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Yakuza: Beautiful hand-painted vintage portraits of tattooed Japanese gangsters
02.22.2016
11:35 am

Topics:
Art
Belief
History

Tags:

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I had never heard of the Yakuza until I tuned in one night to a Robert Mitchum movie back in the 1970s. Here was big Bob dealing with bad boy Japanese gangsters in a clash of east meets west. The film was simply titled The Yakuza. It was written by brothers Leonard and Paul Schrader—their first hit screenplay and one in which can be seen some of the themes they would later develop individually and together in movies like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Mishima. I liked the film and was greatly intrigued by the rituals depicted in it and the code of honor by which these dangerous, violent gangsters lived their lives.

One ritual in particular, the chopping off of the top of the small finger as a payment or apology for any wrong-doing, I thought bizarre and hardly punishment at all until I later discovered its historic symbolism. The removal of the tip made it difficult for an individual to hold their samurai sword. The sword was gripped tight by the bottom three fingers while flexibility and movement was produced by index finger and thumb. To lose a chunk of a fingertip or the whole pinky was ultimately a death sentence—as the punished yakuza would eventually be unable to defend themselves in a fight.

The film also picked up on the awesome body tattoos these way heavy gangsters sported. Whole bodies decorated with elaborate illustrations of beautiful maidens, tranquil landscapes, and grinning demons. Like bad boy superheroes, these guys could walk around in their suits and ties all day and no one would know they were Yakuza. Come nightfall, in the comfort of their own gangland den, the clothes would come off and the tatts would be displayed.

These tattoos or irezumi as they’re called in Japan—a word that literally mean insert ink—were originally representative of an individual’s spirituality or biography. This lasted for a good two-three thousand years. Then around the Kofun era (330-600AD), tattoos were considered a symbol of being criminal or lower class. Their popularity fluctuated until tattooing was outlawed sometime around the Meiji era (1868-1912), when Japan moved from a feudal world into a unified country. Tattoos were seen as an embarrassing symbol of Japan’s uncivilised past. The practice moved underground—continued by criminal gangs, who tattooed the unexposed parts of their bodies. Hence the all-over body tattoos many yakuza carry to this day on their skin. These tattoos are “hand-poked”—that is the ink is put under the skin by using sharpened bamboo spears or small handmade needles. It is a long, painful and laborious process but one that most yakuza accept as part of the ritual of being a gang member.

The Meiji era also brought an end to the samurai warriors, who were outlawed and conscripted into the army. Some chose to join the yakuza instead—as many yakuza had fought alongside samurai for local shoguns. The issue of body tattoos becomes complicated as there were samurai who sported such irezumi as a means of identification should they be killed on the battlefield. As samurais faded, the criminal fraternity thrived. Today yakuza play a major role in Japan—both in criminal activity (prostitution, money laundering, people trafficking) and legitimately in media and politics. The yakuza keep drugs out of Japan, they also organize charity and aid relief for disaster victims. Most Japanese accept the yakuza as a necessary part of national life. Each yakuza family or gang have their own set of rules and regulations which differ group to group and gang to gang.

These hand-painted photographs from the late 1800s and early 1900s depict members of the yakuza displaying their gang related tattoos. Some have posed in relation to their standing within the gang, most have kept their faces hidden, but each has a different style of tattoo inked on their body.
 
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More vintage yakuza tattoos, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The air hostess with the mostest: Awesome images of vintage stewardess uniforms
02.22.2016
08:51 am

Topics:
Fashion
History

Tags:


 
I’ve always dug old school airline flight attendant uniforms. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia of being a kid and totally excited about going to the airport and hopping on a plane. When you asked for a can of Coke, you got it. An entire can.

These days I dread the experience of going to the airport as much as I dread tax season. I hate it. It’s miserable for me, filled with lots anxiety and zero patience. Flying used to be glamourous! Now a flight is like getting on a bus… an air bus. Soon they’ll have you standing in the aisles, mark my words!

I like to look at these old photos and remember a time when traveling wasn’t an experience from hell. Oh, and when flight attendants looked as cool as shit.
 

