they can take charge in bed and feel validated and fulfilled that way.

 Whether or not the person in question has some sort of childhood abandonment issues, obsessive compulsive tendencies, a superiority complex, or whatever else you can come up with (and these things do all tend to ring true) does not necessarily matter, as it is not at all likely to change with introspection. The term "sexual healing" is often used jokingly in reference to the free love hippie movement of the 60's and 70's that trivialised sex and romantic relationships to an unhealthy level, but this is basic psychology. People are complicated, and deal with urges and tendencies in different ways. The concept that everyone "needs an outlet", on the other hand, is good psychology.
In conclusion, even if you're still offended, I hope I've at least presented this topic in a way that allows you to consider the various motives and intents of the Nazi fetish in BDSM, punk, goth, and other aspects of popular culture all over the world. In some cases it's a political statement, representative of an alternative sexual lifestyle, or even just borne of extreme ignorance. Sometimes actual white supremacists are full-blown Nazi fetishists, but the two aren't mutually inclusive. Some people have a thing for feet; others are into erotic food. People can't really control what sorts of fetishes they have, but there's no reason to hate, condemn or fear them, unless they give you a valid reason to do so. Learning is so much more interesting. To automatically assume that sexy uniforms, domination, submission, and the love of a murdering fascist state dictated by a bigoted, misguided, over-medicated, egomaniacal lunatic are in any way related is folly, because they're probably not.
If, on the other hand, you find that someone is trying to explain to you that Hitler was a great leader who is the victim of one-sided historical narratives, you should just give them a good whack with your riding crop and walk away.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Craft(y) Project: Etched Glasses

I've been planning on doing a gigantic backlog post about the gifts I've made people over the past year - during which I've tried with mild success to get back into the swing of being creative - but decided to separate this particular project because everyone can do it.

One of my best friends recently moved into her first house and started her first full-time job as a teacher, so I wanted to put together a housewarming gift. After browsing Etsy and Pinterest for ideas, I remembered I had a Dremel I'd never used and deleted everything I bookmarked. My friend's a bit of a red wine enthusiast and one of her family crests is a hummingbird, which is interesting because people have always told her that she herself is very reminiscent of one. Hummingbirds on wine glasses it was.

Dremel rotary tools can be used for all sorts of things; mine is a 4.8 volt, cordless two-speeder that came with either two or three different heads. It was a gift a few years back, and I'm pretty sure it came from Wal-Mart. They're also used to carve pumpkins and trim pets' nails. You should be able to get a nice set sufficient for your crafting needs for about 20 bucks.

The head I used (pictured on the Dremel I have to the right)  is a little tapered one called the 84922 3/16" silicone carbide grinding point.

I browsed a few Goodwills over the course of a few weeks until I found glasses I liked. I had trouble finding a set of 4 or 6, and ended up with four smaller and two much larger brandy (I think) glasses, as my friend prefers the short rotund type. Unless you live in a fabulous neighbourhood, I wouldn't expect to find something like a set of tumblers, but high-quality crystal is a very real possibility. I didn't wait until half off day, and paid $1.99/ea.

Having never used a Dremel on anything ever before, I tried it on a light bulb first. Trust me, you're not going to break the glass unless you try to stab it repeatedly or have freakish circus man strength.

Some people use a special chemical cream that's supposed to make the etching more even, applying it to the glass before the power tool. And, someone else told me about a similar product that you leave on, and it simply produces an etched effect, apparently, by virtue of its powerful corrosive properties. I don't know about you, but toward that I direct a resounding "Nay!". I'm not buying and handling a chemical that can partially erode glass when I've got something that doubles as a pedicure tool that can get the job done just fine.

I'd recommend wearing cheap chem lab safety goggles and disposable gloves for this, but honestly, I got annoyed with the glasses pictured almost immediately and used no protection whatsoever. My eyeballs aren't melting and I'm not drowning in my own blood from having aspirated super fine glass dust, but it's probably better to err on the side of caution. I also sat in the bathtub so I could just rinse away said dust.

The tool will want to gain traction on the surface of the glass and run away from your hand, so get a feel for applying steady, even pressure.

As I mentioned, this was my first attempt and the designs are obviously freehand. I'm pleased with the result. With practice I could definitely do some quality and very salable work. 

