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Stripping and Kissing: Ukrainian singer has a novel approach for winning Eurovision 2017 (NSFW)
12.16.2016
08:47 am

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Amusing
Current Events
Dance
Design
Music

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Well, where do I begin with this little gem? Probably the history….

So, the Eurovision Song Contest that tacky annual sing-a-long started off as a way of bringing together those many battle-weary nations of Europe after the long bloody devastation of the Second World War. It was the brainchild of Marcel Bezençon—a Swiss TV exec who pinched the format from an Italian music festival where unreleased tracks vied in competition for the title of best new song. So far so good—though it behoves me to mention that Switzerland was neutral in WW2 which might explain why Eurovision is such a bland, inoffensive and unbearably condescending idea…anyhoo...

Since the Eurovision’s first appearance in May 1956—when it was called Eurovision Grand Prix—the competition has come around every year with that unenviable certainty of death, taxes and a visit to the in-laws every Christmas. Over the years there have been some fun things—ABBA, Sandie Shaw, Lulu, that heavy metal band Lordi and the first transgender winner Conchita Wurst. Then of course there has always been a lot of crap—way, way too much to mention. Still the Eurovision remains incredibly popular—some 200 million people watched the show go out live in 2015.

Winning Eurovision usually guarantees a lot of money, fame and shedload of sequins. The stakes are always high for anyone hoping to be win the privilege of officially representing their country in the competition. To find the most suitable artiste—each year, every participating country holds a national televised contest to find the person they think is going to win. As you can imagine, this brings out some of the most talented, strange and downright weird.

All of which brings me to Alex Angel who auditioned this week for the honor of representing the Ukraine in next year’s Eurovision. Most acts have a good song. Most acts can sing. But Alex doesn’t need any of that. He has a novel approach to booking his place in the final—his stripping partner Natasha Olejnik. This week Alex and Natasha tried their best to impress Ukraine’s Eurovision selection panel with their song “Running For Love.”

Let’s just say, they made an impression….
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Condomania: Vintage contraceptive packaging, 1910-1950
12.09.2016
10:15 am

Topics:
Design
History
Sex

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A pack of British condoms—sometimes known as ‘johnnies.’
 
Condoms in one form or another have been around since 3,000 BC. The Egyptians used layers of material—most likely a loincloth—to cover the penis to prevent pregnancy. Most men used potluck. Contraception was usually left to the women to deal with—plus ca change. Most men used a hasty withdrawal or practiced anal. Up until the fifteenth century there is some speculation of the limited use of oiled silk and sheep’s intestine as a form of barrier protection. This mainly by those who could afford it.

Circa 1564, the first documented mention of condom use appears in a medical text about syphilis called De Morbo Gallico or The French Disease by Gabriele Falloppio. A linen sheath tied with a ribbon was used. Falloppio apparently carried out an experimental trial on some 1100 men to test this form of contraception.

By the 1700s condoms were still made of leather or animal intestine. These were kept and washed after use. The big turning point was the vulcanization process patented by Charles Goodyear in 1844, which led to the manufacture of the first rubber condom in 1855.

For many decades, rubber condoms were manufactured by wrapping strips of raw rubber around penis-shaped molds, then dipping the wrapped molds in a chemical solution to cure the rubber.

These original vulcanized condoms were reusable but uncomfortably thick and unfortunately stank of sulphur, a bit of a mood killer.

It wasn’t until Julius Fromm had the bright idea of using glass molds dipped into rubber solution did condom manufacturing become widespread. This was quickly followed by the production of Latex—“rubber suspended in water”—in 1920 and the modern condom went global.

Condoms were sold in tins or paper packets—many of which had purposefully “elegant” designs, a few of which can be seen below.
 
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Early circa 1910 condom tin.
 
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The Sheik—a highly popular brand—the brand name allegedly inspired by the Rudolph Valentino movie.
 
More fancy condom packaging design, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
A Carrot Up the Butt: The Joy of Subverting Ads into ‘Accidental Porn’
12.07.2016
09:24 am

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Advertising
Amusing
Design
Sex

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Got Milk?
 
