Less Dangerous Than Careless Talk (World War II Poster)

Dear America: STFU. Love, Uncle Sam

World War II posters come in many varieties, but one that’s recently caught my eye are exhortations to American civilians and military personnel to shut up.

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Hell-Bent for Election (1944)

Will Barack Obama Be “Hell-Bent for Election” in 2012?

It’s not even 2012 yet and this is turning out to be one of the saddest and most lackluster presidential campaign seasons in recent memory. Barring a societal or economic meltdown of Mayan Prophecy proportions (and no, the so-called Great Recession doesn’t quite reach that level), I don’t see how Barack Obama can lose.

That’s not to say that he’s been kicking ass for the last three-or-so-years. Aside from taking out bin Laden, perhaps Obama’s most memorable accomplishment this term has been that he kept McCain and Palin out of the White House. And for me at least, that still counts for something. I just wonder if he’ll have much ammo to use when a Republican candidate finally emerges from the farcical battle royale that has been the GOP Octagon, which is down another competitor now that Herman “I’m Quitting Because I’m a Fighter” Cain has tapped out.

The safe money right now seems to be on either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich. But whoever leaves Tampa Bay with the GOP nod next August, it would be most unwise for Obama’s supporters or campaign handlers to assume victory. This comes to mind now because recently I stumbled upon a fascinating find from 1944. It’s an animated, pro-FDR campaign film called Hell-Bent for Election, sponsored by your friendly United Auto Workers union.

What interests me about it from a political standpoint is that while Roosevelt was nigh untouchable in 1944 — World War II was clearly swinging the Allies’ way and the economy was humming — his supporters were taking no chances. The cartoon is 13 minutes long, but it’s definitely worth it no matter your affiliation.

Wow. Not a lot of subtlety there. Without even getting into the dialogue, let’s look at how the film portrayed both sides in the ’44 election.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)

Hell-Bent for Election (1944)

I like the glasses on the train. Nice touch.

Roosevelt’s sleek, ultra-modern train is dubbed the “Win the War Express.” Dewey’s “Defeatist Limited,” on the other hand, carries cars called Hot Air, the Business As Usual Sleeper, and the Jim Crow Car. Oof.

Thomas E. Dewey (R)

Hell-Bent for Election (1944)

1929?! Hmm, didn’t something bad happen then?

Aw, that’s just not fair. Dewey was barely out of law school in 1929. Incidentally, I think “Defeatist Limited” was the original name for Amtrak.

Most of the film centers on a burly, blond hulk named Joe. Joe is a railroad worker. A simple man. All he wants to do is to make sure the Win the War Express gets through to its final destination, and he’s sternly reminded (by Uncle Sam no less) that during the mid-term election of ’42 the Democrats lost eight seats. So here’s some more subtle imagery for you.

Joe, Roosevelt supporter

Hell-Bent for Election (1944)

Just looking at him puts hair on your chest.

Horace Moneybags, Dewey supporter

Hell-Bent for Election (1944)

Boo! Hiss!

Moneybags tries brute force to stop Joe, and then resorts to some typical corporate skulduggery. When that also fails, Moneybags lets his true nature slip, and then comes an image that probably had a little resonance with Americans in 1944:

Hell-Bent for Election (1944)

Oh yeah, they just went there.

So there you go. Moneybags is Adolf Hitler. Ipso facto, a Dewey win will usher in a Nazi America.

Well, you certainly can’t argue that hyperbole and low blows are new to American politics.

You know how the film ends, of course. After Joe wakes up from a rather trippy dream sequence he shows Moneybags what for, and FDR’s Big Chin Express roars to victory. The last part of Hell-Bent for Election is a litany of promised benefits for all Americans in a fourth Roosevelt term, all set to one of the peppiest damn political songs you’ve ever heard.

Top that, Obama!

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Even though nobody asked, here are my thoughts on bin Laden

So Osama bin Laden is dead at last. Maybe. Probably. It’s been fewer than 12 hours since I saw the news, but here are my thoughts and impressions so far:

1 — I feel not one ounce of joy that he is dead, as this hardly means the so-called War on Terror is over. You better believe there will be another bin Laden popping up any time now. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were already plans in place for more attacks to take place in the event that bin Laden was killed or captured.

2 — This is not the same thing as getting rid of Hitler at the end of World War II, despite many people making that clumsy comparison. This killing is a symbolic victory, nothing more. Its military or strategic value is negligible.

3 — We lost hundreds, maybe thousands, of lives and spent billions of dollars to kill one man, not to mention all who died on September 11, 2001. Tell me again how we showed him what’s what?

4 — It seems kind of hypocritical to blast people if the Middle East for dancing in the streets when American soldiers die, but do the same thing to celebrate bin Laden’s death.

