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The first screen James Bond was NOT Sean Connery, it was an American actor named Barry Nelson!


Barry Nelson, the “original” James Bond, seated at left

Although this will probably not come as too much of a surprise to fanatical James Bond fanboys, the very first time 007 was portrayed onscreen it was by an American actor named Barry Nelson! Yep, a Yank James Bond, as seen on a live 1954 television adaptation of Casino Royale that was part of a CBS adventure series called Climax!

For the live CBS broadcast, Ian Fleming was paid just $1000 for the rights to his novel. Co-starring with Nelson as the villainous “Le Chiffre” was none other than Peter Lorre, whose typically weasley malevolence is the real reason to watch this (as always, Peter Lorre is great in this role). There’s a “Felix Leiter” character, but he’s the British agent and he’s called “Clarence.”

To add to this topsy-turvy Anglo-American sacrilege, Nelson’s not-so-suave Bond (he’s just terrible and horribly miscast) is referred to as “Jimmy” several times! Jimmy!    (When Casino Royale was made into the 1967 spy movie spoof, Woody Allen’s character, the wimpy nephew of David Niven’s Sir James Bond, was also called “Jimmy Bond.”)

This production was presumed to have been lost since its original 1954 live telecast, until an incomplete version on a kinescope was uncovered by film historian Jim Schoenberger in 1981 and aired as part of a TBS James Bond marathon. Eventually the entire show was located (minus a few seconds of credits) and MGM included it as a DVD extra on their release of the 1967 Casino Royale.

An urban legend persisted for years that following his death scene, Peter Lorre got up an walked to his dressing room, unaware that he was still in the shot, but this was debunked by Snopes.com. (The story had more than a grain of truth in it, this DID actually happen, but it was on a different live televised episode of Climax!)
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Psychedelic ‘Flower power’ PEZ dispensers inspired by the Summer of Love
04.04.2014
06:40 am

Topics:
Food
History

Tags:
hippies
Pez

Psychedelic PEZ
 
Ah, PEZ, you bewitching sweet Austrian treat with your collectible mechanical pocket dispensers. Is there any trend or franchise you can’t coopt? The fantastic dispensers pictured here came out in 1968 and were created to tie into the “Flower Power” of the Summer of Love that had just happened a year earlier. (1968 would be a considerably darker year, but the dispensers still fit in fine.) There was a “flower” design and a “hand” design; both featured eyeballs. [Could these have inspired The Residents to adopt their trademark eyeball masks?]

According to Nina Chertoff and Susan Kahn in Celebrating PEZ, the flower flavor didn’t go over very well:
 

When psychedelic eyes were produced in the 1960s, [Eduard Haas, founder of the PEZ company] insisted that the candies be flower flavored to tie in with the “flower power” theme of the times. Their taste was unpopular, and they were finally pulled off the market.

 
Oh well. Wikipedia lists “Flower” alongside “Chlorophyll Mint,” “Coffee,” and “Yogurt” as one of eight “retired” PEZ flavors. Aren’t you curious what it tasted like?

They came out in 1968 and there was a limited reissue in the late 1990s—available by through a mail-in offer only—but I can’t tell the difference. Experts can, I presume. An original “Psychedelic Hand” model with a black hand can go for more than $500.

You can buy a pretty groovy mug with a “psychedelic PEZ” motif on it.
 
Flower Power PEZ
 
Flower Power PEZ
 
Flower Power PEZ
 
Flower Power PEZ
 
I know this is a total cliché, but here’s a Christian song in the new wave style called “Love Dispenser” with a stop-motion animated video, done with PEZ. It’s actually not bad!
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Stupid Club’: Thousands gather to grieve for Kurt Cobain in Seattle park, 1994
04.03.2014
12:24 pm

Topics:
History
Music
Pop Culture
R.I.P.

Tags:
Kurt Cobain


 
As we near the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death—the Nirvana leader killed himself on April 5, 1994—this morning the Seattle Police Department released two new crime scene photographs that give gruesome glimpses at his final moments.  His body was found on the morning of April 8, 1994 by an electrician named Gary Smith who had been hired to do some maintenance work at Cobain’s Lake Washington home. One photo shows Cobain’s wrist with a hospital ID bracelet, while the other shows his lifeless Converse-clad foot beside a box of bullets:
 

 

 
If you are of a certain age, it’s likely you’ll recall where you were when you heard the news. Thousands of grieving young fans in Seattle felt the need to be together to try to make sense of what had occurred. In “Stupid Club,” this fascinating short documentary from 1994, we meet several of them and it’s pretty interesting stuff, historically, sociologically speaking, whatever. Some of it’s sad, some of it is just goofy.