Speaking of freehand, do keep in mind that letters, numbers and geometric designs will be very difficult to do that way, so if you're a stickler for straight lines, you'd better bust out the painters' tape or some stick-on stencils.
The little ones are my favourite; I didn't make even the remotest attempt to keep them uniform.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Call of Cthulhu

My dorky boyfriend got me to dip my toes into a number of things I wouldn't have been interested in otherwise - as boy and girlfriends are wont to do - including but not limited to League of Legends, Magic the Gathering and H. P. Lovecraft. I've always loved cephalopods and any fantastical situation in which humanity gets completely obliterated, though, so eventually checking out the Cult of Cthulhu seemed inevitable.

Never thought I'd see the day..

I wouldn't say I'm a Lovecraft fan now, but I'm definitely a misanthrope, so I at least get why the concept of an ineffable ancient evil completely beyond the wisdom of mankind slumbering at the bottom of the sea and waiting to destroy us all has become such an enduring popular culture cult phenomenon.

It's interesting that all of the short stories are tied together with the same themes, but were never articulated in the form of a single, continuous tale. I mean, the fact that the evil rears its smelly, grotesquely tentacled head periodically but hasn't yet reclaimed the Earth is probably why Lovecraft's mysterious ramblings are still popular (and why more than one person surely wrote "Cthulhu" in the blank spot on their ballot, because it could still happen at any moment), but don't you think the idea would have been just as terrifying or even more so as a less verbose, intensely built-up novel with no resolution/ending? 

At any rate, I decided to return the book pictured to my boyfriend complete with a handmade, hand painted tentacle bookmark. I'm still trying to get rid of as much stuff as possible before I move and figured, why not turn this scrap of poster board into a bunch of them?

Well of course some of them are squidlets. I couldn't help myself.
The finished blue tentacle bookmarks.
I ended up giving it to him for his birthday (which is right before Halloween), but the bookmark by itself would've been lame, so I also hand-drew and cut stencils of the seal of the Necronomicon and Cthulhu about to wreak serious cosmic havoc and painted the designs onto shirts:
This "technique" doesn't really work with geometric designs... Oh well.
The drawing before I spent hours cutting it out.
The finished product, plus the half-screwed-up transdimensional squid speak on the back.
I was originally going to post this and give them to him on Halloween, but the idiot "broke up" with me that day, so I never even got to dress up or to go any parties. Nice, huh? A few days later I decided to give him his presents because I didn't really have the time or motivation to sell them for a decent price.

Anyway, I also have several packages of Trolli Sour Brite Octopus gummi candies and thought it would be fun to make Cthulhu-themed cocktails. Personally, I think a Midori Sour would be the best choice for this - mostly because of its intense green colour - but all I had in the way of mixers were cranberry and cherry juice, so mine ended up being little gummi Cthulhus lurking at the bottom of a highball-deep sea of vodka-cranberry blood with a sugar rim.

Seriously though, is this a great idea for a Halloween party or what? It's just too bad the octopus variety of the Sour Brite gummi creature family is so hard to find. :(

Finally, as I was making this post, I happened across Richard Morden Illustration, and ermahgerd, LOOK AT THIS. LOOK AT IT.

This fucking adorable felt space squid from another dimension can menace the planet all day long, I don't even care. Richard Morden is clearly a boss and I fully intend to familiarise myself with his life and his entire catalog of work. 

JUST LOOK AT IT! Imagine how much it'd sell for on Etsy as a sculpture display. Millions, that's how many.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Gluten-Free, Vegetarian Recipe: Pumpkin Muffins

This recipe isn't my own but turned out so good that I felt compelled to re-blog it. 
Here's the original.

I didn't add any cinnamon, but did use freshly crushed whole allspice berries and added a tablespoon of flaxseed meal (as I do to all my baked goods), because what the hell, it's good for you. I also used 3/4 cup rice flour and 1/2 cup sweet rice flour, as the combination makes for a better consistency, and further reduced the oil to 1/3 cup while adding an additional 1/4 cup of pumpkin.

These came out soft, spongy and moist with a very mild flavour. 

I had some little icing decorations I found for 25 cents three years ago and figured this was the perfect time to use them. These muffins are going to be so glorious with the Reduced-Fat Honey Almond Shmear from Einstein Bros. Nom.