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Before Pere Ubu, there was the Robert Bensick Band—a Dangerous Minds premiere
06.22.2016
10:34 am

Topics:
History
Music

Tags:
Pere Ubu
Robert Bensick


 
All who’ve dipped their toes in even the shallow end of early punk lore know the famous trajectory of the early scene in Cleveland By God Ohio: first, there was the proto-punk band Rocket From the Tombs. They were weird and combative and completely out of step with normality, and it couldn’t last, so they split. That fissure produced that amazing yin and yang of Ur-punk—the bratty, gutterbound Dead Boys, who burned bright and flamed out fast; and the forbiddingly arty, brainy, and belligerent Pere Ubu, who still exist to weird out the normals today (they’re on tour right now, in fact).

But that’s only half of the story. Of the first lineup of Pere Ubu, only singer David Thomas and guitarist Peter Laughner were Rocket refugees, and Laughner, sadly, didn’t even live to play on Ubu’s debut album. Guitarist Tom Herman and drummer Scott Krauss came Ubu’s way from a now utterly obscure weirdo outfit called the Robert Bensick Band. Bensick was a veteran of a handful of bands that included various future Ubus and members of the under-documented Laughner band Cinderella Backstreet, and in the mid-‘70s he assembled from those sources a band of like-minded rock ’n’ roll misfits to record what he intended as a magnum opus, the never-released French Pictures in London.
 
Keep reading after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Blow-out: Bizarre sci-fi looking vintage hair dryers from the early 1900s
06.20.2016
06:32 pm

Topics:
Amusing
History
Science/Tech

Tags:
1900s
hair dryers


A massive hair dryer from 1934.
 
Some of our readers will recall a time when it seemed like a good idea to strap a plastic bag to your head (when it was still wet mind you) then hook it up to a large device that would blow hot hair into said bag in order to dry your hair. Sometimes I really do believe it is a fucking miracle that more people born in decades preceding the 1970s didn’t die after putting hot plastic bags on their wet heads. Even as a kid back in the 70s I thought on more than one occasion that I was going to come out with a perfectly red ring around my skull after sitting under a soft-bonnet style hair dryer. But that never happened. Thanks, Mom!
 

A drawing of the first hair dryer invented by Alexandre Godefoy in 1888. 
 
Some of these space-aged looking contraptions date as far back as the early 1920s and could be found in public bath houses. In 1930, German hair care company Wella debuted a motorized dryer that looked like it was straight out of a scene from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (pictured directly below). Others are just too wacky for words but as a girl with long hair—I get it. Before the advent of the hair dryer women would dry their hair by a fire (yikes!) or just let it dry on its own. The first hair dryer originated in 1888 in a beauty salon in France owned by Alexandre Godefroy (pictured above) that attached to a pipe for a chimney or a gas stove and blew hot air through a giant alien-looking metal helmet. In the words of those Virginia Slim ads “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” when it comes to hair maintenance. Lots of images of far-out looking hair dryers of yesteryear follow.
 

Wella’s first motorized hair dryer from 1930.
 

1920s.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
At Home, At Work, At Play: Color Autochromes of life before the First World War
06.20.2016
12:16 pm

Topics:
Art
History

Tags:
photography
Autochromes
Alfonse Van Besten

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The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

That well-known opening line from L. P. Hartley’s novel The Go-Between sits well with these Autochromes by artist and photographer Alfonse Van Besten (1865-1926) taken in the years leading up to the First World War. Looking at these beautiful idealized portraits of people working and playing in the tranquil Belgian countryside it is hard to imagine the bloody slaughter about to unfold on these “Flanders Fields.” They are like a glimpse of a man-made paradise before the Fall.

Van Besten was an early adopter of the Lumière brothers’ photographic process by which color was replicated through compressed pieces of dyed starch. His portraits are painterly—superbly composed and artfully created—with a sense of spectacle and drama. The majority of pictures show a wealthy middle and upper class at play—but as can be seen Van Besten was equally adept at capturing the working lives of the poor with a fine eye for detail and group composition.
 
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The artist and photographer Alfonse Van Besten painting in his garden circa 1910.
 
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‘Musing’—The photographer’s wife Josephine Arnz circa 1910.
 
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Men in civic and military clothes, ca. 1911.
 
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Children at play ca. 1912.
 