5 — I really hate to sound like one of those conspiracy nutjobs, but burying bin Laden at sea? Really dumb idea. We couldn’t wait to trot out pictures of Saddam Hussein’s sons after they were killed, and yet we’re all hush hush about finally getting the top target on our Most Wanted list? Really fucking dumb.

If President Obama thought he had to deal with a lot of chirping over his birth certificate, he ain’t seen nothing yet. I’m not suggesting we use his corpse as a bobsled at the next Winter Olympics, but even I will have a had time accepting so-called DNA proof and a few grainy photos. Which we haven’t even seen yet, by the way.

The reason people display the body of their loved one at a memorial service is to help bring a sense of closure. That’s exactly what is needed here. Just so fucking dumb.

6 — That said, don’t try to convince me that we disposed of the body so quickly because we wanted to observe Muslim customs. bin Laden spent decades pissing all over the Koran, but now all of a sudden he deserves a dignified, religious burial?

7 — Regardless of what he says publicly, how pissed must George W. Bush be right now?

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Here’s some stuff I enjoyed this week

Here’s a fresh batch of some quality interweb finds I’ve come across over the last 7 days:

  • A rundown of the 15 best Burger King ad campaigns by Crispin Porter + Bogusky: Long live the Burger King! (AdFreak)
  • Tommy Shaw sits down for an awesomely candid and funny interview about his career in Styx. Hint — it involves lots of drugs. (The AV Club)
  • It came from Reddit — the Good Intentions Axe Murderer / Dating Site Murderer Meme. (Next Round)
  • Here’s a less-than-memorable Budweiser slogan from 1922: “Stimulates the Appetite – Assimilates the Food.” (Shorpy)
  • You just know this couple owns every Meat Loaf album and knows all the words. (Awkward Family Photos)
  • So how does Libya’s air force compare to the coalition’s? (National Post)
  • A series of excellent “Historically Hardcore” promotional ads for the Smithsonian (imgur)
  • Here’s a very cool set of artsy fartsy photos depicting old TVs shutting off, for those who remember what that means. (Make)
  • Twitter madness of the week — a bitter American named Peter Coffin stalks a vain Singaporean woman named Wendy Cheng. She does a little digging and finds out he has, among other things, a fake girlfriend that he has conversations with. (Xiaxue)
  • The video meme that won’t die — another Hitler rant, this time against the commercialization of SXSW. (YouTube)
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Book report: The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism

It’s hard to imagine, especially for those of my generation or younger, but broadcast news was not always a wasteland of vacuous celebrity gossip, shallow political “analysis”, or crude sensationalism.  There was in fact a time when the men and women who called themselves broadcast journalists were actually journalists first, broadcasters secondly.  A time when networks valued the insight and knowledge these broadcasters brought, with not nearly as much regard for profit.

And for a period of almost 20 years starting in the late 1930s, there was one group of broadcast journalists more insightful, knowledgeable, professional, and popular than all others.  They were the Murrow Boys, started and led by the legendary Edward R. Murrow.  While most people still know his name, the names of the crack team he assembled have been largely forgotten – they were Mary Marvin Breckinridge, Cecil Brown, Winston Burdett, Charles Collingwood, William Downs, Thomas Grandin, Richard C. Hottelet, Larry LeSueur, Eric Sevareid, William L. Shirer, and Howard K. Smith.  Under Murrow’s leadership these men (and woman) wrote the rules of modern broadcast journalism, risked their lives to bring the story of World War II to millions, and set standards of professionalism that seem to have been largely abandoned since.

The stories of each of the Boys is told (some in more detail than others, naturally) masterfully in The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism by co-authors Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson.  After reading it I have a much greater appreciation for and knowledge of this group’s accomplishments in journalism, but additionally I was fascinated by how much they were able to accomplish in spite of their numerous vices and flaws.  Truly there was strength in numbers with Murrow’s Boys.

The book picks up in 1937.  While radio had already woven itself into the fabric of Americans’ lives, it offered little else besides entertainment.  News, such as it was, amounted to nothing more than uninformed commentary delivered by the likes of Boake Carter of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS).  When Carter’s anti-Roosevelt, diatribes became too much for CBS owner William S. Paley, he was taken off the air for good.  Paley and his executive team understood the rising threat posed by Adolph Hitler, as did two recently hired CBS employees – Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer.

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You know something else Hitler ruined?

I’ll tell you what – he totally ruined yelling for German people.  Seriously, I can’t look at any German getting all foamy at the mouth or maybe even pounding a table without thinking of this:

So after all that business with World War II, how can any German politician give a really powerful, emotional speech and not be compared to Hitler?  It doesn’t even matter what he’s talking about.  He could be going on a rant about something trivial, like his favorite Scorpions song, and if he starts getting too loud all the Germans would be like, “Woah dude, calm down, we don’t want to be invaded again or anything.”

