Archaeologists have uncovered 2,400-year-old golden bongs used by royalty to smoke cannabis and opium in Russia. The bongs were uncovered in a secret chamber covered with clay by construction workers during excavations to install power lines. The ancient paraphernalia was found alongside 7 lbs of other gold items—three gold cups, a heavy gold finger ring, two neck rings, and a gold bracelet.
Experts believe the bongs to be the oldest in existence—used by Scythians, an ancient Iranian nomadic people who dominated the Eurasian grasslands for almost 1,000 years, roughly 800 BC to 300 AD.
The haul of bongs and jewelry.
The bongs contained a thick black residue which on examination was found to be a mix of cannabis and opium. Cannabis played an important part in the Scythian religion—smoked as a way to induce a state of trance and help with divination. It is believed this potent mix was smoked by Scythian kings before leading their armies into battle. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus (484 BC-425 BC) wrote:
“The Scythians used a plant to produce smoke that no Grecian vapour-bath can surpass” and that “transported by the vapour, [they] shout aloud.”
Antonn Gass, of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, in Berlin, Germany, believes that the Scythians used both drugs is “beyond doubt.”
“It’s a once-in-a-century discovery, these are among the finest objects we know from the region.”
The ornate bongs also tell a story. One shows a bearded man killing young warrior—or perhaps a jealous husband slaying a rival lover or son; while, the other has mythological creatures on it, including griffons ripping apart a horse and a stag—the Scythians had seven gods in their religion and sacrificed animals to them.
Painting of the ‘Battle between the Scythians and the Slavs’ by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1881.
The Scythians were known as notoriously aggressive warriors, who “fought to live and lived to fight” and were said to drink “the blood of their enemies and used the scalps as napkins.” They practiced guerilla warfare and were famed as archers—using poison dips to conquer their enemies.
The haul of treasure was found in a kurgan (burial mound) in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia, in 2013. Due to fear of looters raiding the site, the find was kept quiet. Now the bongs and jewelry have been cleaned up and are to be exhibited in a Russian museum.
“I was interested in them because they were punks and they were against society.”—Kazuhiro Hazuki, Narushino Specter gang
Back in the 1970s the term bōsōzoku (or “speed tribes”) was first used to describe Japanese biker gangs that routinely fought in the streets with rival gangs and the police. Often dressed like Kamikaze pilots, the bōsōzoku wreaked havoc speeding through the streets on their illegally modified bikes, blowing through red lights, and smashing the car windows of any motorist that dared defy them with baseball bats. Foreigners were an especially favorite target of the bōsōzoku’s aggression.
Bōsōzoku biker with illegally modified bike and helmet (taken from a Japanese biker magazine)
Bōsōzoku bikers, 1970’s
Bōsōzoku biker, 1980’s
The earliest incarnation of the bōsōzoku, the kaminari zoku, appeared in the 1950’s. Not unlike their idols from the films, The Wild Ones or Rebel Without a Cause, the group was formed by the youthful and disenchanted members of Japan’s proletariat, and the gang provided a place for the emerging delinquents to call their own. A fiercely disciplined and rebellious group, the bōsōzoku once boasted more than 40,000 members. By 2003 the bōsōzoku’s numbers had dwindled to just over 7000. According to first-hand accounts from former senior members, the modern version of the bōsōzoku (known as Kyushakai) no longer embody the rebel spirit of their predecessors. In fact, some have returned to homaging their rockabilly idols by donning elaborate Riizentos, a style of pompadour synonymous with disobedience. These days many ex-bōsōzoku parade around on their bikes in non-disruptive groups and enjoy dancing, performing music and socializing in groups in Harajuku, an area well known for its outrageous fashion.
Harajuku Black Shadow dancers (ex-bōsōzoku), hanging out in Harajuku, 2008
Many factors are to blame for the demise of the traditional bosozuku. A former leader of from the Narushino Specter gang in the 90s (and one time Yakuza loan shark), Kazuhiro Hazuki recalls that the police were once content to allow the bōsōzoku to run riot and no matter how many times they were arrested, a gang member never had their license revoked. Over the years, revised traffic laws have led to a rise in the arrest and prosecution of the bōsōzoku. Some also point to the inclusion of women as bōsōzoku riders, now a common sight in Japan, and a less than robust economy (many bōsōzoku bikes can cost as much as ten grand) for the drastic reduction in the gang’s numbers.