More Autochromes by Alfonse Van Besten, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
True tales of the original Bearded Lady and Dog-Faced Boy
06.17.2016
01:21 pm

Topics:
History

Tags:
Bearded Lady
freaks
Dog-Faced Boy


 
We may not like to admit it, but we are fascinated by the physical anomalies that were once paraded around by circuses—people to which the term freak is almost always applied. The Eels and Phish have songs that play on the idea of the “Dog-Faced Boy.” (Neutral Milk Hotel trumps them by singing about a “Two-Headed Boy.”) Meanwhile, the Hives and Screaming Females have songs dealing with the “Bearded Lady.”  Tod Browning’s Freaks stands as one of the finest movies made in 1932, and not many books published in 1989 have dated any better than Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love. Bill Griffith’s Zippy the Pinhead is one of the most enduring figures to emerge from the underground comics explosion of the 1960s and early 1970s.

It’s difficult to think of the actual freak shows that proliferated in circuses around the turn of the 20th century and not suppose that it was all an arena for some vicious exploitation. But those assumptions may not be as well founded as you might think: The bulk of reports that we have from that era appear to indicate that headlining “freaks” were well compensated and also treated collegially by their coworkers, which makes sense when you realize that they were often the strongest audience draws the circus had to offer.

One of the most reliable of “freak” tropes is that of the Bearded Lady. The notion of a female with a noticeable beard goes back as far as the 14th century, most notably in the figure of Wilgefortis, who existed as a variation on the crucified Christ.

Annie Jones was born in Virginia in the summer after the close of the Civil War. Afflicted with no small degree of hirsutism (or some other genetic condition), she worked for P.T. Barnum’s traveling exhibition almost from the crib. As the nation’s most prominent Bearded Lady, Jones was a vocal spokesperson for the country’s “freaks,” a word she detested and fought hard to expunge from the circus trade.
 

 
When Jones was still a small child, there was a curious episode in which she was essentially kidnapped by man named Wicks who a “phrenologist”—that is, someone who believes that character traits can be gleaned by investigations into a person’s skull—who claimed that the child was his. Right out of a 19th-century melodrama, at the trial to adjudicate the matter, Jones ran into her mother’s arms, settling the matter once and for all.

Jones was also an accomplished musician. In 1902, she died of tuberculosis at the age of 37.

The affliction that caused Fedor Jeftichew to become a celebrity known as Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Boy is called hypertrichosis (sometimes called “werewolf syndrome”); the condition, which causes an abnormal amount of hair to grow all over the body, is apparently genetic, as his father shared the condition. Jeftichew was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1868, and became a part of Barnum’s troupe in as a teenager in 1884. One of Barnum’s nicknames for Jeftichew was “the human-skye terrier” because of the tendency of that breed to have straight long hair covering the eyes.

From whole cloth Barnum created a phantastical backstory for Jeftichew, now known as Jo-Jo. The idea was that a hunter from Kostroma in the heartland of Russia tracked Jeftichew and his father to their “cave” and captured them “after a desperate conflict.” Barnum spared no detail in describing Adrian as a savage who was beyond any kind of civilizing effects. (In reality Jeftichew spoke three languages fluently.) Barnum would tell audiences that when Jeftichew was upset, he was given to barking and growling; knowing where his interests lay, Jeftichew would then proceed to do just that for the gaping audience.

Jeftichew passed away of pneumonia in 1904 in Greece.
 

 
h/t: All That Is Interesting

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Satan at Play’ and other vintage movie magic from early 1900s

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While not exactly dangerous this early film Satán se divierte by Segundo de Chomón is certainly amusing and a work of art. De Chomón was a Spanish filmmaker whose pioneering work in camera tricks and optical illusions was to influence generations of filmmaker. Many of his “tricks” are still used today.

De Chomón is often compared to that other giant of early cinema Georges Méliès—the great French filmmaker whose works included A Trip to the Moon (1902) and The Impossible Voyage (1904). While there was undoubtedly a rivalry between the two men—with Méliès taking the tape for innovation—de Chomón made his mark by developing a mechanical stencil-based film tinting process that was known as Pathécolor. He also diversified his filmmaking talents into documentaries, dramas and special effects for other directors.

Satán se divierte or Satan at Play aka The Red Specter (1907) is a superb example of De Chomón’s work with its camera tricks—some of which would be later revisited in films like Bride of Frankenstein—stage show magic and beautiful color stencilling.
 
Watch ‘The Devil at Play’ plus ‘Haunted House’ and ‘Voyage to the Planet Jupiter,’ after the jump…
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Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
This may be the most racist, sexist, violent video game EVER (and it’s almost 35 years old)
06.16.2016
11:51 am

Topics:
Feminism
Games
History
Race

Tags:
Video games
Custer's Revenge


 
Despite exaggerations to the contrary, very few video games actually portray sexual assault. Sure, there’s a ton of murder, and definitely lots of gendered violence, but games that write in actual sexual violence are quite rare, which is actually sort of surprising when you learn about Custer’s Revenge.

The game, which came in in 1982 for the Atari 2600 and cost a whopping $49.95 (making it the priciest of Atari games then on the market), had a very simple premise: you are a naked, erection-wielding General Custer and you must avoid a volley of arrows in order to to rape a Native American who is—as indicated by the cover art—tied to a pole. Yeah, that’s it.

Custer’s Revenge was an early attempt to create and market “adult” video games, but promotion was difficult, especially since Mystique, the publishers and developers of the game, made it very clear that the game was “NOT FOR SALE TO MINORS.” In order to drum up publicity, Mystique actually showed the game to women’s and Native American groups, who were quick to give them free press with outraged protests. Feminist Andrea Dworkin even argued that Custer’s Revenge “generated many gang rapes of Native American women,” a claim that is difficult to prove, to say the least. Compared to say Pac-Man, the best-selling Atari 2600 game of all time, which sold 7 million, Custer’s Revenge was small potatoes, only selling 80,000 total. Regardless, the backlash most certainly helped move copies that might have otherwise simply collected dust on the shelf.
 

 
So how does Custer’s Revenge hold up nowadays? Despite the stomach-turning “plot,” the game actually manages to be so very comically low-rent that it falls very short of anything that is actually visually lurid. I mean you really have to use your imagination to connect those abrupt little pixels to the historic atrocities of the sexual violence and genocide exacted against Native Americans. They just didn’t quite have the technology to really depict any detail at the time, a fact which allowed game designer Joel Miller to maintain plausible deniability, claiming that the woman was a “willing participant” (this despite the game’s title and cover art). Nonetheless, Mystique later released a companion game, General Retreat, featuring the Native American woman attempting to rape Custer under cannonball fire, which, I guess, was an attempt at equality?
 

Ah, such innocent times! When the libidinal horrors of entertainment were technologically limited to blocky little boners and booties!
 
It’s possible that protests eventually staved off sales of the game, but what’s more likely is that no one really wanted to play it. PC World magazine named it the third worst game of all time, adding to the obvious objections that it was extremely difficult to play and it just looked terrible. The underground infamy of of Custer’s Revenge outlasted the game itself, inspiring a much more graphic remake in 2008, which was notably protested by a indigenous activists, including a female game designer and a video game journalist. Eventually pressure from activists got the game removed from the internet in 2014 (though I doubt too many people felt its loss).

More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
The Original CSI: Crime scene photos from the early 1900s

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The French detective and biometrics researcher Alphonse Bertillon was the father of modern crime scene investigation. Among his major contributions were the mugshot and the crime scene photograph.

Before Bertillon pioneered the use of the mugshot criminals were identified by verbal description and artist sketches—which were not always reliable as eyewitness often gave confusing and contradictory descriptions. The mugshot obviously made it easier for police to identify and apprehend criminals and to disseminate posters of the most wanted across country.

Bertillon was the first to recognize the importance of using photography to document a crime scene—the position of the body, the murder weapon, the footprints or personal artefacts left behind, the disarray of the scene. While some at first doubted the relevance of photographing murder victims—considering it ghoulish and highly disrespectful to the deceased—it became quickly apparent how such photographs helped solve innumerable murders.

Bertillon also devised a system of anthropometry by which criminals could be identified. The system, called “Bertillonage,” classified criminals by identifiable physical characteristics–eyes, length of nose, shape of ear, measurements of head, etc. From the late 1800s until around the end of the First World War Bertillonage was the main system for identifying criminals as used across Europe and America. It was eventually replaced by fingerprinting.
 
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His success as a detective led Bertillon to be described by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as the greatest detective in Europe—rivalling his very own creation Sherlock Holmes who was only the “second highest expert in Europe.”

There is an oft-quoted story that Bertillonage was discredited by the strange case of two men Will West and William West in 1903. The story goes that when Will West was arrested and sentenced to Leavenworth prison, his anthropometric measurements matched another prisoner who was also (quite unbelievably) called William West. Yet, according to Bertillon’s methodology both men were the very same person—which was of course impossible. 

Though it was claimed their measurements were identical—it is probably more correct to say these figures conformed within certain ratios which were similar but not exactly the same. The two men were later identified by fingerprinting—and it was this that gave lie to the claim that the confusion over Will West and William West led to the abandonment of the Bertillonage system. However, it should be pointed out that Bertillonage was used up as late as 1918 in America and Canada and around the time in Europe. What probably discredited this system of anthropometry more than anything else was its adoption by the Nazis prior to the Second World War as a means to identify non-Aryans.

The following photographs were taken by Alphonse Bertillon (or are credited to him) and depict some of the murder scenes he encountered during his work as a detective. They are among the very earliest crime scene photographs ever taken.
 
