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Post-mortem photographic portraits from the Victorian era unite the living and the dead
01:07 pm



It’s difficult for the modern mind to apprehend the importance of the invention of the daguerrotype in 1839. All of a sudden, people had the capacity to retain a perfect image of a loved one—it must have been mind-blowing.

As the cost of the technology went down, the practice of using photography to execute a proper remembrance of loved ones who had passed on must have been irresistible. Unlike today, when just about anyone you’d be likely to meet has been photographed countless times, in the late 1800s and early 1900s a person might live his or her whole life without leaving behind a photographic portrait.

Enter the practice known as post-mortem photography. In North America and Europe a practice arose of taking pictures of beloved relatives who had recently died—-and often including other family members who were still alive. It was a way to bring together the living and the dead, to establish continuity in the passage of time. We find it creepy today, but we’re happier with our deceased well out of view.
As Meghan of Cvlt Nation writes,

one hundred years ago in America and the UK, seeing portraits of dead relatives or children on people’s walls was totally normal, and in fact expected. While today, we prefer to remember our ancestors as they lived, the Victorians felt that capturing their dead flesh was a way to pay respect to their passing.

If you are interested in this subject, the aptly named Jack Mord (“Mord” is actually German for “murder”) provided the definitive account in his 2014 book Beyond the Dark Veil: Post Mortem & Mourning Photography.

Here are a few of Meghan’s bone-chilling finds, with, as she writes, “with a minimum of dead babies, they are by far the creepiest!”


More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Peep Shows, Pimps and Prostitutes: A Walk on the Wild Side of New York in the 1970s

Leland Bobbé started his career as a photographer in the mid-1970s shooting street scenes around Times Square and the Bowery in New York City. Bobbé was living downtown near the Brooklyn Bridge. He played drums with a band on the CBGBs/Max’s Kansas City scene.

Because I didn’t write music, I eventually realized through taking pictures I was able to make more of a personal statement than playing rock n’ roll written by others.

At night Bobbé drove a taxi. He scouted the streets in different neighborhoods. During the day, he returned to these neighborhoods to take photographs of the people who hung around the sidewalks, peep shows, bars, and flop houses.

Hard as it is to remember now, at that moment New York was kind of on its ass. Crime was at a high. Destitution and poverty were spreading like plague. Drugs and vice seemed to be the only booming enterprises. The Son of Sam slayings terrorized New Yorkers. The city was virtually bankrupt—President Gerald Ford told New York to “drop dead,” as the New York Daily News famously had it. He eventually relented and stumped up a loan to save the Big Apple. Bobbé‘s photos captured the city long before its gentrification as a rich hipster’s playground.

Bobbé often shot from the hip using a 28mm to avoid detection. Others were shot with a telephoto lens. The resulting photographs are stunning, gritty and powerful—filled with character and atmosphere that captured the city at an unforgettable point in its history.
More of Leland Bobbé‘s gritty photographs of New York in the 1970s, after the jump…..

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
A nostalgic look at American malls of the late 1980s
11:02 am




Malls are not the center of our cultural sphere anymore. They’re not new and shiny. We’ve moved on, and now we have the Internet. ~ Michael Galinsky

For the past few years I’ve seen these photos making the rounds on the Internet—usually uncredited—and I never really knew their provenance, but I was always intrigued by them. Well now I know where they’re from. The photos, of American malls and the folks who occupied them, were shot back in 1989 by the then 20-year-old photographer and student, Michael Galinsky.

Starting in the winter of 1989 with the Smith Haven Mall in Garden City Long Island, Galinsky photographed malls from North Carolina to South Dakota, Washington State and beyond. The photos he took capture life in these malls as it began to shift from the shiny excess of the 1980s towards an era of slackers and grunge culture.

Malls Across America is filled with seemingly lost or harried families navigating their way through these temples of consumerism, along with playful teens, misfits, and the aged with best ps3 bluetooth headset. There is a sense of claustrophobia to the images, even in those that hint at wide commercial expanses – a wall or a ceiling is always there to block the horizon. These photos never settle or focus on any one detail, creating the sense that they are stolen records of the most immediate kind.

The images are nostalgic as hell and bring me back to the days of Aqua Net hairspray, food courts and acid-washed jeans.

If you’d like to see more images like this, they’re available in Galinsky’s book Malls Across America.



More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘Abuse of tea’ and other strange reasons for admission to a Scottish insane asylum, 1847
12:33 pm


Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum

Click here to read larger image.
We’ve previously posted a rather shocking list of reasons for admission to the West Virginia’s Hospital for the Insane—aka the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum—back in the late-1800s. Well, here’s another list of causes for admission to the Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum in 1847—which contains some strange and troubling reasons for being committed including:

Sedentary Life
Tea drinking (“Abuse of Tea”)
Vegetable Poisoning
Acute Rheumatism
Cancer of Breast
Prolonged Nursing
Religious excitement
Loss of Property
Disappointment in Love

And if none of these common symptoms fit the bill, there’s the catchall: “Cause not ascertained.”
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
List of Reasons for Admission to an Insane Asylum from the late 1800s

Via NHS Grampian Archives.

