Posts Tagged: History
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Rich People Looking At Art

While the herds fight over art and VIP access down at Art Basel Miami Beach, a reminder that some things never change.

This was it, the start of the Biennale proper: the onset of party-anxiety and invite-envy, the fear that there were better parties you’d not been invited to, a higher tier of pleasure that was forbidden to you…You could be at a tremendous party, full of fun people, surrounded by beautiful women, booze flowing, totally happy– but part of you would be in a state of torment because there was another party to which you’d not been invited. There was nothing to do about it.

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The Man Who Put The Fun Back In Movies

Hal Needham was never a household name, something about which he did not care. He passed away last week at the age of 82. He was (by his account) the highest paid stuntman of all time and the director of a slew of memorable Burt Reynolds movies from the ‘70s and ‘80s, including Smokey And The Bandit, a film that, if you grew up in the South, rivaled the popularity of Star Wars. He ushered in a lighter touch to American pop movie culture, but he probably mostly cared about the checks in his mailbox.

Had Needham never sat behind a movie camera, we would still be talking about [...]

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The Last Of America's Slave Tags

Would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

“There’s just one more thing,” the curator of history said, as we were about to hang up the phone, “but I’m not sure if I should tell you.”

I had called J. Grahame Long of the Charleston Museum in South Carolina about a slave tag from 1850 up for sale at the Early American Store. There can be a kind of vexing fetishism [...]

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Blockbusters

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In 1941, almost exactly five months after Hitler had offered to end the war and a few nights before Christmas, a 2,750-pound German bomb fell into a married London couple's wooden kitchen, which was already "flimsy." But the bomb did not explode. Alf Fry and his wife waited four weeks for the bomb to be dug up from the clay, dismantled, and hauled away. But before that, they came to call the bomb "Max."

Max's impotence was both normal and odd. As the war progressed, bombs that large—named, quite literally, blockbusters—were more commonly used by the Royal Air Force in night raids on German military centers along [...]

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The Mysteries of Ambrose Bierce

Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

If novelist Carsten Stroud has $53 or so to his name, we hope he hurried over to Heritage Auction house for their most-recent sale of books and autographs. Under the hammer: a British first edition of Ambrose Bierce’s In the Midst of Life: Tales of Soldiers and Civilians, which contains "An Occurrence at Owl Creek," a short story Stroud recently listed as one [...]

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The Man Who Killed Motley Flint

"In the late 1920s, the Julian Petroleum Corporation, though scarcely remembered today, defrauded some 40,000 investors of $150 million in one of the nation's earliest Ponzi schemes, driving Southern Californians to the brink of revolution as they witnessed their most trusted leaders and institutions caught in the meshes of the scandal's net."

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Kanye West And His "Thirty White Bitches"

"Yeezus," the new and almost pathologically anticipated Kanye West album, was leaked online two weeks ago and then, probably out of custom, released legally last week. Upon first listen it reminded me of Nine Inch Nails, Death Grips, and my dad—but not because West now has a two-week-old child with girlfriend Kim Kardashian.

When my father was in undergrad at a small HBCU in the Midwest, he joined the storied black fraternity Kappa Alpha Psi. Fraternity chapters, despite their ethnic and regional differences, will nevertheless always share some DNA, and so it shouldn't surprise you that my dad's frat was big on giving people nicknames. Some brothers were called things [...]

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We Golf Econo

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Golf does not immediately reveal its econo aspect, particularly to the uninitiated. At first glance, it appears anti-econo, a game of privilege and exclusivity, intent on performing and re-performing its superiority and the artifice of its traditions. This, at least, is true at the upper levels of the game’s ruling class, where sponsorship decisions are made and the checks come with seven or eight zeroes. Self-seriousness in golf is not so much an affect as the engine of what goes on. Jim Nantz talking about the azaleas in April, with faux profundity and a gallery full of graying white men with hairless vertically-dominant calves that somehow still taper [...]

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How Did Pumpkin Become Beloved? Labor, Nostalgia, Refreshment And White Women

This story begins, like so many before it, with a marathon session of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.” Specifically, the show’s 1999 Halloween episode, “Episode LXXXI: The Phantom Menace.” (STTW has a real gift for prophecy.) Sabrina, played by Melissa Joan Hart, is a faux black sheep with a heart of gold; her manager (cum boyfriend cum soon-to-be-war-photographer) is as auspicious as he is handsome—which is a lot—but is also a bit dunderheaded. The setting: a Central Perk knockoff:

JOSH: Y’know, I’m really surprised our special pumpkin flavored coffee hasn’t been more popular.

SABRINA: Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that it’s a hideous shade [...]

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The Killing Of Neighbors

Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

By the time Robert Simpson Neighbors arrived on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River in Texas, the trouble between the people who lived there and the people who wanted to live there had gotten out of control.

Neighbors had seen it coming. When he first became an Indian agent in 1844, he was shocked to learn his colleagues rarely ventured outside the office.1 [...]

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The Excellent Jewish Propagandist

Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

Arthur Szyk illustrated everything from “Mother Goose” books to Esquire magazine covers, from Coca-Cola ads to one of the world's most beautiful Haggadot—but much of that was just a job. “I am but a Jew praying in art,” Szyk once wrote. He arrived in the United States—having fled Russian-occupied Poland for France, and then London—during World War II, where his ubiquitous caricatures of the [...]

