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Before he skewered McCarthy, Edward R. Murrow told US civilians to watch out for Soviet planes
05.05.2014
07:36 am

Topics:
History

Tags:
nuclear war
Cold War
Edward R Murrow


 
Ah, Edward R. Murrow, the staid, chain-smoking voice of reason with a haircut you could set your watch by! Most famous for his 1954 See It Now exposés on Joseph McCarthy, Murrow produced the first major media critique of the Senator’s Red Scare witch hunt. Not a man to pull punches, he concluded the first of his three episodes on McCarthy with this condemnation: 

“His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men.”

The next episode focused on Annie Lee Moss, a black army clerk brought to trial by McCarthy under accusations of communist activity. The absurdity of his charges catching up to him, McCarthy made an appearance on See it Now a few weeks later, only to accuse Murrow of communist collusion, accelerating the wane of his creditability. That December, his reputation shot, he was effectively censured by the Senate, thanks in no small part to Murrow’s critical work.

However, like most Americans at the time, Murrow was not immune to the pervasive fears of the Cold War, and was a frequent participant in US civil defense propaganda. His 1953 film, One Plane, One Bomb was made just a year before his indictment of McCarthy, and although the film uses the name and format of his trusted newsmagazine program See It Now, it was commissioned by the The US Air Force and only aired in theaters. For anyone familiar with the genre, the film is a fairly predictable simulation of a terrifying doomsday scenario—New York is bombed for lack of adequate citizen vigilance.

One Plane, One Bomb “encouraged” every day Americans join the Ground Observer Corps, a civilian volunteer program put together in World War Two. Though the Ground Observer Corps reached 750,000 in ranks by 1952’s Operation Skywatch, it’s a little baffling that the US invested so much in training private citizen volunteers to sit at posts and basically “look up,” in hopes of alleviating (or perhaps even preventing) nuclear attack. The film is one of a slew of civil defense videos produced at the time, and while it’s not the only one Murrow had a hand in, it was the only one that conflated a piece of paid military propaganda with actual broadcast journalism. Aside from the obvious conflict of interest in associating a military film with the journalism of See It Now, it’s fascinating to watch Murrow, a man most revered for his cool-headed critique of Cold War panic, producing the very material that exacerbated nuclear anxieties.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Death & Candy: The most adorable skulls you’re likely to see this entire month
05.05.2014
06:55 am

Topics:
Art

Tags:
skulls
Cristina Burns

Cristina Burns
 
These remarkable photographs are by Italian artist Cristina Burns, who clearly has a knack for a saccharine brand of thanatopsis (that’s right, I went straight to “thanatopsis”). They’re part of her “Through the Mirror” series, which is obviously a reference to Lewis Carroll (there’s even a Queen of Hearts), but not all of the photos reference that, some of the imagery draws from the Easter Bunny, Sleeping Beauty, or general mythology. Burns’ wonderful, sickly-sweet dioramas, for lack of a better word, feature all manner of flowers, candy, birds, eggs, hearts, and who knows what else.

How original, to present a world of death entirely in pastels…...
 
Cristina Burns
 
Cristina Burns
 
Cristina Burns
 
Cristina Burns
 
Cristina Burns
 
More of Burns’ meticulous masterpieces after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Four monks breakdancing to honor Beastie Boy Adam Yauch
05.05.2014
06:20 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Beastie Boys
Adam Yauch
monks

MCA
 
Saturday was the third annual MCA Day in New York City, a day of remembrance for the most enlightened Beastie Boy, Adam Yauch, who succumbed to a three-year battle with cancer on May 4, 2012, at the age of 47. A group of Tibetan monks decided to honor Yauch, who over the last couple decades may have done more than any other celebrity to put Tibet’s liberation struggle into the consciousness of twentysomethings, by breakdancing in Union Square. They look pretty good to me.

The track is “Ch-Check It Out” off of the Beasties’ 2004 album To the 5 Boroughs.

Here’s a video taken by a spectator, which is unfortunately in portrait mode (booo):
 

 
via Gothamist

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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David Bowie’s million dollar advice to Rick Wakeman led to his ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’
05.05.2014
06:12 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
David Bowie
Rick Wakeman

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David Bowie gave Prog Rock’s “Caped Crusader” Rick Wakeman the financial advice that helped the keyboard wizard make millions.