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Try not to think of sex: Pictures of enormous zeppelins entering their enormous hangars
01:10 pm



If there can be said to be a “golden age of the zeppelin,” it would be the 1920s and 1930s—a more precise span would be 1910 to 1937, but World War I interrupted widespread adoption of the primarily German technology. The year 1910, according to Wikipedia, marked the first time that zeppelins were flown commercially, by a company called Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-AG (DELAG). Over the next four years, DELAG would transport more than 10,000 fare-paying passengers on over 1,500 flights.

The end date of the period is pretty obvious: May 6, 1937, when 97 individuals decided to collaborate on some extremely expensive album cover design when a zeppelin known as the Hindenburg caught on fire in Manchester Township, New Jersey:

If you want to know more about the history of the zeppelin, you could almost certainly do worse than Zeppelin! Germany and the Airship, 1900–1939 by Guillaume de Syon.

As with any other form of airborne transport, there had to be a way of storing the vehicles overnight in such a way that they were protected from the elements, so along came the advent of the zeppelin hangar. These enormous structures were created to house the enormous rigid airships (yes, “rigid airship” is the name of the class of vehicles to which zeppelins belong), and pretty much any photograph of a zeppelin in its hangar is extremely likely to make observers think of sex. 

More smutty pictures of zeppelins after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Where did this popular children’s farting song originally come from? (+ the Doctor Who connection)
02:08 pm


Rufe Davis
Jon Pertwee

Rufe Davis was an American actor, singer and “imitator of sounds.” He was best known for his “rural” comedic radio act, “Rufe Davis and the Radio Rubes” during the 1930s, for being a co-star along with Hoot Gibson, John Wayne, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers in dozens of Hollywood B-Westerns and for his role as “Floyd Smoot,” the train conductor of the “Hooterville Cannonball” on the 60s CBS TV comedy series, Petticoat Junction.

Davis’ rendition of “The Old Sow Song” was his musical calling card for obvious reasons and something that those of us of a certain age might remember from a popular 60s kiddie record made by Mel Blanc and others called Bozo And His Pals (which is where I first heard it—and loved it—as a tyke), although it was originally released as a 78rpm record many years before that. The same song was also given away as cardboard record in cereal boxes. His version of the song was probably what kept the song “alive” in the 60s and 70s, and even beyond, but there was another famous version that we’ll get to in due course.

Maybe you heard “The Old Sow Song” from one of your grandparents singing it to you? They might’ve heard it in a vaudeville theater. It might also be something that was passed down from long before that, an actual working class English folk song. I’ve also seen it described as a Yorkshire farmer’s song. It’s claimed by Scotland and Ireland, too. One of the earliest recorded versions was one done in 1928 by Albert Richardson. It was also recorded by Cyril Smith and Rudy Vallee, as well as by opera singer Anna Russell. Novelty songsmith Leslie Sarony did his hit version of “The Old Sow Song” in 1934. Apparently John Ritter performed the song on Three’s Company but sadly I could find no clip of this. According to YouTube comments, Hee-Haw featured more than one rendition of “The Old Sow Song.”

Perhaps many of you learned “The Old Sow Song” at summer camp or grade school, where I am guessing it can still be heard to this day, since children’s songs with farting noises never truly die. This evergreen sing-a-long is up there with “Bingo was his name-o” and “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” but neither of them has blowing raspberries as an integral part of the song. Can you imagine what the sheet music must’ve looked like?

I’m truly delighted that a vintage visual representation of “The Old Sow Song” exists. I don’t have an exact year for the clip, but it’s described as a “talkie” or “soundie” in the descriptions of the various uploads which might indicate that this was an early sound film, and yet there is a Hitler reference, so I think it might be a bit later than the uploaders think.

I high recommend taking any—and all—drugs you have handy before hitting play. If Rufe Davis’s face doesn’t turn green and if time doesn’t seem to bend like taffy and come to a complete standstill while you watch this, then you clearly haven’t taken enough drugs. So take more.

After the jump, the Doctor Who connection!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Why are the penises on ancient statues so small?
12:06 pm


ancient art

If you’ve spent any time in the Metropolitan Museum or the British Museum or really anyplace where ancient statuary is featured, you might have emitted a titter at the sight of the willies on the nekkid dudes made of marble.

Those statues prompt a pretty good question: Why are the dicks on ancient statuary so small anyway?

That’s the question that curator and blogger Ellen Oredsson, a resident of Bangkok, Thailand, recently tried to answer on her blog How to Talk About Art History.

