Happy Armstrong Day!

It’s sad to admit, but I had to be reminded by Google’s banner, and by a quick look at the calendar, that today is Armstrong Day, the anniversary of the first Moon landing.

Those of us who remember watching the events of that July evening can go back in memory and touch it any time. We remember where we were, and who was in the room, and probably even the TV set itself, and those little black and white pictures, so crummy by modern video standards, that actually came from another world.

We thought it was only the beginning, the first step on the great journey to the planets and beyond, and to the future we thought was inevitable, with its flying cars and power to cheap to meter and a cure for cancer and, yes, cities on the Moon.

What it was, of course, was a high water mark, the peak of the postwar Great Good Years. Whatever genuine promise the events of July 29th, 1969 might have had (and that is debatable), it was lost in the static of history, or overwhelmed by the weight of the world’s real problems, or both. We still may achieve some of those dreams, but my hope of seeing it happen in my lifetime is rather less confident than it was the summer I turned eight, and sat up in the crickety darkness, watching television.

I’m glad we didn’t know then what we know now, and I’m glad I’m old enough to remember.

So many of you are out there are too young to remember the Moon Landing, and I don’t know how much the idea means to you. It’s like Pearl Harbor was to us, or the Kennedy assassination. It’s what 9/11 will be to those who’ve been born recently.  Just the past, which is all compacted into a solid mass: Ancient Rome, the Renaissance, the Constitution, the Civil War, everything that happened before our living memory, all pressed into a single block.  But trust me,  it’s nice to have a milestone to remember that was, at least at the time, a happy one. Let’s hope there are more to come.

Happy Armstrong Day, everyone.

Sharkipede

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Published in: on July 30, 2008 at 12:09 am  Comments (1)  
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Belphegor

Welcome back to my blog, and to the introduction my new favorite word. 

“Belphegor” is a classic demon name, possibly based on the name of a Moabite god, Baal-Peor.  But don’t worry, there’s no demonology angle here.  The name seems to appeal to creative types across various cultures, and, of most interest here, to French pop culture creators, starting with the pulp writer Arthur Bernède  who in 1927 gave the name to a character he created to rival the success of the Phantom of the Opera and other classic French pulp characters. 

There were several Belphegor pulp novels, followed by silent and talkie films, and even some comics. And, most important to me, there was a black and white TV miniseries in 1965 that apparently was insanely popular, and which has become a long term cult classic. (At least to people who have a Region 3 DVD player and speak French– there doesn’t seem to be a subtitled version.)

(This site is a good place to start reading about Belphegor’s history in French pop culture:  http://www.coolfrenchcomics.com/belphegor.htm ) 

So Belphegor was very much on the minds of the people of France, when Citroen introduced their new line of trucks.  (You knew there had to be a car in here somewhere.)  In the Citroen catalog it was simply “Citroen 350”, but people immediately started calling it “Belphegor” after the ghostly TV character.

Imagine how I felt on Saturday afternoon, when I walked into a long, dark, half lit garage, and saw this:

http://lanemotormuseum.org/show_vehicle.php?veh=CITROENTYPE3501968

It’s one of these: http://www.citroen.mb.ca/cItROeNet/utilities/belphegor/belphegor-01.html 

in rough-but-more or less complete condition, undoubtably waiting to be restored.  And it is absolutely the coolest, funkiest truck I had ever seen, and joins the IH Travellall and the Hudson Big Boy as “trucks I would buy if I could even though I cannot drive a stick shift”.   But more than that, it spoke to me artistically.  When I saw its silhouette from a distance, before I knew what it was, I knew it belonged in Kekionga.  And now there is a story where there was only a blank line and a question mark before, in the overall series plan.  Bud is going to acquire a mysterious Belphegor, and it’s going to be … haunted.

I’ve pretty much decided to make mine a flatbed like the one I saw, or this one from Danish TV: http://www.ckc.dk/minebiler/rygaard/ 

Or “Gaston” belonging to a man named Adam in Los Angeles, the lucky pup: http://www.citroen.mb.ca/galleries/Adam/gaston/

I’m very excited about this new character and its story, which is going to be quite long and as spooky as I can make it.

Before I go off and do more research,  I have to give a monster shout out to the owners of the wonderful Belphegor, the Lane Auto Museum in Nashville.  http://lanemotormuseum.org/  If you like cars at all, you owe it to yourself to go to this link and click on “our cars”.  I’d never seen half the cars there in the metal, only in photographs, and there were things in their collection I never even knew existed.  Only the one pic of the Belphegor, I’m sorry to say, (boo!), but you can’t really blame them.  There are many, many vehicles on display and even more in storage, and to put multiple views of each on a website would take up more bandwidth than any not for profit could afford.

Enjoy what they can afford to share, and go there if you can.  I spent at least 4 hours staring, shooting and taking notes, and could easily have doubled that and not seen enough.  The building (a wonderful old mid-20th Century bread factory)  is well lit; the collection is barrier free so it’s a dream to photograph, and if you go around the back you can stand in the weeds and peek through the windows and see a storage area I would pay big bucks to tour. (Citroen DS 21 painted in an allover Stars and Stripes motif, anyone?  2CV rally car with 4 eyes? Something I’m pretty sure was a Goggomobile?) 

Anyway, wonderful old cars, and especially gorgeous French trucks with good backstories, make for a great weekend.  Long live Belphegor!

Sharkipede

Bonus track:

Two Three other interesting things that are called “Belphegor”:

1) an Austrian death metal band.  Their latest album is called “Bondage Goat Zombie”.  They seem to be quite popular, with lots of reviews and fansites, but I do not think they are quite my sort of thing.

2) A scholarly journal of popular literature and media culture, published by Dalhousie University:  http://etc.dal.ca/belphegor/  This is my sort of thing, and it looks very interesting– there have been two issues entirely about comics.  I will be reading more of this when I have some spare time.

3) The Mielec M-15 “Belphegor” jet agricultural aircraft, based (though you have to squint a bit) on the classic Antonov An-2 cabin biplane.  Wikipedia claims the aircraft earned the nickname by its “strange looks and noisy engine”.  I can’t comment on the engine noise, but twin boom jet biplanes with a single engine mounted in a strut above the crew cabin are not exactly thick in the ground, so its looks must qualify, at the very least, as unusual.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M-15_Belphegor 

The Wikipedia notes that the nickname surfaced after the aircraft was shown at the Paris Air Show, so it’s possible it’s a French nickname and related to that of the “camion Belphegor”. 

M-15 Belphegor fun fact: the aircraft uses the same engine as the Yak-40 mini-trijet http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakovlev_Yak-40 , which many consider to be the first “regional jet”.

Published in: on April 9, 2008 at 3:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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