Think I’m exaggerating?  Check out this classic internet meme, the Crazy German Kid:

Logic tells you that this kid is just a spaz, but admit it – you were just a little scared there for a minute.  Thanks for nothing, Hitler.

Venture Bros. wrapup: “Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel”

So hey, I’m a little late on this review.  I know that seems inexcusable since it is the season premiere, but my damn DVR didn’t record this when it was supposed to.  And if it’s not on my DVR, it doesn’t exist.  But enough of that…VENTURE BROS. IS BACK!!%$#!

I think the question I asked as season 3 ended  – in what direction do Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer want to take this show? – has been answered, at least on the basis of “Blood of the Father, Heart of Steel”.  They’re going to get even deeper into the show’s characters, while at the same time strengthening their geek cred.   And we’re also going to get plenty of laughs.  So we got that going for us, which is nice.

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Interesting stuff I now know thanks to Wikipedia (Vol. 3)

As with the first two entries, the premise of this is simple.  I just used the Random Article link on Wikipedia and saw if anything good came up.  (a lot of it is quite useless)

  • The town of Britton, Michigan is named after storekeeper John Britton, who in 1888 paid $500 to rename the town of Balch after himself.
  • There is a variant of Scrabble called Clabbers, whose rules are the same except for one: The letters used must form anagrams of acceptable words.
  • The Grammy Award for Best Gospel Vocal Performance, Female was only given out from 1984 through 1990.  Amy Grant won it four times.
  • The 1968 Cannes Film Festival ended early, without awarding any prizes, due to a French general strike in May.
  • I can’t believe I didn’t know this, but Adolf Hitler had a sister, Paula Hitler.  She was the only one of his full siblings to survive into adulthood.
  • With approximately 23 million adherents, Sikhism is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world.
  • As a result of signing the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, Egypt’s membership in the Arab League was suspended from 1979 until 1989.
  • Columbia, Tennessee is the self-proclaimed “Mule capital of the world” and celebrates with Mule Day, a large celebration held annually every April.
  • In 1861, competitive walker Edward Payson Weston walked from Boston to Washington, D.C. in 10 days, 10 hours to attend the inauguration of President Lincoln.  He did so after losing a bet.

Retrotisement – Skippy Peanut Butter

It’s no understatement to say that I love old commercials. So much so that I plunked down 10 bucks just to own some of them. And I especially love commercials of the 1950s, most of which display a cheerful lack of cynicism so often found today. In a lot of cases, we get treated to some really great animation or stop-motion photography. There are, however, some real odd entries in the canon of classic advertising. Like, say, this circa 1958 ad for Skippy Peanut Butter.

The commercial starts off with a brief history lesson (the true sign of a rip-roaring ad) – “Fifty to sixty years ago, people were introduced to peanut butter for the first time.” (Incidentally, it turns out that George Washington Carver did not actually invent peanut butter.)

Cutting-edge 1950s animation.

Little stick children worshiping their peanut butter god.

These “people,” it turns out, were nothing but formless sticks with heads, obviously suffering from a lack of essential protein in the pre-peanut butter era — I guess that’s where the inspiration for the people in the “Life” board game came from. According to the commercial (which has gone more than 30 seconds without once mentioning the product), kids liked the early, crude forms of peanut butter. Parents, however, recoiled in horror at the seemingly unwieldy jar sizes. Their unfortunate choice of graph paper-inspired wallpaper no doubt added to their consternation.

A depiction of shock that would turn Munch green with envy.

So while kids were content to eat peanut butter that the ad described as oily and sticky, parents were forced to live a peanut butterless life, devoid of any real meaning or substance. That was until the banner year of 1933!

1933, a banner year for something or other.

That’s right, 1933. So while the rest of the world concerned itself with trifling matter like Hitler’s election to the German chancellery and the repeal of Prohibition, moms and dads could finally breathe a sigh of relief. Why? Skippy was here!!!!

1950s Skippy peanut butter ad

Skippy - Salmonella free since 1933!

In a particularly puzzling bit of marketing, the name of the product did not appear until more than a minute into the commercial. Take that, overrated Macintosh “1984” ad! But I digress. Apparently Skippy became a hit with parents, and it likely had something to do with its powerful hallucinatory effects:

1950s Skippy peanut butter ad

Zoinks, Scoob! This Skippy is like, far out!

So the commercial ends after roughly 90 seconds, having not once named the product. Buy hey, with interesting side effects like Skippy seems to have produced, I’m sure the word-of-mouth impact on sales was huge.

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