Modern Kyushakai bikers
If this post has piqued your interest of vintage Japanese biker culture, there are several documentaries and films based on the bōsōzoku and other speed tribes in Japan, such as 1976’s God Speed You! Black Emperor, 2012’s Sayonara Speed Tribes, a short documentary that features historical perspective from the aforementioned Kazuhiro Hazuki, or the series of films from director Teruo Ishii based on the bōsōzoku that began in 1975 with, Detonation! Violent Riders. If you are a fan of Japanese anime, the story told in the cult film Akira deeply parallels the real world of the bōsōzoku in their heyday. Many images of the bōsōzoku of the past and their mind-boggling motorcycles follow.
Here’s a collection of historical “drag queens” dating back to the 1800s and then onwards. The reason I’m using “drag queen” in double quotes is because I’m not entirely sure if these people were transgender, cross-dressers, dressing up as women for theatrical purposes or just for the of fun it. The information is very limited for each image. Either way, they’re all gorgeous and seem quite comfortable with themselves in front of a lens during a time when society looked down on such self-expression.
Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton AKA “Fanny and Stella.”
When photographer Felice Beato arrived in Japan in 1863, he found the country in the midst of civil war. After spending over two hundred years in seclusion, Japan was being forced by the Americans—under a mission led by Commodore Matthew C. Perry—to expand its trade with the west. The country was divided between the Tokugawa Shogunate in Edo and the Imperial Court based in Kyoto. Over the next decade, a period known as the Bakumatsu, Japan was riven as the Imperial order gradually took control. The key moment came when the samurai of the Chōshū and Satsuma provinces defeated the Shogunate in 1867, which led to the restoration of imperial rule under Emperor Meiji.
Beato was an Anglo-Italian, born in Venice in 1832, and raised in the British protectorate of Corfu. He learnt his trade under the renowned photographic pioneer James Robertson, with whom he traveled to Constantinople documenting many British imperial wars fought in Crimea, India and China. Beato’s skill saw him (along with his brother Antonio) hailed as one of the century’s leading photojournalists.
In 1862, Beato sold most of his photographic work and invested the money in the London Stock Exchange, where it was quickly lost. The following year, he decided to quit England and start out on a new adventure, this time to Japan. On his arrival in Yokohama, Beato set-up a business with English artist Charles Wirgman, who drew sketches and engravings based on Beato’s photographs. Travel was dangerous in Japan, with many of the Shogunate samurai warriors killing westerners—in Edo the American legation was burned to the ground and westerners threatened with death. On one occasion, Beato escaped such a fate after declining a tour of Kamakura with two Imperial officers, who happened across two masterless samurais (or ronin) and were beheaded. However, through his contacts in the military, Beato did manage to travel to many of the secluded areas of the country, where he documented the last years of feudal Japan.
Among his first photographs were the portraits of the Satsuma samurais, who happily posed for him. In one group portrait, four samurais symbolically show their strength and ambition by presenting themselves with one standing samurai holding a red book of English literature and one seated with an unsheathed knife—highlighting their hold on western knowledge and their strength in Japanese tradition. As travel became restricted because of the civil war, Beato opened a studio back in Yokohama, where he photographed many samurai warriors and their courtesans.
A selection of Felice Beato’s rare hand-colored photographs will be on display at the London Photographic Fair 23rd-24th May.
More of Felice Beato’s incredible photographs, after the jump…
Dubbed the “father of modern neurosurgery,” Dr. Harvey Cushing had a brilliant medical career. In 1901 he discovered what was later called the Cushing reflex—basically, what happens to your body when the brain is squeezed (That sounds way less science-y than it actually is, I swear). From there he continued to pioneer new ways of diagnosing brain tumors through X-rays, which produced new surgical techniques that drastically improved patients’ chances at survival from previously deadly conditions. Cushing also left a collection of about 500 preserved brains and nearly 10,000 patient photographs for posterity. In 2010—after sitting in a Yale dorm basement for more than 30 years—the brains were transferred to a museum, but it’s only recently that the pictures have been made available to the public.
The full series, titled “Cushing Tumor Registry,” covers Cushing’s patients from 1900 to 1933, and honestly if you had told me these were taken by Richard Avedon or Irving Penn, I wouldn’t have questioned it. The saturated, intense portraiture is stunning, whether focused on a pretty face or a brutal scar. Despite the medical nature of the photography, nothing in this cross-section elicits a shudder. Even the photo of the disembodied brain just looks like a still life.
