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A commercially available lamb costume

A commercially available lamb costume

Last week was sheep week on Ferrebeekeeper. I was surprised by the extent to which sheep farming and wool production have been woven into humankind’s language, religion, and culture since time immemorial. Unfortunately, I became so impressed with these ancient ties, that I forgot to include my special bonus post—a gallery of silly sheep mascots just for fun…

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Hopefully you are still celebrating Chinese New Year, because here, a week late, are the sheep mascots. There are so many, and they represent so many different crazy organizations!

Rameses, a live Dorset ram, is the mascot of the North Carolina Tar Heels.  look how magnificently his horns are painted!

Rameses, a live Dorset ram, is the mascot of the North Carolina Tar Heels. look how magnificently his horns are painted!

Lance Corporal William Windsor (a regimental mascot in the armies of the Queen of England)

Lance Corporal William Windsor (a regimental mascot in the armies of the Queen of England)

A black sheep costume

A black sheep costume

"Shaun the sheep" at a mall looking skeezy

“Shaun the sheep” at a mall looking skeezy

"High Quality Angry Sheep Mascot Costumes"

“High Quality Angry Sheep Mascot Costumes”

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Oh dear...

Oh dear…

Cam the Ram--Colorado State Mascot

Cam the Ram–Colorado State Mascot

Dodge Ram Logo

Dodge Ram Logo

Fast-custom-new-Ram-Mascot-Adult-Costume-cosplay-cartoon-free-size-by-express-free-shipping

Stock Ram Logo...

Stock Ram Logo…

There are ever so many more, in every shape and with every expression… i sort of gave up on making a comprehensive list. I am struck anew by how much people love sheep–even as the symbol of an organization or a product (although maybe its subconsciously appropriate for organizations trying to gain followers?)

There's even a professional football team. Look how angry his face is!

There’s even a professional football team. Look how angry his face is!

 

Sumerian Farmers

Sumerian Farmers

What is the world’s most important occupation?  There are so many contenders: the brave soldiers who lay down their lives to fight oppression, the bankers who take all of the world’s money for themselves, the doctors who keep us healthy, the workers in the energy sector who keep society from falling into darkness and horror…even our leaders who bravely ensure that nothing gets done (so that society does not suddenly lurch in some scary direction).  Yet all of these professions are only possible once there is enough food.  Without farmers we would still all be hunter gatherers–and by “all” I mean the tiny handful of us who would exist.  Pre-agricultural society was terrifying because of its lack of certainty.  Humankind foraged hither and yon in hungry desperate bands.  Everyone was involved in long-running internecine wars with local tribes.  After the dawn of agriculture we were stuck with all sorts of oppressive megalithic forces: social hierarchy, ownership, organized religion—but in recompense humankind found literacy and science, the twin touchstones of wisdom and progress.

 

Thanks, farmer!

Thanks, farmer!

As spring begins the farmers are busy getting ready for the growing season.  They are out there harvesting winter crops, fixing seed injectors, tilling fields, and doing other critical things that we soft urban dwellers don’t even know about. To celebrate the importance of agriculture and give the farmer his (or her) due, here is a gallery of farmer mascots from around the internet.

Old Farmer Mascot (mascotdesigngallery.com)

Old Farmer Mascot (mascotdesigngallery.com)

Fat Cat Farmer: mascot of Stilwell High, Stilwell, OK

Fat Cat Farmer: mascot of Stilwell High, Stilwell, OK

I really hope this guy doesn't raise pigs

I really hope this guy doesn’t raise pigs

Angry Farmer (Joe Apel)

Angry Farmer (Joe Apel)

 

Corn Cob Bob should probably be the national animal

Corn Cob Bob should probably be the national animal

Does a creepy cowgirl count?

Does a creepy cowgirl count?

Travis the Tractor

Travis the Tractor

You could own the Farmer Duane costume for a mere $979.00 (facemakersincorporated.com)

You could own the Farmer Duane costume for a mere $979.00 (facemakersincorporated.com)

Of course looking over these images raises some troubling questions.  What is the difference between farmers and hillbillies?  Do farmers still wear straw hats? To what extent is farming now controlled by a handful of quasi-monopolistic corporations?  If farming is so important, why are so many of these mascots so primitive looking?

 

Farmer Mascot?

Farmer Mascot?

