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‘Mad Man in Waco’: The haunting rock ballads of cult leader David Koresh


 
Charles Manson wasn’t the only rock & roll cult leader. As you may have learned from watching the Paramount Network’s new miniseries Waco, David Koresh of the Branch Davidians was also known to pick up the axe from time to time…

In an era plagued by gun violence and incessant mass murders, the siege at Waco remains to be one of the most memorable shootouts in American history. As several sources have depicted the tragedy, the situation at Mount Carmel could have been handled more delicately by the ATF and the FBI, who conclusively relied on force as a method of negotiation. What began as a federal search warrant for a suspected cache of illegal weapons, erupted quite literally into a gun battle between religious cult zealots and the United States government. The standoff lasted 51 days, until the iconic conclusion on April 19th, 1993, when a tear gas attack by the FBI prompted a fire that would engulf the Mount Carmel Center. By the close of the standoff, a total of 76 people would die—including leader David Koresh.
 

 
The Branch Davidians arose in 1955 from a rupture within the Shepherd’s Rod, a derivative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The original sect was led by self-proclaimed prophet Victor Houteff who, twenty years prior, had established its headquarters at the Mount Carmel Center near Waco, Texas. When Houteff unexpectedly passed, many disagreements within the church brought about splinter groups like the aforementioned Branch Davidians, now led by the quasi-prophet, Benjamin Roden. Similar to the doctrines preached in the Shepherd’s Rod, the Branch Davidians believed they were living in the final period of Biblical prophecies, right before absolute judgement and the second coming of Christ.

David Koresh joined the Branch Davidians in 1981. Known then as Vernon Howell, the Koresh of his early-twenties seduced Lois Roden, the now-widowed leader of the commune, who was in her late sixties. The following year, Koresh declared himself to be the true prophet of the group and relayed that he had been instructed by God to bear a child with Lois, who would be considered the “Chosen One.” Upon Lois’ death, her son George Roden took over leadership of the Branch Davidians and exiled Koresh from the compound in fear of his rising influence. This was up until 1989, when Roden was convicted of murdering follower Wayman Dale Adair because he was believed to have been sent by Koresh. The former Vernon Howell then changed his name to that of celestial significance (after King David and “Koresh” being the Biblical name of Cyrus the Great) and he, along with his followers, raised enough money to buy-back Mount Carmel from the US government. From that moment forward, David Koresh became the final prophet of the Branch Davidians.
 

David and the Bros
 
Besides stockpiling weaponry, Koresh lived above the law through his teachings of the “New Light Message.” The men who practiced at Mount Carmel, even those who had committed alongside their wives, were to now lead a celibate life. The women, however, would be sexually and reproductively committed to Koresh, who insisted upon a harem of available women known as the “House of David.” The reasoning was, you guessed it, because of God’s commandments, that Koresh was to hold “spiritual weddings” with any woman that their Lord had instructed him to. Many of the women of the Branch Davidian cult became wives of Koresh, several of which had already been legally married—or were underage. At least one follower in particular, Michelle Jones, had her first child with Koresh when she was fourteen years old. The two had begun a sexual relationship years prior while her older sister, Rachel Jones-Koresh, remained the prophet’s only legal wife (whom she also married when she was fourteen). The parents of Michelle and Rachel Jones had been lifelong Branch Davidians and had given David permission to bed & wed their daughters.

It is believed that Koresh had fathered over fifteen children with the women of the group. He expected his children to be perfect and that they would eventually become the ruling elders after the apocalypse and the alleged second coming of Christ. The ideology of the Branch Davidians was heavily focused on Judgement Day and it was Koresh’s prophesy that only he could open the “Seven Seals” as foretold in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation. This action would bring about the calamitous end of times, wherefore those devoted “Koreshians” would be led into the heavens by their divine leader. Koresh and his followers’ reaction to the standoff at Mount Carmel was that the Seven Seals had been opened and mankind’s decimation was upon them.
 

 
Just a day before the initial raid at Mount Carmel, the Waco Tribune ran its shocking, multi-part expose’ on the cult of David Koresh titled “The Sinful Messiah.” Among the story’s heinous depictions of child abuse, statutory rape, polygamy, paranoia, and a heavy artillery, another persona of David Koresh had also been characterized—that of a rocker. At 22 years of age, Koresh was kicked out of his mother’s Seventh-day Adventist Church in Houston for trying to marry the pastor’s daughter. An aspiring musician, Koresh then moved to Los Angeles in hopes of becoming a rock star. His attempt was considered an “utter failure,” and this is what led Koresh to Waco, Texas.

