Intl. Notebook Sep 7 2014
A RIP IN TIME
History’s most storied serial killer finally identified.

Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper has published a story in which it claims infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper has been identified through DNA testing. The analysis was performed on a shawl found by police on the body of Catherine Eddowes, the fourth of the Ripper’s canonical victims, killed on the same night as Elizabeth Stride in what is termed by Ripper scholars as “The Double Event.” The shawl had recently been bought at auction by an amateur sleuth and passed on to genetic experts, who took samples from the fabric and found matches to the DNA of descendants of Eddowes, and to the descendants of Aaron Kosminski, an original Ripper suspect who had been questioned and surveilled by police back in 1888.

The Mail has said the new evidence “puts to end the fevered speculation over the Ripper’s identity,” but we imagine independent corroboration will probably have to follow before that’s true. Kosminski was of Polish descent and had emigrated from the Russian Empire to London. Police reports from the time of the murder describe him as a serial masturbator, and indeed the Kosminski DNA sample from the shawl is thought to be semen, meaning that in the few minutes after the killing he both mutilated the corpse and ejaculated over it. Presumably more details will emerge in the coming days, but the announcement of Kosminski as the killer, if true, has to rank as one of crime history’s most significant, and may bring to a close one of its most baffling murder cases.

Update: That didn't take long. Various scientists and DNA experts say the genetic analysis done on the shawl was botched due to error of nomenclature. Instead of an extremely rare genetic match, DNA extracted from Eddowes' shawl actually matches that of most people of European descent. So forget everything we wrote above.

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Intl. Notebook Jun 6 2014
MIXED SIGNALS
The divide between fact and propaganda is never so clear as in hindsight.


Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day—the Allied landings in Northern France—and since most observances take the same form, we thought it would be a good opportunity to look at the event from a different angle by sharing something you might not see anywhere else. So above and below are some front and back covers of Signal, a German propaganda magazine printed from 1940 to 1945 and distributed in neutral, friendly, and occupied countries. These are from Yugoslavia, and their text is Croatian. Glancing at the images is to marvel at the always yawning chasm between propaganda and reality, for though Signal showed Hitler’s soldiers defeating foes while winning hearts and minds, when most of these were printed his army was not only the most hated entity in the Western world, but was already in the process of being fatally smashed in the crucible of a bitter Russian winter against a hardened foe that had always considered ice, snow, wind and frostbite its most important allies.

Once the other allies, led by the U.S., dragged the Germans into a two-front war, defeat was assured. That outcome could have been forestalled perhaps by the development of advanced technology, particularly a German atomic bomb, but it never quite happened. And yet under the direction of the Wehrmacht and Hasso von Wedel, winning imagery kept spinning from the web of German presses, depicting beautiful frauen cavorting in the homeland and smiling soldiers abroad doing the tough but necessary work of unifying Europe. But the intended recipients of these messages had begun to understand the truth—the Germans were finished, and the devastation they had wrought on foreign lands was coming home to roost. When bombs finally fell like rain on Berlin and enemy soldiers stormed the ramparts east and west, Hitler’s imagined 1,000-year Reich was over. It had lasted barely five years.

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Femmes Fatales Sep 13 2013
SEASONS OF VERUSCHKA
Perfectly dressed for both the season ending and the season coming.

Veruschka von Lehndorff, aka Vera Gräfin von Lehndorff-Steinort was born in Königsberg, East Prussia, a place that is now part of Russia and called Kalingrad. Today she’s a countess of Lehndorff-Steinort, which was once part of Germany but is now inside Poland. When she gained fame as a model in the 1960s she became known merely as Veruschka. She once shot an iconic set of photos in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, and once posed for Salvador Dali. She was six feet tall and could fold herself like a pretzel so that her ankles were behind her head. She branched out from modeling and acted in a dozen films, including Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 classic Blow Up, and 2006’s Bond reboot Casino Royale. She is a woman with range, and so we’ve selected two photos to exemplify that—shots from Vogue magazine that show her in both a summer and winter milieu. These are from 1968.

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Intl. Notebook Oct 10 2012
NUCLEAR FRONTIER
If this is the new Earth we’ll just stick with the old one.

Today in 1957 in the Soviet Union, this photo was shot of an underwater nuclear detonation at the Novaya Zemlya Test Site, located on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Novaya Zemlya means “new earth” in Russian, but might as well mean “nuclear earth,” considering 224 tests were conducted on the islands amounting to 265 megatons of TNT. To put that in perspective, all the explosives used during World War II, including the two nuclear bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, amounted to only two megatons.