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Prince And The Computer Revolution

While we await the next credit bubble, and with it the circumstances that justify pursuit of my master’s thesis, "Metaphors of Technology in R&B," plz allow me to share some notes for the chapter "Prince//The Komputer."

1.

Prince was an early adopter. He got down with l’ordinateur in the early 80s, and quickly established himself as a pioneer of romantic cybernetics. On this extended version of "Computer Blue," from 1983, we hear a Wendy (Lisa?) monologue around the 10 min. mark:

Narrow-minded computer, it’s time someone programmed you. It’s time you learned. Women are not butterflies, they’re computers too. Just like you, Computer Blue.

Then:

Chauvinistic computer, it’s time [...]

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'Wigwag' Revisited

It was not a likely name for a magazine. A kid's magazine, maybe, but a bold attempt to supplant the New Yorker? Eyebrows were raised. And yet Wigwag was launched anyway, in the fall of 1989. Editor Alexander Kaplen wrote in his introductory note: "The word isn't made up, and the name's no accident. This magazine has a lot to do with home—who lives where, what they do there, what they do there." The definition, according to Kaplen, is, "to signal someone home." Kaplen launched the magazine as a response to the ousting of long-time editor William Shawn in 1987 (detailed extensively by Elon Green last week). If [...]

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There Are Now Just 357 American Drive-In Theaters

Drive-ins, you may have heard, are in trouble. Their decline has been distinct—and distinctly lamented—for more than 40 years, and yet they somehow never quite die off. Like newspaper comics, they are one of those beleaguered swatches of Americana that never quite give up. And yet there is a new crisis. Those some 360 or so drive-ins remaining, having weathered the rise of the television and the multiplex, declining attendance, and rising suburban real estate costs, face a new dire threat yet—digital projection.

Distributors are about to stop shipping 35 millimeter film and shift to entirely digital distribution. This is little hazard to commercial cinemas, but a clear peril to [...]

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The Bog People Were Waiting

A good six thousand or so years ago, Northern Europe was covered in swamp-like, stagnant pools of dead plant. These bogs happened to be great places to get rid of stuff, and so our ancestors, being not much different than we are today, really, filled them with refuse and the occasional body.

We're not exactly sure why those bodies were put there. The prevailing theory is they were human sacrifices, but it's entirely possible that bogs were just convenient places to store dead people. Either way, there they stayed, buried and preserved for thousands of years, just waiting for the chance to scare the crap out of an eight-year-old girl [...]

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X and Blondie: How Enemies Become Frenemies Become Friends

Tonight, Blondie and X are playing at Roseland, the last stop on their big Aging Fabulous Legends Of Punk tour. (It's not really called that.) Tickets are $70 on Ticketmaster and about the same on Stub Hub. They're like old pals now, according to USA Today: "'I think there's a lot of respect' between the group's members, says X bassist John Doe."

Superfreaks will remember the live version of "Nausea," recorded in 1982 in San Diego, released on "Beyond and Back: The X Anthology." Exene gives an introduction: "Well. Well, well, well, well. I bet you guys wish Deborah Harry and Blondie was playing tonight, right? I bet [...]

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Inside The "Riot Grrrl" Archives

An early issue of Girl Germs, one of the zines archived in the Riot Grrrl Collection at NYU’s Fales Library, is made of ten sheets of standard-size office paper stacked on top of each other, folded lengthwise, and stapled twice down the spine. With the fold on the left, so the surface is taller than it is wide, the sheets become a half-size book of 38 pages and two covers. When the master copy was made in the early 1990s, its pages were hand-pasted with illustrations, essays, and letters either torn from notebooks or cut to size, then photocopied into a small print run by Molly Neuman and Allison [...]

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Inexpensive Japanese Pornography

Hello, would you like to buy something weird? Hammer Time is our guide to things that are for sale at auction: fantastic, consequential and freakishly grotesque archival treasures that appear in public for just a brief moment, most likely never to be seen again.

During the Edo period in Japan, the lord of each province was required to spend six months out of the year in the capital. They were allowed to bring their families to Edo (present-day Tokyo), but more often than not, they were left behind.

In other words, lords got lonely.

There were an abundance of brothels, legalized by the shogunite, but also the sexually [...]

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Extermination Alone

The dust was everywhere. It nestled into crevices of wood and fabric, into the plush fur of bears and tigers and dogs and rabbits and indeterminate species of stuffed toys. It settled over dried flowers: Red roses burnt black, white carnations leavened into dusky repose. Candles, curved faces flush with saints and saviors, towered in ashy, extinct clusters. Gusts coughed up low, dirty clouds through which visitors shuffled, trance-like. A town of prairie dogs peeked up and around from their burrows of the stuff, surveying the shrines and memorials, eye-level with the human feet and ankles and shoes and sandals and boots. Buses, climbing an adjacent grade, wheezed into chalky [...]

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The Letter

William Shawn began work at The New Yorker in 1933, was appointed managing editor in 1939 and, quite shortly after the death of founding editor Harold Ross, became the magazine's editor in 1951.

In 1985, 34 years later, Shawn was still the editor, but Peter Fleischmann, the son of founding partner Raoul Fleischmann, owned only 25% of shares in The New Yorker. Paine Webber owned the next largest share, and the Newhouse family's Advance Publications already owned around 17% of the publication. Advance wanted, and got, the rest, for a price something like 20 times current revenues, according to the Times.

The employees, however, were not happy [...]