Ellen’s answer has several parts. First, ancient statues almost always—yes, almost always—feature flaccid penises, and the penises in the statues aren’t all that small if you compare them to a real-life tuck (George Costanza was quite eloquent on the subject of “shrinkage”).

Michelangelo’s David (detail)
Second, Oredsson cites scholarship such as Kenneth Dover’s Greek Homosexuality to the effect that the Greeks may have valued smaller penises more than we do, in part because “large penises were associated with very specific characteristics: foolishness, lust and ugliness.”

Interestingly, just because you see a few Greek statues with tiny willies, that doesn’t rule out the possibility that other statues don’t follow the same rules. And indeed, some ancient statues quite noticeably do not feature small penises, but big ones. For instance, pictured below is a statue of a satyr, which Wikipedia defines as “one of a troop of ithyphallic male companions of Dionysus with equine (horse-like) features, including a horse-tail, horse-like ears, and sometimes a horse-like phallus because of permanent erection.”

If you Google “Greek satyr statue,” you’ll see plenty of other examples just like this one.

There’s also this attention-getting depiction of Priapus, a Greek fertility god on whom Hera cursed with both a permanent erection and impotence—a rough combination!

Oredsson doesn’t give it too much emphasis, but I think a major reason is that we’re all way too immature. She writes, “Ancient Greek sculptures are all about balance and idealism. Therefore, it makes sense that they wouldn’t have large penises, as this would be considered humorous or grotesque.”

Exactly. The presence of a large member is, at a minimum, a major distraction from the depiction of “the ideal Greek man,” who was meant to be “rational, intellectual and authoritative.”

And that’s all without getting into the possibility of breakage....


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Someone had to have invented the first selfie stick in history, right?
11:34 am


selfie stick

I do particularly loathe the term “selfie stick” but what else could I call this shot of Helmer Larsson and his wife, Naemi Larsson, taken all the way back in 1934? I mean, he’s taking a picture of himself and he’s using a stick for Pete’s sake! Now I know this isn’t the first self-portrait taken with a camera, but it is the first vintage photograph I’ve seen where a stick was employed to push the shutter button by the subject.

Whatever the case, I find the image adorable.

via The Kraftfuttermischwerk

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Free love, free press and lots of nude hippie chicks
10:05 am



When I got to San Francisco, the Summer Of Love was in full effect and I was crashing at a pad on Waller street in the Haight. There were a couple dozen of us in a large multi-room apartment sleeping on the floor, on couches, wherever we could find a few unoccupied square feet. I had a nice setup in an oversized closet. I knew the guy who rented the apartment (we had gone to junior high together) and so I got some preferential treatment. Everyone in the place were pilgrims from all over the United States and we were all under twenty.  And, like I said, it was the Summer Of Love. So a lot of fucking was going on.

Everything you’ve read or heard about “free sex” in the Sixties is pretty much true. It was a love fest and the worst that might happen is that you got the clap or crabs. No one was dying. And for awhile no one that I knew was having babies, either. It was as if God had said “go for it.” And we did. I’d lie in the black light glow of my closet tripping on acid and listening to the zipping and unzipping of sleeping bags as young lovers migrated from one to the other, their giggles and moans mingling with the steady drone of KSAN radio playing the soundtrack to our lives.

In the world of commerce, far from Hippie Hill and Panhandle Park, the free sex “thing” was a great way for newspapers and magazines to sell product. There was an international explosion of hippie-themed publications that dealt with sex, politics, art, etc. Some were legit. Some were pure exploitation. Some were both. A lot of periodicals actually contained the writings of well-respected thinkers like Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary and were read by the counter-culturists they were intended for. Others were designed to appeal to the gawkers and the “raincoat crowd.” Hippie shit sold and there were a bunch of easy angles for marketing it: sex, drugs and rock and roll. If you didn’t have the balls to be a part of it you could always imagine. Burn some incense, put on some sitar music and pull your pud as you pictured yourself surrounded by a bunch of flower children wearing beads, headbands and patchouli. Your very own hippie oasis in a rec room tricked out in plywood and shag carpeting. Walter Mitty as imagined by R. Crumb.

Here’s a collection of covers that run the gamut from authentically cool alternative press publications to some really goofy softcore pulp. As I was compiling these it became quickly apparent that putting naked hairy dudes on the covers was never part of the marketing plan. The free love movement still had some old school hangovers from Playboy magazine.


More groovy hippie shit after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Let it snow: Shameless cocaine ads of the 1970s
11:45 am



Ah the 1970s, when disco dust was plentiful and there were cocaine paraphernalia ads galore in head magazines. Dig the Hoover-themed coke spoons! Or the “what the hell were they thinking” handmade ivory straws. And if your nose is a little clogged from too much coke, why not try “Noze: the nose wash”?

So as the majority of the taglines in these magazine clippings say, “Let it snow!”


More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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