All that is gold does not glitter–but these fries sure do!

One aspect of literary history which is I think underappreciated by both fans and critics is the degree of influence which the fast food industry had on J.R.R. Tolkien. (Big man for fast food, was Tolkien. Many’s the time his students saw him tucking a half-consumed Wimpy burger into his robes to snack on during his lectures).









Back in 1948 a pair of Irish restauranteurs, Dick and Mac McDonald, opened a streamlined version of their carhop drive-in, the McDonald Brothers Burger Bar Drive-In. The brothers had discovered that most of their sales were of hamburgers and decided to do away with most other items on their menu. And, influenced by Henry Ford’s assembly line processes, the brothers stressed efficiency in food preparation, delivery, and architectural layout. This new restaurant was an enormous financial success, but for various reasons the brothers were not successful in selling franchises, and by 1953 only 21 franchises had been sold, and only 10 of those became operating units.

Enter the Dark Lord, Ray Kroc.


At this time Kroc was selling Multimixer milkshake makers to various fast food franchises, but he saw the potential of the brothers’ operation and signed an agreement with them to sell the brothers’ franchises nationwide. (Rather than get into the lexigraphic Cannae that is “how do you spell the possessive of McDonald’s?” I’m just going to refer to the franchise as “M.”). At this time, selling a franchise merely meant ceding territory to a local owner in exchange for a large up-front fee. But Kroc wanted more control than that. He insisted on total control, selling individual store franchises rather than territorial franchises (thus controlling the number of stores one licensee could have) but also requiring licensee conformity to operating standards, equipment, menus, recipes, prices, trademarks, and architectural designs. Kroc hired the sinister Harry Sonneborn and with him designed the McDonald’s Franchise Realty Corporation, which would purchase land for individual M. franchises and then rent the land to the licensee, which allowed M. to make money from rental agreements and to evict licensees if they violated the franchise agreement.

Kroc began selling franchises, and after a series of disagreements with the McDonald brothers bought them out. The corporate culture of M. changed, from the brothers’ insistence on efficiency to Kroc’s…well, as usual, Patrick O’Brian’s Stephen Maturin put it best, although he was describing Jack Aubrey’s mother-in-law: “a deeply stupid, griping, illiberal, avid, tenacious, pinchfist lickpenny.” (Among other charming habits, Kroc would spring surprise inspections on M. franchises, and if there was, for example, ketchup or mustard spilled on a counter, Kroc would insist on the ketchup or mustard being scooped back into a container for re-use). Kroc also targeted suburban America, a change from previous fast food restaurants’ inner-city-oriented business plans. By 1963 Kroc was selling a million burgers a day.

I needn’t tell you about M.’s history with anti-union activities, environmental destruction, lobbying the government against increasing minimum wages and worker benefits, denying health benefits to workers, laying waste to the environment, undue influence on potato farmers, contributing to the Boss Hogging of the American citizen, and general McDonaldization of the world, do I? I don’t need to tell you what it means when a major corporation chooses a clown to be its spokesman, do I?

The natural objection is that the evils I blame M. for actually come from the fast food industry itself. But to a large degree M. is the fast food industry. It remains the leader in sales among fast food restaurants by an enormous amount, and has been for years. Its sales are increasing at a greater rate than its competitors. Of course, M. doesn’t really have to worry about competitors. Of the top ten fast food franchises in terms of sales, M. is #1–and its sales are more than the sales of #2 through #5 combined.

Why? Partly because Dark Lord Kroc’s current state is likely something like this:






or even this.

But more than that, it’s because too many of those who should M.’s competitors are fatally, even spiritually, compromised. It can’t be the food–have you actually tasted a M. Extruded Food Product recently? Even a White Castle Slider is preferable. (I do not say that lightly). No, it can’t be the food. The answer must lie somewhere else.

Burger King is #2 on the fast food franchise sales list. One would think it was M.’s greatest threat. Certainly the number of Burger King commercials would seem to imply so. And yet in 2006 M.’s sales were almost four times those of Burger King. Why? Partly as karmic punishment for the way that Burger King bullied poor Wimpy and destroyed a good solid British company. But, really, Burger King never had a chance against M. Burger King began as the “Insta-Burger King,” back in 1953, founded by Keith Cramer. Cramer got the idea for Insta-Burger King by visiting M.; later, he bought the very first milkshake maker for the new fast food franchise from…wait for it…Ray Kroc himself, in what can only be described as a gift of a poisoned chalice. Likewise, Jack-in-the-Box (#5 on the sales list), begun in 1950 in San Diego, got its first milkshake makers from Multimixer, Kroc’s company.

Taco Bell (#3 on the sales list) began in San Bernardino, California, home to the first M. Taco Bell’s founder, Glen Bell, was inspired by M. to open his own chain.

