Monday, October 31, 2011

Paul Cadmus

Self Portrait with beret

Paul Cadmus (1904 – 1999) was an American artist. He is best known for his paintings and drawings of nude male figures. His works combined elements of eroticism and social critique to produce a style often called magic realism. He painted with egg tempera.
In 1934 he painted The Fleet's In! while working for the Public Works of Art Project of the WPA. This painting, featuring carousing sailors, women, and a homosexual couple, was the subject of a public outcry and was removed from exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery. The publicity helped to launch his career. He worked in commercial illustration as well, but Jared French, another tempera artist who befriended him and became his lover for a time, convinced him to devote himself completely to fine art.
Jon Andersson, who became Cadmus's longtime companion of 35 years, was a subject of many of his works.

The Bicyclists, 1933

In 1999 he died in his home in Weston, Connecticut due to advanced age, just five days short of his 95th birthday.
Cadmus is ranked by the Russian Federation Artists Trade Union amongst the 10.000 best world artists (XVIII–XXI centuries"

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The NZ Series #21 - OnTrays Petone

Sometimes a Beret Project post pops up when I least expect it.
Like today, when doing my deli groceries at On Trays in Petone, arguably the best little food shop in NZ (no, I don't get paid for writing this). 
While getting my new stock of mate, I noticed this artwork on the wall. It turned out to be by the owners daughter, Maxine Scheckter. 
Just a great picture that I had to capture on my mobile phone... 

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Czech series #5 - The Czechoslovak Legion (2)

During World War I Czechoslovakia was a part of Austria-Hungary, and soldiers of Czech and Slovak nationality had to fight on the Eastern front. Many of them objected to the Austrian emperor and did not want to fight against Russia, therefore many Czech and Slovak soldiers preferred to be captured by the Russian troops. In 1916 the Russian military authorities began to form a Czechoslovak legion.
Czech soldier Josef Křížek
Following the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Bolshevik government concluded the separate Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The Bolsheviks and the corps agreed to evacuate the Legion to France to join the Czechoslovak corps and continue fighting there. Because Russia's European ports were not safe, the corps was to be evacuated by a long detour via Siberia, the Pacific port of Vladivostok, and the USA
Masaryk meeting Czech legionnaires in the USA, 1918
Although there was need to increase their fighting power and mobilization was officially announced, no Czech or Slovak prisoner of war was forced to serve in the Legion. Thus, many Czechs and Slovaks chose to return home. Fifty thousand Mosin-Nagant rifles were sent via Vladivostok to equip the Legions in Siberia to aid in their attempt to secure passage to France.
Masaryk advised the Legion to stay out of Russian affairs, but as it turned out, this was not possible.
Various governmental authorities along the way requested that the Czechoslovaks give up increasing numbers of their guns. In May 1918, tensions with the Bolsheviks provoked what is generally referred to as the Revolt of the Legions.
The various parts of the Legion found themselves strung out and separated along the railway. These scattered forces fought a complicated series of battles with the primary objective of re-connecting the various groups and then getting to Vladivostok for their exit to the Western front. As it became clear that this was the only organized fighting force in Russia (the Red Army under Trotsky was still small and disorganized), the Allied governments broadly agreed that the Czechoslovaks might be useful in re-opening an Eastern Front.
Masaryk posing with members of the Czech Legion
Elements within the Allied governments (notably Winston Churchill), concerned about the Bolsheviks, made use of this pretext to support an Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War and to destabilize the Bolsheviks.

A very informative DVD on the Czech Legion can be ordered here
Note the unmistakable French berets, very similar to the berets worn by the Chasseurs Alpin. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Postage Prices

As many South Pacific Berets customers know, my prices have always been all inclusive: beret + postage + handling. The simple reason being the website provider does not allow for separate items such as postage. I found a bypass for some items through Paypal, but that does not always work. It's my aim to charge the actual price for postage and handling and believe my prices to be among the cheapest you can find.
Unfortunately NZ Post have just increased their postage costs for international mail, up to 35% for many destinations. Too much to not have to pass this on to customers - I am sorry. 
For the week ending 28 October, I'll maintain the old prices - so if you're ready to order, best to do so now!