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More of the earliest crime scene photographs ever taken, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Stark images of the decaying & (maybe) haunted ‘UFO’ resort in Taiwan that never was
06.08.2016
09:15 am

Topics:
Design
History

Tags:
architecture
Taiwan
Sanzhi UFO Houses


Clusters of the pod-shaped ‘Sanzhi UFO Houses’ in New Taipei City in Taiwan.
 
There are lots of mythical, Scooby-Doo style storylines associated with the construction of what was to be a posh, futuristic resort destination that became known as the Sanzhi UFO Houses (also known as the “Sanzhi Pod Houses” or “Sanzhi Pod City”). Located in the Sanzhi District of New Taipei City in Taiwan and reminiscent of the short-lived Disneyland attraction the Monsanto House of the Future , one of the rumors conjured up about Sanzhi was that it was built on the same site as a burial ground for Dutch soldiers back in the early 1600s. There was also some talk that the construction site was cursed due to the removal and subsequent disassembly of a Chinese dragon sculpture from the property. Where are those meddling kids when you need them?
 

A water slide to nowhere.
 
All stoner-jokes aside, there were actually numerous fatal accidents (and a suicide) that occurred while the UFO-style resort was being built. Ultimately, anyone involved with construction and development of the Sanzhi UFO Houses called it a day and work on what was to become a large-scale vacation destination, ceased. Despite the fact that it never took off the Sanzhi UFO Houses became a very desirable tourist destination just based on their unusual architecture and folklore. Sadly, if you were just about to book a couple of tickets to Taiwan to see them, don’t, as the strange futuristic village of pods were reduced to rubble sometime in 2008 despite an attempt to preserve a few and convert them into a musuem.

Shots of the Sanzhi UFO Houses that are no more, after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
‘Some stupid with a flare gun’: Frank Zappa & the true story of Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’


 
Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water,” amirite?

Although it is among the most popular guitar riffs in history (if not the #1 most popular riff of all time, because virtually anyone, including your mom, can probably play it) and certainly a song that will never, ever fall out of the classic rock canon, the meaning of the song’s lyrics—once well-known—are becoming increasingly cryptic. It would just be confusing to most people hearing it for the first time playing Guitar Hero or Rock Band:

We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn’t have much time
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground

On December 4, 1971 Deep Purple were in Montreux, Switzerland. The plan was to record their next album—what would become their 1972 classic, Machine Head—in the theater of the cavernous Montreux Casino, which was closing down for renovations after a matinee show by the Mothers of Invention.

As the members of Deep Purple watched, the rockin’ teen combo led by Frank Zappa laid into their concert showstopper of the time “King Kong,” when an idiot in the audience fired a flare gun (or more likely a bottle rocket) into the venue’s rattan-covered ceiling during Don Preston’s MiniMoog solo. Although no one was badly injured, the huge casino, along with its theater, restaurants and other entertainment facilities was burned to the ground and the Mothers’ gear was toast. There was an apparently easy and orderly exit for the crowd as the fire was slow at first, but as Deep Purple’s bass guitarist Roger Glover later said “when it caught, it went up like a fireworks display.” Two of Zappa’s roadies, the last to leave, were blown out of a window, but sustained only minor injuries.
 

A postcard of the fire

They burned down the gambling house
It died with an awful sound
Funky Claude was running in and out
Pulling kids out the ground

Even if you don’t know what it means, it sounds good, right?

“Funky Claude” who was “running in and out” refers to Claude Nobs, the casino’s owner and the director of the Montreux Jazz Festival—and as luck would have it, a volunteer fireman—who helped some of the audience members escape to safety and to whom Machine Head was dedicated. He later told Gibson.com

Frank Zappa took his guitar–a Gibson, a very strong one–and he smashed the big window down with his guitar. Then a lot of people could go out through there. The people went out through that exit, and within about five minutes, the 2,000 kids were out. And the people were watching the fire thinking, “Oh, you know, Frank Zappa is just doing an incredible ending to his show.”

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
A gorgeous gallery of ‘ultra-chic’ men’s hairstyles from the 70s
06.06.2016
11:29 am

Topics:
Amusing
Fashion
History

Tags:


 
I always get a good chuckle when I see those oh-so-perfectly coiffed men’s hairdos from the 70s. I’m just marveling at the Bay City Rollers-meet-Jesus-freakiness of some of these hairy head shots, presumably taken from men’s hair magazines from the early to mid 70s. Imagine the time and effort it took to perfect these amazing looks on a daily basis? How awesome the 1970s must have been.

I wonder if when these styles will make a comeback and push aside the already passé hipster man bun? History always repeats itself. (Except for powdered wigs. That’s not gonna happen.) Trust me, you’re going to see these styles again if ain’t happening already as I type this. And I can’t wait.


 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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