These questions will have to wait (or remain forever unanswered).  For now let us celebrate the ancient profession of farming and each of us prepare for the spring planting in our own lives.

farmer-clip-art-4images

 

 

 

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Naturally I love my readers with all my heart and I wanted to present a spooky Halloween treat to you for today’s post. I started out by writing an essay about the nature of reality, but it was filled with cubicles, creditors, skin cancer, and dead oceans.  To be honest, the dystopian sci-fi novel which is waking life was way too scary to be any fun (since it turns out that reality is completely horrifying).  As a back-up plan, I have returned to my old stand-by: strange creepy mascots.  Because of capitalism, nationalism, and the savage tribalism at the heart of humanity, our world is filled with weirdos and sad actors who are paid to don rubber costumes and act like bears, pelicans, and sundry bobble-headed freaks. Or, alternately, mascots can be animated or digitally created characters which are deeply wrong on an existential level.  Here are some of these mascots and these are their stories:

makoolaidLet’s start with a punch from the past. I remember being appalled the first time I saw a Kool-Aid commercial.  I mean Kool-Aid man is a being who is a fragile glass pitcher who crashes through a brick wall.  He then pours himself out into delighted children who drink his very essence like the Eucharist and go into a sugar high.  What the hell? How did marketers come up with this and how is it a thing we all immediately understand?

masDSC01192The New Orleans Saints’ primary mascot is Gumbo, a McGruff-style weeping hound with a blood-red tongue who is actually fairly lovable (as such things go).  However, Gumbo has recently been teamed with Sir Saint, a gruff football villain with elephantitis of the chin.  Sir Saint was one of the original Saints mascots during their first seasons of loss and misery and, for some reason he has been brought out of retirement to cast a shadow over this halcyon era.

0cubs1908-03Long ago, a wandering mage/bar-owner cast a curse upon the Chicago Cubs when they ejected him from the stadium for bringing his beloved pet goat to a game. Yet even before the curse, the cubs walked in darkness–as demonstrated by this image from 1908 which shows them with a nightmare bear.  Bears are scary enough, but this one looks like a rabid muskrat or a bear shaman who got trapped in a hell dimension.

malogosPast posts have touched on the subject of how bizarre Olympics mascots are.  Yet even Wenlock and Mandeville cannot compete with Shpitzik, a sentient fire-wielding cactus who was meant to represent the Israeli Olympics team.  Not only was Shpitzik a walking atrocity which should not exist, he was also a blatant rip-off of a character from a children’s show popular in Israel in the 1970s.  The cactus mascot was soon at the center of a giant expensive law suit.  The website theclassical.org told the harrowing story here and described the lawsuit’s conclusion (which also was the end of Shpitzik). In the final judgment, the presiding magistrate determined that Shpitzik was “’far more than a ‘humanization of a cactus” but was also a copyright infringement. He then ordered Shpitzik’s “permanent destruction and erasure from memory.”

mas4fff29d1a273eBoltman of the San Diego chargers does nothing to help alleviate the rumors that steroids are rampant in professional football.

old miss chiquitaThe Chiquita Banana was created by a famous cartoonist,  Dik Browne, who also created “Hagar the Horrible”.   The talking over-sexed banana was introduced to America as an animated character in 1944 (because apparently that year was not traumatic enough).

mas5350655833_86c067aa2d_oYou don’t have to be a sports mascot created by committee to be completely horrible, as demonstrated by these two mascots for a drug store in Kyoto.  Apparently they are renowned for making generations of children cry.

mastumblr_lci9rpn5xL1qe0wclo1_500This is “Boomer”, a (possibly retired) mascot of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  I think he is supposed to be a geriatric cannon pointed directly up, but he looks like a reject from a movie about steampunk sorcerers.

pierre-the-pelicanI don’t want to seem like I’m picking on new Orleans but the newly renamed basketball team “the pelicans” just unveiled their new pelican mascot and it is widely being heralded as a creature of nightmares.  This mascot is so atrocious it made the front page of CNN and has already inspired the internet’s underemployed digital artists to create an entire history for it.

