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‘Bone music’: Soviet-era bootleg records of banned rock and jazz pressed on X-ray plates

X-ray records
 
What do you do if you’re living in the USSR in, say, 1957, and you’d like to press an illegal record of some banned rock and roll or jazz? Consumer tape recorders don’t exist, and in the USSR, vinyl is difficult to come by. How do you proceed?

One thing you might do is press your contraband beats into discarded X-rays. A police state does wonders for the sheer inventiveness of its citizens, does it not? Clever Russians eager to hear some liberating rock and roll would salvage exposed X-rays from hospital waste bins and archives and use them to make records.

In the 1946-1961 era, some ingenious Russians began recording banned bootlegged jazz, boogie woogie and rock ‘n’ roll on exposed X-ray film. The thick radiographs would be cut into discs of 23 to 25 centimeters in diameter; sometimes the records weren’t circular. But the exact shape didn’t matter so much, as long as the thing played.

“Usually it was the Western music they wanted to copy,” says Sergei Khrushchev, the son of Nikita Khrushchev. “Before the tape recorders they used the X-ray film of bones and recorded music on the bones, bone music.” As author Anya von Bremzen elaborates: “They would cut the X-ray into a crude circle with manicure scissors and use a cigarette to burn a hole. ... You’d have Elvis on the lungs, Duke Ellington on Aunt Masha’s brain scan—forbidden Western music captured on the interiors of Soviet citizens.”

I can’t wait until Record Store Day 2015, when limited edition X-ray releases will surely be some of the most sought-after purchases!
 
X-ray records
 
X-ray records
 
X-ray records
 
X-ray records
 
Previously on DM:
Vintage X-ray ‘vinyl’ from Russia

 
via Vinyl of the Day
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The disappearing face of New York

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During the eight years it took Jim and Karla Murray to photograph these New York storefronts, a third of them had closed down. According to the Murrays:

...the influx of big box retailers and chain stores pose a serious threat to these humble institutions, and neighborhood modernization and the anonymity it brings are replacing the unique appearance and character of what were once incredibly colourful streets.

Taken from their book The Disappearing Face of New York, these beautiful photographs of neon-lit, window-crammed, characterful storefronts document the cultural cost of the malls and online retailers that have taken business from small shopkeepers, in favor of the supposed “choice” offered by corporations. As the general Julius Agricola noted way, way back in the invasion of Britain circa 73 AD, when the invading armies brought bath houses, roads, and alike, the so-called advancement of civilisation can often disguise its inherent servitude.
 
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More disappearing New York stores, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | 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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Evocative photos from 1980s Berlin

Berlin
Slesische Strasse October 1982. Near the corner with Cuvrystrasse.
 
A photographer named Chris John Dewitt has set up a fantastic Tumblr consisting almost entirely of pictures of various places. During the 1980s he took many, many photographs of East Berlin and West Berlin, and they are utterly fascinating. Sometimes he has photos of the same place both pre- and post-1989. We’ve got a generous selection of them here, but really, there are tons more over at his Tumblr.

As for context-setting, I’ll leave that to Dewitt himself:
 

A trip to the East was another step into the time-machine. The politics of the 1940s and 50s shaped everything around. Most crossing points were much like something out of an old movie, even up to the end in 1989. Checkpoint Charlie was the most famous of course, as it was the only street crossing point for foreigners, and it was built up into a full-scale border control shed in the final years, with jolly ‘Welcome to the DDR’ signs on it. The other, less well-known crossing points remained mostly the dreary forbidding places they were from the beginning. Each border-crossing was intended for particular people. Chausseestrasse, Invalidenstrasse, and Oberbaumbrücke were for West Berliners only.

-snip-

When I got there I began taking pictures, but was very quickly stopped by two young policemen. It took some while to work out what it was I shouldn’t have been photographing. It wasn’t the site of the Reich Chancellery, they replied to my questions, or even the wall. It was because in the distance, poking up from the other side of the wall, the Reichstag building could be seen. One mustn’t photograph buildings on the other side of the wall they said. The fact that I could go there on the Western side and take as many pictures of it as I liked made no difference. That was the rule which I must obey whilst on DDR soil.