Worth noting is that the title “Stupid Club” refers to something that Cobain’s mother said in the wake of his suicide:

“Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club, I told him not to join that stupid club.”

Conspiracy theorists at the time—well, at least the ones not claiming that he had been murdered by Courtney Love—speculated that the “stupid club” his mother Wendy was alluding to is the “27 Club” of dead rock stars who never made it to to the age of 28 (Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Canned Heat’s Alan Wilson) but she was most likely referring to two of Kurt’s uncles, and a great uncle, who had killed themselves.
 

 
Thank you kindly, Reginald Harkema!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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London Underground: Early counterculture doc with Paul McCartney, Allen Ginsberg, Pink Floyd


 
Granada Television produced this fascinating TV time capsule “It’s So Far Out It’s Straight Down” as a special part of their Scene at 6:30 series. The program focused on the young counterculture / hippie scene in London and features Miles, the Indica Gallery and the editorial board of The International Times underground newspaper. Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and Lawrence Ferlinghetti are seen at the International Poetry Incarnation and we are taken to The UFO Club where Syd Barrett and the Pink Floyd are playing a live version of “Interstellar Overdrive” (Also heard on the soundtrack is an early version of their “Matilda Mother,” then called “Percy The Ratcatcher” and “It Can’t Happen Here” by The Mothers of Invention).

Paul McCartney is a talking head interviewee (although not framed as such) in the studio, intelligently discussing the nascent underground scene. Macca was an active part of the London underground, financially supporting the Indica Gallery and bookstore—he even built the bookshelves himself—and IT. McCartney, the Beatle who soaked up cutting-edge culture and avant garde influences long before the rest of them did, is seen in four segments during the show, and as a wealthy, intelligent and well-respected person representing the counterculture to people who might fear it, as you’ll see, he knocks the ball straight out of the park:

If you don’t know anything about it [the counterculture], you can sort of trust that it’s probably gonna be all right and it’s probably not that bad because it’s human beings doing it, and you know vaguely what human beings do. And they’re probably going to think of it nearly the same way you would in that situation.

The straights should welcome the underground because it stands for freedom… It’s not strange it’s just new, it’s not weird, it’s just what’s going on around.

“It’s So Far Out It’s Straight Down” was broadcast in March of 1967, so it’s pre-Summer of Love. The time seems so pregnant with promise. This is the exact moment, historically speaking, when pop culture went from B&W and shades of gray to vivid color. If you put yourself in the mind of a kid from the north of England watching something like this on television during that era, it’s easy to see how this film would have brought tens of thousands of young people into London seeking to find these forward-thinking cultural movers and shakers to become part of “the happening” themselves.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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What if the Nazis had won? A 1960s top 40 radio sampler
03.28.2014
10:54 am

Topics:
Games
History
Music
Science/Tech

Tags:
Nazis
1960s


 
Alternate history is a fascinating genre of fiction. You have your anachronistic nostalgia, like steampunk, but that tends to be largely aesthetic, and I’m not that into parasols or goggles. (Also, the glorification of less technology tends to overlook some really inconvenient historical realities, like how inefficient steam power actually was.) I prefer my alternate histories to be horrifying dystopias, and “what if the Nazis won?” certainly fits the bill. There are some critically acclaimed novels based on that very premise—Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle,  Robert Harris’ Fatherland, and Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, but this has to be the first time a video game has been set in a world where Hitler triumphed.

The Wolfenstein video game franchise has produced nine editions in total (the original in 1981), all of which are based on fighting Nazis. The latest incarnation, Wolfenstein: The New Order, takes place in the 1960s, where the player navigates a Nazi-controlled Europe in hopes of launching a counter-offensive against the regime. What appeals to me, of course, is the custom-made soundtrack—the “commercial” below is for a compilation of the 1960s “Nazi pop” that will play throughout the game.

The pre-order for Wolfenstein also includes a package of “artifacts,” like postcards and military patches, but it’s the soundtrack that really establishes the mood for a game. There’s prom-worthy slow-dances, bubblegum pop, growling rockabilly, beach-blanket bingo surf rock, and even some Teutonic psychedelia. You can listen to the whole thing here. I feel like the fact that I speak absolutely no German actually frees up my ear to recognize the attention to sonic detail.
 

 
Via A.V. Club

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Treat yourself to that real working guillotine you’ve always wanted!


 
If you’re going to stage a coup d’etat, you need to make a bold statement to the populace that you’re not playing around, and what says “DO NOT TRIFLE WITH THE NEW ORDER” like public executions? Trouble is, modern methods like lethal injection are too painless and clinical to satisfy the bloodlust of a proper mob, so how’s a budding dictator to quash dissent?

