Sunday, February 8, 2009

Home court advantage

It's been a somewhat disappointing weekend for Northwestern as they dropped a close one to a reeling Iowa team on the road. Coming up next, they have a tough home stretch against Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio State in the friendly confines of Welsh-Ryan, which is sure to be orange, maize, and scarlet for the next three contests. Welsh-Ryan is practically a second home court for the Illini, who will fill the arena with their fans and the possibility that their mascot will swing into the arena like Douglas Fairbanks to thumb his nose at NCAA sanctions before slicing a three-stroke "I" into the shirt of the nearest official and then fleeing the premises as his 1950s here there be Indians theme music blares triumphantly into the background.

Northwestern should be getting a better home court advantage. Granted, I am certainly not suggesting that NU fans should be giving visiting players the Clemson treatment, but there should be a way to get the edge back. Perhaps the Athletic Department can make improvements to the arena to make it more menacing. For one, they can move Welsh-Ryan Arena into the a hollowed out volcano or decorate it with the severed heads of vanquished foes.

Mussolini's Fascist Headquarters subtly evokes the image of a doom fortress

Of course, the Duce had the advantage of intimidating people by riding in on his own personal tank, surrounded by the world's most sullen army.

Mussolini promises Italians the type of government that involves standing on
tanks and yelling

A suitably intimidating Welsh-Ryan Arena would give Northwestern players a psychological advantage over the opposition and the visiting fans. I also believe that Welsh-Ryan could be modernized, marrying the appeal of its low-key glorified high school gymnasium charm with the amenities of a modern major-conference facility, as demonstrated in this crude model:

In this model, Northwestern's antiquated scoreboard with missing dots is replaced
by a giant, fang-bearing snake. Legions of chaos, of course, sold separately


Mussolini grew up to become a journalist and a socialist firebrand, following the in the footsteps of his father (I guess his later rejection of socialism and invention of fascism can be projected as a type of Freudian rejection, although my favorite example of that remains George IV, whose pro-Whig leanings made him the patron of Charles Fox, his father's gravest political enemy except during his porphyritic outbursts when his main political enemies included moon-men. George IV supported the Whigs mainly to oppose his father; after he finally gained control of the throne in 1820 at the age of 58, he mainly continued in the political tradition of George III, as he was more concerned with gorging himself until sufficiently gouted and pursuing increasingly homely royal mistresses as he became almost certainly the most hated modern monarch in British history).

George IV possessed the perfect combination of girth and incompetence that made him a
hit among political cartoonists (right) or artists depicting him as the last thing you see
before you die of some horrible nineteenth century illness such as "The Swoons"

The Young Mussolini was arrested in Switzerland for vagrancy in 1902. Pictures of young Mussolini are of course fascinating in examining the transformation of a young, scared, and disreputable looking youth into a strutting dictator with closets lined with comical military uniforms and ill-conceived plans to invade Abyssinia.

Mussolini demonstrates the classic acquisition of dictator accouterments: the
scarf, the mustache/glower combination, and finally the angry fist-shaking that
propelled him into power

Mussolini's arch-nemeses in the Soviet Union also have classic mug-shots. For example, Lenin's baby face in his 1895 mug shot quickly gives way to a revolutionary hardness just two years later.

By 1897, Lenin is prepared to take on all comers in the popular historical table-
top game "Everyone Dies in the Crimea," and he's brought his rule books to
prevent cheating and the development of overseas colonies as a way to continue
rampant monopoly capitalism

The Australian essayist, cultural critic, and sometime television personality Clive James once wrote that "The most exciting way of getting into Russia is to cross Germany in a sealed train and arrive at the Finland Station in St Petersburg to be greeted by a cheering revolutionary mob who promptly name the city after you." Of course, James is already a personal hero for pointing out Arnold Schwarzenegger's resemblance to a brown condom filled with walnuts and for using British television to publicly call attention to Michael Caine's 1978 killer bee opus.

Lenin's sealed train ride to Petersburg apparently included a rigid no-smoking policy enforced by the cigarette-hating Lenin, who exiled all smokers to the lavatories. In this TLS review article, Charles King describes the train ride:
That was how the journey to the Finland Station began: with a band of about thirty carousing Russian intellectuals, fuelled by beer and Swiss bread, occasionally singing the “Marseillaise” and telling bawdy jokes, all led by an allergic, ill-tempered martinet, clicking and jerking their way eastward towards the Revolutionary crowds of Petrograd.
Young Trotsky's mugshot gives off an intellectual bent as well as providing key inspiration for Yahoo Serious's star turn in Young Einstein.

Trotsky's patented pince-nez glasses would unfortunately serve as a damning
mark of identificantion when occasionally charicatured as a massive man-eating
demon being rampaging through Russia

Of course, Trotsky met a bad end in Mexico, depicted here with the utmost historical accuracy:

This depiction shows Trotksy falling for the old there's
two types of spurs, those that come in through the door
and those who come in through the window trick.
Allegedly, Trotsky told his guads "Do not kill him. This
man has a story to tell" after assassin Ramón Mercader
finished whaling upon him with an ice axe.

Stalin has several mugshots, one of a young Stalin in 1902, followed by a 1908 arrest for rampant gangsterism, which led to exiled in Siberia and a dearing escape to his Baku headquarters desiguised as a woman.

Though Stalin was acquitted in 1902, his revolutionary policies of tying women to
railroad tracks and rent-raising led to his exile. By 1912, Stalin was rehabilitated as a
kindly bus driver

One of the bizarre rituals that Stalin demanded once in power was the participation in binge-drinking sessions resembling an insane Communist frat party. Here Simon Montefiore's excellent recent biography In the court of the red tsar provides an invaluable service by explaining which Stalinist lieutenants could hold their liquor:

Sometimes the drinking at these Bacchanals was so intense that the potentates, like ageing bloated students, staggered out to vomit, soiled themselves, or simply had to be borne home by their guards. Stalin praised Molotov's capacity but sometimes even he became drunk. Poskrebyshev was the most prolific vomiter. Khrushchev was a prodigious drinker, as eager to please Stalin as Beria. He sometimes became so inebriated that Beria took him home and put him to bed, which he promptly wet...Malenkov just became more bloated.

Malenkov was also apparentlynicknamed
"Melanie" for his broad hips. There's an .
excellent picture of him in the Montefiore
book walking with Stalin, Beria, and Molotov
in the 1945 victory parade where he's wearing
a sailor suit that transforms him into the
Stay-Puft Soviet Marshmallow Man.


Anonymous said...

Where did you find the Trotsky comic? And surely Lenin has some mugshots. He once tried to use a false name to get a reader's card at the British Library. That must have resulted in some sort of reprimand with picture included. If there is one thing that I've learned in this life, it's that you don't fuck with the British Library.

Anonymous said...

I'm impressed by the Clive James reference, I wasn't aware he was known this side of the water.

Also, I laughed at loud at Il Duce's sullen troops.