 
Here are some of the pics, in roughly chronological order, with Dewitt’s captions:
 
Berlin
The Berlin Wall at Wilhelmstraße 1980
 
Berlin
The view from the platform at the end of Bernauer Straße in 1980.
 
Berlin
Another Sunday, another protest. March 1981.
 
Berlin
Protest march on the Ku’damm 1982.
 
Berlin
The Berlin Wall. A viewing platform built by the West to allow West Berliners and tourists to look over into East Berlin.
 
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Looking over the Berlin Wall from the viewing stand on Harzer Straße Treptow. 1982.
 
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The East Berlin authorities were taking no chances with this building being so close to the wall. All the windows are barred, and a guard tower sits a few meters away, to prevent any escapes to the West. 1982.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Well, when you put it THAT way: Capitalism in a nutshell!


 
Good question.

Although this has a few too many words to qualify as a Hemingway-esque six-word short story, this sign still gets its point across louder than dozens of articles on the American economy do each week…

And while we’re on the topic, you might enjoy this: Why you’re wrong about communism: 7 huge misconceptions about it (and capitalism)

And this, Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For: Guaranteed jobs, universal basic incomes, public finance and more.

And this, I’m a Member of the American ‘Used-to-Haves’.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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It didn’t always suck to be a woman in Afghanistan

afghanminiskirtskabul
 

Women in Afghanistan were not always under house arrest and forbidden by law to leave their homes unchaperoned by a male relative. Once upon a time in pre-Taliban days Afghan women had access to professional careers, university-level education, shops selling non-traditional clothing, public transportation, and public spaces, all of which they happily navigated freely and without supervision.

According to a State Department report from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor from 2001:

Prior to the rise of the Taliban, women in Afghanistan were protected under law and increasingly afforded rights in Afghan society. Women received the right to vote in the 1920s; and as early as the 1960s, the Afghan constitution provided for equality for women. There was a mood of tolerance and openness as the country began moving toward democracy. Women were making important contributions to national development. In 1977, women comprised over 15% of Afghanistan’s highest legislative body. It is estimated that by the early 1990s, 70% of schoolteachers, 50% of government workers and university students, and 40% of doctors in Kabul were women. Afghan women had been active in humanitarian relief organizations until the Taliban imposed severe restrictions on their ability to work. These professional women provide a pool of talent and expertise that will be needed in the reconstruction of post-Taliban Afghanistan.

Even under Hamid Karzai’s government, with the recently approved Code of Conduct for women, all of the women shown in these photographs, taken in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and early ‘70s, could still can be faulted with improper behavior, according to clerics and government officials. 

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A record store in Kabul

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A co-ed biology class at Kabul University

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Afghan university students, 1967. Photo credit: Dr. Bill Podlich, Retronaut

afghanbus
 
Public transporation in Kabul

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University students, early 1970s

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Women working in one of the labs at the Vaccine Research Center

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Mothers and children playing at a city park—without male chaperones

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Queen Soraya reigned in Afghanistan with her husband King Amanullah Khan from 1919 to 1929. She would be slut-shamed or worse for wearing this dress in modern Afghanistan.

Compilation of vintage amateur footage of Afghanistan:

Via Retronaut and Zilla of the Resistance.

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
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Republican Insurance Commissioner compares pre-existing conditions to car wreck that is ‘your fault’


Why—HOW—does this clown-man have a job?

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, a Republican, is the asshat who bragged earlier this year that his office was deliberately creating bureaucratic hurdles to slow implementation of “Obamacare” in his state. As reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hudgens boasted to an audience of Republicans, “Let me tell you what we’re doing (about Obamacare). Everything in our power to be an obstructionist.”

People in the audience—presumably people who believe themselves to be followers of Christ—shouted “Amen!” when Hudgens made these remarks.

Hudgens apparently just doesn’t know when to quit and he should have quit the day he uttered those foul words in public, but instead he was just pissed off that he was videotaped and the public mockery it led to:

“I didn’t realize I was being videotaped and that got on the Internet,” he said during another speech. “I never received so many nasty e-mails. I’ve been told that they hope I die. I’ve been told that they hope my children had cancer, just all kinds of things.”