Auctioneer Francois-Xavier Duflos of Nantes, France may have your execution solution. Via The Local:

A working French guillotine is expected to fetch up to €60,000 [about $83,500 USD] when it goes under the hammer on Thursday in the western French city of Nantes. 

The wood, iron, steel and brass relic, synonymous with the French Revolution, was used to execute people in the second half of the 19th century.

The blade of the guillotine bears the inscription ‘Armees de la Republique,” a reference to the Revolutionary Army that was created to defend France from its neighbors in the aftermath of the 1789 French Revolution.

“It was used by the army, it was assembled and disassembled,” Duflos told Europe 1. “It has certainly known several battlefields.”

 

 
“It was used by the army” surely means that people met their doom on this very machine, right? How could it be otherwise? Though the devices are most closely associated in the world’s consciousness with Maximilien de Robespierre’s excesses in the French Revolution, France used guillotines as their primary method of execution until 1977.

Bidding begins on Thursday. Good luck.

This 2004 interview with France’s last living guillotine executioner is mercifully bereft of any actual beheading footage. Its subject only speaks French, but if you turn the captions on, they’re not only in English, they’re sometimes wrong in amusing ways.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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‘Juden Raus’: Nazi-era anti-Semitic board game where you deport the Jews

Juden Raus!
 
Who would have guessed that the Holocaust wouldn’t make for a perfectly peachy board game for the little German children of the Third Reich? As it turns out, getting rid of all the Jews just isn’t that much fun. (Of course, given sound game design principles, just about anything can be made fun, but foregrounding one’s own small-minded intolerance and hatred and desire to exile a minority group is probably not the first step in that creative process.)

In 1935 the Nuremberg Laws were passed in Germany—these laws codified the desire of the Nazis, at a minimum, to segregate Jews from all areas of public life. In effect the laws—which communicated the idea, “You’re not wanted here!”—were a powerful argument for accelerated out-migration. Those Jews who could afford it and who also avoided the tragic tendency to rationalize away the hatred directed towards them, got the point, and left if they hadn’t already done so. As the years ticked by, the urgency of getting some kind of exit visa would only increase.

A year after the Nuremberg Laws, a company called Günther & Co. released a Parcheesi-style board game; its title was one of the ugliest phrases in human history—Juden Raus! The title is best translated as, “Jews, Get Out” or possibly “Get Rid of the Jews” depending on your conception of agency, and is the most succinct possible expression of the official German attitude towards Jews under the Third Reich. (The word “official” is important here. Anti-Semitism was certainly popular enough to become a key pillar of the ideology of the state, but just as Tea Partiers don’t like Obamacare, not all Germans were equally afflicted by the disease.)
 
Juden Raus!
“Juden Raus! Das Neue Gesellschafts-Spiel” (“Out with the Jews! The Game of the New Society”)
 
In the game, young Germans across the Reich were encouraged, in what practically seems a parodic Firesign Theatre-style intervention, to move the six “Jew” game pieces around the board in such a way as to secure them on spots outside the metaphorical “wall” of the German state such that they would be transported “Auf nach Palästina!” (Off to Palestine!). Each game piece came with a conical “dunce”-style cap with a grotesque Jewish caricature on it. On the board itself were two little pieces of doggerel that helped explain the goal of the game: Zeige geschick im Würfelspiel, damit du sammelst der Juden viel! (“Show skill in this dice game, so that you gather up all the Jews!”) and Gelingt es Dir 6 Juden rauszujagen, so bist Du Sieger ohne zu fragen! (“If you succeed in chasing six Jews out, you’re the winner, without a doubt!”) At a guess, the inherently cooperative nature of something like the Holocaust interferes with the competitive imperatives of a good board game. In other words, how did the game work, exactly? If I exile three Jews and you exile just two, then I win? It doesn’t quite make sense.
 
Juden Raus!
“Off to Palestine with you, little Jew!”
 
Surprisingly, the best evidence we have suggests that the Nazis themselves didn’t like the game. Why? Because it had the effect of trivializing such the, er, “noble” task of purifying Germany. In one of the most remarkable bits of prose I have ever read, the Nazi newspaper Das Schwarze Korps in December 1938 published a brief review in which they sharply criticized the game.
 

This invention ... is almost a punishable idea, perfectly suitable as grist to the mills of hate of the international Jewish journaille, who would show around such a piece of mischief as a proof for the childish efforts of the nazistic Jew-haters with a diabolic smirk, if it would appear before her crooked nose.