Wakeman tinkled the ivories for Bowie on such seminal tracks as “Life on Mars,” “Changes,” “Oh! You Pretty Things” and had played the Mellotron on “Space Oddity.” However, Wakeman harbored ambitions beyond being a session musician and after joining prog rock band Yes, he decided he wanted to produce his own solo work. This led to his first solo concept album The Six Wives of Henry VIII, but when he planned a follow-up album based on a novel by Jules Verne that would involve an orchestra and narration by actor David Hemmings, Wakeman was frustrated by the lack of interest and financial support from his record company. It was then that Bowie’s advice inspired Wakeman into action.

Undoubtedly listening to David Bowie who said: “Be your own man and don’t listen to people who don’t know a hatchet from a crotchet and try to fulfil their own ideas through you because they haven’t got any.” I wanted to do Journey to the Centre of the Earth with an orchestra but there wasn’t enough money from the record company. I ended up mortgaging my house, selling everything I owned. I begged, borrowed and stole to do it. But the record company didn’t want it and I faced losing everything because I was so heavily in debt.

Eventually my record company in America loved it, insisted it was released and it sold 15 million copies and that really taught me to be my own man. Spending money I didn’t have was simply my best financial decision because if I hadn’t done it, 40 years on, I wouldn’t be doing my shows now.

The success of Journey to the Centre of the Earth made Wakeman a solo star, and he went on to record The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, No Earthly Connection, White Rock and Rick Wakeman’s Criminal Record. He also memorably worked with film director Ken Russell on the soundtrack for his film Lisztomania (Wakeman also appears in the film as Thor, the god of thunder.

I always quite liked Wakeman, in particular his Wives of Henry VIII, Criminal Record and Myths and Legends of King Arthur being very enjoyable fayre of excellent quality. This is the “Caped Crusader” performing Journey to the Centre of the Earth with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, when the blonde-haired maestro was the height of his fame.
 

 
Via the Daily Telegraph

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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For 20 years, Scientologists attempted to indoctrinate the youth with godawful kiddie pop
05.02.2014
02:47 pm

Topics:
Kooks

Tags:
Scientology


 
From 1992 to 2012,  the Church of Scientology ran a children’s performing arts program called Kids Onstage for a Better World. They made videos of their original songs and skits, and it is some of the most terrible kiddie schlock I’ve ever seen. I can’t say I’m baffled that the Scientologists had a youth campaign, but I will say I’m pretty shocked it’s so bad… and so unbelievably low-budget. The Church has movie industry millionaires as members and this is the best they can do? I also kind of thought the Scientology showbiz tykes would sing something a little less embarrassingly earnest and wholesome. I’ve heard Christian rock with more edge.

“Their messages are important, and resonate with their family audiences: Follow your dreams. Stay in school. Help others. Don’t take harmful drugs.”

They’re the leaders of tomorrow!

Although Kids Onstage for a Better World claim to be non-denominational, we can only wonder what’s the percentage of Christian, Jewish or Muslim kids in the cast? How many Mormons or non-religious kids? Probably not many, if any. (You have to go through several to find one black kid. Asians and Latinos were also mostly MIA in K.O.B.W.)
 

 
The website is still up, should you be compelled to dig though a record of kiddie cult theater, but mentions of Scientology in the programming are pretty subtle—no awesome sermons on Xenu, I’m afraid, but onsite personality tests might have happened—I don’t know, I wasn’t there. The performances themselves are very vague and “empowering”—no shock there. Vague but empowering is kind of Scientology’s modus operandi, right?

Even if some kid was vulnerable to the influence of corny kids’ footlights, there’s an obvious flaw in their plan:

In addition to producing 50-100 community shows each year, the Kids on Stage for a Better World have delighted audiences with a large show each year. Since 1994, these large annual extravaganzas have been performed in their home venue, the Garden Pavilion Theatre of the beautiful Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International.

In order to see the “big” show, kids have to go inside a Scientology building! I suspect Kids on Stage for a Better World did more to energize their home team than community outreach regardless of their stated aims.
 
There are a lot of videos and in the archive, but I’ll just leave you with the motivational speak-heavy “Joy of Creating,” from 2003, and 2000’s “Don’t Pass me by,” (it’s not the awesome Beatles’ song, no). Give it a listen, if you dare. Just make sure the children are out of the room—you don’t want any accidental converts.
 

 

 
Via VICE

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Holy hell! Watch an entire street in Baltimore sink right into the earth!
05.02.2014
02:37 pm

Topics:
Current Events
Environment

Tags:
Sinkholes


 
When I initially hit play for this video I wasn’t expecting much. It kinda starts out slow and you think you’ve seen something similar like this before and then… bam!