Well, what did you expect from the people that you—you personally, Ralphie boy—are keeping from getting affordable health care??? Frankly Hudgeons seems damned lucky that a few impolite emails are all that’s happened to him, if you ask me. Imagine you are the parent of a child with major health issues and you’d meet Ralph Hudgens on the street. What would you say to him to his face… with a tire iron or a broken bottle?

But like I was saying, Hudgens doesn’t know when to quit and now his very own words, caught on videotape again, are starting to percolate outside of Atlanta.

It’s positively mind-blowing, even for the most callous Republican clown to say something like this:

“I’ve had several companies come in and they have said just the fact—just the fact—that in the individual market pre-existing conditions have to be covered on Jan. 1, that that is going to double the cost of insurance. And if you don’t really understand what covering pre-existing conditions would be like, it would be like in Georgia we have a law that says you have to have insurance on your automobile. You have to have liability insurance. If you’re going to drive on Georgia’s roads, you have to have liability insurance. You don’t have to have collision. You don’t have to have comprehensive. You don’t have to have rental car or towing or anything else. But you have to have liability.

“But say you’re going along and you have a wreck. And it’s your fault. Well, a pre-existing condition would be you then calling up your insurance agent and saying, ‘I would like to get collision insurance coverage on my car.’ And your insurance agent says, ‘Well, you never had that before. Why would you want it now?’ And you say, ‘Well, I just had a wreck, it was my fault and I want the insurance company to pay to repair my car.’ And that’s the exact same thing on pre-existing insurance.”

That’s one nastyass politically poisonous phlegm ball to cough up, ain’t it? Even in a red state, that’s taking it a little too far.

Worth noting that when he was in the state Senate, Hudgens sponsored a bill that would end the law requiring insurance companies to cover mammograms. At one point a video clip went around with footage of Hudgens at what appears to be a candidate forum questioning why insurance companies should be forced to cover screenings that can help detect breast cancer before it spreads.

And yet he won the election for Georgia Insurance Commissioner anyway… Awfully counterintuitive vote there, Peach State. You might want to think harder next time before pulling that lever again for Ralph Hudgens?

Due to the policies of Hudgeons and Atlanta Governor Nathan Deal blocking the federal government from offering Medicaid coverage, they’ve denied health insurance to more than 600,000 lower-income Georgia citizens.

UPDATE: RALPH HUDGENS HAS A PRE-EXISTING CONDITION HIMSELF!!!

Here’s the video taken from Hudgens’ appearance last month at the CSRA Republican Women’s Club meeting. It will be interesting to see what ‘The Daily Show’ will do with this
 

Below, watch how proud of himself this slimy Republican weasal seems to be about keeping people from getting affordable healthcare in his state!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Buy an artificial hymen and convince your man he’s the first one to go there
12.04.2013
10:20 am

Topics:
Sex
The wrong side of history

Tags:
artificial hymen

Artificial hymen
 
This website has the one of the most memorable sales pitches I have seen in quite some time:
 

Restore your virginity in five minutes with this new technologically advanced product. Kiss your deep dark secret goodbye and marry in confidence for only $29.95.

 
I don’t think any product captures the ongoing global conflict between the forces of progress and the forces of conservative darkness quite as vividly as the artificial hymen does. This website dispenses with the American Beauty rose petals and starts off with an explicit reference to the situation of women living in Muslim countries, for whom a non-virgin status can have dire consequences. As mirthful as the idea will seem to the average enlightened westerner, the following bullet points make the stakes uncomfortably plain:
 

I want to marry in confidence, keep my secret, can you help? OK!!!
I want no needles, no costly medical operation, can you help? OK!!!
I am a poor girl, I do not have much money, can you help? OK!!!
I am scared, I cannot let anybody know I buy a hymen, can you help? OK!!!

 
The artificial hymen is a lifeline for impoverished females who are trapped in a situation that only proof of virginity will remedy. It is a defense intended to aid the helpless in the face of the powerful forces of darkness. This is not rhetoric; this is a simple fact. In a world in which sexuality is damned and demonized, an artificial hymen is sometimes the only way. The whole concept makes me sad.

