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Charlie Chaplin: Color photographs on set as the Little Tramp, 1917-18
12.18.2014
07:55 am

Topics:
History
Movies

Tags:
Charlie Chaplin

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Charlie Chaplin made his first appearance as the “Little Tramp” one hundred years ago when he co-starred with Mabel Normand in the short Mack Sennett silent film Mabel’s Strange Predicament. But as it turned out the public’s first sight of Chaplin’s comic creation was in his second outing Kid Auto Races at Venice, which was made after Mabel’s Strange Predicament but released two days before it. Chaplin later explained how the Tramp came about—he had been asked by Sennett to put on some “funny make-up” for his appearance in Mabel’s Strange Predicament:

I went to the wardrobe and got a pair of baggy pants, a tight coat, a small derby hat and a large pair of shoes. I wanted the clothes to be a mass of contradictions, knowing pictorially the figure would be vividly outlined on the screen. To add a comic touch, I wore a small mustache which would not hide my expression.

My appearance got an enthusiastic response from everyone, including Mr. Sennett. The clothes seemed to imbue me with the spirit of the character. He actually became a man with a soul—a point of view. I defined to Mr. Sennett the type of person he was. He wears an air of romantic hunger, forever seeking romance, but his feet won’t let him.

These Autochrome color portraits of Chaplin as the Tramp were taken by photographer Charles C. Zoller (1854 – 1934) between takes on the set of one of Chaplin’s films circa 1917-18.
 
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Chaplin out of character.
 
Via Shooting Film.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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The scream of a thousand corpses: Horrifying sounds of the Aztec death whistle
12.17.2014
10:26 am

Topics:
History

Tags:
Aztec death whistle


 
The Aztec death whistle, sometimes described as “the scream of thousand corpses” is a frightening sound indeed. The skull-shaped whistles, discovered only 20 years ago by archaeologists, were dismissed as toys or burial trinkets. THAT IS, until someone decided to blow into one and… oh my god that horrifying sound came out


 
Archaeologists and historians still aren’t exactly sure what the Aztec whistles were specifically used for. Some suggest the terrifying sound the whistles make were used as a weapon of psychological warfare to scare the shit out of their enemies. Imagine hundreds of these whistles going off at the same time. Horrifying, right? Others suggest these whistles were used as a sendoff to the dead during burial ceremonies or perhaps for human sacrifices.

The video below, lets you hear what a single Aztec death whistle sounds like and then imagines what hundreds of these things going off at once might have sounded like.

 
h/t Kevin K

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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The Screaming Phantoms, The Dirty Ones & The Satan Souls: Check out this 1974 map of Brooklyn gangs
12.16.2014
04:26 pm

Topics:
History

Tags:
New York City
NYC
gangs
Brooklyn


The Dirty Ones, because Williamsburg has always been chic.
 
1979’s The Warriors became a cult classic by creating a fantastically dystopian world of lawlessness roamed by stylized gangs of the Romantic variety, but the reality of 1970’s NYC gangs was… well, actually… not that much different from their epic, fictionalized versions onscreen. In fact, the fear of gang violence at the time was so fevered, the film was actually blamed for crimes committed against people who were coincidentally coming from or going to the movie. This map from The New York Times is dated August 1, 1974, and the names of the gangs are so dramatic, it’s easy to see how fact and fiction could blur in the eyes of a terrified populace. 

The folks over at The Bowery Boys blog even dug up a few details on the “activities” of some of the gangs listed, including The Young Barons (an altercation that ended in one death and the slicing off of someone’s nose, 1972), a battle between the Devils Rebels and the Screaming Phantoms (two rebels were killed, 1973), and the 1974 extortion dealings of the Outlaws, the Tomahawks, the Jolly Stompers and B’Nai Zaken. If that last one threw you for a loop, B’Nai Zaken is a phrase largely associated with Ethiopian Jews, and not (as I had hoped), a bunch of Hassidim with nunchucks.

There was a even a 1973 report that a few local gangs had been cast in an autobiographical gang film,The Education of Sonny Carson, perhaps paving the way for Walter Hill to later do the same thing with The Warriors
 

 
Via The Bowery Boys

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Inked ladies: Vintage photos of women with full body tattoos
12.15.2014
08:08 am

Topics:
Art
Feminism
History

Tags:
tattoos

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The 1991 discovery of the well-preserved body of a 3,000-year-old corpse revealed (amongst many other things) that ancient humans tattooed their bodies. The mummified body was called “Ötzi the Iceman” after the Ötztal Alps where his remains were found. Ötzi had 50-odd tattoos across his body, which some scientists have suggested may be evidence of an early form of acupuncture—which if true, would put this form of treatment 2,000 years before its first documented appearance in China.

Tattoos have a long and culturally significant history—being used as a sign of initiation, association, clan, tribe, ownership, or sexual and personal liberty.