The NZ Series #20 - Glenn Busch's Workers

Charlie Roughton, Foreman, Metal Foundry, 1982, ©Glenn Busch
 Man painting his fence, 1973, ©Glenn Busch
Mat van Polonen, Fitter, Christchurch Gas Works, 1983, ©Glenn Busch

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Czech series #4 - The Czechoslovak Legion (1)

The Czechoslovak Legions were Czech and Slovak volunteer armed forces fighting together with the Entente powers during World War I. Their goal was to win the Allies' support for the creation of an independent country of Czechoslovakia, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Legions originated with small armed units organized from 1914 onwards by volunteer Czechs and Slovaks. Later, many Czechs and Slovaks captured during the war joined these units; with help of émigré intellectuals and politicians (Tomáš Masaryk, Milan Rastislav Štefánik and others) the Legions grew into a force of tens of thousands. The independence of Czechoslovakia was finally obtained in 1918.
After three years of existence as a small brigade in the Imperial Russian Army (Česká družina), the Czechoslovak Legions in Russia were created in 1917. Other units had been fighting in France since the war's beginning (including volunteers from the US), and later in Italy and Serbia. Their membership consisted of Czech and Slovak prisoners of war in Russia, Serbia and Italy, and Czech and Slovak emigrants in France and Russia who had already created the "Czech company" in Russia and a unit named "Nazdar" in France in 1914. The Legions were actively involved in many battles of World War I, including Vouziers, Arras, Zborov, Doss Alto, Bakhmach, and others. They were also important in the Russian Civil War.
The vast majority (around 90%) of the legionaries were Czechs. Slovaks made up 7.4% in the Russian legions, 3% in the Italian and 16% in the French.
The term "Legions" was not widely used during the war but was adopted shortly afterward. It is primarily based on their French connection – they reported to France and were, in a general way, thought of as related to the French Foreign Legion.
The Legions are traditionally called the Czech Legion (singular) in English.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Basil Rathbone a.k.a. Sherlock Holmes

Sir Basil Rathbone (1892, Johannesburg – 21 July 1967, New York City) was an English actor. 
He rose to prominence in England as a Shakespearean stage actor and went on to appear in over 70 films, primarily costume dramas, swashbucklers, and, occasionally, horror films. He frequently portrayed suave villains or morally ambiguous characters, such as Murdstone in David Copperfield (1935) and Sir Guy of Gisbourne in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). His most famous role, however, was heroic—that of Sherlock Holmes in fourteen Hollywood films made between 1939 and 1946 and in a radio series. His later career included Broadway and television work.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lady Gaga, a Natural with Berets

Unlike my daughters, I can't say I am a big fan of Lady Gaga, really.
But, to be fair, with Madonna she is a great role model for beret wearing among a new generation.
And I love that natural hair beret!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Basco Francia!

New to the stock of South Pacific Berets: the Italian Basco Francia, the slightly larger and more luxurious version of the popular workers beret or Basco Roma
The Basco Francia is similar to the Basco Roma, a little more luxurious with it's bright red satin lining and large embroidered Super Basque label in a slightly larger diameter (270mm).
This beret was made famous by Don Matteo (portrayed by Terrence Hill) a Catholic priest in a parish of the town of Gubbio (PG), who is also known for his unrivaled talent in investigating local crime stories. $39.50

Popski’s Private Army

Popski's Private Army was a somewhat irregular small unit, attached to the British Eigth Army during WWII. Created and headed in Egypt by Lieutenant-Colonel Vladimir Peniakoff (nicknamed Popski), P.P.A. did mostly behind the lines sabotage and recon work, blowing up depots, gathering information about German materiel and movement and pointing out targets for the RAF.
P.P.A. saw service first in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania (currently part of Lybia and Tunisia), in collaboration with the Long Range Desert Group.
In 1943, after the victory on Rommel's forces, the unit moved to Italy and started again its dangerous work. P.P.A. took part in fighting on the Adriatic coast in the Po area (close to Venice) and linked up with the Russians in Austria.
The unit started with a headcount of sixteen and was, at its biggest, slightly over one hundred; it always remained a small unit, because Popski wanted to know personally each one of his men.
The unit could be compared with the Special Air Service and the Lovat Scouts. P.P.A. appears to have excelled at collaborating with partisans and local forces.

Their badge was a silver astrolabe - the reference was navigation in the desert - worn on a black beret. Apparently Popski was not very particular about uniforms, as long as they were not enemy uniforms.
(Photographs: Captain "Jan" and "Capitano Bob")

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ahmed Rehab

From the web site of Ahmed Rehab, great reading:
Ahmed Rehab during College Years
"During my college years, I was known to wear a beret. One day, a brother approached me and chided me for it, “Why are you wearing a French hat? You’re not French.” I responded, “Why are you wearing an Afghan Kufi? You’re not Afghan.” He said that “Kufis are worn by Muslims; hence it’s a Muslim hat.” I told him I am a Muslim and I wear this beret; hence it’s a Muslim beret.” He told me, so you equate the beret with a Kufi or Turban?” I told him, “In fact , yes I do.” He said, “Did you know that our prophet wore a Turban?” I told him, “Yes, but so did Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab, it was the standard of his time, not a divine decree or even a personal conscious choice.” He asked me, “Do you even know anything about Islam?"
Read further here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pinky and Perky