It could be said that David’s rock ambitions were what led him to literally try to become Jesus Christ. Plenty of rock stars regard themselves in self-idolatry, so the career trajectory checks out.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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04.13.2018
09:48 am
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Locked-up in chastity: Men’s anti-masturbation devices from a century ago

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John Harvey Kellogg invented Corn Flakes as a means to stop masturbation. Kellogg believed a bowl of crispy morning goodness would stop youngsters from the evils of self-pollution, disease, and possible madness. Kellogg was a doctor, nutritionist, inventor, health freak, activist, and shrewd businessman. He wrote the treatise Plain Facts for Old and Young: Embracing the Natural History and Hygiene of Organic Life in which he cataloged a startling array of side-effects caused by the “doubly abominable” “crime” of onanism. His list included poor posture, stiffness of the joints, infirmity, bashfulness, and even an unhealthy predilection for spicy foods.

Kellogg believed diet played an enormous part in why so many youngsters wasted their lives in self-abuse. He, therefore, insisted on a diet of bland food, a cleansing of the bowels through regular use of enemas, and a daily bowl of his tasty Corn Flakes.

Masturbation was considered a very serious threat to the good health and clean-living of every young man and woman up as far up as the 1950s and even the 1960s. Some may recall Monty Python’s spoof advert in their Brand New Bok which displayed a naked Graham Chapman under the headline “Masturbation The Difficult One”:

Some people find it difficult to talk about. Others find it difficult to do.

The mock ad went on to explain how masturbation:

...does not make you blind
It does not make your hair fall out
It does not make you vote Conservative
It does not stunt your growth

 
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Mr. Chapman and that difficult one.
 
The writer, lawyer, and “champagne socialist” John Mortimer, probably best known for his fictional character Rumpole of the Bailey, recounted in his autobiography Clinging to the Wreckage a tale of one of his classmates, a boy called Tainton, caught masturbating by the school chaplain, the suitably-named Mr. Percy.

Mr. Percy was deeply shocked to discover Tainton playing with himself and admonished him by saying:

“Really my boy, you should save that up till you are married.”
“Oh, I’m doing that, sir,” Tainton answered with his rare smile, “I’ve already got several jam jars full.”

In a bid to stop such heinous behavior, various contraptions were invented to stop self-pollution. For young women, there was the chastity belt, and for men, well, a variety of painful devices including this one which was intended to lock the penis and testicles into a metal retainer to avoid any self-abuse.

This male chastity belt, or “surgical appliance,” was in use from the 1830s until the 1930s. The device may look like a novel fashion accessory or a variation on one of those “cock locks” favored by those into fetishism, cross-dressing, and a little S&M, but it was originally intended to put a stop to young men spilling their seed on stony ground, or rather in their hands or handkerchieves.
 
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A male antimasturbation apparatus ca 1871-1930. According to the Science Museum:

This metal device is one of a number of similar devices which were invented in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries to prevent masturbation. A leather strap which would have kept it in place is now missing. Until the early 1900s, many people regarded masturbation as harmful to a person’s health, and it was blamed for a variety of ailments, including insanity.

 
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More male anti-masturbation devices, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.12.2018
08:49 am
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Buy these creepy wax figures of Amish people that have been missing from your nightmares
03.30.2018
08:06 am
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The Lancaster County (PA) Wax Museum was opened in the late ‘60s by the owner of the Dutch Wonderland theme park. That theme park is still operating, but the adjacent wax museum closed in 2006. The museum was ambitious—it featured, among other things, a life sized diorama of the burning of the Wrightsville Bridge, an 1863 saving throw against a Confederate Army incursion, but its centerpiece was a tableau of an animated Amish barn-raising.

Most of the museum’s figures were sold off soon after the closing, but the figures from that barn-raising are up for sale now. Per the Philadelphia Inquirer the seller is one Dana DiCicco, whose uncle held on to the figures because the barn-raising was supposed to be reinstalled at Dutch Wonderland, which never came to pass:

“When I went to see them in storage, they definitely looked creepy,” she said. “It looked like a scene from the Gettysburg battlefield.”

DiCicco is putting them up for sale on behalf of her uncle, a longtime manager of the Amish Farm and House, a tourist attraction in Lancaster. The adult figures are going for $350 apiece, the children and dog for $250, and DiCicco said they’d like to sell them as a set.

“He would definitely love to see them used for historical reasons,” DiCicco said.

As is the case with most tourist-trap wax museums, the figures are massively goddamn creepy, and indeed, this sale echoes a sale from two years ago, when a set of forty predictably disturbing wax figures of Amish children were offered to the world. Dangerous Minds’ estimable Martin Schneider told you all about that Village of the Damned nightmare fuel. This sale offers a more diverse crowd—as diverse as an Amish population can get, anyway.

Varying sizes, ages and details on these figures. The wardrobe can be exchanged to suit your historical or theatrical needs. There are 5 female figures, 3 children figures, about 32 male figures and 1 dog. Five of the men are mechanical. The dog is mechanical as well. Varying conditions. The parts are removable and some are disassembled but can be assembled for viewing. $1500 for anamatronic figure, $350-For full-sized adults, $300-Children/Dog. Hoping to sell as a set. Only Reasonable offers and Serious Buyers Please.

 

 

 
More where these came from, after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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03.30.2018
08:06 am
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The Artist as Frankenstein ‘piecing together the sublime’: The paintings of Carrie Ann Baade
03.28.2018
10:42 am
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Carrie Ann Baade paints pictures that link “the power of historical masterworks with [her] own experience as a contemporary artist.” Her work is fragmentary using an image bank culled from Renaissance and Baroque art which is used to contemplate “the ageless issues of morality, politics, and the individual quest for self-expression.” She describes herself “as a kind of Dr. Frankenstein attempting to piece together the sublime.”

Baade developed her collagic-style of painting during grad school when she struggled to find a way to be more like her “dead art heroes, Bosch, Fuseli, Moreau, and Knopf,” but keeping her work relevant to today. She started at the beginning and “rediscovered the artists’ first gallery, the refrigerator door.” 

Upon the door were a sentimental photograph of my infant niece and the Christmas gift of magnets made from cut up discount art books.  By moving some of these magnets over the photograph, the child’s eyes were covered with those from a Northern Renaissance portrait.  A Boschian creature was placed on top of her head to serve as an ornamental hat.  Lastly, a Durer Christ child and a Madonna’s hand scaled perfectly to that in the sentimental photo were placed on the arms in the photo. 

The completed the transformation was far more interesting than reality.  After several attempts at turning the image into a painting, the foundation for understanding the difference between collage and pastiche occurred. 

Through research, I realized that the amalgam of images had precedence in the appropriation art of the 80’s which is described as the advent of the citation style in painting and other mediums.  “Appropriation art” stresses the intentionality of the act of borrowing and the historical attitude of the borrower.  By building upon this accepted practice, my paintings incorporate these purloined fragments and keep the physical identity of the different motifs preserved from the overall unity.

Baade describes her intuitive creative process as “part tarot and part advent calendar.”

I have questions in mind when I am composing, I am searching for a solution to say…this feeling I have about the correlation between women and snakes and the moon. I collect images, I dive into my piles of cutouts that I have been archiving for the past five years. The composition of the collage can be immediate or go through 15 hours of revisions.  It is like reading cards, the answer will come as I am searching and the answer is usually visually surprising.

The process begins with Baade covering her studio floor with images ripped from pages of books and magazines. Once the floor is covered, Baade looks for sets of images that have landed on top of each other in an interesting way. She describes this as a form of divination like reading tea leaves or tarot cards. Often Baade has a question she seeks to answer which she hopes will be answered by the chance arrangement of images. Sometimes this can happen very quickly, mostly it’s a long process of trial and error. When ready, Baade collects the images and binds them together with sellotape. It can then take up to 150 hours to paint a picture.

Baade was born in Louisiana in 1974 and was raised in Colorado where she first took an interest in drawing and painting. Baade received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, studied at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy, and earned her MFA in Painting from the University of Delaware.  She currently divides her time between painting and lecturing as an Associate Professor of Painting and Drawing at Florida State University. See more of Carrie Ann Baade’s work here.
 
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More beautiful and surreal paintings, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.28.2018
10:42 am
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David Bowie, Dion Fortune, and the occult history of soymilk
03.01.2018
09:52 am
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During the mid-Seventies, when David Bowie subsisted on a diet of cow’s milk and cocaine, one of his favorite books was Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defense. It’s an instruction manual by a major-league Golden Dawn magician for diagnosing and guarding against attacks by other sorcerers.

Marc Spitz’s biography points out how one part of Bowie’s coke-and-milk diet violated a basic tenet of Dion Fortune’s program (“Keep away from drugs”), but the magician probably would have nixed the other staple, too. She didn’t invent soymilk, but she played an important role in its history as an advocate and experimenter. During World War I, while working in a laboratory for the Food Production Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fortune apparently discovered a means of making soymilk, as well as a method of turning it into soy cheese. In 1925, writing under her birth name, Violet Mary Firth, she published a book on the subject, The Soya Bean: An Appeal to Humanitarians.
 

David Bowie, 1969 (Photo by Brian Ward)
 
While I haven’t gotten my hands on a copy yet, a volume called History of Soymilk and Other-Non Dairy Milks (1226-2013) reproduces the table of contents and some of the foreword. Part I considers the ethical reasons to avoid animal products (chapter three: “Milk Is Not A Humane Food”), and Part II describes the wondrous properties of the soybean. She argues that commercial solutions to the problem of animal exploitation are more effective than “individual abstention from flesh-food.” The foreword begins:

The manufacture of a vegetable milk from the soya bean is a matter in which I was much interested during the war, and I think I may claim to be the first person, in this country at any rate, who succeeded in making a cheese from vegetable casein.

In Sane Occultism, however, Dion Fortune cautions against making “a religion” out of vegetarianism and says the practice is not for everyone, so maybe she would have just advised Bowie to lay off the yayo and put a few more sandwiches in his diet. Below, the Thin White Duke guzzles lowfat milk from the carton in a scene from Cracked Actor. (Maybe someday John Oswald will get around to making a Plunderphonics version called Lactose Cracker.)
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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03.01.2018
09:52 am
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Medicine Women: Photographs of the pioneering students at the world’s first medical school for women
02.26.2018
08:42 am
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Though many women worked as nurses in hospitals and within the medical profession, it was deemed “inappropriate” for a woman to become a doctor. This changed when Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) became the first woman to receive a medical degree in America and the first woman on the Medical Register of the General Medical Council.

Born and raised in England, Blackwell traveled to America to fulfill her ambition to become a doctor, where she privately studied anatomy under the tutelage of Dr. Jonathan M. Allen. As a woman, Blackwell faced tremendous obstacles in achieving her ambitions. It was suggested she disguise herself as a man to gain admittance to medical school or move to France where she could possibly train as a doctor. Blackwell’s mind was made up and she was determined to go through with her studies despite enormous opposition.

The horrors and disgusts I have no doubt of vanquishing. I have overcome stronger distastes than any that now remain, and feel fully equal to the contest. As to the opinion of people, I don’t care one straw personally; though I take so much pains, as a matter of policy, to propitiate it, and shall always strive to do so; for I see continually how the highest good is eclipsed by the violent or disagreeable forms which contain it.

The argument against Blackwell’s hope of a medical career was double-edged. Firstly, it was claimed women were inferior and therefore not up to the work. Secondly, if women were capable of becoming doctors then this would be troublesome and unnecessary competition for male doctors.

Blackwell applied to twelve different schools. In October 1847, she enrolled as a student at the Geneva Medical College (now Hobart College). Her admittance was decided upon by the male students who were told if one student objected to Blackwell’s admission she would be barred. The 150 male students voted unanimously in her favor.

On January 23, 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to achieve a medical degree in the United States. Her actions opened a door to which there was no way of closing.

The Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania was established in 1850 as a school solely for the training of women in medicine. The college was the second medical school for women opened in America but the very first medical school in the world authorized to award women the title of Medical Doctor or M.D. It would go on to become one of the most pioneering and inclusive medical schools in the country, accepting students from every ethnicity, creed, and nation. Students traveled from as far afield as India to study at the school.

The college was originally set up by Quakers who believed in a woman’s fundamental right to education. They also firmly supported full equality between the sexes and were understandably flummoxed by those men who vehemently argued against it. The idea for a women’s medical college had long been considered a necessity. Dr. Bartholomew Fussell argued the case in 1846, two years before Dr. Samuel Gregory opened the Boston Female Medical College, in 1848. Fussell was inspired by his dead sister, who he claimed would have made a brilliant doctor.

Originally called The Female Medical College of Pennsylvania, the school was situated at 229 Arch Street, Philadelphia. The college offered women the very rare opportunity to “teach, perform research, manage a medical school” within a hospital setting. This led to the establishment of the Woman’s Hospital in 1861. These were hard-won achievements. Rival men-only medical schools refused to accept many of the women students and doctors—on one occasion “cat-calling” and “jeering” women students in attendance at the Pennsylvania Hospital where they were to receive clinical instruction. But the blow had been struck and the forces of reaction inevitably crumbled.

The following selection of photographs show what life was like at the Woman’s Medical College for these young heroic women who fought and won the right to become doctors. The school went onto become active in the Feminist movement of the 19th and early-20th centuries. The college and hospital merged with Hahnemann Medical School in 1983, before joining Drexel University College of Medicine in 2003.
 
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Students came from all over the world: Anandabai Joshee, Kei Okami, and Tabat Islambooly, photographed at the Dean’s Reception on October 10, 1885.
 
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Inside the packed operating room, North College Avenue, circa 1890.
 
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Student life 1890.
 
More photographs of America’s first women doctors, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.26.2018
08:42 am
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Henry VIII’s bizarre and grotesque ‘Horned Helmet’
02.07.2018
10:02 am
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Henry VIII’s grotesque Horned Helmet might sound uncannily like a saucy euphemism for the royal fat bastard’s wing-wang but it is, unsurprisingly, a rather fitting description for a genuine piece of kingly armor presented to HRH by Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor in 1514.

This grotesque yet intricately crafted helmet was given as a present after ye olde King Henry had assisted Maximilian in holding back/defeating the French at the Battle of Spurs in 1513. The helmet was designed by Konrad Seusenhofer, the Austrian armorer who worked for the Emperor. It was made from copper alloy and was originally gilded. The helmet is all that remains of the original suit of armor gifted by Maximillian—the rest of the suit is believed to have been recycled or rather thrown out as scrap metal.

Henry’s Horned Helmet features a beautifully crafted face of a rather ugly fool complete with a set of spectacles. The face is finely detailed with crow’s feet around the eyes, stubble, eyebrows, a sniveling drip of snot drooping from the nose, and a ghastly set of tombstone teeth. The helmet is believed to be a likeness of Henry’s favorite court jester Will Sommers who faithfully served the king throughout his life and was said to be the only man who could raise a smile on the old bloated king when he was ill and near death. The helmet also has a pair of ram’s horns which are thought to have been added by Henry which may suggest a cuckold or possibly the Devil. The Horned Helmet was mainly worn in royal parades rather than battle, though its bizarre design would have probably put the wind up any enemy soldiers.
 
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See more of King Henry VIII’s Horned Helmet, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.07.2018
10:02 am
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MORE IS MORE! The inimitable Mrs. Smith on the history of heavy metal shred guitar
02.07.2018
08:38 am
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Last summer, Dangerous Minds introduced you to “Mrs. Smith,” an outrageous, hilarious, posh New-Englandy matron who plays breakneck-speed heavy metal guitar solos. Since then, her profile has grown tremendously, and she’s accordingly been very, very busy, playing a residency gig at NYC’s Cutting Room, releasing a video for her cover of Adele’s “Hello,” (yes, really, see below), and making a lauded appearance at the musical instrument industry’s annual NAMM conference. And last weekend, Mrs. Smith did something seriously wonderful—a presentation for L.A.’s Voyager Institute arts & pop culture lecture series called “The State of Shred.”

The Voyager Institute is the latest cultural offering from Bret Berg, who’s previously curated cinema for Alamo Drafthouse and Cinefamily, and was the brains behind the wonderful but now defunct MP3 sharity blog/video series Post-Punk Junk, and the much broader Egg City Radio. Berg produced “The State of Shred” with underground music promoter Sean Carnage, and in addition to Mrs. Smith’s history lesson, the event included a panel talk that saw Berg and Carnage picking the brains of Smith, musician David Rothbaum, probably best known for his work on the Room 237 soundtrack, or for playing with Berg in a Goblin tribute band called Nilbog, and Alice Cooper guitarist Nita Strauss, who recently became the first female player to be honored with an Ibanez signature guitar.
 

 

 

 
Mrs. Smith is great fun to gab with, so we were gladdened that she took the time to share this with DM:

I had the occasion to be in Los Angeles for the 2018 NAMM show where I appeared as a demonstrator for Mezzabarba, an Italian amplifier company. I was looking for additional engagements while in LA and Sean Carnage pitched the idea of me presenting at The Voyager Institute, a kind of bohemian salon of talks by artists on intriguing topics. As Sean and I discussed what I could present, “The state of shred” popped out of my mouth and inspired the idea for a short presentation. I had to leave so much out, I look forward to filling in ever more details in this concept. 