In Victorian times, upper class women had their bodies tattooed as a symbol of their independence. In her book Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoos, Margot Mifflin believes this was a “feminist gesture” with these women “taking control of their bodies when they had little power elsewhere.” Winston Churchill’s mother Jennie had a serpent tattoo around her wrist as a symbol of her feisty independence. However, not all Victorian women who sported tattoos did so willingly. Mifflin reports how some poor women were forcibly tattooed and exhibited in freak shows and carnivals.

The first recorded woman tattooist was Maud Wagner, who was said to have traded a date with her future husband to learn the craft of tattooing. In the 1920s, full body tattoos were popular, but their charm was lost during the 1930’s Depression, only to re-emerge during the late 1940s to 1960s, when they were seen as a symbol of outsider status.

These vintage photographs show tattooed women from early in the 1900s to 1960s.
 
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More tattooed ladies, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Suffragette City: Propaganda posters reveal the horrors of women’s rights!


A lotta guys would pay good money for that.
 
The panic surrounding women’s suffrage managed to exacerbate masculine anxieties to such a perverse degree that you have to wonder just how terrified of women men actually were. They seemed to believe that all it took to upset the apple cart was access to bourgeois politics, then, we’d wreak havoc! Soon enough, reactionaries predicted, womenkind would be enslaving their husbands, abandoning their children and domestic duties, assaulting men on the street, invading political institutions and… wearing pants! Clearly, this made for amazing propaganda.

More insidious than the fear of masculine ladies and feminized men is a single depiction of a huger-striking suffragette being force-fed. There is a gleeful look in the eyes of the posh man pouring soup down her throat, and a menacing one in the eyes of the cop holding down her legs. Force-feeding is a torture that was administered to suffragettes like Alice Paul, much to the glee of misogynistic sadists. One would hope that such a barbaric practice would be abandoned by now—especially considering how ineffective torture actually is—but it appears the US remains reluctant to give up on the tradition.
 

 

Detail from above image.
 

 

 
More of the horror of women thinking for themselves after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Rock Against Racism: On the front line with The Clash, Specials, Undertones & Elvis Costello

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It all began in 1968 when an old Tory coot Enoch Powell gave a racist speech against immigration and anti-discrimination legislation at his West Midlands constituency in England. Powell claimed he was horrified at what he believed was an unstoppable flow of immigration that would eventually swamp the country where “in fifteen or twenty years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.” It was an incendiary and offensive speech full bile and hate, and became known as the “Rivers of blood speech” because of Powell’s quotation from Virgil’s Aeneid about “‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood.’”

Many of the white working class supported Powell, most shamefully the London dockers’ union staged a one day strike in his favor. Powell became the pin-up of the far right and his words appeared to sanction their rise, in particular the odious neo-Nazi National Front that promoted its racist policies with the boot as much as the ballot. Against this rose Rock Against Racism—“a raggedy arsed united front” co-founded by Red Saunders, Roger Huddle and others in 1976.

At first, Rock Against Racism was just an idea—a way to bring together a new generation of youth against the stealthy rise of the far right. It may have remained just an idea had it not been for Eric Clapton announcing during a concert in 1976 that the UK had “become overcrowded” and his fans should vote for Enoch Powell to stop Britain from becoming “a black colony.” Allegedly Clapton then shouted “Keep Britain white.” His racist tirade led to Saunders and Huddle writing a letter to the music paper NME pointing out that half Clapton’s music was black. The letter ended with a call for readers to help establish Rock Against Racism. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

In April 1978, 100,000 people marched across London in support of Rock Against Racism, which was followed by a concert at Victoria Park headlined by The Clash and the Tom Robinson Band. It was a momentous event, which singer and activist Billy Bragg correctly described as “the moment when my generation took sides.”

Photographer Syd Shelton documented the rise of Rock Against Racism during the 1970s and 1980s from its first demonstrations, the concert in Victoria Park, to the gigs, bands, musicians (The Clash, The Specials, The Undertones, Elvis Costello, etc), the young activists and supporters who stood up and proudly said: “Love Music, Hate Racism.”
 
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More rocking pictures against racism, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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The bloody horror of Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol
12.04.2014
09:47 am

Topics:
History

Tags:
horror
theater
Grand-Guignol

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Long before audiences paid to be thrilled by the horror of slasher movies, splatterpunk and “video nasties,” there was a theater in Paris that provided such grisly, bloody spectacle of the most extreme kind almost every night. Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol was infamous for its horrifying productions of murder, torture and most gruesome death.

Grand-Guignol literally means “theater of the great puppet,” a reference to the venue’s early productions using puppetry similar to Punch and Judy shows. The theater was situated in the Pigalle district of the city in a converted old church, the interior of which still contained many of the building’s original religious features—confessionals converted into boxes, overlooked by statuary and gothic design—all of which created an eerie and nerve-tingling ambience.