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Intl. Notebook | Musiquarium Sep 18 2012
MUSIC TO SPY TO
We’ve got something special up our sleeves.

Above and below are the front and rear sleeves of four Japanese soundtrack pressings for the 1960s James Bond films Thunderball, From Russia with Love, You Only Live Twice, and Goldfinger. The themes were sung by Tom Jones, Matt Munro, Nancy Sinatra, and Shirley Bassey respectively, and pictured along with Sean Connery you see Bond beauties Claudine Auger and Shirley Eaton. Ms. Eaton, as wrong-place wrong-time Jill Masterson, had the dubious honor of being suffocated under a coating of gold paint, certainly one of the most infamous deaths of any Bond femme. We think these sleeves are great, and if you agree and want to see a lot more excellent 007 soundtrack art, check our previous posts here, here, and especially here.

On a related note, the Bond franchise’s fiftieth anniversary is next month, and in honor of the occasion former star Roger Moore, along with co-stars Britt Ekland and Richard Kiel, are touring around England with a Blu-ray box set of all the films, which are stored inside a gold case that is in turn comfortably riding in one of Bond’s preferred vehicles, an Aston Martin DBS. Actors, auto, and discs are visiting some of the iconic locations of the Bond series in advance of the release of the next film, which is entitled Skyfall. You can read more about all that here.
 

 
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Reader Pulp Jul 19 2012
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY SLEAZE
All citizens possess unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of tabloid depravity.

Earlier this year, the website Darwination sent us two copies of the American tabloid It’s Happening. We posted the first in May, and today we have the second issue. As we pointed out before, the publication was dreamt up by Reuben Sturman, a Cleveland-born son of Russian immigrants who realized that the lack of a cheapie tabloid aimed at black readers represented a large—and potentially profitable—hole in the market. True, there had been the magazine Hep during the 1950s, but that had been a glossy tabloid. And true, Sturman had already delved into African-American erotica with his magazine Tan N’ Terrific, but that had been a photo digest. It’s Happening—provocative, humorous, but mostly plain ludicrous—was what Sturman came up with. See below, and see here. 

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Intl. Notebook May 23 2012
PLANET IN FLAMES
A few old men dreaming of power, a few million young men cast into the fire.

Above and below we have a collection of World War II propaganda posters from the U.S., Russia, Britain, Japan, and other participating nations. Some of these are artistically adept, and yet intensely ugly. You’d almost wonder if artists—who have so much power over the imagination—shouldn’t adhere to a version of the Hippocratic oath that forbids doing harm in the practice of the craft. Unfortunately, World War II itself teaches us that such oaths don't work for doctors either—re: cruel medical experiments in Germany, the U.S., and other countries resulting in numerous deaths for the purpose of morbid curiosity.

All of these posters are circa 1939 to 1945, except the nasty anti-Jewish, anti-Russian poster, which dates from 1937, but which we’ve included to illustrate how racism was used to pave the way for a war nobody realized—foolishly—would be a generation killer. It's an effective piece in the sense that it portrays other humans as inhuman based on a perception of otherness. It was painted by Horst Schlüter, a prominent graphic artist of the time. And for an idea how unkillable such ideas are, consider the fact that we saw that poster commented upon favorably on a neo-nazi forum.

World War II is just a school term for most people on the planet today, and is often thought of as a romantic time. Perhaps—but it’s worth noting that, more or less, 27,500 humans were slaughtered every day for about six years, eventually totaling more than 60 million lives snuffed out. Many of those people would have been orators, musicians, teachers, artists, writers, and even pulp writers, that we would remember today. Check our previous collection of war posters here

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Vintage Pulp | Sex Files Jan 16 2012
SKIN FLICKS
A new tabloid hits the newsstands with a twist on the usual formula.

In our continuing search for rare magazines of high entertainment value (if sometimes dubious quality), we stumbled across the above gem—the first issue of the self-described sexploitation film graphic Flick. Published in the U.S. out of Libertyville, Illinois, it was basically just reviews of x-rated films in tabloid form. The publishers admit in their introductory editorial that the tabloid market is glutted, but insist America needs a magazine that helps porn consumers separate the wheat from the chaff. They do it with utter seriousness and, as a bonus, also throw in some musings on film history, with discussions of Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Theda Bara, Jean Harlow, and Hedy Lamarr, who all had pre-Hays Code flirtations with screen nudity.