This is the good stuff, good people, a genuine once-in-a-blue-moon recovery of a lost treasure trove. You, Dangerous Minds’ readers, are literally the first people in the word to see these photos, apart from the photographer and a tiny handful of others.
In 1976, Dave Treat, a student at the now defunct Cooper School of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, lived in a Lakewood apartment building that also hoveled the members of a rock band that had just re-christened itself from Frankenstein to the Dead Boys. As he was both the nearest accessible art student who owned a camera and a close friend to singer Stiv Bators, Treat was recruited to shoot publicity photos of the band, and while one of them may have been used (it remains unclear, but we’ll get to that), the rest have sat unseen since then. They became obsolete quickly, as Jeff Magnum would be added as the band’s bassist shortly after these were shot. In the last year, their existence became known to art historian Brittany Mariel Hudak and photographer/gallery owner Bryon Miller, who are working to release them in a book, and preparing them for exhibit in Cleveland, with the possibly of a New York exhibit later in the year. What the photos reveal is a band unknowingly on the cusp of achieving legendary status, and a sensitive, vulnerable Stiv Bators very, very unlike his self-consciously bratty public persona.
From Hudak’s introduction to the forthcoming Stiv 1976: Lost Photographs of Stiv Bators & The Dead Boys:
This is not about the onstage, very public Stiv or his antics – you can visit that guy on YouTube, read about his New York shenanigans in Legs McNeil’s Please Kill Me, or watch him wield a baseball bat as tough guy “Bo-Bo Belsinger” in John Water’s film, Polyester. In contrast, these photographs taken by his neighbor Dave Treat in 1976 capture a different Stiv altogether – what they capture is “Stiv” in the making. They offer a rare glimpse into the private life of a young man on the brink of something, with a marked sense of unfettered opportunities and grand plans. There’s an unquestionable eagerness in his eyes, a what-do-I-have-to-lose attitude – and even hints of the onstage Stiv being built. He poses quite consciously for the camera, wearing the soon to be comfortable guise of the seductive rock star – lanky, languid, oozing sex appeal and confidence, complete with outrageous platform boots.
But if you look closely you can detect another, more vulnerable side of the performer. Crouched in a corner or staring off into the distance, at times there’s a palpable sadness – a peculiar malaise. This too could be a pose – the tortured artist suffering for his art, another familiar component of the rock-star myth. But one gets a sense that this side is genuine, and for Stiv rarely seen, which makes these photos all the more special.
The negatives for these amazing photos were buried in a closet for almost 40 years, and most have been printed for the first time this year by Miller, a gallery proprietor and photographer for High Times and Billboard, who, out of respect for their origins and provenance, actually printed them old-school gelatin silver style. In an actual darkroom. Some of those still exist. The photos will be exhibited at Miller’s Gallery 160 in Cleveland beginning on Friday, June 5th, to mark the 25th anniversary of Stiv’s death from injuries sustained when he was hit by a car, with an opening reception beginning at 6:00PM. Apart from Treat, Hudak, Miller, myself, and the Dead Boys’ Cheetah Chrome, nobody has ever seen these images before you, right now. Clicking on an image spawns an enlargement in a new browser tab.
Across Pakistan it is common to see things with wheels ornately painted and adorned. The port city of Karachi, is the epicenter of this long-practiced tradition.
Practically every vehicle, from a garbage truck to a rickshaw, is opulently decked out with everything from colorful murals to historic or symbolic images. Sometime around 1920, the tradition of decorating a truck prior to it heading out on a long trip was born. Known as “Jingle Trucks,” Pakistan’s love affair with the Bedford, the heavy-duty truck that started the craze, came to Pakistan from UK automaker Vauxhall Motors after the first World War. To this day, the vintage vehicle is is still a vibrant part of Pakistani culture.
University of Karachi professor and artist Durriya Kazi who has studied truck art for several decades, believes that the age-old practice can be connected to Sufism; a mystical side of Islam that focuses on spirituality and body purification. Kazi says decorating the trucks is a way to obtain “religious merit,” such as the Sufi practice of embellishing a shrine or religiously significant site. In other words, by paying tribute to the truck by adorning it, the owner is ensuring that the truck will reward them by not breaking down along the highway, so to speak. Looking at photos of what may be best described as a mobile art installation, it’s not difficult to conceive that Jingle Truck owners spend a lot of cash tricking out their sweet rides.