Pinky and Perky is an animated children's television series first broadcast by the BBC in 1957, revived in 2008 as a CGI animation.
The title characters are a pair of anthropomorphic puppet pigs created by Czechoslovakian immigrants Jan and Vlasta Dalibor. The puppets, who had only very limited movements, looked very alike. Pinky wore red clothes and Perky blue, but this distinction was little use on black and white TV, so Perky often wore a beret.
Pinky and Perky spoke and sang in high-pitched voices created by re-playing original voice recordings at twice the original recorded speed, while the backing track was played at half normal speed. 
Surprisingly, the puppets also appeared on TV in the USA on a number of Ed Sullivan shows — on 23 February 1964 they shared the bill with The Beatles and Morecambe and Wise. 
Jan and Vlasta Dalibor

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Balmoral (1)

Closely related to the beret, and possibly a descendant of it, is the Balmoral bonnet. The Balmoral dates back to at least the 16th century when it was a soft, knitted wool cap with a voluminous, flat crown, traditionally blue in colour, sometimes with a diced band (usually red-and-white check) around the lower edge and with a coloured toorie (pom-pom) set in the middle of the crown.
The name 'Balmoral' as applied to this traditional head dress appears to date from the late 19th century. Today, the crown of the bonnet is smaller, made of finer cloth and tends to be blue or Lovat green. Tapes in the band originally used to secure the bonnet tightly are sometimes worn hanging from the back of the cap. It can have a regimental or clan badge worn on the left hand side with the bonnet usually worn tilted to the right to display these emblems. The Balmoral  was adapted into the Caubeen by Irish Forces and military forces around the world have worn it and referred to it simply as a 'beret.'

There is no hard evidence, but I've come across a number of sources that claim the origins of the Balmoral actually lie in the Basque Country (a theory that doesn't necessarily go down well with all Scotsmen); the theory is that Basque fishermen, on their way to their fishing and whales grounds off Newfoundland, introduced their berets to Scotsmen who adopted it, and added  their regalia to it. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kurt Goldstein

Kurt Julius Goldstein (1914 – 2007) was a German journalist and a former broadcast director.
Goldstein was born to a Jewish merchant family in Dortmund, Germany. At school, he experienced Germany's growing anti-Semitism and it had the effect of politicising him. In 1928, he joined the Young Communist League and two years later, the Communist Party of Germany, then headed by Ernst Thälmann. When the Nazis took power in 1933, Goldstein fled. He first lived in Luxembourg, working as a gardener, then moved to France. In 1935, he went to Palestine.
A year later, the Spanish Civil War erupted and many German Communists volunteered to fight. Goldstein soon joined them. When the Second Spanish Republic collapsed in early 1939, Goldstein escaped across the border into France. As return to Germany was impossible, he was interned and held in Camp Vernet.

Goldstein was deported to Germany by the Vichy French authorities. On arrival, he was sent to Auschwitz concentration camp, where he worked in the coal pits for 30 months. Goldstein survived the death march from Auschwitz to Buchenwald. When Buchenwald was partly evacuated by the Nazis on 8 April 1945, Communist inmates stormed the watchtowers, killed the remaining guards and took control. The camp was formally liberated by American troops on 11 April 1945. Goldstein returned to East Germany after the war, working as a journalist, radio broadcaster and author.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A new Light on the Origins of the Beret

It is all a matter of definition, really. Google for 'Beret' and you get an enormous variety of hats; newsboy caps, cheese slicers, 6 panel flat caps, etc., etc., but hardly any beret. An annoying reality when researching the (Basque) beret.
So, what is a Basque beret? I would say a reasonable definition would be something along these lines: a beret is a hat made of one piece of knitted wool in a circular shape which is felted and shrunk after the initial manufacturing (knitting and closing) is completed, with the remainder of the closing thread (the 'txortena', or 'wick') kept in place. 
Of course, there are a number of variants: the military beret with has the txortena cut off (apart from a small number of regiments like the Chasseurs Alpins and the Chasseurs Ardennais), the cotton beret (which is manufactured in the same way, except -obviously- from the felting and some hybrid berets like the 1940's and '50's made Czechoslovak berets and French berets with a peak.
A pakol is not a beret, although it shares many similarities in material, manufacturing and looks. I have written about pakols before (here) and said then that it's origins lie in Chitral and Gilgit, in Northern Pakistan. That may be right for 'living memory', but it's real origins are actually in ancient Greece, or more factual Macedonia!
From Wikipedia I quote: kausia was an ancient Macedonian flat hat which was worn during the Hellenistic period but perhaps even before the time of Alexander the Great and was also used in lion hunting and as a protection against the sun by the poorer classes in Rome.
Depictions of the kausia can be found on a variety of coins and statues found from the Mediterranean to the Greco-Bactrian kingdom and the Indo-Greeks in northwestern India. A modern descendant of the hat may be the pakol, a men's hat from the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan.