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Banana: After 50 years the ultimate Warhol Velvet Underground mystery is finally (almost) solved!!

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It was fifty years ago this week that the future began with the Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol, and his banana. The destruction and rebuilding of rock ‘n’ roll music as it then existed commenced. This was all taking place even though only a few people knew about it at the time. The right few, as always. I have to think that anyone reading this knows the history of the Velvet Underground so I’m not going to rehash it here.

In the thirty years since Warhol’s death, the human race has bought and sold more “Andy” than Andy himself could possibly have dreamed of and more. Much more. Too much even. Year after year there are more Warhol books, toys, giant banana pillows, clothing lines, shoes, Andy Warhol glasses, movies, action figures (or maybe inaction figures, this being Warhol), pencils, notebooks, skateboards—literally everything ever! There’s been more most post mortem Warhol merchandising than for practically anyone or anything you can name. Even more than for Elvis, Marilyn or James Dean who had head starts.

Warhol and his entourage were infamous speedfreaks—speedfreaks with cameras, tape recorders, and movie gear who talked a lot and didn’t sleep much—and his every utterance was recorded, long before museums, historical posterity and millions of dollars were the reasons.

With the advent of the Warhol Museum, Andy’s every movement, thought, and influence has been discussed, dissected, filed and defiled ad nauseum. Every single piece of art he ever did can be traced back to an original page in a newspaper, an ad in the back of a dirty magazine, a photograph, a Sunday comic, or an item from a supermarket shelf and they’ve ALL been identified and cataloged.

Except for one.

Just one.

Probably the second most popular of Warhol’s images, standing in line right behind the Campbell’s soup can, is the banana image found on the cover of the first Velvet Underground album. Thee banana! But where did it come from? Everything else was appropriated from somewhere. What about this one?

I KNOW where it came from and I have known for around thirty years. Oddly enough it only just now occurred to me (when I looked up Warhol’s death date) that I found this thing, which I am about to describe, mere weeks before Andy’s untimely demise.
 
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I grew up in the sixties and I’ve loved the Velvet Underground since even before the advent of punk. And I love Andy Warhol, too. Just look at my Facebook profile photo. I have shelves of books on Warhol and all things Velvets and have amassed quite a collection of Warhol and Velvets rarities. My favorite book of all time is Andy Warhol’s Index from 1966, a children’s pop-up book filled with drag queens, the Velvets, 3-D soup cans and even a Flexi disc record with Lou Reed’s face on it with a recording of the Velvet Underground listening to a test pressing of their first LP. The one with the BANANA.
 
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The author’s Facebook profile pic. Duh.
 
Andy Warhol’s number one right-hand man in the sixties and the person who turned the Factory silver (among many many other things including being the primary photographer of the Factory’s “silver years”) was Billy Name (Linich). An online comment described him this way:

You can’t get more inside than Billy Name in Warhol’s Factory world. In fact he lived in the Factory - and to be more specific he lived in the bathroom at the Factory - and to be even more specific he stayed in the locked bathroom without coming out for months (years?).

 
And so to quote this definitive “insider” Billy Name on the history of the banana:

...bananas had been a Warhol theme earlier in the Mario Montez feature film Harlot mostly as a comedic phallic symbol. In the general hip culture, Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow” was going on [mellow yellow; roast banana peels in an oven, and then roll and smoke them]. The high was called “mello yellow.”

The specific banana image Andy chose came from I know not where; it’s not a Chiquita banana or Dole fruit company, because Andy’s banana has ‘overripe’ markings on it, and the fruit companies use whole yellow bananas on their stickers. Anyway, Andy first used this particular banana image for a series of silk-screen prints which he screened on white, opaque, flexible, Plexiglass (sort of like 2 feet x 5 feet). First an image of the inner banana “meat” was screened on the Plexi in pink, and then covered by the outer skin screened on and cut out of a glossy yellow sticky-back roll of heavy commercial paper (ordered from some supply warehouse). Thereby each banana could be peeled and the meat exposed and the skin could be replaced a number of times, ‘til the sticky stuff wore out. Naturally this was intentionally erotic Warhol-type art.

When thinking of a cover for the first Velvets album, it was easy for Andy to put one of his own works on the cover, knowing it was hip, outrageous, and original and would be “really great.” Andy always went the easy way, using what he had, rather than puzzling and mulling over some design elements and graphics for cover art that don’t really work. His art was already there, hip, erotic, and cool. The Plexi silk screen art definitely came first, in 1966. The album came out in ‘67. I do not recall any other design being thought of or even considered. The back of the album cover was a pastiche amalgam of photos from Andy’s films, Steven Shore, Paul Morrissey and myself and was messy and mulled over too much.