 

Early 1970s Braniff International Airways photo
 

Southwest Airlines, 1970s
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
The book that could kill someone
02.17.2016
04:33 pm

Topics:
Activism
History
Politics

Tags:


 
For intellectuals and leftists in continental Europe, the year 1968 has an iconic significance that it lacks in the United States and Great Britain. In France and Germany (as well as other places) the year was dominated by violent student uprisings, and to this day people are prone to identifying one another as being in or out of the group by just saying the all-important number 68: In Germany “ein 68er” is someone who developed a political consciousness during that pivotal summer. If you were born too early or too late to take part, well, tough titty, you missed out. The German student movement is interchangeably called the 68er-Bewegung, the movement of the ‘68-ers.

It’s now necessary to remind readers that when it comes to the German protest movement of the 1960s, we’re referring to West Germany, what was then known as the Federal Republic of Germany.
 

 
Born in Hamburg, Uwe Wandrey definitely qualifies as an ‘68-er par excellence. After getting trained as a shipwright in the late 1950s, he joined the army for a while and then enrolled at he University of Hamburg specializing in Germanistik (basically literature), and history and philosophy. In 1966 he founded a small independent press called the Quer Verlag (nothing to do with “queer,” the term Quer means “across” but also “oblique,” “askew,” etc.).

In 1968 he published a small volume called Kampfreime (War Rhymes), which is one of the few books in publishing history that was explicitly intended to be used in a confrontational protest context. It was small enough to fit in one’s pocket, and the edge of its metal sheath could be used to inflict damage of various types, not only against the bodily flesh of riot police, God forbid, but also for instance, to pry away the posters of the big bourgeois advertisements papering the walls where you would like to paste or scrawl your favored political message instead.
 

SHIT ON THE GERMAN FATHERLAND / RECRUIT THE RESISTANCE
 
Adam Davis at Spineless and Stapled writes:
 

I’ve often been told that the pen (and by extension, the book) is mightier than the sword. But what if the book is the sword?

Uwe Wandrey’s Kampfreime is a collection of rhymed chants meant for use during the German Student Movement. As far as my research can tell, it is also the first book to be designed as a weapon, and as such is a landmark in book design.

The book is small. It can be easily slipped into a protestor’s pocket. The chants are arranged thematically. The red card section dividers make it easy, presumably, to flip to the right chant even under the duress of a violent protest. The book takes full advantage of secrecy and random access - perhaps the two most historically useful aspects of the codex form.

The sharp fore edge of both of the aluminum boards extend about a quarter of an inch past the fore edge of the text. The book elegantly solves the structural problems inherent in a metal binding in that the upper board is curved at a 90 degree angle at the spine, while the lower board lies flat and is buttressed against the inward curve of the upper. Thus the book lies flat, yet is easily opened.

-snip-

Kampfreime had another use as well.

The business end of a book was also intended to tear away posters, flyers, advertisements - to clear an open space in an encroaching universe of bourgeoisie paper. After all, one of the main targets of the student protest was the Axel Springer publishing house. It belongs in the same lineage as another brilliantly designed book which in many ways laid a framework for the ‘68 protests—Guy Debord, Asger Jorn, and V.O. Permild’s psychogeographical masterpiece Memoires, which featured a sandpaper dust jacket to destroy any book it was shelved against.

 

FOR BANNERS, WALLS, WOODEN FENCES, STONE WALLS, POSTERS, LEAFLETS, WALL NEWSPAPERS, CHALKBOARDS, AND TO BE CHANTED IN UNISON // GENERAL-POLITICAL / BUSINESS / ARMY / SCHOOL / UNIVERSITY / MORAL LIFE / TOOL
 

 
Read on, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Is this footage of a 21-year-old Bernie Sanders getting arrested in 1963?
02.17.2016
09:04 am

Topics:
Activism
Heroes
History
Politics
Race
U.S.A.!!!

Tags:


This sure looks like my Bernie to me.

Yesterday on the In These Times website, Miles Kampf-Lassin alerted readers to a newly posted video that purports to be of a young Bernie Sanders getting arrested at a civil rights protest against school segregation in Chicago in 1963. The future Vermont Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate was then just a 21-year-old student at the University of Chicago.