As the years pass, things change and evolve with the times. This is especially the case when it comes to the decoration of the rear end of a Jingle Truck. Professor Kazi noted that in the past, mostly political figures would adorn the back of the truck. Now it is more common to see a portrait of a “Pashto” (a genre of popular music) pop-star or a family member on the back of a vehicle driven by a more progressive-minded Jingle Truck owner. Some folks even speculate that “Dekotora” the truck decorating craze in Japan that started
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” a song that, arguably more so than ANY other, even “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” has served as a badge for British Invasion-era rock, was recorded by the Rolling Stones 50 years ago today, on May 12, 1965. But had things worked out differently, we might be accustomed to hearing a very different song. A version of the song was recorded two days prior, at Chess Studios in Chicago, reportedly with Brian Jones on Harmonica. (I have no idea if that recording has ever emerged anywhere, and if a better Stones maven than myself could point me in the right direction, I’d sure like to hear it.) But that version was jettisoned, and the version we all know very, very well was recorded later that week in Los Angeles, at RCA Studios. From Stanley Booth’s The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones:
The Stones tried but failed to record “Satisfaction,” flew the next day to Los Angeles, went the day after to RCA Studios, started working at 10:00 A.M. and by 2:15 A.M., more than sixteen hours later, had recorded six new songs, one of them “Satisfaction.” They went back to their hotel, slept a few hours, then [Stones manager] Andrew [Loog Oldham] and RCA engineer Dave Hassinger returned to the studio and began mixing the tracks. At 1:00 P.M. the Stones showed up to re-record certain parts, Bill, Charlie and Brian leaving at 9:00 P.M., Mick and Keith staying at the studio adding vocals till nine o’clock the next morning. They had a new album and a single that would be the most popular they had ever done.
During the Chess sessions, the Stones make their first attempt at recording a song written by Mick and Keith a few days earlier in Clearwater, Florida… Keith: “A week later we recorded (‘Satisfaction’, again, at the RCA Studios) In Los Angeles. This time everything went right. Charlie put down a different tempo and, with the addition of a fuzz box on my guitar which took off all the treble, we achieved a very interesting sound.” Mick: “We cut ‘Satisfaction’ in Los Angeles when we were working there. We cut quite a lot of things and that was just one—contrary to some newspaper reports, it only took us just half an hour to make it. We like it, but didn’t think of it as a single. Then London said they had to have a single immediately because “The Last Time” was long gone and we had a Shindig TV date and had to have something to plug. So they released ‘Satisfaction’ as a single.”
“We like it, but didn’t think of it as a single.” Does that not sound like EVERY story about a world-changing record? That song that the Stones didn’t think of as a single would become their first US #1 record, and be the band’s definitive work for fifty years and counting. Since you’ve heard the canonical single a million times, here’s a neat stereo mix that was released on the German edition of Hot Rocks (this is why I gave up the hunt for the Chess version—trying to run down session details for EVERY release of this song is way more spelunking than a 24-hour day allows for). I love how the acoustic guitars take prominence in this mix.
The first televised performance of ‘Satisfaction’ after the jump…
The haunting began on a quiet summer’s evening, in August 1977, at the home of single-parent Peggy Hodgson and her four children in the north London borough of Enfield. The first sign that something strange had happened came around bedtime when shuffling and banging sounds were heard by Peggy’s two daughters Margaret (13) and Janet (11) in their bedroom. Peggy thought her children were acting up, and went upstairs to tell them to get to sleep. She entered the girls’ bedroom to see both of them were in their beds staring at the wardrobe and chest of drawers. When Peggy entered the room, the shuffling noise came from behind her. She turned to see a chest of drawers move away from the wall. Thinking it a joke, Peggy chastised the girls for playing tricks. Both Margaret and Janet said they had not done anything. Peggy pushed the drawers back against the wall. The shuffling sound came again, and the drawers moved away from the wall and quickly towards Peggy. This time she could not move them back. Banging was then heard on the wall and throughout the house. Peggy took the girls downstairs where the thumping and banging continued.