 
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So here we are on the fiftieth anniversary of The Velvet Underground & Nico and its mysterious banana cover art, and I felt that I have held this secret for way too long. I always wanted to use this in a book or something but it never happened.

This thing was hanging on my kitchen wall for three decades, in New York and LA and is now in secured storage for reasons which are about to become obvious. This is how I found it: One day in the mid 80s I was cruising around the Lower East Side aimlessly—as I had done most of my life up to that point—running into friends, looking at stuff people were selling on the street, stopping into Manic Panic, Venus Records, St. Marks Books, and any junk shops that caught my eye. There was one on Broadway that I had never seen before right down the street from Forbidden Planet and the greatest place ever, the mighty Strand Book Store. I went in and there was a lot of great stuff for me. I found some old records, a huge stash of outrageous and disgusting tabloid newspapers from the sixties which I kept buying there for a couple months afterward, and some cool old knick-knacks. I knocked into something on a crowded table full of junk and heard a big CLANG on the cement floor. I bent down to pick it up. It was one of those cheap triangular tin ashtrays that usually advertised car tires or something mundane. I picked it up (it was face down) and when I turned it over I was surprised to see…THE BANANA!!

It was an ad for bananas printed on a cheap metal ashtray.
 

Don’t you like a banana? ENJOY BANANA. Presented by WING CORP. designed by LEO KONO production”

 
I thought wow, this is cool! But over time I realized that I had quite literally stumbled across a true missing link. I figured I’d use it for something big one day, but I never did. UNTIL NOW. Ladies and germs, Andy Warhol and Velvet Underground fans and scholars, without further ado I bring you THE MISSING LINK! A true Dangerous Minds mega exclusive! (As Jeb Bush would say “Please clap.”).

A primitive, pounding Moe Tucker drumroll please for the reveal of THEE BANANA…after the jump

Posted by Howie Pyro | Leave a comment
Curse of the Masturbator: The painful battle against self-abuse
03.14.2017
09:30 am

Topics:
Amusing
History
Hysteria
Sex

Tags:
masturbation
Jugum penis

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Street scene. New York. Time—the past. Man on a sidewalk named James McC., aged fortyish. He has a regular job, a regular life. He is nondescript, commonplace—just like any one of the other men walking up and down the sidewalks of this city. But today death has come for James McC. He has been infected by plague—the worst plague of all. A plague that will eventually rob him of his senses, his sanity, and his very life.

James McC.‘s mind is filled with the most “sickening pictures of lust, disease, melancholy, and insanity.” When the police arrest him on the corner of 6th Avenue, James McC.was literally trying to obliterate these images from his mind by smashing his head on the sidewalk. It was already too late to save him. The duty sergeant at the 29th Precinct Station House recognized James McC. He had been arrested twice before that same week. The sergeant knew it was too late. His only recourse was to send him to Bellevue where he’d be put in a straitjacket and locked in a padded cell—another victim of the curse of masturbation.

James McC. lasted almost a week before he succumbed to a painful wasting away from his obsessive self-abuse. According to his doctors at Bellevue:

Upon examination he is found to be suffering from acute mania, alternating with periods of intense melancholia in which he invariably attempts to take his own life. His language when excited exceeds in obscenity anything ever heard. During the intervals of quiet he is constantly practicing the vile habit which has undoubtedly been the cause of his insanity. He has lost all sense of shame and continues to practice before visitors, attendants and physicians. He makes no effort to go to the water-closet, and his clothes and cell are in a filthy and disgusting state. Ever since admission he has refused all food, and it has been necessary to feed him with a stomach pump. He is losing flesh and strength every day, and is fast wasting away.

From his relatives who have twice called to see him it was learned that his mental trouble came on very suddenly, although his memory and faculties have been failing for some time past. They say that he complained of sleeplessness, numbness and tingling sensations in the arms and legs, headache, and a peculiar itching of the skin, for months before any distinct symptoms of insanity appeared. They attribute it all to self-abuse, which he has admitted practicing from an early age.

August 28th.—Is now paralyzed in both lower limbs. Still violent.

Sept. 3d.—Died this morning about 1 A.M. Is so emaciated that he is little more than skin and bones. Rigor mortis entirely absent. Shortly after death the skin of the whole body changed to a dark chocolate hue.

