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  • Marxism: Highlights from Groucho’s FBI file
    12:06 pm


    Groucho Marx

    The other day I was refreshing my memory on Groucho’s LSD escapade with Paul Krassner, when it occurred to me that it might be beneficial to see if the FBI ever had a file on Groucho.

    Of course they did, and it’s available for anyone to look at, heavily redacted of course. The Xerox machines at the FBI a few decades ago were super shitty (a feature not a bug?) so a lot of the pages you can’t make out a damn thing, but other sections are perfectly legible.

    If you know anything about J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, the contents here aren’t too surprising—they were mainly worried that Groucho might be a Commie (if not a Marxist) in the early to mid-1950s. There are countless (redacted) reports to the effect that Groucho had a lot of pro-Communist sympathies but was almost certainly not an actual party member. (I guess the G-men already knew that he’d refuse to join any club that would have him as a member?)  There are some interesting references to a quotation of Groucho’s that appeared in the Daily Worker in 1934 that went “The battle of the Communists for the lives of theses boys is one that will be taught in Soviet America as the most inspiring and courageous battle ever fought.”

    Keep in mind that in 1934 Hitler was running Germany but not yet regarded as an obvious scourge to be eliminated. Still his anti-Jewish sentiments are clear enough. As a well-informed Jewish American it would be weird if Groucho hadn’t gotten interested in Communism around then. Plus for similar reasons the mid-1930s was a high-water mark for leftist and/or pro-Soviet feeling, especially once the Spanish Civil War got going in 1936. A lot of people who weren’t all that political got into trouble later for things they did (and thought) before WWII.

    There’s also some business about Groucho and Chico being found guilty in a copyright infringement case in 1937 and having to pay a $1,000 fine.

    For some reason Groucho (né Julius) is invariably referred to as “GRAUCHO MARX.” Once we reach the 1960s he is referred to as “Groucho.” I don’t know what’s up with that. In the summary sections of the file there is some background about how musically talented Groucho and his brothers are—the musical talents of Harpo and Chico are well known, but the file also, intriguingly, says this: “GRAUCHO MARX is rated as one of the best guitar players in the country.”

    Did any of you know that?? So Groucho Marx, was, in a sense (at least according to his FBI file) a peer of Charlie Christian, Jimi Hendrix, and Eddie Van Halen? Well, maybe, maybe not.

    There’s some business I don’t understand from 1957 about someone trying to “extort” Groucho. I can’t tell if it’s just a weird piece of fan mail that was referred to the FBI that they were obliged to look into or something more serious. On that page there is this chilling passage:

    The death threat letter sent to GROUCHO MARX from ELVIS PRESLEY fanatics from Brooklyn stating that GROUCHO wouldn’t live through the holidays, might seem ridiculous if it weren’t such a serious offense to send such a threat through the mails.

    Much more from the Groucho file, after the jump…....

    Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
    The voyeuristic photography of Miroslav Tichý

    Some time ago I read an article in a Sunday supplement magazine about a street photographer in Czechoslovakia who wandered around his hometown of Kyjov taking pictures with a homemade camera. The photographer was an old man, with long unkempt hair and a Santa Claus beard. The article described this photographer as a “master voyeur” and because of his appearance suggested he was a dirty old man—Charles Bukowski with a weird contraption for a camera. The appraisal was perhaps a bit unfair—low class journalism to luridly frame the story of an artist whose work should really have been better known. I clipped the story, one to be filed away for future use, but lost it somewhere in my endlessly peripatetic lifestyle. Indeed, I had almost forgotten all about this strange man and his beautiful photographs until I chanced upon a blog by Rob Baker which thankfully reacquainted me with the life and work of Miroslav Tichý.

    Tichý was born in Netice, a village in Moravia, on November 20, 1926. He was one of fourteen children born to the local tailor and his wife. He was a bright kid, excelled in languages and a great talent for art. In his late teens he enrolled for an arts foundation course at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. He was considered a talented draftsman and was highly popular with his fellow students. This short happy time starting in 1946 changed dramatically with the Communist coup d’état two years later. Roman Buxbaum a young friend of Tichý described what happened next:

    After the Communist takeover in February 1948 drastic changes took place at the Academy. Respected professors and assistant professors were quickly thrown out. Instead of drawing women models, the students were forced to draw workers in overalls. Tichý refused to draw them. It seems that the political crisis overlapped with a personal crisis, and the young artist succumbed to both. He stopped working and spent his time walking about Stromovka park in Prague, and avoided his friends. He quit the Academy and had to do his compulsory military service.