YouTuber Nicholas Nick Nico Reyes caught this incredible footage of a landslide caused by a sinkhole on April 30th. Cars parked along N. 26th St. in Baltimore’s Charles Village were literally swallowed-up by Mother Nature’s maws. Not sure I’ve seen an entire street sink into oblivion before. This is a first.

 
Via Daily Dot

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Heavy metal prog-rock overload: Deep Purple’s legendary ‘Concerto for Group and Orchestra’
05.02.2014
02:13 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
Deep Purple


 
Although the 1975 edition of The Guinness Book of World Records listed heavy metal pioneers Deep Purple as the world’s “loudest band,” they’ve gone through quite a number of different phases during their long career, including doing Neil Diamond and Beatles covers and a prog-rock phase as a sort of heavier Moody Blues. Even so, Concerto for Group and Orchestra composed by Jon Lord with lyrics by Ian Gillan still stands out in their catalog.

The Concerto was first performed by Deep Purple and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Arnold on September 24, 1969 at the Royal Albert Hall. It is perhaps the most elaborate thing ever to have been mounted by a rock group at that time and one of the first collaborations between a rock band and an orchestra—The Nice’s heavily orchestral Five Bridges and Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed are the only similar things from the era that come easily to mind. It was also the first outing of Deep Purple’s “Mark II” lineup (Ritchie Blackmore – guitar; Jon Lord – keyboards; Ian Paice – drums; Ian Gillan – lead vocals, harmonica; Roger Glover – bass).

One minute they were paling around with the classical players of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the next they were recording the mighty Deep Purple In Rock? Go figure.

The set that evening began with a nearly half-hour composition by conductor Malcolm Arnold followed by Deep Purple playing their hit cover of Joe South’s “Hush,” plus “Wring That Neck” (with a fine extended display of Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar pyrotechnics) and “Child in Time” before the Concerto began.
 

 
The concert was videotaped and part of it—the actual Concerto part—was telecast by the BBC as Best of Both Worlds: Concerto for Group and Orchestra and released on LP in December of 1969 as simply Concerto for Group and Orchestra. In the video you can see some of the priggish classical musicians deliberately making sniffy expressions. It’s kind of funny. They may have thought it was shit when it was being performed, but looking at it from today’s vantage point, it ain’t too bad. In fact, it’s pretty great. (I admit to having a fondness for this album.)

Gillan and Blackmore were apparently not happy with being thought of as “the group with the orchestra.” Their next outing, Deep Purple In Rock, which came out just half a year later, would feature heavy metal ravers like “Speed King” and “Child in Time” with nary an oboe, clarinet or string section to be heard.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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When nature attacks! Pulp horror covers from the 1970s & ‘80s
05.02.2014
11:26 am

Topics:
Art
Books

Tags:
Horror Fiction

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Tales of nature taking bloody revenge on humans have been a staple for writers and film-makers over the years. In cinema there have been mutated ants invading Los Angeles in the first monster bug movie Them! in 1954, cute rabbits leaving a trail of death and destruction in Night of the Lepus, and even amphibians taking monstrous revenge on a poisonous patriarch in Frogs. In the 1970s, growing fears of ecological disaster inspired a whole menagerie of animals gone bad.

These fictions usually featured nerdy heroes taking on swarms of bees, plagues of rats, or shoals of man-eating fish, and often had an underlying critique of poverty caused by an indifferent consumerist society, as in James Herbert’s The Rats, or the political corruption of a small town as in Peter Benchley’s Jaws. Herbert’s Rats offered a template for Guy N. Smith’s The Night of the Crabs, Richard Lewis’s Devil’s Coach Horse, and Shaun Hutson’s Slugs. While Benchley and Spielberg’s great white shark saw John Sayles’ Piranha (novelization by Leo Callan), Dino De Laurentiis’s Orca, novelization by Arthur Herzog, “author of The Swarm” and the lesser Croc—a giant hungry reptile terrorizing New York’s sewer system “in the tradition of Night of the Crabs ” as the blurb reads—by David James.

Croc being tagged with Smith’s Night of the Crabs is just some lazy PR-man looking for a quick buck. Croc is about a pet reptile, which grows too big and is flushed down the lavatory. Somehow it survives living-off human refuse and the occasional down-and-out, and slowly grows to incredible size. When sewage workers Peter Boggs and Marian Fascetti investigate a blocked sewer, our story really begins. There’s a sub-plot about Mafia connections, but the main thrust is the politicians don’t want to know there’s a crocodile on the loose under New York City. And yes, there’s the team-up where Boggs is helped by policeman Glen Stapleton, who goes up against the beast.