 
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A portrait of James McC. attempting to masturbate to the very end…
 
This story about James McC. is actually true. And his fate was the kind of “possible” scenario presented to hundreds of thousands of young men living in America and Europe during the 1800s. Scientists and medical practitioners declared there was a plague destroying the lives of young men which once contracted was nearly always fatal. These men were victims of a disease called Spermatorrhœa—an excessive and debilitating loss of sperm either involuntarily or through continuous “self-pollution” or over-indulgence of masturbation.

The best cure offered by the chief medical doctors was either circumcision or castration. Not exactly the kind of options most young men wanted. Therefore a whole new medical industry was created offering dubious cures for the curse of Spermatorrhœa.
 
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Another poor man has wanked himself to death….
 
This may seem farcical today but it was a genuine fear backed up by the authority of doctors, scientists, politicians and OF COURSE religious leaders. We may laugh now but so too will future generations laugh at some of our own current SJW panic attacks.

Masturbation was described in the 1860s as a hideous “vile demon” which “like the vampire” will:

...suck his very life-blood, steal away his strength and life and vivacity, besmirch and weaken his mind, take the strength from his muscles, the courage from his heart, sap the very foundation of his existence, unsex and unnerve him, render him feeble, wavering and imbecile, dog his footsteps to the very steps of the altar, to curse and blacken and disappoint those joys of parentage and marital right that should be his. The shadow deepens with him as life advances, and follows him, bringing shame and misery and despair at every step, until the poor victim, driven too far, sinks into an early grave by disease or suicide, or is lost to the world and to all joys and friends behind the doors of an insane asylum.

Who knew…?

Among the many “cures” for this dreaded Spermatorrhœa and/or compulsive masturbation was the Jugum penis.

This was a steel clip or ring with an inner ring of serrated teeth. The teeth would literally bite into the penis when it became engorged. The searing pain inflicted on the encircled member by this nasty cock ring would stop any erection or possible episode of “self-pollution.”

Medical doctors believed that when men lost sperm through a wet dream or masturbation they were literally losing their life force. Therefore it was advisable for all teenage boys and young men to wear a Jugum penis at night to prevent any “nocturnal emissions.”
 
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Advert for the anti-pollution ring.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Sorry guys, you’re not a REAL MAN until you’ve shaved your face with an ax
03.10.2017
10:42 am

Topics:
Amusing
Heroes
History

Tags:
lumberjacks
shaving
axes


Civilian Conservation Corps ax shaving demonstration, 1933.
 
Believe it or not, there is photographic evidence of men, some who were lumberjacks or loggers, who shaved their own faces, and the faces of others, with an ax.

There were a couple of notable manly men who were known for performing the feat in front of crowds such as Paul Criss whose moniker was the “spectacular axe-man” and Oregon lumberjack Leonard Wallulis. Criss was also a popular pitchman for the Kelly Axe Company. One of the axes in the company’s product line was called the “Perfect Axe” and it would be this weapon of choice that Criss would use to demonstrate the tool’s ability to be used to shave a man’s face. Wallulis, on the other hand, was noted to have entered a Ripley’s Believe It or Not contest in Portland, Oregon in 1936 where he shaved with a double-bitted ax—a daring trick that got him to the finals.

If you frequent reddit, you may have seen an image of either Criss or Wallulis shaving dangerously. In once instance, I saw that someone had noted that Criss was some sort of traveling ax salesman. Which promptly got him torn to shreds by folks saying that there is/was no such thing as a traveling ax salesman. But here’s the thing about that—ax salesmen were real and businesses such as Oakland, Maine’s Emerson & Stevens employed salespeople who schlepped around axes, hatchets, and scythes to hardware stores and tool shops. So now that I’ve cleared that bit up, take a look at the images below of guys who make shaving with an ax look like a normal part of their day.
 

Paul Criss the “spectacular axe-man” giving an ax shaving demonstration with a Perfect Axe made by Kelly Axe Manufacturing Company.
 

Leonard Wallulis shaving with an ax.
 
More manly men shaving with axes, after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Erotic engravings from a poem celebrating sex, 1825 (NSFW)
03.09.2017
10:12 am

Topics:
Amusing
Books
History
Sex

Tags:
poetry
erotica

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“Fainting.”
 