    Stalin’s brutal dictatorship of the country led to a series of purges that destroyed the lives of anyone who did not submit to Russia’s Communist party rule. This all had a devastating effect on Tichý. He refused to conform which led to his being sent for treatment at the Opava psychiatric clinic.

    After Stalin’s death, Russia’s new president Khrushchev denounced much of what his predecessor had done and though there were signs of a “thaw” little changed in the Soviet rule over Czechoslovakia. Tichý returned to live with his parents in Kyjov. He began drawing and painting again and exhibited some work at an exhibition in Brno in 1958.

    At the start of the 1960s, Tichý made his opposition to the Communist rule more apparent by growing his hair long and no longer trimming his beard. Every day he dressed in the same worn at the cuffs and torn at the knee black suit looking like a down and out boozehound. His image was the opposite of the hunky, masculine worker of Communist propaganda. His appearance deeply irked the Czechoslovakian authorities. Tichý was repeatedly intimidated and arrested by local police—but he still refused to give over his independence to the state. He was unbowed and described himself as “a samurai” with his sole aim to destroy his enemies.
    An older Miroslav Tichý on his hometown streets.
    During the 1960s, Tichý started taking street photographs with an old field camera he had inherited from his father. He continued to draw and paint and was still very much a thorn in the local authorities’ side who arrived at his parents’ door the week before May Day every year to take him away so he would not offend the eye of any Communist dignitaries.

    The invasion of Russian troops to crush the Prague Spring in 1968 forced Czechoslovakia further under the Communist rule. The country became more authoritarian and oppressive. It meant Tichý became was more isolated and an easier target for the authorities. He lost his studio. Much of his work was tossed during his eviction by the housing cooperative. The eviction traumatized Tichý and he found it difficult to continue painting and drawing.

    Instead Tichý concentrated on photography as his means of expression. He wandered around his hometown streets, surreptitiously taking photographs of women with his homemade cameras. His style was the polar opposite to the sharp, clean, overly-idealized propaganda of his Communist overlords. His work was dreamlike, opaque, beautifully composed and realized. His life seemed chaotic. He was “the prophet of decay” as Roman Buxbaum described Tichý in a visit to his home:

    Disorder seems to be his agenda, not because of laziness or an inability to tidy up. Rather, it is his intention. When the visitor has finished looking through some book or at a photograph and returns it to Tichý, he or she will probably hear: Throw it on the ground! Other laws apply here. The world of chance and chaos constitutes a ferment in which material matures, immersed in the depths of Tichý’s ocean, to be brought back to the surface, but changed and worn by time.

    Tichý is a reactionary in the truest sense of the word. While Yuri Gagarin was conquering outer space, Tichý was making cameras out of wood. He put himself into reverse, moving backwards against the ideology of progress. A genuine reactionary, and a very effective one, because unlike the Five-Year Plans he achieved his aims. The Stone-Age photographer was the embodiment of an insult to the small-town Communist elite. He became the living antithesis of progressive thought, of the Marxist theory of history moving in a straight line.

    Technically-speaking, his photographs are deliberately enhanced by “mistakes” and stains from a haphazard processing of his film prints, which were done mostly in bathtubs and buckets (“A mistake. That’s what makes the poetry.”) Tichý would shoot up to 90 photographs a day, go home and then develop and print them. Each would be printed only one time, cropped with scissors, drawn and painted upon, perhaps. Some were framed by his hand.

    The police continued to harass Tichý. They tried to arrest him for being a voyeur—taking photographs of women walking the sidewalk, working in stores, sunbathing in parks. But the police could find no evidence and no one supported their allegations—so Tichý always walked free.

    More on Miroslav Tichý‘s photographs, after the jump…


    Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
    TSA says A-OK to mummified heads as carry-on luggage
    11:24 am


    mummified heads

    If you’re traveling with a mummified head and you’re curious as to whether or not the TSA will allow you to bring it as carry-on, don’t fret! Apparently the TSA is totally down with mummified heads as long as they’re “properly packaged, labeled and declared.” Good to know.

    According to the TSA, all you gotta do is snap a photo and tweet it to @AskTSA to see if your mummified head meets all their requirements.

    BTW, the head pictured above (and below) is that of English jurist and social reformer Jeremy Bentham the founder of philosophy of Utilitarianism. Bentham died in 1832.

