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287628.  Fri Feb 29, 2008 12:01 pm Reply with quote

One of the biggest continuing bones of contention between Ossies and Wessies in Germany, following West Germany’s annexation of the GDR, is their very different attitudes to public nudity.

In the old East Germany, nudism was widespread and unremarkable. People would sunbathe or play naked not just on the beaches (almost all of which were nudist or “mixed”) but in local parks.

After unification, Westerners considered nudism “swinish,” filthy, and a “disgusting vestige of communism.” It was opposed on grounds of morality as well as on economic ones: the sight of proletarians swanning around as if they owned the place, exposing their bits, would ruin the tourist trade.

The new western occupiers of eastern Germany quickly began to impose their new order, and many eastern beaches were, for the first time in 70 years (other than during the Hitler era) forced to appoint “beach bailiffs” to enforce no-nudity rules, other than on nudist reserves.

Of course, there were good economic reasons why east Germans grew to hate the new Germany - but it is said that the nudist ban was and remains one of the biggest cultural sources of bad feeling.

S: Morning Star, 3 Oct 1995,4273,3885039,00.html

293271.  Mon Mar 10, 2008 10:39 am Reply with quote

According to a travel piece:

The waitress looked shocked when we asked for alcoholic drinks, and for the first time it became clear that we were really in the middle of nowhere. We were very pleased to discover a ‘lounge’ (aka bar) hidden in the depths of the Travel Host Motel. All the windows had been painted with black paint so nobody could see in! The very helpful and friendly barman told us that this was standard practice in North Dakota, where drinking is frowned upon and, as a result, is kept hidden away.

S: The Vegetarian magazine, Spring 08

294054.  Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:08 pm Reply with quote

Is it generally know, do we suppose, that the board game Monopoly was invented by socialists to demonstrate the unfairness of landlordism? It wasn’t generally know to me, but then I only have to hear the word Monopoly and I nod off ...

294203.  Tue Mar 11, 2008 4:57 pm Reply with quote

Now this is odd. I read a book about the game once, and it claimed that the game was invented by a bored unemployed guy during the Great Depression. He had nothing better to do, so started scribbling the names of streets around the edge of his tablecloth - and from there, invented a game.

But a bit of Wikiing reveals it not to be so - it was in fact devised by a Quaker woman named Elizabeth Magie, and was indeed meant to show how iniquitous the payment of rent was. (She wasn't a socialist though so much as a Georgist; so is Ralph Nader for what it's worth.)

Is the revisionist version in the book I read still that which is put about by the makers of the game?

294249.  Tue Mar 11, 2008 5:57 pm Reply with quote

I think we could have some fun with that if it stacks up:

Q: What's the point of Monopoly?

294440.  Wed Mar 12, 2008 5:58 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:
(She wasn't a socialist though so much as a Georgist; so is Ralph Nader for what it's worth.)

Nah, he’s just a Tory with a messiah complex!

My source for all this is a book review (Morning Star, 22 Oct 07) of a new history of Monotony, called “Monopoly” by Philip E Orbanes (Da Capo Press).

The author is a former “senior vice president” at Parker Bros, the company that has produced Monopoly since 1935. My experience of US companies suggests that the guy who lifts the barrier to let you into the car park is usually a “senior vice president,” but according to the reviewer this Orbanes’ “passion for the game is matched only by his often incredibly naive enthusiasm for capitalism,” so he sounds like a sound source.

Suze, you’re right about Magie - I was reading carelessly. Here’s what the reviewer actually says:

I wonder how many people who have passed Go realise that the game was originally developed and played by socialists and progressives such as Lizzie Magie, a Quaker, who wanted to "not only afford amusement" to players but to educate them about how the economic system of the 1910s was unfairly weighted in favour of the landlord.

This lovely irony also aids our cause, I think:

"IT'S the game about dealing in big money and getting rich quick." So says the enticing blurb that adorns the latest edition of the classic board game Monopoly.

That’s easily checked, I suppose. Less so is another possible irony: that the game “was banned in the Soviet Union, Cuba and North Korea.” I’ve tried to chase down a lot of these “banned by the commies” stories over the years, and almost none of them ever come to anything. For instance, many writers and journalists will casually refer to something being “banned in Cuba” when the truth is that it is banned by means of the siege - banned, in other words, by the USA, not by the Cubans. (Elsewhere, I read a rather excited story about how the Cubans had their own, anti-imperialist version of Monopoly - called something else - in which the stops were all in Havana. This is a good example of how these factoids get misunderstood; many people are probably unaware that Monotony is routinely “translated” into local settings, so that in Britain we play on a London-based board.)

In any case, we’re not short of ironies here:

Orbanes argues that "the success of Monopoly mirrors the success of capitalism," which he believes was "destined to prevail" during the cold war.

Is Monopoly the worst propaganda failure of all time?

Can’t resist ending with the reviewer’s final paragraph (he is clearly a classically-trained Marxist):

Monopoly is crying out for an in-depth cultural studies critique, or at the very least a discussion of its poor playability - in my experience, the game quickly becomes tiresome as soon as the successful capitalist accumulates all the wealth at the expense of everyone else. Instead, Orbanes bores the reader with trainspotter facts about the game's countless editions, the Monopoly World Championships and the corporate history of Parker Brothers. For hardcore monopolists only.