Mortierbrigade is an independent and integrated communications agency based in Brussels. Their motto is “confuse and conquer” which probably explains why their best work subverts the ordinary to make it interesting and original—which in turn explains why they have won over 250 industry awards. (They also run a hotel for trainees too—but that’s another story.) So not your ordinary run-of-the-mill bunch of creatives.

Recently Mortierbrigade linked up with Belgian humor magazine Humo (see what they did there?) to create an eye-catching and off-the-wall advertizing campaign that juxtaposed two seemingly innocent adverts into something far more saucy and subversive. Let’s call it “accidental porn”—where two incongruous images create…well...see for yourself….

Mortierbrigade and Humo clearly managed to convince their leading advertisers—such as Lidl, the Lotto, etc.—to play along.
 
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More accidental porn, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Iconic: Movie posters for classic films redesigned around their famous props and sets
12.05.2016
11:15 am

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Art
Design

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‘Amelie.’
 
Most movie posters plug their product with suitably emotionally involving imagery from their content. You know the kind of stuff—action heroes with all guns a-blazin’; or slightly forlorn yet still ridiculously upbeat figures battling through some deep emotional trauma; or smug smiling idiots who want you to believe their comic misadventure is going to be really really funny.

Photographic artist Jordan Bolton has kicked that approach into touch with his series of iconic and beautiful film posters which use only the props and sets as seen on the screen. It’s a novel approach that certainly works.

For each movie poster, Bolton selects and creates the relevant props or set as featured. Each object or room is handcrafted. The finished objects are displayed together and then photographed. Bolton describes his work this way:

By focusing purely on the objects and colour palette of the film, I see the posters as providing an interesting and fresh perspective on the film’s themes and characters even for someone who has seen the film many times.

More like especially for someone who has seen one of these films multiple times.

It’s fair to say, Bolton has created a kind of dialogue with the viewer—but it’s one that’s self-reflective and that probably works best after you’ve already seen the film, and not before. Then the viewer knows what all these objects mean and how they reflects on their taste and intelligence. That said, I do admit that having missed out on the joys of a couple of these films—one look at Bolton’s splendid posters has placed these movies on my “must see” list.

Jordan Bolton’s posters are available to buy on Etsy and more of his work can be seen here and here.
 
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‘Fantastic Mr. Fox.’
 
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‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’
 
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‘The Shawshank Redemption.’
 
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‘Carol.’
 
More of Jordan Bolton’s “iconographic” posters, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Fantastic vintage Japanese movie posters
12.02.2016
10:51 am

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Art
Design
Movies

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‘A Hard’s Day Night’ (1964).
 
A friend collects Japanese movie posters. He’s rich enough to afford it. The walls of his house are almost covered with these bright, garish, beautiful film posters. Last time, I visited him I asked why he never exhibited them or at least scanned them digitally to share on the Internet. He said he thought of them as art—and as art they had to be viewed in person and not through a screen. I thought he was just being a pretentious twat—but there you go.

Fair to say, it was an impressive collection—a mix of Japanese features and American/British imports. But his collection went no further than the late-seventies to early-eighties. I wondered why? This, he explained, was because the best Japanese movie posters originated during the Shōwa period—the time of Emperor Hirohito’s reign 1926-1989—when the printing process meant the posters were by artists creating collages from cut-up photographs. These were airbrushed and colorized to glorious effect. There was an art and craft to making these posters—which remained roughly the same from the twenties to the seventies—which the digital era no longer employs.

Inspired by my dear friend’s collection, I’ve collated together a mix of images which exemplify some of the best in Japanese poster design—and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want one of these hanging on their walls?
 
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‘Batman’ (1966).
 
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‘Bedazzled’ (1967).
 
More fantastic Japanese movie posters, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Nightmares’: The perfect calendar for 2017
11.22.2016
09:40 am

Topics:
Animals
Art
Design

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If you think 2016 has been a bad year then be prepared for what may come in 2017 with John Coulthart’s magnificent Nightmares calendar.

Following on from his highly successful Lovecraft calendar last year, artist, writer and all round good guy Coulthart has pulled together a rich selection of his finest artwork to create an eye-catching calendar for 2017. His theme this time round is nightmares—which may be apt considering some of this year’s startling events.

