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David Olère: The Auschwitz artist who documented the Holocaust
03.07.2017
11:33 am

Topics:
Art
History

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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

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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

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History
Music

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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
02.27.2017
10:17 am

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Amusing
Art
History

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“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
02.24.2017
09:07 am

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Art
Books
History
Movies

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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
The art of mourning: Vintage wreaths & other memorial keepsakes made with the hair of the dead
02.21.2017
10:22 am

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Art
History
R.I.P.

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A depiction of a French cemetery scene in a mourning dome made with human hair from 1881.

Memorial artifacts that were made or contained the hair of the recently deceased is a mourning tradition that dates as far back as the 1600s. As a matter of fact, a place in Independence, Missouri that claims to be the “only hair museum in the world” Leila’s Hair Museum is in possession of a Swedish mourning brooch by that dates to 1640. Works of art made from hair were actually a pretty common thread throughout the world and while not all were intended to symbolize a person’s passing, the examples featured in this post were.

During the Victorian era, owning mementos made with or containing hair was a way of life. Some families would create a hair wreath using hair from every member of their family which were used as a family tree of sorts and utilizing the hair as a way to communicate details about their lineage. Even churches were known to create hair wreaths created by donations from members of their congregations. Mourning wreaths would generally be constructed in a distinct half-moon style to convey that the deceased had begun the journey to the afterlife. Though they are in every sense of the word macabre, they are also intricate, intimate works of art.
 

A close look at a memorial hair dome created in 1886.
 

A mourning hair wreath made with human hair, wire, and wood. Approximately 1850-1900.

More mourning wreaths after the jump…

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Live! from Capitol Hill: Bertolt Brecht’s Folkways LP
02.17.2017
07:24 am

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Art
History
Literature
Politics

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On October 30, 1947, Bertolt Brecht gave a command performance for Congress. The House Un-American Activities Committee summoned the German playwright, poet, and Doors lyricist to the Cannon House Office Building to examine him about matters of the direst urgency and the gravest possible consequence to the Republic, such as the name of the leading actor in Hangmen Also Die! and the lyrics to Brecht’s song “In Praise of Learning.” By what vile, McCarthyist tactics they extorted from Brecht these most closely held secrets of the Third International, I dare not print.

The recording is presented by the critic Eric Bentley, whose narration bridges edits in the tape and provides historical context. Like most Folkways records, the LP comes with a booklet; this one reproduces the transcript of Brecht’s testimony and Bentley’s voiceover along with a facsimile of the hand-corrected statement Brecht prepared for the occasion but was not allowed to read. From the booklet’s introduction:

It is an encounter that rivals in drama some of the great trial scenes in Brecht’s plays, and it will fascinate equally both those interested in Brecht and those interested in the HUAC.

Although tantalizing fragments of the recording have been heard in Brecht on Brecht, and the complete transcript has been printed by the government, this is the first time that the encounter has been brought to the public. Bertolt Brecht’s voice was recorded few times in any language, and this is almost certainly the only recording of Brecht speaking English.

You know you’re talking about an old record when its subtitle includes the phrase “an historic encounter” (or, in the cover artist’s words, “an historical encounter”). But the interests of these ghosts’ voices, speaking in the Caucus Room 70 years ago, are not so remote. Over a decade before this engagement, Brecht had addressed Germans’ perplexity about truth in politics under the Nazis and what the Führer really believed in his heart in “On the Question of Whether Hitler Is Being Honest,” which cut the Gordian knot in its concluding sentences:

Certainly, Hitler could be honest and mean well, and yet still objectively be Germany’s worst enemy. But he is not honest.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
That time the ‘world’s dumbest’ terrorist blew up the Rolling Stones’ equipment
02.16.2017
01:10 pm

Topics:
Crime
History
Music

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Despite what recent political rhetoric would have you believe, terrorism is hardly the sole property of Muslims from the Middle East. Timothy McVeigh and his pals blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the left-wing Red Army Faction in Germany killed as many as 34 people in multiple incidents, and the Weather Underground destroyed the sub-basement furnace room of a townhouse on West 11th Street in 1970. One can multiply the examples.

Indeed, depending on the time and place, there have been terrorist incidents where the most likely suspects—the suspects many would have instantly guessed—were radical French separatists in Canada. Such a case occurred in the summer of 1972 during the Rolling Stones’ legendary American Tour that year, when a bomb destroyed part of a truck and several speakers of the group’s gear several hours before a gig.
 