Volumes of vintage erotica are wasted on academics. Just think how many beautiful books filled with lusty, erotic engravings are moldering away under lock and key in some dark, dusty archive. They’re not for our eyes of course but rather for those of a disinterested professor or an ambitious Ph.D. student looking to reinterpret ancient sex manuals from a post-feminist, non-binary, neo-hermetic viewpoint.

Knowledge is power. Having access to knowledge makes us powerful. In the same way, memory can help define who we are, ye olde books can help us understand who we were. That’s probably why I sometimes begrudge all those wonderful books being kept from our grubby little paws—though in truth admit we must have our gatekeepers.

However, thankfully, there are those good people at the Wellcome Library who understand knowledge of the past helps us navigate the present. The Wellcome Library is one of my favorite websites. It is crammed with the most delightful and mind-expanding books, documents and artworks—which these good people have scanned and put online for our edification.

One day browsing through diseases and alike, I chanced upon a fine volume entitled Invocation à l’amour. Chant philosophique published in France in 1825. This is a “rare” and beautiful book containing a long poem celebrating sex and all the various sexual positions. The poem is a literal invocation calling on God the “Father of the human race and of pleasure, Love, come fill me with your divinity. So that from your transports I may render the ecstasies…”

It then goes on to “invoke the nine sisters of Apollo” to ensure everything “follows the supreme law” of well… I guess you’d call it S.E.X. Jane Austen was never like this. But it’s fascinating to find such an early paean to sex and sexuality—which also gives the lie to that hoary old chestnut sex was invented in the swinging sixties by the baby boomers….

It’s a strange and fiery poem which could do with a more nuanced translation than the one offered by Google. But if so inclined, you can read the original text by “A virtuoso of the good fashion” here.

Aside from the sex magick poetry, this slim red-leathered volume has some stunning illustrations. We don’t know who the artist was of these highly explicit engravings but we can at least admire their artistry, imagination and humor.
 
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“The happy calculation.”
 
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“The charms of masturbation.”
 
More illustrations from ‘Invocation à l’amour,’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
David Olère: The Auschwitz artist who documented the Holocaust
03.07.2017
11:33 am

Topics:
Art
History

Tags:
Holocaust
Auschwitz
David Olère

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‘Unable to Work.’
 
David Olère (1902-85) was transported to Auschwitz on March 2, 1943. He was forty-one years of age. Olère was an artist who had studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Poland, before moving to Gdansk then Berlin and finally Paris, where he worked as a set designer on movies. His traveling and working across Europe had given Olère a great fluency with languages. This was to save his life when he arrived at Auschwitz.

As most of the SS guards at the camp had no interest in speaking anything but German, Olère was required to work as a translator.  He was assigned to work as a Sonderkommando—one of the death camp prisoners who was used to dispose of the bodies of the thousands upon thousands of gas chamber victims at Auschwitz. Olère saw at first hand the German soldiers’ brutal and horrific actions.

His talents as an artist were also used by the SS guards. Olère was made write and illustrate letters home to soldiers’ families and produce drawings of the guards at their work. Olère used what little free time he had to start documenting the truth about Auschwitz. He felt utterly compelled to document the lives of all those who did not survive.

Olère’s drawings proved to be crucial evidence as to how the Nazis callously exterminated the Jews at Auschwitz.
 
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‘Arrival of a Convoy.’
 
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‘The Food of the Dead for the Living.’
 
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‘Priest and Rabbi.’
 
More of Olère’s drawings and paintings, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Photographs of people being ticketed for ‘indecent exposure’ at Rockaway Beach, New York in 1946
03.06.2017
10:58 am

Topics:
Amusing
History

Tags:
indecent exposure


 
LIFE photographer Sam Shere captured these rather amusing photos of women and men who give zero fucks while being ticketed for “indecent exposure.” The images were taken at Rockaway Beach, New York in 1946.

It’s funny now to think what was considered “indecent” beachwear back in 1946. I dig the photo of the woman smoking the cigarette with not a care in the world. And why should she have, anyway?

It appears cops in uniforms were doing the ticketing as well as plainclothes police officers.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The amazing Dr. Hal, Subgenius ‘Master of Church Secrets,’ will answer any question!


Submit to the superior mind of Dr. Hal!
 
One name alone could never properly designate the spellbinding polymath who calls himself Dr. Howll and Dr. Howland Owll, though he is known to hundreds of listeners around the world as the host of the Ask Dr. Hal! show.