Miscellaneous Yuru Kyara

Miscellaneous Yuru Kyara

Japan is the land of the mascot (as noted in passing in the first ferrebeekeeper post about mascots). Not only do sports teams and companies and public safety campaigns all have mascots, in recent year the country has been gripped by a mania for Yuru-kyara (AKA yuru characters or “gentle characters”) little animated figures which represent every single city, municipality, prefecture, and village in Japan.  The yuru characters are meant to represent some aspect of the culture of the place which they hail from: so a district famous for manufacturing aviation equipment might have a cute little jet mascot, whereas a farming village might be represented by a happy turnip.  Some of the meanings are rather obscure (like the little berry boy which represents the Japan Self Defense Force Yamanashi Provincial Cooperation Office).

Maybe the Japan Self Defense Force Yamanashi Provincial Cooperation Office just really like berries...

Maybe the Japan Self Defense Force Yamanashi Provincial Cooperation Office just really like berries…

The most famous yuru-kyara become hugely popular and can be quite lucrative—for example Kumamoto, the beloved yuru-kyara of Kumamon brought in hundreds of millions of yen for the prefecture (and sold huge piles of Kumamoto figures and merchandise).  Many of the others labor in obscurity (or are replaced by more likable mascots).  Sometimes two figures will be in conflict: Funabashi City is unofficially represented by Funassyi a frolicsome “pear fairy” however the official Funabashi City yuru-kyara is Funaemon, who looks like an anxious and fussy bureaucrat.

Funassyi, the pear spirit

Funassyi, the pear spirit

Funaemon hopes you have filled out your forms correctly

Funaemon hopes you have filled out your forms correctly

You can check out all sorts of amazing Yuru-kyara on this website (thanks to my roommate Steven Sho Sugita-Becraft for the link!), but, unless you read Japanese, you might be hard pressed to figure out who they are and what they represent.  I wonder if all the money-grubbing attention-hungry municipalities of America will ever adapt a similar scheme of crazy mascots (or are we just stuck with MacGruff and Mr. Yuck)?

I guess they could come over on their pirate ship?

I guess they could come over on their pirate ship?

It has been a while since I wrote a post concerning mascots.  That’s because…well, frankly there is something a bit grotesque and disorienting about the entire topic.  The bilious cartoony figures speak of the snake oil which lubricates our consumer culture.  And most of the characters are teetering right at the edge of nineteenth-century jingoism and ethnic stereotypes.  If Aunt Jemima, Chief Wahoo, Uncle Ben, the Gordon Fisherman, and Ole’ Miss don’t make you a bit anxious, then they aren’t doing their jobs.

All of which is why this subject is entirely perfect for Saint Patrick’s Day!  This holiday has long since dismissed any semblance of reasoned discourse. The downtown of every major city in the United States fills up before noon with intoxicated teens garbed crown-to-toe in Kelly green and red-faced, red-haired firemen wielding bagpipes!    So bring on the leprechaun mascots.

Traditionally leprechauns were members of the aes sídhe, supernatural beings who dwell in a mythical land beyond human kin. This unseen realm may be across the western sea, or in an invisible world parallel to ours, or in an underground kingdom accessible only through the pre-Christian burial mounds and barrows lying throughout Scotland, Ireland, and the ancient places of Western Europe.  The aes sídhe tended to be impossible beautiful and strange in such a way that they could only be apprehended by dying people, insane people, or William Butler Yeats.  Leprechauns were the money-grubbing cobblers and grabby tricksters among the lofty fairy folk.  The first mention of leprechauns is found in a medieval epic: the hero recovers consciousness from a dreadful wound only to discover that he is being dragged into the sea by leprechauns.  Yeats writes of the leprechaun “Many treasure-crocks, buried of old in war-time, has he now for his own.” In folklore Leprechauns originally wore red coats.

In America today all of this has been somewhat bowdlerized: leprechauns are small bellicose Irishman garbed completely in green. They ride on rainbows, possess pots of gold, and never quite grant wishes.  Anyone who says otherwise is liable to get punched in the mouth by an electrician from Jersey City.

Lucky the leprechaun, the spokesbeing for Lucky Charms cereal since 1964,  is probably the most famous of these contemporary leprechauns.  His ancient bog sorcery has been condensed into the trademark phrase “magically delicious” and six talisman-like marshmallow shapes calculated to best please the discerning six-year old palate.

Sports teams also like leprechauns.  The most famous sports-leprechauns are the pugnacious fighting Irish leprechaun of Notre Dame and the slippery dandy leprechaun of the Boston Celtics.