    Have you ever debated about whether or not you can pack a certain item in your checked or carry-on bag? Like the mummified head of #JeremyBentham for example… Fret no more! Now you can simply snap a picture and tweet it to @AskTSA or send it via Facebook Messenger and our team will get back to you promptly with an answer. If you're a regular follower of this account, I'm sure you can think of many situations where it would have behooved somebody to send us a picture first. And that's not all. Contact us about any TSA related issue or question you might have. We can even help you with TSA Pre✓® issues. We look forward to answering your questions, 8am-10pm ET weekdays; 9am-7pm weekends/holidays. #AskTSA #TSATravelTips

    A photo posted by TSA (@tsa) on

    via Boing Boing

    Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
    ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’: Joan Jett & the Blackhearts killing it live back in 1981
    09:34 am


    Joan Jett

    The queen of zero fucks, Joan Jett.
    Rock and roll queen Joan Jett was only 23-years-old when she tore up the stage with the Blackhearts for New York radio station WLIR’s “Party in the Park.” And as you might imagine Jett’s set was the real deal—full of feedback, cans of Budweiser on amps and enthusiastic fist-pumping fans.

    The band rips through five songs in the footage from Jett’s solo album 1980’s Bad Reputation and from 1981’s I Love Rock ‘n Roll—“Bad Reputation,” Jett’s cover of “Crimson and Clover,” by Tommy James and the Shondells,” the Gary Glitter cover made famous by Jett “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah),” “Summertime Blues” (which according to Blackheart bassist Gary Ryan who announced to the crowd this would be the first time Jett & the Blackhearts would perform the 1958 Eddie Cochran cover live), and of course “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” You’ll also see the cherub-faced Jett cursing and goofing around in bed while shooting TV promos with WLIR DJ John DeBella who helped champion I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll. Other bands on the “Party in the Park” bill included Rick Derringer, Todd Rundgren, Long Island band The Good Rats and the titanic Blue Öyster Cult. I’ve posted the footage of Jett’s amped up performance below as well as a promo from WLIR that includes footage of Derringer, Rundgren and The Good Rats but sadly, not BÖC.

    The videos after the jump…

    Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
    Massive trove of over 300 boomboxes for sale—only $14,000
    09:08 am


    boom box

    Boomboxes are kind of an of-a-certain-age thing, but if you were sentient in between the mid ‘70s and early ’90s, they were as common as stereo consoles and component systems. “Portable,” technically, inasmuch as they took batteries and weren’t literally furniture, they were huge, cumbersome radio/cassette deck combos with large stereo speakers. The classic stereotypes associated with the things were mulletted suburban rock ‘n’ roll scumbags tailgating with boomboxes in the trunks of their cars playing music at hateful and disruptive volumes, either oblivious to or give-a-fuckless about the public nuisance they were creating, or soul/disco/hip-hop fans with massive afros, strutting down crowded city streets with boomboxes on their shoulders playing music at hateful and disruptive volumes, either oblivious to or give-a-fuckless about the public nuisance they were creating. Their total ubiquity in breakdance culture (owing to their portability, naturally) led to the unfortunate and highly problematic nickname “ghettoblasters.”

    By the late ’80s, a boombox could have as many features as a stereo component system—sophisticated EQs, detatchable speakers, dual cassette decks for dubbing (HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC, YOU GUYS), even remotes. By the early ‘90s, when the boxy metal units were phased out in favor of less distinctive (and way less awesome) rounded black plastic ones with CD players, they often even replaced consoles as home stereos of choice for many listeners as cassettes grew in popularity over vinyl. And those feature-loaded boxy metal ones are the models that have, in the internet era of ever-increasing granularity in collecting, developed a cult.

    Keep reading after the jump…

    Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
    A whole bunch of Dischord albums are now available on Bandcamp
    03:13 pm



    The Washington, D.C., record label Dischord, co-owned by Jeff Nelson and Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye, is routinely held up as the shining example of an independent record company that maintains its integrity in the face of unrelenting corporate pressures.

    It seems that Dischord is still seeking to forge its own path—rather than sign contracts with Spotify, it has recently made a relationship with Bandcamp, a website popular among D.I.Y. musicians that makes self-distribution of music much easier. A healthy chunk of the Dischord catalog has just surfaced on, which means the fans of Government Issue, Void, Rites of Spring, Dag Nasty, and Nation of Ulysses can now stream their albums without paying Spotify for the privilege.

    Furthermore, it’s easy to purchase digital copies of many Dischord albums at a pretty reasonable price (usually $8). I’ve seen it said that “every” Dischord album is now on Bandcamp, but I couldn’t find any albums by Jawbox or Lungfish or Shudder to Think or the Make-Up. In any case it’s a lot of albums, more than 100 albums for sure.