-snip-

Jews out! yes of course, but also rapidly out of the toy-boxes of our children, before they are led into the dreadful error that political problems are solved with the dice cup.


 
In a recent academic paper about the game, which they aptly label “History’s most infamous board game,” Andrew Morris-Friedman and Ulrich Schädler get in the final word:
 

What insights are achieved from “Juden Raus!” about Nazi culture? It is hard to imagine a family sitting at a table playing a game that taught racial hatred. Yet it seems there were people like Rudolf Fabricius who imagined that some families would do just that. Fabricius was one of those mere supporters who thought to make some profit by following in the wake of Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda. Today most people react with disbelief or disgust when informed of the game’s existence. “Juden Raus!” shows that after decades of propaganda, anti-Semitism was so deeply rooted in German society in the 1930s, that someone thought it would be a good subject for a children’s game. Racism is present in many board games, but “Juden Raus!” is unique in its portrayal of how racism manifests itself in society and is a terrifying example of the banality of evil.

 
In my research for this post, I stumbled across a more contemporary attempt to depict the full horror of the Holocaust in the form of a board game. Brenda Brathwaite’s 2009 game Train turned the task of loading little yellow people onto trains for some undisclosed final destination, with the reveal, late in the game, that the destination is actually Auschwitz, although the game’s suitably grim visual design gives the punchline away well before that point is attained.
 
Train
 
Here’s a 2009 video from The Wall Street Journal about Brathwaite’s game Train:
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The first kiss ever filmed was between two women, and shot by a murderer
03.14.2014
10:01 am

Topics:
Art
History

Tags:
photography


 
As long as we’re all watching black and white videos of strangers kissing, (and now their X-rated parodies), why don’t we take a stroll down memory lane to the very first filmed kiss, shot by groundbreaking English photographer, Eadweard Muybridge, sometime between 1872 and 1885. The kiss was (gasp) between two women, but lest your prurient interests get the better of you, remember that Victorian culture didn’t really “get” lesbianism, and the nudity was to aid in Muybridge’s dedicated study of motion. From the Muybridge online archives:

While the Victorians were extremely sexually prudish by modern standards and commonly considered male homosexuality a serious threat to their society they believed women had little or no sex drive. Therefore the possibility of lesbianism was commonly ignored.

Because of Victorian sexual taboos Muybridge was not able to photograph men and women naked together and was only able to publish images of naked men together engaging in sports or work. Because he was free to show women naked together he used female models when he wanted to show two people engaging in ordinary activities. In many plates he had one of the women assume a typically male role and these are the plates which today we tend to perceive as homo-erotic.

You can see photos from the series below, as well as Muybridge’s “movie,” The Kiss. Of course, this was well before the invention of the motion picture camera—he simply set up a rig of rapidly firing cameras in sequence.

Fun fact: Muybridge actually shot and killed his wife’s lover, a man called Major Harry Larkyns, upon learning that he may have fathered their seven-month-old son. Muybridge actually tracked the guy down and said,  “Good evening, Major, my name is Muybridge and here’s the answer to the letter you sent my wife,” right before shooting him, point blank. Larkyns died that night, and Muybridge was arrested. He pleaded insanity on account of a 12 year old head head injury. While the jury dismissed the insanity plea, they actually acquitted him for justifiable homicide. Muybridge and his wife divorced, she died, the son was sent to an orphanage, and though Muybridge paid the boy’s childhood expenses, he did not maintain contact.

So to review: Shooting people who sleep with your wife—ok. Women and men being filmed together—very not ok. That’s those wacky Victorians for you!
 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘Without the Girls, Show Biz Is No Biz’: Gordon Parks’ gorgeous color images of showgirls at work
03.11.2014
12:23 pm

Topics:
Art
Dance
Fashion
History

Tags:
Showgirls
Gordon Parks


 
Celebrated LIFE magazine photographer Gordon Parks shot these around Christmastime in 1958. They were used in a 200-page special issue on the glories and absurdities of American entertainment. Parks’ series was titled “Without the Girls, Show Biz Is No Biz.”

They’re soft focus and oh so beautiful. Very much like a Edgar Degas piece when he painted ballet dancers.


 

 

 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Shrek in the orgone box: William Steig’s misanthropic drawings for Wilhelm Reich


 
Cartoonist William Steig is beloved, and rightly so. Starting in the 1930s, his thousands of New Yorker panels (and over 100 covers) made him a giant in the cartooning world, and showed him to be an astute observer and renderer of human nature and the consequences of social class conditions (and a gifted ironist, to boot). His late-in-life career detour into children’s books yielded classics like CDB!, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and the completely awesome Rotten Island. Then in 1990, he wrote a little 32 page book about an ogre named Shrek, which has been adapted into four massively successful films (so far) and more video game spinoffs than I feel like trying to count. Steig’s gifts were lost to us in 2003, when he died at age 95.