A great deal of the information for my lecture was acquired at the last minute on Google. I apologize if I got a Guitar God’s name wrong! It would seem many of these people know me but I don’t know them which is a very surreal experience indeed. I don’t know them! I mean no offense by it. If you look at it logically you’ll recognize there’s truly only one of me and so very many of them—it’s natural to confuse. I’m so sorry if I’ve offended!

 
Watch ‘The State of Shred,’ after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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02.07.2018
08:38 am
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Before dick pics and sexting: How men asked for sex a century ago
01.30.2018
09:58 am
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Before our indulgent misuse of technology made us a tad brutish and unsophisticated in our relationships with each other, men and women once had a form of ritual quaintly called “courtship” where a chivalrous young man was expected to woo a demure young woman with subtly, attention, kindness, and flowers. Such actions were supposed to signal his honorable intentions, trustworthiness, and his reliability to furnish his intended with all that she might require. (Oh, how many poor women fell into a life of drudgery because of that? I wonder.) Of course, these young men would also have their needs but they could only hint at these through the saving grace of innuendo and saucy humor, which made it possible to say one thing and mean something entirely different!

Exhibit A: A set of American postcards dating from 1905 which depicts a young man and the woman of his dreams. These cards were supposed to show our earnest young man’s burning desire to pop the question and ask his fair lady to marry him. But wait, there’s more… These seemingly innocent-looking cards were also a means by which a randy young git could ask his lady friend for his nazzums, his nookie, his how’s your father, his horizontal refreshment, his whoopie, his you know what, you know, get his end away. Of course, women were far too high-minded, civilized, and ever so polite to even know about such things… But...if ever they did, then they’d know only too damn well what his nibs was on about. Indeed, one of these cards does look like it was specifically meant for use by the ladies to send to their beaus in which our eager young heroine suggests that if her reluctant young man would only ask her to marry him, well, then he’ll get it alright.

Though their intention for sex maybe similar, these little cards certainly make a refreshing change from dick pics and unwanted sexting, but plus ca change...
 
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The unsubtle: ‘How about it Kiddo?’
 
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The subtle: Ask me to marry you and you’ll get what you desire.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.30.2018
09:58 am
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Strange Illustrations of Robots, Devils, Fire-Breathing Witches, and Weapons of War from 1420
01.25.2018
10:00 am
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The Devil and all his internal works.
 
There’s an episode of South Park where Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny try out different routines only to find “The Simpson’s Already Did It.” Looking at the illustrations of technological inventions by fifteenth-century Venetian physician, engineer, and alleged “magus,” Johannes de Fontana, (ca. 1395-1455), aka Giovanni Fontana, it’s more than apparent that whatever invention we think is new someone (probably not The Simpsons...) has already imagined it.

In his technological or mechanical treatise, Bellicorum instrumentorum liber cum figuris (ca. 1420), Fontana imagined or rather devised a whole series of machines for use in war, traveling, entertaining children, flying, robots, rocket-powered craft, timepieces, fountains, and even a means of projecting images like a magic lantern. Unlike most other inventors at this time, Fontana showed the workings of his inventions—the pulleys and weights (sand, water) by which his mechanical devices worked. Most inventors illustrated their proposals “in action” as if functioning in real time, therefore, keeping internal mechanisms of cogs and wheels and what-have-yous hidden, thus to ensure they might be paid for developing such contraptions. Fontana presented his work with see-thru interiors, allowing the viewer to witness or rather imagine just exactly how this devil could fly or that vehicle move. This all well-and-good until one realizes many of these wonderful designs are utterly unworkable as they “do not conform to the principles of mechanics.”

Many of the ideas contained in Bellicorum instrumentorum liber cum figuris focus on weapons of war like exploding missiles, mechanical battering rams and alike. However, Fontana did also include a number of designs for children’s toys and several drawings that scorched myths about the supernatural and the occult by explaining how devils and witches were most probably just robotic automata used to terrorize his fellow citizens.

A copy of Johannes de Fontana’s Bellicorum instrumentorum liber cum figuris can be viewed here.
 
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A mechanical toy.
 
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More toy/entertainment for kids.
 
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A robot witch showing how it would move on rails, have wings that flapped and arms that moved, and an ability to blow fire or air.
 
More mechanical illustrations, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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01.25.2018
10:00 am
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