Coulthart has picked some of his best known (and some little known) artwork from the mid-1990s—including paintings of Lord Horror, the Burroughs influenced Red Night Rites diptych and “one of the pages from [his] Kabbalistic collaboration with Alan Moore, The Great Old Ones.”

I like Coulthart’s work—it unsettles those dark corners where imagination grows wild—and think his Nightmares 2017 will look damned good on any wall. Order yours here.
 
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January: ‘Steps of Descent ‘(digital, 2008).
 
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February: ‘Untitled’ (acrylics on board, 1997).
 
Take a peek at what the rest of 2017 has in store for you on John Coulthart’s ‘Nightmares’ calendar, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Arsenic and old lace: When women’s clothing could actually kill you
11.17.2016
10:13 am

Topics:
Design
Fashion
History

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A child’s dress dyed green with arsenic, 1838-1843.
 
Ah, the color green. Generally associated with good luck and four-leaf fucking clovers the color green was anything but good luck back in the 1800s. During the entire century and into the 1900s arsenic was used in all kinds of everyday products from wallpaper to paint as well as women’s clothing and beauty products. Yikes.

Originally known as “Scheele Green” in 1814 German company Wilhelm Dye and White Lead Company decided to try to modify the paint by adding arsenic and verdigris (a blue/green color that is made by using copper or brass to oxidize it). The new color was dubbed “emerald green” and was an overnight smash. It was soon being used for all kinds of things including dying dresses, shoes and flower hair accessories for women, among countless other products too numerous to mention. When the actual “recipe” for the dye was published in 1822 distributors attempted to temper the color as well as change its name so customers would keep using products that would eventually kill many of them.

Due to their constant contact with the deadly dye, seamstresses and makers of flower hair accessories were especially susceptible to the dangers of getting up close and personal with arsenic and would pay for it by developing horrific lesions on their skin or face. And they were the lucky ones. Death from arsenic poisoning was preceded by vomit that was a distinct shade of green, foaming at the mouth and convulsions. All things considered, as bad as things are now, they really seemed a whole lot worse during a time when looking good could literally kill you. I’ve included many images in this post of vintage garments, shoes and other items that drastically cut the average life-expectancy of a lot of ladies and anyone who liked cake because guess what? Arsenic was also used to color cake icing back in the 1800s! If this kind of historical weirdness is your kind of thing I highly recommend picking up the book Fashion Victims: The Dangers of Dress Past and Present by Alison Matthews David.
 

The effect of constant contact with arsenic on the hands of perhaps a seamstress or flower maker.
 

Boots dyed with arsenic, mid-1800s.
 
More deadly clothing after the jump…

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Political ‘propaganda kimonos’ from pre-World War II Japan
11.16.2016
12:46 pm

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Design
Fashion
History

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There’s something very alluring about secret codes intended to transmit a message of solidarity to a select few. Just recently in the wake of the presidential election, a significant number of people have adopted the practice of wearing a safety pin as a sign of resistance to President-Elect Trump and as a message of support to groups likely to be marginalized under a Trump administration such as African-Americans, Muslims, and women. Gee thanks, white people.

One example of this that I learned about recently was the Japanese practice of wearing militaristic propaganda in a way that only close friends and family would be in a position to notice—on ornate, specially designed kimonos. They were mainly reserved for inside the home or at private parties. Since the designs were often on undergarments or linings, a host would show them off to small groups of family or friends. These “propaganda kimonos” are called omoshirogara—denoting “interesting” or “amusing” designs—and were popular from 1900 to 1945, and for the first half of that period they had little to do with warfare.

For instance, in the 1920s and 1930s, many omoshirogara featured a bright consumerist future with gleaming art deco cityscapes and chugging locomotives and ocean liners. In the late 1920s, however, conservative and ultra-nationalist forces in the military and government started to assert themselves. In 1931 Japan invaded Manchuria and installed a puppet regime there, marking the start of a period of extreme militaristic nationalism and aggression as well as isolation from the West.