Wendy’s is #4 on the sales list, and is the only franchise whose sales are significantly increasing (over 33% from 2000-2006). Wendy’s is actually one of the two most dangerous franchises to M. See, back in 1952 Harland Sanders (an honorary “Kentucky Colonel”) founded Kentucky Fried Chicken (#8 on the sales list) without any inspiration from M. or links to Ray Kroc. (Which, naturally, is a threat to M. KFC is independent of M., and we all know how evil empires feel about independent rivals, don’t we?) Sanders had to sell KFC in 1964, but soon afterwards helped his protegé, Dave Thomas, establish his own chain, Wendy’s. Now, there was some unpleasantness between Sanders and KFC later in Sanders’ life, and Thomas was always very loyal to Sanders, but both KFC and Wendy’s have, surely, put aside whatever rivalry and hurt feelings they have in their war with M. After all, there is a lineage there.












dave thomas


Why are these two a threat to M.? Because fast food is now a global business, not just one limited to American borders. M. is certainly working on the global level; the largest M. in the world is in Tiananmen Square (on the corner where that nameless hero stopped the tank in 1989), and the second largest is near Red Square in Moscow (which, like M.’s presence in Tiananmen Square, is a symbolic statement so obvious as to not need limning or explication). The truth is that, like the major tobacco players, M. gets the majority of its income from foreign (that is, non-American) sources: 34.6% from Europe, 34% from the United States, 6.5% from Latin America, and 13.8% from “Asia/Pacific, the Middle East & Africa.” (6.6% comes from “other regions”). M. needs the global customer more than it needs the American customer.

Wendy’s owns Tim Horton’s, which does twice as much business in Canada as M. And KFC…well, it was the first fast food chain in Japan, is the most-recognized foreign brand in China, and now has more restaurants outside the U.S. KFC and Wendy’s are far behind M. in sales, but on the international stage both are a legitimate threat to M., especially in China, where KFC has an unofficial corporate policy of opening a KFC franchise within 500 yards of every new M. franchise.

As mentioned, Jack-in-the-Box is #5 on the sales list. The franchises after that, KFC excepted, are non-starters in the eyes of M., minor entities like Chick-Fil-A, Hardee’s, Sonic, and Long John Silver, which cumulatively sell less than a quarter of M.’s annual business. And yet, even among the second and third tier of fast food franchises, the taint of Dark Lord Kroc can be found. Carl’s Jr., founded by Carl Karcher in 1956 after a visit to the M.’s mothership in San Bernardino. Dairy Queen, which resolved its financing and corporate structure problems in 1948 by forming the Dairy Queen National Trade Association; an attendee at the first meeting of the association? Ray Kroc, who was selling his Multimixers to numerous Dairy Queen franchises. Hardee’s, who began by modeling not only its serving processes but the very architecture of its buildings on M.’s. And White Castle, whose recipes are based duplicating the taste of the wastewater that builds up in the dumpsters behind M.

As you can see, the claw marks of Dark Lord Kroc are everywhere across the industry. So what’s the link to Tolkien?

Where do you think Tolkien got the idea of Sauron offering the cursed rings to men and dwarfs? Kroc selling milkshake makers to his tools rivals, and allowing him to visit M. locations to derive inspiration for their own efforts.

Take a look at the Eye of Sauron, which, if you remember, was “rimmed with fire, but was itself glazed, yellow as a cat’s, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing.”

eye of sauron






Take a look at the clown.

ronald mcdonald

Rimmed with fire, glazed, black slits, a window into nothing…remind you of anything?

What are the Golden Arches except Twin Towers? The Lavic Lake volcanic field, including Pisgah Crater, is only 50-odd miles from San Bernardino, and what are those but the obvious inspiration for the landscape of Mordor?

Put another way, have you considered what happens when you take the Golden Arches and bring their ends together? You get this:







(Nice fries, though. Tasty)

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Comic book data, pt. 3

Continuing my trawl of Golden Age comic book data, here’s a breakdown of the strips in comic books by genre:

strips 1939-1942


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Comic book data, pt. 2

The following is a list of the number of strips of various genres appeared in comic books in 1935, 1936, 1937, and 1938. (Not counting comedy, reprints, and romance comics).

strips 1935-1938

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Comic book data, pt. 1



The following is a list of how many strips of various genres appeared in comic books from 1935 through December, 1941. (Not counting comedy, reprint, and romance comics, of course).


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Golems and sex.


I’m not gonna provide all the citations Idel does, because, well, who’s got time for that? But suffice it to say that GOLEM is pretty heavily sourced and looks to be quite reliable.