If the interior thrilled, then the productions, mainly written by André de Lorde who wrote some 150 plays during his life, were guaranteed to deliver the most bloodthirsty and outrageous horror. De Lorde’s stories usually featured the criminally insane, the deranged or those under some kind of hypnotic trance that allowed him scope to depict the most horrifying deeds as these were the actions of the abnormal or the unhinged. Audiences flocked to see the shows, at times screaming out if the drama went too far. However, some have claimed that these shows allowed Parisians to feel something, anything, in a way their ordinary lives did not.

The Grand-Guignol was popular up until just after WWII when the real horror of the war brought a decline to the public’s taste for brutal, bloody fictions. These photographs, mainly from the late 1940s, give a great sense of the kind of spectacle that amazed theater-goers when they visited the Grand-Guignol.
 
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More from the theater of blood, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Visible Girls: London’s lost female subcultures

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Lynne and Penny at home in Kingston, March 1981.
 
In the early 1980s, photographer Anita Corbin documented the “informal uniforms” of young women’s subcultures across London. Corbin photographed rude girls, rockabillies, mods, skinheads, and some “less defined” female groups including soul, rasta, punk and futurist, as well as those involved “in and around the women’s liberation movement.”  Her photographs were exhibited in a traveling exhibition organized by the Cockpit Gallery Project called Visible Girls in 1981.

In her introduction to the Visible Girls exhibition, Corbin wrote:

In this project I turned my attention to more personal visual details and I became increasingly interested in the effect appearences have on everybody’s lives.

The way we use dress as a means of communication/identification and how it can both inform and misinform us.

I have chosen to focus on girls, not the boys (where present) were any less stylish, but because girls in “subcultures” have been largely ignored or when referred to, only as male appendages.

Corbin discovered that for these young women belonging to a subculture was not just a weekend hobby but a whole way of life.

More than thirty years later, Anita Corbin has reconnected with some of the women in her photographs, but would like to contact them all, if possible. If you recognize yourself or any of these women, then you can contact Anita here.
 
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Kath and Em, at home in Putney, October 1980.
 
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Simeon and Simeon, at the Orchard Youth Club, Slough, March 1981.
 
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Charmine and Janice, at the Orchard Youth Club, Slough, March 1981.
 
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Rockabilly girls, at Shades, Manor House, February 1981.
 
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Titch and Sylvia at home in Sudbury, March 1981.
 
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At the Marquee club, December 1980.
 
With thanks to Elizabeth Veldon, via Buzzfeed.
 
More of Anita Corbin’s ‘Visible Girls,’ after the jump….
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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1948 NYC pot bust caught on film. Arrestee has a mean case of the giggles
11.25.2014
07:39 am

Topics:
Drugs
History

Tags:
marijuana
New York City
pot


 
As public support for the decriminalization of marijuana grows, states are loosening restrictions left and right and the US is making its slooooooow crawl towards sane drug policies. Yes, we still have a long way to go before we’re able to proudly and patriotically blow bong rips in a cop’s face, but I believe it’s healthy to acknowledge our progress and reflect on the enormous precedent of drug panics we’re gradually counteracting—so let’s check out some vintage newsreel from a drug bust in 1948!

In this dramatic Telenews short, five men and one woman are arrested for their stash of 60 “reefers” (joints) and $2,000 worth of bulk weed! That’s $2,000 in 1948, and the weed was probably terrible back then! This was before mandatory sentencing guidelines for pot, meaning these folks had no idea what kind of jail time or fines they might receive, and yet, they don’t seem particularly worried! One dude in particular can’t stop laughing; what a curiously inexhaustible humor he has!

Despite what was then the prevailing public perception of pot as a volatile gateway to psychosis and/or heroin addiction, our jovial drug dealers’ neighbors appear unruffled by the bust, and like true New Yorkers, they immediately start discussing the newly vacant apartment.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Watch a ten-year-old Gore Vidal pilot an airplane, 1936
11.24.2014
06:04 am

Topics:
Books
History

Tags:
Gore Vidal
aviation
kid
child


 
The late Gore Vidal was so many things during his life. Groundbreaking author! Master of belles-lettres!  Committed progressive! Gay (but-sort-of-not-really because he conceived of sexuality as inherently genderless, but whatever)! Kind of a sexist, rape-apologist piece of shit! But hey, remember that one time he pissed off William F. Buckley so bad that Buckley called him a “queer,” and threatened to punch him? That was pretty cool, right? And that other time when Norman Mailer head-butted him? That was good times!

Well, you can add “junior aviator” to Vidal’s long list of accomplishments! The video below shows both Eugene Vidals—Junior and Senior, the latter who was an Olympic Decathlete, Professor of aeronautics at West Point, one of the first pilots in the US Air Corps, and he was an original captain of industry who broke the ground for commercial airlines (it’s also widely believed—and reported by Gore—that he had an affair with Amelia Earhart). The short is a bit of a stunt to alleviate public fears about flying, produced in partnership with the federal government—-notice the “Department of Commerce” logo on the side of the plane. Little Gene’s role is just to show us that flight is safe and simple—why even a future-literary-genius-child could do it!
 

 
h/t Connor Kilpatrick

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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