Norman Brosterman is one of the world’s foremost collectors of propaganda kimonos, and his website is a trove of arresting imagery. All of the kimonos depicted on this page come from his collection. He writes:
 

The Japanese tradition of pictures on garments took an insidious turn in 1895 and 1905 with the Sino-Japanese, and Russo-Japanese Wars, when kimono were first made with images of troops, cannon, and battleships. In the 20th century, kimono with a plethora of themes were produced – travel, sports, politics, fashion, and in the 1930’s, an outpouring of imagery of war. From 1931 and the Japanese annexation of Manchuria, until Pearl Harbor and the complete war footing it necessitated, Japanese propaganda in the form of clothing for men, boys, and more rarely, women, was produced and worn in Japan in support of the efforts overseas.

 
Here are some excellent specimens of the form:
 

This boy’s kimono with an image of a streamlined car.
 

This detail from a kimono from 1933 depicts the popular figures of “the Three Brave Bombers,” real-life soldiers who perished while laying explosives to clear out the enemy’s barbed wire defenses.
 
Many more remarkable kimonos after the jump…......

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Russian prison tattoo-themed plateware (NSFW)
10.31.2016
12:34 pm

Topics:
Art
Crime
Design

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In Russian tattoos, the cat symbolizes a successful thief
 
It was just a couple of weeks ago that we brought you old-school ceramics with pictures of German nuclear power plants on them. There may be something of a trend happening here, for today our offering consists of similar ceramic plateware with astonishing illustrations derived from Russian prison tattoos.

Valeria Monis is the “multidisciplinary designer” who creates these amazing plates and vases, invariably in cobalt blue. Every object is handmade, so they are also quite individual; there is no mass production here. Monis was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and currently lives in Tel Aviv, Israel.

The title of Monis’ project is “From Russia With Love.” It combines “the subversive art of Russian criminal tattoos” and “traditional blue porcelain design,” bringing together “two opposed but equally important and influential strands of Russian art history.” As Monis writes of this Russian tradition, “In the criminal world, a man with no tattoos has no status. ... The illustrations they wear on their skin tells the story of their closed society, a society with its own hierarchy and social structure.”

While transmitting information to others about a person’s crimes and prison terms, the tattoos more fundamentally express a kind of folk understanding of sex, love, honor, sacrifice, and happiness. Many of the images are deeply misogynistic, bestowing warnings of the perils of “whores” and “bitches,” although others celebrate sex, orgasm, and the delights of “playing with your body.” 

Not all of the tattoos are bawdy or boastful or are intended to denote status. Some of the tattoos depict visions of failure or loss, while others are markers of connubial bliss.
 

Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Volume I, by Danzig Baldaev
 
Monis’ source material is FUEL Publishing’s remarkable series of Russian prison tattoo books by Danzig Baldaev.

These intriguing items are available for purchase. Small plates (roughly 6 inches in diameter) cost $95 or $99, large plates (11 inches) cost $120, and the vases cost between $250 and $300.
 

Vologda Transit Prison, 1950s
 

“Girls, find yourself a generous hand. You’ll be fed, dressed, and entertained, and you’ll play with your body….”
 
Many more of these marvelous ceramic items after the jump…....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Splendor in the Cash: Incredibly intricate designs carved on coins
10.31.2016
11:44 am

Topics:
Art
Design

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“Hobo nickels” is the term given to coins that have been altered with decorative carving. Though there is a long tradition of such carving going as far back as the 1700s, hobo nickels really came to prominence after the US Mint issued a new 5¢ coin in 1913. This coin featured an Native American head on one side and a buffalo on the other. This coin became known as the “Buffalo nickel” or “Indian head.” Due its size and the softness of its metal, the Buffalo nickel became a popular medium for trying out engraving skills by carving faces onto the coin.

During the First World troops were known for turning these coins into mementoes for sweethearts, family members and loved ones while awaiting departure for France at docks in Hoboken, NJ. Many of the hobo nickels produced around this time feature caricatures of Kaiser Wilhelm and German soldiers.

By the 1930s, it was mainly hobos who carved elaborate portraits or designs onto coins which they would then exchange for a hot meal or some essential goods.

British artist Shaun Hughes continues this tradition of hobo nickels by engraving beautiful, elaborate designs onto nickels, quarters and British pennies and shillings. His coins are pocket artworks which sell on eBay for around $5-$200 apiece—which is a nice way to increase the value of your cash.

Shaun doesn’t do commissions but you can see more of his work and his working processes here.
 
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More valuable coin art, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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