    More after the jump…

    Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
    The erotic, macabre art of Virgil Finlay, favorite illustrator of H.P. Lovecraft
    03:08 pm


    H.P. Lovecraft
    Virgil Finlay

    Finlay’s cover for the May 1952 issue of Weird Tales

    Master of exquisitely detailed images that often combined the sexual and the scary, Virgil Finlay was born in Rochester, New York in 1914. He was a highly prolific commercial artist in the midcentury years — one commentator went so far as to call Finlay “the most famous fantasy illustrator of mid-twentieth century.”

    In his youth during the 1920s, Finlay discovered the magazines Amazing Stories and Weird Tales, which focused on sci-fi and horror, respectively. Once he reached adulthood in the mid-1930s he felt confident enough in his artistic prowess to try to get a position at those journals. Finlay’s mastery of stippling was so advanced that it nearly cost him a job at Weird Tales because his employers weren’t sure that their printing process could reproduce his fine detail, but it turned out that it could.

    Finlay in 1969
    A key medium of Finlay’s was scratchboard, a method that incorporates a white clay coating covered in black ink—the artist scratches the black ink away with a scribe or knife, and the resultant effect is similar to a wood engraving. The technique is called “working from black to white,” whereas the more usual method of applying dark ink to a white surface is called “working from white to black.” Finlay’s originality and dedication to an impressive effect can be seen in the fact that he would sometimes blend both techniques in a single image, creating isolated areas of black which he would then scratch away to get a specific gray tone or the hatched or stippled effect he desired.

    Finlay’s debut at Weird Tales occurred in the December 1935 issue, in which Finlay had illustrations for three different stories. Over the next two decades Finlay’s art would appear in 62 issues. He was also responsible for 19 color covers for Weird Tales. In 1938 he began working The American Weekly and moved from Rochester to New York.

    The July 1937 issue of Weird Tales featured a remarkable homage to Finlay’s gifts, in the form of a poem dedicated to Finlay by the great horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. The poem was called “To Virgil Finlay Upon His Drawing of Robert Bloch’s Tale ‘The Faceless God’”—here is the image Lovecraft was referring to, and after that the poem itself:


    In dim abysses pulse the shapes of night,
    Hungry and hideous, with strange miters crowned;
    Black pinions beating in fantastic flight
    From orb to orb through soulless voids profound.
    None dares to name the cosmos whence they course,
    Or guess the look on each amorphous face,
    Or speak the words that with resistless force
    Would draw them from the halls of outer space.

    Yet here upon a page our frightened glance
    Finds monstrous forms no human eye should see;
    Hints of those blasphemies whose countenance
    Spreads death and madness through infinity.
    What limnner he who braves black gulfs alone
    And lives to wake their alien horrors known?

    Much more after the jump…....

    Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
    Lord of the Strings: Guitar wizard Harvey Thomas and his Infernal Music Machines
    01:20 pm


    Harvey Thomas

    Thanks to Timothy L. Olsen for this wonderful remembrance of guitar-making legend Harvey Thomas.

    Remember what the term “Japanese guitar” used to mean, back when Beatniks roamed the earth and Elvis was still kinda nasty?

    The Beatles hadn’t landed and I was in the third grade when my big brother Jim brought home a brand new Japanese guitar. Loosely modeled after a classic, it was already caving in from the load of its steel strings. You don’t see them like this anymore, man. Painted-on binding, decal rosette, door skin luan plywood, basswood (or worse) neck, nice sharp ends on those rough brass frets. I was totally fascinated.

    But the word fascination found new meaning a year later when my even bigger brother Dick came home from college with what might as well have been the Messiah Stradivarius. It was a very plain, small-bodied New York-era Epiphone archtop with a badly repaired crack running the full length of the soundboard, and he had bought it cheap in a pawn shop. The hand of mortal man never created such perfection. This was a gift from the angels! Oh, the lovely dissonances that it spoke as I whanged it with a juice glass slide! When Dick was begged, he would strum “Who Threw the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder?

    The tenor of my lutherie career was set then and there, as I rushed headlong into the construction of a series of rash and ignorant experiments. The first one to produce a musical note involved bolting the neck of a smashed Gene Autry guitar to a hunk of plywood. By now I was in the 5th grade and the Baby Boom generation was wild about electric guitars thanks to the Mop Tops and other invading Anglos. I made a major life decision to build an electric bass from scratch.

    I designed an instrument based on my limited available technology and even more limited engineering savvy, featuring a body made of a sandwich of miscellaneous plywood slabs and a neck which instead of fitting into a slot, surrounded the body like a clothespin. I got the neck fretted, having marked the fret locations on a piece of paper at a music store, then transferring the marks to the oak fretboard, resplendent with 3/4” dowel fret markers.