A clergyman and theologian of the highest attainment in the Church of the Subgenius (“Master of Church Secrets”), Dr. Hal is a man of great learning, the numerosity of whose specializations is exceeded only by the perspicuity of his understanding, which in turn is outstepped only by the very testicularity of his hauteur. Why, Dr. Hal’s conversation makes Dr. Johnson sound like an analphabetic dirt farmer doing whip-its in an Andy Gump at the Gathering of the Juggalos, if you’ll pardon my French!
 

Ask Dr. Hal! via Laughing Squid
 
When did Dr. Johnson, so comfortably provisioned with nitrous tanks up in his ivory tower, ever give the American working stiff a break like this? “I refute it thus”: for $5, Dr. Hal will answer any question you can fit into an HTML form. Alternatively, “if you’re going to San Francisco,” be sure to wear some dollars in your hair, because your trip to the ¢ity by the pa¥ just got even more expensive: there is a run of Ask Dr. Hal! shows coming up in April at Chez Poulet in the Mission. If Chicken John likes your question, he will even pour you a shot of Fernet.

That’s Dr. Hal’s partner in the live show, Chicken John Rinaldi, the author of The Book of the IS, Volume I: Fail… To WIN! Essays in engineered disperfection and The Book of the Un, Volume 2: Friends of Smiley! Dissertations of dystopia. The live Ask Dr. Hal! show works like this, according to Chicken John:

You fill out the slip, you write your name, you write your question—any question about any topic, left or right, up or down: science, entomology, etymology, Greek mythology, sex, religion, jewelry, what’s the plastic thing on the end of your shoelace called. Aglet, by the way, on the end of your shoe. Aglet.

Much more after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Interstellar Zappadrive: When Frank Zappa jammed with Pink Floyd
03.01.2017
08:43 am

Topics:
History
Music

Tags:
Frank Zappa
Pink Floyd


 
This post was originally published in 2012, but at that time, the actual footage of Frank Zappa jamming with Pink Floyd had yet to materialize. That changed late last year with the release of the mammoth Pink Floyd box set, The Early Years (released as individual volumes at the end of the month.)

“The Actuel Rock Festival,” sponsored by the fashionable Parisian youth culture magazine Actuel (along with the BYG record label) was to be the first ever major rock festival in France, and was heralded as Europe’s answer to Woodstock. French authorities, still smarting from the riots of May 1968, forbade it and the festival, which was originally going to take place in or near Paris, was held just a few miles beyond the French border, in Amougies, Belgium.

The festival took place over the course of five freezing cold days in late October (24-27) of 1969. The audience numbered between 15-20,000 people who were treated with performances by Pink Floyd, Ten Years After, Colosseum, Aynsley Dunbar (this is allegedly where Zappa met his future drummer), former Yardbird Keith Relf’s new group Renaissance, blues legend Alexis Korner, Don Cherry, The Nice, Caravan, Blossom Toes, Archie Shepp, Yes, The Pretty Things, Pharoah Sanders, The Soft Machine, Captain Beefheart and many more.

From the notes of the 1969 The Amougies Tapes Zappa bootleg:

Frank Zappa was present at the festival in a twofold capacity. First, as Captain Beefheart’s road manager; secondly, as M.C., assisting Pierre Lattes, a famous radio/TV presenter at the time (and the pop music editor for Actuel magazine). The latter task proved problematic given Zappa’s limited French, the prevailing language among the audience, who themselves didn’t seem to understand much English. Instead, Zappa relinquished his M.C. job for one of occasional guest guitarist. He plays with almost everybody, especially with Pink Floyd, Blossom Toes, Archie Shepp and Aynsley Dunbar, a fabulous drummer he will hire shortly thereafter. He introduces his friend Captain Beefheart and provides a powerful stimulant to all the other musicians. Most legendary, of course, is Frank Zappa’s jam with Pink Floyd on a very extended “Interstellar Overdrive”. The festival was filmed by Jerome Laperrousaz, and the film was to be called MUSIC POWER. Due to objections from various bands (most notably Pink Floyd) whose permission hadn’t been properly secured, the film was never officially released.”