“The Aramaic term for an anthropoid used by the editors of the Sanhedrin passage is gavra’, literally, a man, and, more specifically, a male person. In Hebrew, on the other hand, an unmarried woman was considered to be, like an unmarried man, an imperfect being, and she was referred to in classical texts as a Golem. This designation implies her being an imperfect, hylic entity, prior to her becoming a vessel (keli) for her husband, so that she will attain her essential perfection as woman. In light of our previous explanations of the meaning of the Golem, it seems that in this case as well the term stands for a human body that did not receive its ultimate perfection. Moreover, the relationship between the woman, conceived of as a Golem, and the process of her becoming a vessel, keli, namely her reaching her “natural” goal, is reminiscent of other Talmudic discussion where Golem stands for the unfinished form of a certain vessel, which becomes that vessel when it is given the final touch. The penetration of the needle is paralleled by the Talmudic view of the husband as the maker of his spouse: bo’alaikh ‘osaikh.”

But what you’re interested in, I know, is not about early Jewish sexism, but about the good stuff: what are the rules about having sex with a golem?

It’s only in the 17th century, and that in Central Europe, that the rabbis begin to address this vital problem.

We begin with Genesis 37:3, in which “Joseph brought to his father an evil report.” What was it? Not specified in the Bible. Midrashic sources differ: eating the limbs of an animal before its death, having relations with Canaanite female, or behaving contemptuously toward brothers who were the sons of servants. But! There’s a different Jewish tradition: that Joseph accused his brothers of having incestuous sex with unspecified females.

Worse: “The occurrence of such an accusation against Joseph as a denouncer, raised serious questions about the veracity of the report? was it possible that Joseph, the symbol of the righteous in Jewish tradition, was a liar? And if not, did the sons of Jacob actually transgress these grave transgressions?”

So Rabbi Isaiah Horwitz, in his SHENEI LUHOT HA-BERIT (circa 1620), “adduced” a tradition (which is to say, made one up) to solve the problem: just as it’s written in the GEMARA that “a three-year-old calf was created on each and every eve of Shabbat, by the study of SEFER YEZIRAH, and by the combination of divine names,” so too did the brothers, *obviously* create a female using the same methods for the purposes of sex. Joseph thought the brothers were committing incest and moreover disregarding the honor of their brothers by preventing the sons-of-servants from having sex with the nice golem lady, so that’s why he did what he did. “Look how the tribes were righteous and Joseph was righteous too, being the foundation of the world and righteous in all his ways.”

Now, there was another issue. Halakha forbids close relatives (including brothers and sons and fathers) from having sex with the same woman. But this doesn’t apply to nice golem ladies. Who therefore can’t be considered human, as Rabi Zevi Hirsh of Munkacs ruled. Neither can golems be counted toward the minyan, because the golems are less than woman and are not required to conform to all the legal prohibitions.

Since you were wondering: “in another context, the version of Rosenberg indicates that the Golem did not have any sexual desire, otherwise it could have been dangerous as his power would have overcome everyone. In this context, the fallen angels are mentioned, obviously in order to compare the sexual liberties of these mighty angels with the possible danger of the Golem.”

Can a golem give consent? The rabbis differ. Some say golems have “rational power,” which would mean the usual rules of sex apply. Others say, no, they don’t have rational power, so not only would you be having sex with a lesser thing than a human, but one without the ability to give consent. But one thing everyone agrees on is that golems can’t be created with “procreative power,” since only God, May He be blessed, can bestow that on a creature.

Any questions?

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The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: Harlan Dyce

dyceDyce, Harlan. Harlan Dyce was created by Arthur J. Burks (Professor Barter, Black Falcon, Duff Braden, Jack Brady, The Guillotine, David Haslup, Eddie Kelly, Josh McNab, Dorus Noel, Allan Swain) and appeared in “It Doesn’t Take Much Dynamite” (Clues, Nov. 1936) and “While Chinatown Slept” (Clues, June 1938). Harlan Dyce is a misanthropic and venomous private detective.

“Dyce had brains, taste, money, ambition, and a total lack of physical or spiritual fear. But—

“Dyce was thirty-three inches tall and weighed sixty pounds.

“That was all the world could ever hold against him. That was what had made the world, most of it, in all the countries of the world, stare at Harlan Dyce, billed in the big show as “General Midge.””

Dyce has an “amazingly handsome face,” and the aforementioned brains. But all anyone sees is his stature, and he hates that and turns his cold eyes and acid tongue on them. The only person Dyce likes and gets along with (besides his dwarf wife, a former client) is his assistant, Nick Melchem, a six-foot tall former p.i.’s assistant with bleak eyes and a strong body. Melchem ignores Dyce’s stature and treats Dyce normally, which Dyce responds warmly to.