Clearly—if this footage is indeed Bernie Sanders and it sure looks like him to me, he was rather a distinctive-looking fellow even in his younger years—then this is visual proof positive that Sanders has been consistent in his beliefs—and fighting the good fight—for his entire adult life. And yes, this was back when a young Hillary Clinton was a confirmed “Goldwater girl.” Feel the burn?

The footage was taken from Kartemquin Film’s ‘63 Boycott project, which chronicles the Chicago Public School Boycott of 1963, and was filmed by Kartemquin co-founder Jerry Temaner.

The protest on Chicago’s South Side took aim at racist education and housing policies being carried out in Englewood—namely the proposed construction of a new school for black students made up of aluminum trailers known as “Willis Wagons,” named after the Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Benjamin Willis who first ordered them. These trailers were used by the city to deal with overcrowding in black schools, thereby preventing integration of black students into less-densely populated white schools.

 

 
Sanders was arrested for his civil disobedience—specifically resisting arrest—and fined $25.

Look at the glasses. Also, compare the big chunky watch in the clip below with the big chunky watch the young Sanders is seen sporting in the photo below:
 

 
I wouldn’t bet my life on it that it’s a young Bernie Sanders in this footage, but I’d surely wager a pinky or a toe…
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Wickedly-fun photos of Grace Jones’ 30th birthday bash, 1978
02.16.2016
10:56 am

Topics:
Drugs
Fashion
History
Music
Pop Culture

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Grace Jones with Jimmy Baio, Divine, Julie Budd, Nona Hendryx and a few unnamed dancers
 

In the ‘70s and ‘80s we all had our fun, and now and then we went really too far. But, ultimately, it required a certain amount of clear thinking, a lot of hard work and good make-up to be accepted as a freak.—Grace Jones

If a single photo series could encapsulate ‘70s disco dust debauchery and fun… this document of Grace Jones’ 30th birthday party held at LaFarfelle Disco in New York on June 12, 1978 would be IT. Famous guests included Elton John, Divine, Andy Warhol, Jerry Hall, Jimmy Baio (Scott Baio’s cousin, of course), Julie Budd and Nona Hendryx.

To have been a fly on the wall for this birthday party. Can you imagine all the shit people were up to when the cameras weren’t flashing?!


Divine
 

 

Elton John, Andy Warhol and Jerry Hall
 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Love and Affection: Vintage photos of gay and lesbian couples
02.09.2016
11:39 am

Topics:
History
Queer

Tags:

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A couple’s photographic portrait is an affirmation of their relationship. It states for all to see: “We love each other. We care for each other. We are proud of who we are together.”

During the Victorian era many gay and lesbian couples proudly expressed their love for each other in studio portraits. Unlike the common belief that such relationships were “the love that dare not speak its name,” as Oscar Wilde so famously described same sex attraction in his poem “Two Loves,” gays and lesbians often dared to show their love. Indeed, many gay and lesbian couples more or less lived openly together throughout their lives. This was far easier for women than for men as women were expected to live together if they were not married, or to live with the euphemistically termed “female companion.”

Men, no historical surprises here, had their own haunts for meeting like-minded souls. In London these could be found in the “Molly houses” and gentlemen’s clubs or pick-ups haunts at Lincoln’s Inn, or St. James Park or the path on the City’s Moorfields, which was charmingly referred to as “Sodomites Walk.”

Theaters and circuses were also well-known dens of homosexual activity—this can be traced all the way back to Elizabethan England, when male prostitutes plied their trade at theaters.

The armed forces, in particular the Royal Navy was notorious for gay relationships—understandable with all the horny seamen looking for any port in a storm. Apparently word got around.

It is a moot point that the change in public attitude towards homosexuality commenced with the Labouchere Amendment to the Sexual Offences Act in 1885, which “prohibited gross indecency between males.” This was the law under which Wilde was infamously prosecuted and the law that heightened discrimination against gays.

