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Monday, 17th December 2007

Serien im Brennpunkt

Die bunte Welt

(The colourful World)

When I was a boy, no visit to the cinema was complete without a "Look at Life" (... and whilst we're talking about hovercraft, here is a horse's eye view of the Grand National ...). Die bunte Welt is a kind of 1930s equivalent in cigarette cards. It explains more than you wanted to know about more things than you ever thought possible, although as hovercraft hadn't been invented then they had to make do with other forms of transport such as king Ludwig the second's ceremonial sleighs. (Yes well king Ludwig was a bit weird but he did give the world Neuschwanstein, so I suppose we shouldn't complain too much or we wouldn't have a Disneyland). The set was a joint issue by the Salem and Jasmatzi cigarette companies of Dresden and contains a total of 270 cards. The Salem version is listed as having been issued in 1931 although Jasmatzi apparently didn't issue them until 1934. (Salem incidentally produced a brand of cigarettes called Salem Aleikum - a pun on an Arab greeting).

Schilluk resting position

The set is divided into groups of three pictures for each subject and starts off with traditional Japanese costumes. Card three shows an Ono dancer. This is a fitting name if they look anything like the one on the card, as I would certainly scream "Oh no!", if I met one down a dark alley, or even in the daylight come to that.

After running away from the Ono dancer you could cool yourself down with one of the fans shown in the next group of three cards. Then if all that running had made you feel hungry you might feel like something to eat. Cards 10 - 12 show Macaroni, card 12 showing a group of young Italians having a macaroni eating competition. If you say "go" to start a pudding race, I suppose you must win a macaroni race when you go pasta finishing line (groan).

A little light music after a meal is always enjoyable, and what could be nicer than performing on a virginal as shown on card 100. Nowadays virginals are few and far between, so you might prefer that Javanese favourite the Gambang as shown on card 156. This weird instrument looks like a cross between a boat and a xylophone which I suppose could be useful for playing selections from Wet Wet Wet or Handel's Water Music. Still not satisfied? Well if pianos aren't your forte, you might like something completely different such as the Red Indian nose flute shown on card 89. Personally, these always struck me as most unlikely instruments. I mean can you imagine the mess if you try to play one when you've got a cold?

Calcutta policeman

Time to go home before I have too many thoughts like that, and what better mode of transport could there be than the five-man Korean monocycle shown on card 130. It actually looks more like a one-wheeled sedan chair as only one person can sit on it, the other four being necessary to stop it falling over. But if you've had too much to drink, watch out for that Singapore traffic policeman shown on card 181. No hand signals for him. He has a large plank tied across his back with useful words such as "stop" written on it. When he wants to stop the traffic, he just turns his back to it and hopes that the driver can read. If you don't stop, the plank will probably knock you off your bike anyway. A safer way would probably be the Graf Zeppelin shown on cards 68 to 70, although careful of that church shown on card 127 as it has an extremely pointed spire. You wouldn't want to land on that or you'd end up like the Irishman with the inflatable woman.

Finally home and judging by those yawning animals on cards 241 - 243 it's time for bed, so off into one of those historic beds shown on cards 118 - 120. Whilst lying there, you can ponder on life, the universe and what's a Greek urn? But we all know the answer to that. It's a container for carrying liquids as clearly shown on cards 145 - 147. If you feel that a Greek doesn't urn enough, cards 106 - 108 show Chinese dead money. These notes were placed in graves to pay for the deceased's journey to the "other side". Of course they are made out to the "Bank of the Other Side", so you'd have to be dead to profit from them. If you don't want to wait that long you might like to try getting lucky in the meantime with the Masai woman on card 260. You could give her a ring although in this case that would be a large brass thing around her neck. On second thoughts that's a bad idea - you might get your nose flute caught in it at an awkward moment. Try explaining that to the wife. She would probably beat you around the head with one of those oriental bottles shown on cards 97-99. After that you would probably look like one of those grotesque masks worn by the people of Flums in Switzerland as shown on cards 136-138. Every year at carnival time they all dress up as ugly women and run around frightening people. Actually I'm not sure what's so special about that. My mother-in-law does it all the time.

Don't try this at home

Well by now you're probably getting the idea that there's a bit of everything in this set. Old playing cards, ceramic tiles, historic ovens, African fetishes (down Franklyn, a fetish in this case is an object believed to have magical powers), statues of God made from butter, African beauties (it must be hot there judging by what she's wearing), the sultan of Maga's hat, and even a few dinosaurs. Reading through this set would take you ages. Take a tip from me. If you want to suggest a set of desert island cards for Franklyn's web site feature, this would be the set to take. At 270 cards, it's more than five normal English sets, and you still have another four sets to go. One of those could be "Die Reichswehr" which at 280 cards is not only longer, but also reveals what German soldiers did with party balloons. In fact the treaty of Versailles made them do all sorts of weird things, but that's another article.

Contributor: S. Arnold