A bit of trivia: Steig was a devotee of the controversial theories of Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich.
 

Wilhelm Reich, after an apparent encounter with David Lynch’s barber
 
There is plenty to read online about Reich, both pro and con, so I will not go into great depth here. Reich was a psychotherapy pioneer, an associate of Freud’s in the 1920s, who went on to adopt some extreme positions. He was blindingly obsessed with the importance of orgasmic potency, and advocated levels of sexual permissiveness that alienated many of his contemporaries. Reich’s later career was devoted to the exploration of a cosmic energy that linked physical and mental/emotional health, “discovered” by and apparently detectable only to him, that he dubbed “orgone.” This led to his construction of supposedly therapeutic devices like the “orgone accumulator,” and “orgone cannons” (“cloudbusters”) that he claimed could be used as rainmaking devices. None of these claims have withstood scientific scrutiny, but they still have impassioned devotees.

US government medical authorities, believing Reich to be not misguided, but in fact a fraudster, won legal injunctions against the distribution of orgone accumulators as unlicensed medical devices in 1954. In 1956, Reich was imprisoned for violating that injunction, and, in one of the most notorious and singularly revolting episodes of official censorship in US history, the government supervised the burning of six tons of Reich’s books, devices, and clinical notes. Reich died in prison before he finished serving his two-year sentence, which, combined with the book burning, made a martyr of him among the types of people who think they can build perpetual motion machines in their garages and those knee-jerky “libertarian” paranoiacs who assume that anything that’s been suppressed MUST BE TRUE. However, despite Reich’s pariah status, there are ideas worth discussing in works like The Mass Psychology of Fascism and The Function of the Orgasm, among others. The title of his 1936 work The Sexual Revolution was certainly prophetic enough.
 

 
Reich and Steig’s works converged in 1949, when, frustrated that his work wasn’t being taken seriously by mainstream science (also a lil’ frustrated that he wasn’t being hailed as a savior of mankind), Reich penned an amazing and engaging screed denouncing the pettiness and stupidity of humanity, called Listen, Little Man! In it, he lambasted humanity for what he, with plentiful justification, saw as an overwhelming laziness in people, who eagerly favored their herd instincts over their greater potential, collaborating in the self-defeating destruction not just of society, but of the species itself, and so become less victim than harbinger. In the wake of WWII (ethnically a Jew, Reich fled Europe in the ‘30s), he saw little in the defeat of the Nazis to convince him that people weren’t just embracing different reasons to goose-step. The book loses some of its potency when you realize that he’s mainly so upset with people because his theories were being rejected, so ultimately you’re reading a self-mythologizing, self-pitying lashing out, a lengthy screed not unlike Bela Lugosi’s famous “I have no home” speech in Bride of the Monster. It’s still a great read if you’re in a misanthropic mood, and it contains wonderful artwork by William Steig.
 

 
Steig had skillfully handled this sort of content before, in his own books About People, The Lonely Ones, and Persistent Faces. Inspired by Picasso and Klee, he abandoned the relatively realistic brush-and-ink drawings that shaped his early fame and moved towards a more stark, abstract style, at once loopy and angular, obeisant only to the emotional truth of a character. And his assessments of wayward humanity became more and more brutal and incisive. This work was caricature as revelation. In his introduction to The Lonely Ones the great New Yorker writer Wolcott Gibbs wrote

Mr. Steig offers us a series of impressions of people set off from the rest of the world by certain private obsessions, usually, it seems, by a devotion to some particularly disastrous clichéd thought or behavior. They are not necessarily unhappy. Some of them, in fact, are obviously only too well pleased with themselves…

Righty Reich…

The illustrations in Listen, Little Man! are obviously well within this particular body of Steig’s work, and they constitute some of its most trenchant examples. It seems clear that this style of Steig’s was shaped to a degree by his therapeutic relationship and friendship with Reich—Steig even wrote the preface to Reich’s Children of the Future. Steig’s follow-up to Listen, The Agony in the Kindergarten, was absolutely a Reichian work, in which Steig BLASTED, with breathtakingly powerful pairings of pain-filled drawings and simple captions, the way Western childhood development can be pockmarked or even derailed by adult repression. Which invariably leads to the cultivation of grownups like those in Listen Little Man!, who really are just awful, awful people.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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