Before that there had been the Buggery Act—against anal penetration and bestiality—which was introduced during the reign of Henry VIII. This led to numerous executions (hangings) and imprisonments. It was briefly repealed, then reinstated by Elizabeth I. However, there were few prosecutions under the act and it was repealed again in 1828—though “buggery” remained a capital offense. James Pratt and John Smith became the last two men to be executed for buggery, in 1835.

The Labouchere Amendment outlawed homosexuality and made it more difficult for gay men to live the lives they desired. Labouchere did not include lesbians in the act as he believed drawing attention to lesbianism would only encourage sapphic desires amongst most Victorian women.

So even when gay relationships were outlawed in England, they still thrived in open secret. In America, the sodomy laws varied from state to state. What one state tolerated or had no opinion about, another state punished. However, as with England in the Victorian era, America gay and lesbian couples would often openly express their love for each other in portrait photographs.

This collection of beautiful, brave people gives us a small visual history of LGBT relationships from the 1860s-1960s. Many of the couples are unidentifiable, but where possible their names have been given. (Editor writes: Mild disclaimer: Of course it’s difficult to say that in all cases these photos are of gay couples.)
 
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Anna Moor and Elsie Dale, 1900.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
You could get some work done today, or you could visit the online Museum of Endangered Sounds
02.04.2016
10:43 am

Topics:
Amusing
History
Pop Culture

Tags:


 
Brendan Chilcutt is, like many Dangerous Minds readers surely are, a collector of cultural ephemera. But his trove is not of real world objects, but once-common sounds that we no longer regularly hear. This is a relatively recent phenomenon on Planet Earth—the changes in the technological components of everyday life that became very rapid in the second half of the 20th Century have been accelerating even faster since the 1980s, to the point where now a gizmo that’s only a few years old can seem like a relic of a bygone time.

According to the about page for Chilcutt’s online Museum of Endangered Sounds:

I launched the site in January of 2012 as a way to preserve the sounds made famous by my favorite old technologies and electronics equipment. For instance, the textured rattle and hum of a VHS tape being sucked into the womb of a 1983 JVC HR-7100 VCR. As you probably know, it’s a wonderfully complex sound, subtle yet unfiltered. But, as streaming playback becomes more common in the US, and as people in developing nations like Canada and the UK get brought up to DVD players, it’s likely that the world will have seen and heard the last of older machines like the HR-7100. And as new products come to market, we stand to lose much more than VCRs.

Imagine a world where we never again hear the symphonic startup of a Windows 95 machine. Imagine generations of children unacquainted with the chattering of angels lodged deep within the recesses of an old cathode ray tube TV. And when the entire world has adopted devices with sleek, silent touch interfaces, where will we turn for the sound of fingers striking QWERTY keypads? Tell me that. And tell me: Who will play my GameBoy when I’m gone?

It’s questions like that last one that have never once kept me up at night, but to each…
 

 
While some of Chilcutt’s dozens of collected sounds date back to the turn of the 20th Century (the rotary phone dial) or the Great Depression (the teletype), most of the tech here comes from after the mid ‘70s—Space Invaders and Pac Man; the wheel-grind of a cassette player; AOL IM alerts; Brian Eno’s Windows95 startup sound; that satisfying THUNK of inserting video game console cartridges; the whirr of a rewinding VHS; the sound of a floppy drive reading a disc; and OF COURSE the dial-up modem connection sound sequence is present.

The interface allows for more than one sound to be played at once, and I definitely recommend creating some musical compositions by mixing and matching a few or several at once (a welcome dialog advises the user “if you like industrial music, try turning on all the thumbnails at once!”) It seems like there could be so much more to this collection, and devices are becoming obsolete at an ever-accelerating rate. But this also seems to be a bigger project for Mr. Chilcutt than just a web toy—he states that his ten-year plan is “to complete the data collection phase by the year 2015, and spend the next seven years developing the proper markup language to reinterpret the sounds as a binary composition.” So he may have more sounds collected than he’s posted so far.

The lag may also be due to the fact that, as he bluntly puts it, “I have eight gerbils.”
 