New Musical Express, July 22, 1972
 
Rolling Stone reported at the time:
 

The two equipment vans had arrived from Toronto and were parked on a ramp at the Montreal Forum. The dynamite blast that exploded under the ramp blew out a slew of windows in a nearby apartment and the cones of 30 speakers inside one of the trucks.

“Whoever it was was the world’s dumbest bomber,” said press agent Gary Stromberg. “First he put the bomb under the ramp instead of the truck, and the other truck was the one with most of the stuff inside.”

 
Air Canada bumped luggage from a flight out of Los Angeles to accommodate the replacement cones, and the show was able to go on just 45 minutes later than planned. However, some sort of unrelated snafu left 3,000 disappointed Stones fans outside the venue without a ticket—they proceeded to engage in significant civil unrest, including pelting the building and police with rocks, wine, beer bottles, and bricks. Jagger himself was hit by a flying bottle inside the venue.

In his essential book S.T.P.: A Journey Through America with the Rolling Stones, Robert Greenfield provides this account:
 

Later that night the phone rings in Peter Rudge’s room. He picks it up, talks for a while, then begins making phone calls. “Rudge-O here,” he tells Gary Stromberg. “This is rather important. Could you come down to the hall? We’ve been bombed.”

Some person (or persons) has placed one to three sticks of dynamite underneath one of the trucks. Fortunately, it is the one that holds the steel loading ramp, so all it does is blow a four-by-eight hole in the bottom of the truck, disintegrate the ramp, and destroy all the cones in the speakers. The driver, who usually sleeps in the rig, is off somewhere, which saves him from at least a heart attack, if not actual death. All of the windows are broken in the apartment buildings on the street facing the Forum where the truck is parked.

The street is roped off. The police are making diagrams and gathering shards and pieces and a very French Sergeant de Detectif is in charge. Rudge persists in calling him “captain.” Someone says to him, “Certainly this is the work of one of your French separatists.”

“OH NO M’SEIU!” he replies with classic Gallic outrage. “C’est une American draft dodgeur. Zey are all over. Zey come up here with impunity.”

-snip-

The bomb at the Forum was just the first of four timed to go off at intervals during the day. They wake Jagger up to tell him about it. “Who did it?” he asks sleepily. No one knows. “Well,” he yawns, “why the fuck didn’t they leave a note?”

But he’s shook. The French separatists, it is well known, are cray-zee. They’ll stop at nothing, and all day long he keeps referring to the event uneasily, worried that they plan to pull something off at the show. But the show itself goes off peacefully, the bomb squad having turned the building upside down more than once. Outside the hall, the kids and the cops get down to it and fourteen people are injured, thirteen arrested, and a TV news cruiser is set on fire. UPI, in an inspired piece of fiction, reports that the Stones leave the Forum by means of a helicopter that takes off from the roof and circles the crowd announcing, “THEY HAVE LEFT THE BUILDING: GO HOME” in both French and English.

 
This difficult stretch of the tour was by no means over with. The very next day, in Rhode Island, the Stones’ entourage got into a fight with photographer Andy Dickerman, landing Jagger and Richards in jail.

New Musical Express image courtesy of the Library and Archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Grim postcards of executions and dead bodies from the Mexican Revolution 1910-17
02.16.2017
10:23 am

Topics:
Class War
History
Politics

Tags:

00mexpostexecution.jpg
 
The Mexican Revolution began as a middle-class protest against the oppressive dictatorship of the country’s President Porfirio Diaz (1876-1911). In 1910, wealthy landowner Francisco I. Madero (1873-1913) stood against Diaz in the presidential election. The election was rigged by Diaz and his cronies who then attempted to have Madero arrested and imprisoned. Madero escaped to San Antonio, Texas, where he wrote Plan de San Luis (Plan of San Luis de Potosí), a political pamphlet that denounced Diaz explaining why he should no longer be president.

Madero’s Plan was a rallying cry that asked the Mexican people to rise up against Diaz on Sunday, November 20, 1910, at 6:00 pm and overthrow his government. This is how the Mexican Revolution began. What followed was a bloody and ferocious civil war and one of the greatest upheavals of the 20th century. An estimated 1.5 million people died. Two-hundred-thousand were made refugees.

During the revolution (1910-20) hundreds of commercial and amateur photographers documented the events on both sides of the war.

Using glass plate cameras and early cut film cameras, primitive by today’s standards, the photographers faced injury and death to obtain negatives which would be printed on postcard stock and sold to the soldiers and general public on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border. Some of the views were obviously posed, and others showed the death and destruction resulting from the violence of a nation involved in a bloody civil war.

The following postcards are part of a collection held by the Southern Methodist University archive.
 
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More postcards from the Mexican Revolution, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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