As for the version you heard, Suze - I strongly suspect this was deliberate revisionism. There were very paranoid days in the USA during the last century, and it would have only taken a publicity-seeking junior senator to have started a boycott campaign against the “Red-inspired brainwashing game,” and the company could very easily have been wiped out in a matter of weeks.

294539.  Wed Mar 12, 2008 7:48 am Reply with quote

Thanks Mat. I've known at least my fair share of "classically trained Marxists" over the years, so I know exactly what you mean ...

Hasbro still claims that Charles Darrow invented the game on his tablecloth - link to its history page.

He did have some involvement for sure - he did take out US Patent 2,026,082 on the game, and he seems to have been the first to call it Monopoly. But Hasbro's official line - that he invented the game while bored and penniless - just isn't true. Quite apart from having borrowed the idea from another, he was able to hire a graphic designer to work on the board - so penniless he wasn't.

If asked, most people in Britain would probably say that the standard American board is based on New York. It's not of course, it's Atlantic City NJ. That wasn't Ms Magie's original plan though; it seems that a local variant of the game based on Atlantic City was the one which found its way to Darrow.

Ms Magie originally patented the game in 1904 (US Patent 748,626), and the streets as shown in that patent are unnamed. She allowed that patent to lapse and then patented the game again in 1924 (US Patent 1,509,312). By now the streets were named; most of them to seem to be made up and in some cases satirical (eg two of her "stations" were "Gee Whiz Railroad" and "PDQ Railroad", and then there was "La Swell Hotel"). Though she did include The Bowery, which is a real street in New York, and at the time was full of whorehouses and flophouses (poor quality hostels for transient single men).

Canadian Monopoly takes its streets from across the great nation - the equivalents to Old Kent Road and Whitechapel Road are taken from Newfoundland, while the equivalents to Park Lane and Mayfair are in BC (yay!). The police officer is of course a Mountie. All the same, the Atlantic City version of the game is better known in Canada - it's certainly what I had when I was a kid.

296038.  Fri Mar 14, 2008 9:54 am Reply with quote

"Half of all American counties remain dry [ie, no alcohol] to this day."

S: London Review of Books, 21 Feb 08.

Is that true?

296043.  Fri Mar 14, 2008 10:02 am Reply with quote

My first thought is "no", but I think I know where to look. On the case.

296065.  Fri Mar 14, 2008 10:43 am Reply with quote

Using this page and Wiki as starting points, and taking the highest figures I can find quoted anywhere.

There are:

24 dry counties (out of 67) in Alabama
42 dry counties (out of 75) in Arkansas
5 dry counties (out of 67) in Florida
2 dry counties (out of 159) in Georgia
31 dry counties (out of 105) in Kansas
69 dry counties (out of 120) in Kentucky
20 dry counties (out of 82) in Mississippi
6 dry counties (out of 95) in Tennessee; the Jack Daniel's distillery is in one of them, but has a special dispensation to sell its products to visitors from out-of-county
46 dry counties (out of 254) in Texas
35 dry counties (out of 100) in Virginia

None in other states; indeed in seventeen states (including Utah, often erroneously claimed as dry) the state law would prevent any from being established even if anyone wanted to.

In a lot of these dry counties, there are wet cities and indeed some wet counties have dry cities (Ocean City NJ is the only one of any size). Many other parts of the USA have alcohol laws more stringent than in Britain - often, no liquor sales on Sundays - but can't be considered dry.

But on the figures used here, there are but 280 dry counties (out of a total of 3,077 counties).

296069.  Fri Mar 14, 2008 10:46 am Reply with quote

Thanks, suze - I thought it sounded a bit strong!

In a dry county, is it illegal only to sell (or buy) alcohol? Or would it be illegal, for instance, to supply drinks to your guests at your birthday party?

296085.  Fri Mar 14, 2008 10:59 am Reply with quote

The precise laws vary all over the place, but nowhere under Federal or State jurisdiction is it an offence to consume liquor in private which was legally bought someplace else (or to consume home made liquor in places where the making is itself legal - as clearly it is in Moore County, Tennessee, since there's a seriously large distillery there).

Some Indian Reservations do ban the consumption of liquor, although in practice it would only be enforced as regards members of the Nation. (It's a serious social problem among many Native American / First Nations groups, and for the same reason a lot of the settlements in Arctic Canada are dry.)

309856.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:44 am Reply with quote

At one recently discovered site in England, drawings on the ceiling of a cave show “conga lines” of female dancers, along with drawings of animals like bison and ibex, which are known to have become extinct in England ten thousand years ago

s: DIS - citing National Geographic 18/08/2004

309866.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:58 am Reply with quote

There could be something in:

Where did the 13th century English go for fun?

According to "Dancing in the Streets", churches used to be really fun places where people used to go to meet, dance and drink.

But then, the obvious answer to the question is "ye olde pub", and I guess Fred or Alf will tell me that they were commonplace around then and much more likely to be where revellry would take place.

309868.  Thu Apr 03, 2008 8:59 am Reply with quote

Until the 18th century, most churches did not have pews, people would just mill around creating a much different dynamic to today's dour masses.

A bit like going to a gig, I suppose.

s: DIS


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