Simpsons creator Matt Groening asked Zappa about the festival in a 1992 interview, but oddly he doesn’t even mention sitting in with Pink Floyd:

Frank Zappa: I was supposed to be MC for the first big rock festival in France, at a time when the French government was very right-wing, and they didn’t want to have large-scale rock and roll in the country. and so at the last minute, this festival was moved from France to Belgium, right across the border, into a turnip field. They constructed a tent, which was held up by these enormous girders. They had 15,000 people in a big circus tent. This was in November, I think. The weather was really not very nice. It’s cold, and it’s damp, and it was in the middle of a turnip field. I mean mondo turnips. And all the acts, and all the people who wished to see these acts, were urged to find this location in the turnip field, and show up for this festival. And they’d hired me to be the MC and also to bring over Captain Beefheart. It was his first appearance over there. and it was a nightmare, because nobody could speak English, and I couldn’t speak French, or anything else for that matter, so my function was really rather limited. I felt a little bit like Linda McCartney. I’d stand there and go wave, wave, wave. I sat in with a few of the groups during the three days of the festival, but it was so miserable because all these European hippies had brought their sleeping bags, and they had the bags laid out on the ground in this tent, and they basically froze and slept through the entire festival, which went on 24 hours a day, around the clock. One of the highlights of the event was the Art Ensemble of Chicago, which went on at 5:00 a.m. to an audience of slumbering euro-hippies.

 
More (including video footage) after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The strangely captivating dioramas of the Hamamatsu Diorama Factory in Japan


“Day Saka-agari,” one of the 40 fascinating dioramas made by Takuji Yamada that can be seen at the Hamamatsu Diorama Factory.
 
If you ever find yourself in Hamamatsu, Japan I’d recommend you make a bee-line for the intriguing Hamamatsu Diorama Factory, where you can see approximately 40 of master model builder Takuji Yamada’s intricate dioramas.

Takuji’s works depict a wide range of Japanese culture and history, including some thought-provoking images of what life was like in Japan during WWII. There are also many whimsical dioramas featuring pop culture references—specifically from the long line of Japanese monster movies such as Ultraman and his monstrous nemesis Neronga, as well as a strange homage to President John F. Kennedy who helped save the crumbling relationship between the U.S. and Japan during his short time as our 35th president. Admission to the curious Hamamatsu Diorama Factory is a real bargain—less than three U.S. dollars gets an adult in the door and kids are free. I’ve included a number of images of Yamada’s impeccably detailed dioramas that I think you will enjoy looking at below. Yamada’s work is also the subject a couple of books, the most comprehensive being the 2000 publication, Takuji Yamada’s Diorama Works.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Haunting photographs from ‘The Blue Bird’ a fantasy play performed in Moscow in 1908


Actress Maria Germanova in character as a fairy for the 1908 stage production of ‘The Blue Bird.’
 
The captivating images of actors in full costume and character for a performance of The Blue Bird are apparently the only extant visual reminders of the play as it premiered, originally directed by Konstantin Stanislavski in 1908 at Moscow Art Theatre. Written by Belgian playwright and poet Maurice Maeterlinck, it has had many adaptations throughout the decades since, most notably the 1940 film by director Walter Lang who cast a twelve-year-old Shirley Temple as an irritable child who, with her brother, set out in search of the Bluebird of Happiness. The intention of 20th Century Fox was to give the smash The Wizard of Oz a run for its money, but it was a dismal box office failure. To its credit, the film would later be nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects. Another notable adaptation would come in 1976 when director George Cukor would try his had at another remake of the film this time with starring Elizabeth Taylor. Though it was packed with star power—including Jane Fonda and Ava Gardner—it was a twelve million dollar flop.

At its foundation, Maeterlinck’s play is a story of wistful yearning told from the perspective of a brother and sister who are dissatisfied with their lives. When a fairy becomes aware of their discontent, she sets them off in search of the Blue Bird of Happiness. The pair travel through various fantasy worlds in search of the elusive bird—which serves as a metaphor for their search for their own spirituality. If after reading this description you feel a little lightheaded—it’s perfectly understandable. The Blue Bird is a weirdly, wonderful story that closely parallels plotlines in The Wizard of Oz. The concept for the wildly creative costumes worn by the actors at the Moscow Art Theatre was conceived by the theater’s owner Constantin Stanislavski who enlisted the help of artist V. E. Yevgenoff to create them.

According to historians well versed on the Moscow Art Theatre, which at the time was considered one of the most vital dramatic arts communities in the world, anything connected with the 1908 production was destroyed once WWI commenced in 1914, with the exception of these photographs. Despite their age and lack of color, they are remarkably vivid. While they are all stunning, the images of actress Maria Germanova (who played the mythical fairy in The Blue Bird and is best known for her role in the silent film based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel Ana Karenina) are particularly arresting.
 

Maria Germanova.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
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