The Wikipedia article on the subject alludes to calls by conservatives in Egypt to ban the product, and also has this peculiar sentence: “Further controversy stems from the product’s adherence to centuries-old misunderstandings of virginity. The medical community has established that not all women are born with a hymen, and those who are do not necessarily bleed from intercourse.” Um, okay—what? The idea isn’t to fool “the medical community,” right? The idea is to fool one specific man, one who may need proofs of visible blood in order for his suspicions to be mollified. I don’t see what the true facts of virginity have to do with that. Is that really “controversial”?

Delivery of the artificial hyman is “discreet,” of course: “Items are packaged in a plain envelope or box with an attached mail-label declaring the contents as ‘Make-up Kit’ and the Sender as ‘Magazines Online’ … the transaction details on your credit card statement will appear as “MAGAZINES ONLINE” or “MAGAZINESOL” depending on your credit card company.”
 
Here’s a visual representation of the end result, complete with fake bloodstain:


 
Possibly the most interesting thing about both of these websites is that they feature bundle offers—at hymenshop.com, you can get five artificial hymens for $114.95; at hymenshop.net, you can get five of them for $103. I’m honestly trying to envision the situation that would call for five artificial hymens—I haven’t had any success yet. It could be a good device in a grim yet devastatingly entertaining farce by Pedro Almodóvar.
 
Here, a YouTube user tests out an artificial hymen to the sedate tonalities of Enya:

 
via The Kernel

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Republicans are vile creeps


 

“Some people are shits, darling.”—William S. Burroughs

Like Republicans.

I live in Los Angeles, where I honestly don’t know ANY Republicans. I’m sure there must be at least a couple of them living here, but I’m not planning to actually go out looking for them any time soon. Let ‘em stay under those rocks. In fact, I don’t even know a single Republican who I am not related to by blood or by marriage. As in none, not one, zero.

These family members aside, I do not like Republicans. I hate them. If you are a Republican, I hate YOU. Seems like the majority of my fellow Californians might feel the same way, luckily—the GOP is a politically insignificant entity in California, where the Democrats hold a supermajority and practically every top job in the state—so Republican idiocy will probably never touch my life in any sort of meaningful way, except, of course, for reading annoying, blood-pressure raising articles about the GOP asshats we do still have here, like this at The LA Times.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act never stop producing new tricks to undermine the reform’s effectiveness. But leave it to California Republicans to reach for the bottom. Their goal appears to be to discredit the act by highlighting its costs and penalties rather than its potential benefits.

The device chosen by the Assembly’s GOP caucus is a website at the address coveringhealthcareca.com. If that sounds suspiciously like coveredca.com, which is the real website for the California insurance exchange, it may not be a coincidence. Bogus insurance websites have sprung up all over, aiming to steer consumers away from legitimate enrollment services. Just a couple of weeks ago California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris shut down 10 bogus insurance sites, some of them with names very similar to the real thing. She must have overlooked the GOP’s entry.

A goddamn fake healthcare website! How low is that? If you click on a tab that reads “Don’t have health insurance” on the homepage, you are taken to a “penalty calculator” and not a premium calculator. Shits! They’re evil shits. Imagine that you’re an earnest person with preconditions seeking affordable health insurance and you stumble into this site by accident. It would be infuriating.

The GOP site also takes careful pains to explain to the young how THEIR money will be subsidizing health care for the old. Keep it classy GOP… Hey wait a minute: I thought old people were the GOP base?

And don’t young people eventually become old people? This may have already occurred to some of them. Bit of a mixed message there, isn’t it? Not like cognitive dissonance has ever been much of an impediment to Republicans, but this strikes me as being as incompetent as it is evil and in such a small, petty way. There’s even a section devoted to scaring people that signing up for Obamacare will result in identity theft!

Shits.

Hunter at Daily Kos wrote:

If you are so nasty a person that you can’t live with the thought of insuring yourself because it means some other person might get healthcare using one one hundredth of a cent of your money, the world will certainly not be missing you much after you are gone. Godspeed!

This is yet another of the reasons the current incarnation of the Republican Party is little more than a political oozing sore. There is probably a downside to trying to kill off your own voters to score a momentary political point, but let’s just say the members of the party brain trust in my state could meet in a closet and still have enough room for the vacuum and boxes of Christmas decorations.

Yep, that’s our Republicans. How I love California.
 
 
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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