Terrified, Peggy took Margaret, Janet, Johnny (10) and Billy (7) to the home of her next door neighbors, Vic and Peggy Nottingham. Vic, a builder, decided to investigate and entered the house where he heard loud banging from different parts of the building, always moving, never in one place, as he later said:
“I went in there and I couldn’t make out these noises—there was a knocking on the wall, in the bedroom, on the ceiling. I was beginning to get a bit frightened.”
Unsure what to do, Peggy called the police thinking it was all a malicious hoax. However, during an interview with WPC Carolyn Heeps things began to get weird as a chair was witnessed by Heeps and the family levitating and moving across the room. Heeps gave a sworn affidavit confirming that “A large armchair moved, unassisted, 4 ft across the floor.” She checked the chair for possible wires or any devices that could have made it move. She found none. The police left stating the incident was not a police matter and were unable to do anything to help.
Where’s Scooby-Doo when you need him? The Hodgson children.
The banging and strange incidents continued. Peggy had hardly slept and was deeply worried for her children—but no one appeared to be offering any real help. She therefore called the Daily Mirror who sent a reporter and a photographer to the house in Enfield. They set up in the living room but, after waiting several hours, nothing happened. Then, as they decided to leave, chaos broke out: LEGO bricks and marbles flew unaided through the air and were hurled around the room. Photographer Graham Morris took pictures but when developed none showed clearly what he, his colleague and the family had witnessed.
Events escalated and concerned for the family, the Daily Mirror called the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) to investigate the case.
Maurice Grosse was an inventor and successful business who had recently joined the SPR. He had served as an engineer in the Royal Artillery during the war and had gone on to produce a variety of highly successful inventions—perhaps the most famous being his rotating advertising signs. A quiet, quizzical man with a very practical outlook, Grosse was sent by the SPR to investigate the claims. He was skeptical at first, but was soon convinced that the strange events at the house in Enfield were caused by a poltergeist focussed on eleven-year-old Janet Hodgson.
A ‘possessed’ Janet Hodgson with Maurice Grosse.
Over the next 18 months, Grosse together with writer and parapsychologist Guy Lyon Playfair witnessed nearly 2,000 different “paranormal” incidents—from flying objects, levitation, items spontaneously combusting, to the most chilling of all: Janet projecting a “demonic” voice of the ghost of deceased former tenant Bill Wilkins, who could “talk” through Janet for hours at a time.
Most skeptics claim the children were responsible for the paranormal activity in the house—a claim which is troubling in itself as its suggests on one level that the experiences of children are not valid, or at best not to be believed. Moreover, it does seem unlikely that Janet and Margaret were able to sustain the level of “poltergeist activity” and “possession” for over eighteen months—a feat most adults would have found difficult if not impossible. The cause of the events has never been satisfactorily explained.
Since 1977, the Enfield poltergeist has been the subject of much scrutiny—most being skeptical of events—though those who witnessed and experienced the strange paranormal activity claim the events were real, as Janet Hodgson said in the documentary Interview with a Poltergesit in 2007:
“I know from my own experience that it was real. It lived off me, off my energy. Call me mad or a prankster if you like. Those events did happen. The poltergeist was with me—and I feel in a sense that he always will be.”
This is an extremely well-made and balanced documentary about the events in Enfield called Interview with a Poltergeist, in which all of the main players were interviewed—Janet and Margaret Hodgson, Maurice Grosse, Guy Playfair as well as doctors, members of the SPR and the resident skeptic, who generalizes rather than rebuts the examples given.
The story has inspired various motion pictures, TV dramas and most recently SKY TV’s superb three-part series The Enfield Haunting with Timothy Spall, Juliet Stevenson and Matthew Macfadyen, which I do recommend, details here.
This post will be brief, as in spite of my surname, my German language faculties are scheiße, and an over-reliance on Google translate has a way of biting one on the ass. The long-lived and respected German magazine Stern has this week reported on the existence of an incredible high-def video comprised of 30 minutes of full color footage shot in Berlin in July of 1945, two months after the city fell at the end of World War II.
The devastation is incredible. We see the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, Alexanderplatz, all in ruins as the citizenry carries on with everyday life. The aerial footage, too, is stunning and sobering. It was uploaded by Chronos Media founder Konstantin von zur Mühlen on Monday, on the heels of similar footage of Hamburg released last week. Here it is in its entirety.
Much gratitude is due to Ben Merlis for alerting us to this footage.