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The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: Paula Dupree

paula dupreeDuPree, Paula. Paula DuPree was created by Ted Fithian and Neil Varnick and appeared in the films Captive Wild Woman (1943), Jungle Woman (1944), and The Jungle Captive (1945). Dr. Walters, an ordinary, average Mad Scientist, is interested in using a gorilla for his work. He doesn’t have one at hand, so he steals one, Cheela, from a circus’ animal trainer. Walters injects hormones into Cheela and performs a brain operation on her, turning her from a primate into a human woman, who he names “Paula DuPree.” He teaches her to be a human, but when he brings her to the circus from which he stole her, he discovers that she has a Superhuman hypnotic ability over animals. She goes to work in the circus, and is attracted to Fred, the animal trainer from whom Walters stole her, but she discovers that Fred is engaged, and she reverts to being Cheela, leading to a violent ending. In the first sequel it is revealed that she was not killed in the first film, but was nursed back to health in a sanitarium, only turning back into a gorilla and killing people very occasionally. In the second sequel she is brought back to life by another Mad Scientist.

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The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: Duende


Duende. The Duende was created by Rosalía de Castro and appeared in the Spanish novel El Caballero de las Botas Azules (1931). The Duende is a dashing hero of mysterious background, notable for his fabulous blue boots, who charms every woman he meets and creates fans of every male in he meets. At length he reveals himself to be an elf, “un duende—un mal espíritu,” and begins bedeviling those in a position of power. His ultimate goal is to purify Spanish literature, which he does by destroying every Spanish book which is unworthy.

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The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: Nita Duboin

duboinDuboin, Nita. Nita Duboin was created by Kirk Mashburn and appeared in “Placide’s Wife” (Weird Tales, Nov. 1931) and “The Last of Placide’s Wife” (Weird Tales, Sept. 1932). Sometime during the 19th century, in New Orleans, there is a fetching, olive-skinned, black-haired “wench from a street-fair” named Nita Duboin. She beguiles Placide Duboin, a local Cajun, into marrying her–perhaps for his money, perhaps for something else. He doesn’t treat her well, and beats her, and she hates him. Her only companion in the marriage is her giant, yellow-eyed black cat, who also hates Placide. Placide shoots the cat, but it does not die. Placide then shoots and buries Nita, but she comes back. Placide dies, and then is found alive and well, and Nita reveals herself to be not just a Femme Fatale but a loup-garou and vampire.

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The Best of the Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes: Sar Dubnotal

dubnotalDubnotal, Sâr. Sâr Dubnotal and appeared in Sâr Dubnotal, der Große Geisterbanner #1-9 (1909); the series was translated and then expanded by Norbert Sévestre in Sâr Dubnotal #1-20 (1909-1910). The series was reprinted in Spain and Portugal. Sâr Dubnotal is a Superhuman Occult Detective. He is the “Conquistador of the Invisible Ones,” the “Napoleon of the Immaterial,” “Great Psychagogue,” the “grand spirit guide”—in other words, a psychic investigator. Dubnotal also refers to himself as himself as “El Tebib,” “the Doctor,” to emphasize his learned nature; he is medically trained and is a top psychologist. He is also trained in the Lombroso method, and can recognize the criminal “type” by simply looking at them.

However, the Rosicrucian Dubnotal is better known as a master of “psychognosis.” He has a wide range of powers, including hypnosis, telepathy, and levitation. He is an expert, and there is “no phenomenon of somnambulism, of telepathy, of `telepsychics,’ of levitation, hypnotism, magnetism, suggestion and autosuggestion” which is beyond him. Though a Westerner Dubnotal was “instructed in the school of the brahmins and the most famous Hindu yogis” and has “victories without number over the battle champions of the invisible.” He is even capable of speaking to the spirits of the deceased.

Dubnotal, who wears a Hindu turban and affects a Hindu air, lives in a spacious apartment in the rooms below his laboratory. His best assistant is the delectable Gianetti Annunciata, a “petticoated” medium who combines, in her manner, the “gay working girl” and the “high priestess.” Annunciata translated the raps of the invisible world into French, and vice-versa, thus enabling Dubnotal to communicate with the dead. (Annunciata is assisted in this task by a small “spiritual telegraph” machine)

Dubnotal takes on a wide range of enemies, including Tserpchikopf the Hypnotist (who is actually Jack the Ripper) and Azzef, a Russian terrorist (very loosely based on Evno Azef). In Dubnotal’s final appearance he buries himself alive in order to dispel his lethargy. Dubnotal appears in stories with titles like “Dr. Tooth’s Turning Table,” “The Madwoman of the Rimbaud Passage,” “The Sleepwalker of the River of Blood,” and “Azzef, the King of the Agents Provocateurs.”

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