 
Hat tip to Mr. Lawrence Daniel Caswell for this find.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Bettie Page’s vintage Guide for Strip-teasers: ‘This is as far as you can go’
02.04.2016
09:41 am

Topics:
History
Sex

Tags:

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In 1953, Bettie Page posed for a guide to striptease entitled “This is as far as you can go,” in the Christmas issue of Carnival magazine.

Carnival was “a magazine of excitement” and Bettie P. was photographed to help its readers understand the laws pertaining to what they could or could not see, or rather what a stripper could or could not show when it came to stripping. Seven states permitted striptease, each with its own code, though there was often considerable leeway over what was permitted in a strip show depending on local ordinances.

In America striptease can be traced as far back as the carnivals that traveled across country.  The earliest striptease star was Charmion, who had a famous “dis-robing” act from around 1896 in which she stripped on a trapeze. This was later filmed by Thomas Edison in 1901—see below.

Here’s Bettie Page’s seven state guide for strip-teasers—“This is as far as you can go.”
 
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…in Kansas.

You’ve got to be covered from thigh to shoulders, but you don’t have to use a horse blanket. To strippers, knowledge of local ordinances is vital.

 
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...in Florida.

Coverage must resemble bra and panties whenever possible. What happens in the heat of summer is fun, too.


Bettie Page reveals more rules for stripping, plus Thomas Edison’s film of Charmion stripping, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘The Height of Goth’: Visions of goths enjoying a night of dance, 1984
02.02.2016
02:18 pm

Topics:
Fashion
History
Movies
Music

Tags:


 
It’s something of a miracle that The Height of Goth: 1984: A Night at the Xclusiv Nightclub exists. According to Patrick Torsney, who was at the venue in Batley, West Yorkshire, near Leeds, that night and who posted it to YouTube in 2011, it was created by Ann and Pete Swallow, who managed the Xclusiv Nightclub, as a promotion and only about 50 VHS copies were ever made. The video Torsney found so many years later was “trashed, mildewed, beyond junk” but the restoration did a pretty good job of making it watchable on YouTube. The first few minutes are a little wonky but it settles down after that.

At the outset we see the impressive edifice that houses the Xclusiv and meet the Swallows—Pete hilariously says that his club’s clientele are mainly “way out young people.” The Height of Goth is a remarkable bit of amateur documentary, showing exactly what a night on the town at a typical, Goth-y nightclub was like in northern England in the halcyon year of 1984. It’s two solid hours, and almost all of it is just regular folks gyrating on a dancefloor while tunes like the Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way” supply the soundtrack.

About halfway through the dude pretending to be a local reporter type interviews some of the attendees; his attitude is actually pretty dismissive of all the crazy fashions and stuff, but hardly anyone seems to notice. The first couple he interviews, bedabbed with goth-y face paint, in all apparent sincerity claim to like Glenn Miller better than anyone else, a note that is also struck by the DJ, named Paul, at the beginning of the video. I don’t know what’s up with that except to say that where there’s dancing, you might find Glenn Miller fans?

One of the last songs in the DJ’s set, a little after the 1:55 mark, is David Bowie’s “Life on Mars?”—the homespun choreography for that bit has to be seen to be believed.

This was a goth-y kind of affair but in fact, what’s quite apparent is that a paying audience of adults (even if this was a special night for the filming) aren’t going to want just wall-to-wall Siouxsie and Echo, so there’s REM and Bowie and “The Monster Mash” and the Stranglers and goth-y precursors the Doors mixed in with New Order and Blancmange.
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Photos of women and giant-ass mainframe computers from the 1960s
02.02.2016
09:51 am

Topics:
Amusing
History
Science/Tech

Tags:

image
Computer Operators
 
All hail the vintage female geek culture from the polyester past! These splendid images come from Lawrence Harley “Larry” Luckham. Yep, that’s his name. Anyway, he used to work for Bell Labs back in ‘60s “managing a data center and developing an ultra high speed information retrieval system.”

I took a camera to work and shot the pictures below. I had a great staff, mostly women except for the programmers who were all men. For some reason only one of them was around for the pictures that day.

Women and giant-ass computers! What more could you ask for? So retro-looking that they’re almost futuristic!

image
Computer Operations Supervisor
 
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Computer Operations Supervisor
 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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