Smith’s Crabs has monster-sized crabs (up to sixteen feet across, if memory serves, with shels that can withstand armor-piercing missiles—the possible mutations of underwater nuclear testing), attacking the Welsh coastline. Like Herbert’s The Rats, Crabs’ mutant creatures have a taste for human flesh. This book spawned a series of six, finishing with Crabs Moon-The Human Sacrifice.

Of course, we can trace giant creatures back to fairy tales and writers like H. G. Wells, whose Food of the Gods had an idle couple of hired hands accidentally introducing the growth chemical “Herakleophorbia IV” into the food chain leading to giant chickens, wasps, rats and eventually human mutations. Wells also wrote the short story Empire of the Ants which featured a plague of giant ants attacking villages in the Upper Amazon, which foreshadows Them!.

Wells undoubtedly had an major influence, but the rapacious insects of seventies pulp horror tended to be average size, and were only marked by their lust for human flesh. These insects were usually the by-product of scientific meddling or pesticides. Richard Lewis churned out a half-dozen of such books most notably Spiders and Devil’s Coach Horse, in which mutated earwigs devastate southern England. Guy N. Smith produced the insect horror of all horrors with Abomination in 1987, where pesticide causes every insect, worm, slug etc attack man. Smith more than any other author produced several “Nature Gone Bad” books with Snakes, Alligators, Locusts, the rather enjoyable Slime Beast, which may have come from another world, or may have been an evolutionary mutation created by man-made poisons, and The Throwback, where evolution goes wild.

The structure of these books is usually the same. The opening has some poor unfortunate, often a down-and-out or a lonely alcoholic, sometimes a misguided scientist, as first victim. Their body goes undiscovered allowing the rats, slugs, crabs, spiders, etc. to go unnoticed. There usually follows a series of tableaux where couples making out, small children and mothers, sad loners, and ambitious yuppies are killed with ever increasing violence. This leads to our hero, often a teacher (Herbert), a pipe smoking expert (Smith), or a disgruntled government employee (Hutson), who notes the pattern of deaths, the tell-tale markings or slime trails, and commences the creatures’ downfall.

Like Benchley’s Jaws, which was inspired by the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916, where four died and seven were injured, Arthur Herzog’s The Swarm was inspired by killer bee attacks in Africa, which he then transposed to South America and then the States. Herzog wrote the novelization of the vengeful killer whale film Orca. Herzog was an interetsing writer, his second book Earthsound tapped into shifting tectonics that meant earthquakes began to devastate the east coast of America. Herbert’s The Rats was also inspired by the author’s memories of post-war London infested by the vermin.

These books maybe poorly written, with often plodding lumpen prose, but they are incredibly addictive. I swallowed my way trough handfuls of these at a time during childhood, often reading two-a-day, and firmly believe such pulp fiction should be encouraged in school to help reluctant students read and get into the habit of books.

The flip-side to the rise to the disaster eco-horror in the 1970s was the comparable popularity of pulp sex books, whether Emmanuele, Xaviera Hollander’s The Happy Hooker or Timothy Lea’s (a pseudonym for screenwriter Christopher Wood) Confessions… series, which began with Confessions of a Window Cleaner. As Freud suggested, it seems that sex and death are inextricably linked.
 
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Via Strange Things Are Happening, Not Pulp Covers, Scary MF, Starlogged and The Black Glove.
 
More pulp creature fictions after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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‘Breaking Bad’ troll writes to advice column pretending to be ‘Skyler’
05.02.2014
10:37 am

Topics:
Amusing

Tags:
Breaking Bad


 
Oh dear, this one happened yesterday in an advice column for the Winnipeg Free Press. I do wonder if Miss Lonelyhearts has figured out she’s been trolled yet?

Via Geekologie

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Experimental film collaboration between Jim Henson and Raymond Scott, 1967
05.02.2014
10:10 am

Topics:
Art
Movies
Music

Tags:
Jim Henson
Raymond Scott


 
Jim Henson made “Wheels That Go” for a film contest at Montreal’s Expo ‘67 featuring his three-year-old son Brian and a wild electronic score by the great Raymond Scott (who is credited here as “Ramond” due to a bummer of a typo).

The short film explores motion, basically. In cars, across bridges, in NYC, on trains… Brian looks at wheels, rides on them and plays with them. I don’t know what else to say about it. It’s only a minute long. Just hit play.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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