    There I am, a fat fifth grader with my plywood guitar and very big dreams. Harvey to the left, and Harvey’s guitars, including the famous Maltese Cross model, hung along the ceiling. That’s my big sister Ruth on the right in the racing stripe jacket, looking at the Hanged Man dummy.

    I got hung up trying to find a pickup. Remember, this was before the Summer of Love. The man at the music store didn’t have access to anything other than those chrome DeArmonds that were used for electrifying archtops. I was persistent and doubtless pitiable. Finally the music store man, against his better judgement it seemed, relented:

    “Listen, kid. There’s a guy out in Midway that makes guitars. He’ll have what you need. But I’m warning you, he’s a real character, and I won’t promise that he’ll sell you a pickup. He might like you or he might not.”

    Now I had to convince my mom to drive me 25 miles to Midway to see a guy who might or might not like me, and might or might not help me. The thought of not going never occurred to me. A man who makes guitars. This was about the most wonderful thought that had yet crossed my young mind. It is still a pretty thrilling idea, come to think of it. A man who makes guitars!

    It took a while to talk her into it, but eventually mom and I were heading north on Highway 99 in the ‘49 Chevy. Midway isn’t really a place, it’s just mid way between Seattle and Tacoma. And this wasn’t really even in Midway. We found the cross street, and turned onto a small road. About a block later a wooden sign with the stenciled word “Thomas” pointed down a pair of ruts bumping off through deep puddles, apparently to nowhere. We followed obediently.

    On the right, a heap of rusted and crumpled metal that may once have been a pickup truck of ‘30s vintage held a large sign saying “Bargain. Needs Paint.” We arrived at a modern, low slung, one story house, what you call a “rambler.” It seemed strangely out of place in the swampy, scrub-tree setting. The iron gate held signs warning of dire consequences to trespassers, and to those who dared to block the driveway. A woman looking something like Loretta Lynn told us that Mr. Thomas was out on an errand, but that we could wait in the living room.
    Wild tales and even wilder guitars after the jump

    Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
    Take the money and run: Photos of the real life Bonnie & Clyde

    Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
    There are few names that have more instant recognition when it comes to the history of the American criminal than the duo of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow—otherwise known as “Bonnie & Clyde.” The pair’s horrific crime wave took the lives of thirteen people including two members of law enforcement, but their illegal exploits (which included kidnapping and robbing banks) really didn’t make them very rich because as it turns out Bonnie and Clyde weren’t that good at breaking the law.

    An early mugshot of Clyde Barrow, age sixteen. 1925.
    Bonnie Elizabeth Parker met Clyde Chestnut Barrow sometime in early 1930 and for Parker it was love at first sight. The two shared a mutual love of music and as a young girl Parker performed in talent shows and dreamed of one day hitting it big in Hollywood. During her short time as a part of Barrow’s gang Bonnie would write poetry and just before their crime spree ended on a dirt road in the country in Bienville Parish, Louisiana on May 23, 1934 Parker would pen an eerie poem she called The End of the Line that accurately foretold the couple’s eminent fate: 

    They don’t think they’re too smart or desperate, They know the law always wins; They’ve been shot at before, But they do not ignore That death is the wages of sin.

    Some day they’ll go down together; And they’ll bury them side by side, To a few it’ll be grief— To the law a relief— But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.

    I’ve included an assortment of old photos of Bonnie and Clyde taken in the early 1930s—some that come from a roll of undeveloped film found inside of the bullet-riddled car where Bonnie and Clyde met their violent end—seventeen bullets for Clyde and 26 for Bonnie to be precise, as you can see in a graphic newsreel from 1934 that includes footage of the deceased duo inside their “death car” just after they were ambushed by the police.

    A portrait of a young Bonnie Parker.

    More Bonnie & Clyde after the jump…

    Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
    Woman transforms herself into Ron ‘F*cking’ Swanson
    10:54 am


    Ron Swanson

    A photo posted by Katelyn Galloway (@kikigmakeup) on

    I normally try to steer clear of celebrity makeup transformations here on Dangerous Minds, but this, THIS is really well done! Holy crap. Makeup artist and photographer Katelyn Galloway did a fantastic job transforming herself into Parks and Recreation‘s deadpan libertarian Ron “fucking” Swanson.

    This photo of Ron Swanson breastfeeding a baby… GAH!

    Image via Instagram.

    Below, a timelapse video of Katelyn’s transformation:

    via Laughing Squid

    Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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