However an alarming range of other leprechaun mascots exist.  They have different waistcoats from various historical eras, sundry prankish expressions, and wear a rainbow of different greens but they are all instantly recognizable.

I don’t know…I was going to be more cynical, but just look at them up there, drinking and hoarding and dancing away.  There is something appealing about the wee folk.  Shameless stereotype or not, t’is all in good fun.  There’s a bit of a March hare in all of, longing to run wild after the long winter.  If our culture chooses to exemplify this spring atavism through images of a little irrepressible green man, then so be it.  Sláinte, dear readers! Have a happy Saint Patrick’s Day, a merry March, and a glorious spring.

Within the already spooky world of mascots, there is a particularly unfortunate category of mascots who demand formal honorific address.  This gallery is dedicated to Mr. Clean, Mr. Yuck, Mr. Met, and other spokesfigures with exaggerated self-worth.  Is it just me, or does anyone else feel unhappy to address an entity whose head is a grimacing baseball or a melting ice cream as “Mister”?

Mr. Softee

The quintessential bully of New York’s ice cream wars, Mr. Softee not only has a repulsive alien head but is accompanied everywhere by the infernal tune “The Whistler and his Dog” (which you have never heard of, but have undoubtedly heard).  [Editor’s note: Even if he is a sentient ice-cream being who betrays his own kind for profit, Mr. Softee’s vanilla ice cream cones with cherry hardshell are delightful.]

Mrs. Adler

Mrs. Adler is a disapproving Jewish lady who only sells kosher goods.  As a special treat, check out this link and judge for yourself whether she is a respected conservative matron or a profane seductress!

Mr. Zip

Mr. Zip was a refreshingly straightforward  (albeit manic) mascot for the US mail back in its glory days.

Mr. Yuk

Mr. Yuk disapproves of the dangerous and disgusting industrial chemicals you just took a swig of.  What was that stuff  doing in an old apple juice bottle anyway?  He looks acerbic but he’ll help you get in touch with new friends at the poison control center (by the way that’s a working number in case this scenario seems familiar).

Mr. Met

Mr. Met is the symbol of the New York Mets—New York City’s other ball club.  Like the Mets, he seems like a lovable troubled underdog at first but is revealed to be an annoying distraction.

Mrs. Butterworth

Mrs. Butterworth is a mother godess shaped bottle filled with corn syrup. She is only respectable in comparison with her with arch-nemesis “Aunt Jemima”.  The two are locked in eternal combat.

Mr. Clean

Mr. Clean projects the comforting authority of a powerful cell mate who will make sure you survive prison in exchange for um, admiration and devotion.  Germs (and other living things) should be afraid!

Ole' Miss

Ole Miss isn’t actually a “Miss” at all but should be good for partial credit.  He looks eager to break some NCAA recruiting rules and perhaps even turn against the glorious union.

In our continuing exploration of the uneasy world of mascots, it’s time to meet Wenlock and Mandeville, mascots for the 2012 London Olympics.  Hmm, oh dear…  They each have a camera for an eye, which seems eerily appropriate given England’s dystopian fascination with Orwellian surveillance equipment.  They do not have mouths, probably so that they are unable to scream.  Understanding their back story makes them no less disquieting:  according to their creators, they are steel nuggets handicrafted by an eccentric grandfather and then given life by children’s love for sports.

“The mascot will help us engage with children which is what I believe passionately in,” London organising committee chairman Sebastian Coe told Reuters.

“The message we were getting was that children didn’t want fluffy toys, they didn’t want them to be human but they did want them rooted in an interesting story. “By linking young people to the values of sport, Wenlock and Mandeville will help inspire kids to strive to be the best they can be.”

Um, what?  Toy designers know how easily children can be (mis)lead during marketing research. You have to watch their hands and eyes in order to find out their real answers. Or maybe I’m wrong and English children really do like mouthless, handless, soulless one-eyed robot-monsters.

Come on English designers! Just slap a bearskin on a bulldog and head for the pub.  Everyone would be happy and you would have an enduring winner instead of the travesties which Wenlock and Mandeville so clearly are.  As an added bonus, here are some alternate ideas for 2012 London Olympics mascots:

Trafalgar the pigeon (by Danny Ihns)

The lion and the unicorn from the UK coat of arms (as re-envisioned by Woodrow Phoenix)

‘Dodgee – the Olympic Hoodie’ (created by Aaron Robinson)

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