It might be difficult to imagine actors appearing nude on screen during the 1920s and 1930s, but the idea back then was that, because the medium was considered an art form, motion picture nudity was no different from nudity in sculpture, photography or painting. Theda Bara's and Jean Harlow’s screen nudity was merely implied, but Hedy Lamarr went all the way in her 1933 Czech-made romance Ekstase, aka Ecstasy, in which she ran starkers through the woods, giving audiences a gander at her backside and breasts. She was known at the time as Hedy Kiesler, but it’s her. There’s also a non-nude love scene containing what some critics believe is the first cinematic depiction of an orgasm. As you can imagine, Ekstase was controversial. Only four-hundred prints were ever made, and most of those were butchered by censors. By the 1940s, the only complete copy known to exist was in Russia. It had first been Hungarian property and had been exhibited in Budapest in ’33, but because the Hungarians had fought alongside Nazi Germany and helped conquer swaths of Russian territory in the early 1940s, when the Russians reversed those gains and occupied Budapest in 1944, they sort of helped themselves to a few choice cultural treasures.

Elsewhere in this inaugural Flick you get reviews of the adult films A Hard Man’s Good To Get, Sisters in Leather, College Girls, and Jack Hill’s first full-length effort Mondo Keyhole. The editors remind readers that their magazine is a collector’s item. At the time—January 1970—they probably imagined it would be quite valuable in forty-one years. Well, we got it for $4.00. But just for the hell of it, maybe we’ll hang onto it for another forty-one years. You never know. By the way, if you’re curious, you can actually see that famous Hedy Lamarr nude scene here. It is not a complete version, though. We doubt a complete one exists. See ten scans from Flick below. 

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Hollywoodland Dec 5 2011
HOLLYWOOD SIGNING
Um, do I only get one shot at this, or can we smooth it over and do it again?

In this publicity photo, Russian-born actress Natalie Wood smiles after imprinting her hands, shoes and signature in fresh concrete in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Wood was the 118th personality to be thus honored, and probably the only one to do it with this particular hairstyle. That was today in 1961. 

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Vintage Pulp Nov 6 2011
THE LAST DAYS OF PINK
The National Police Gazette starts to lose that rosy glow.

The National Police Gazette shows signs of fatigue in this November 1969 issue that is tellingly thin, with just 32 pages, and offers no stories of great interest. It has a Femi Benussi cover, which is a plus, but Benussi is labeled Russian even though she was actually born in what is now Croatia and acted in Italy. Seems like Gazette editors weren’t trying very hard. Once a tentpole of the tabloid market, the magazine was 125 years old by this point and losing readers. After one more month it would change its trademark cover style slightly to this, but the magazine continued to decline. Downmarket tabloids like National Enquirer had sprinted past the Gazette in celeb and scandal coverage, and its sports coverage now looked woefully inadequate compared to the glossy sports mags that were on the newsstands. Gazette hung on for seven more years, then quietly folded. We have thirteen more scans below, and many issues of Gazette from all stages of its long life to share later. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 31
1984—Indira Gandhi Assassinated
In India, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated by two of her own Sikh security guards in the garden of the Prime Minister's Residence at No. 1, Safdarjung Road in New Delhi. Gandhi had been walking to meet British actor Peter Ustinov for an interview. Riots soon break out in New Delhi and nearly 2,000 Sikhs are killed.
October 30
1945—Robinson Signs with Dodgers
Jackie Robinson, who had been playing with the Negro League team the Kansas City Monarchs, signs a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers to become the first African-American major leaguer of the modern baseball era.
1961—Soviets Detonate Super Nuke
The Soviet Union detonates an experimental nuclear weapon called Tsar Bomba over the Arctic Circle, which, with a yield of 100 megatons of TNT, was then and remains today the most powerful weapon ever used by humanity.
October 29
1901—William McKinley's Assassin Executed
Leon Czolgosz, the assassin of U.S. President William McKinley, is executed at Auburn State Prison in Auburn, New York by means of the electric chair. Czolgosz had shot McKinley twice with a cheap revolver and the President had lingered for several days before dying. After Czolgosz is executed, he is buried on prison grounds and sulfuric acid is thrown into his coffin to disfigure his body and result in its quick decomposition.
1982—Lindy Chamberlain Convicted of Murder
In Australia, Lindy Chamberlain is found guilty of the murder of her nine-week-old daughter. The baby was killed during a camping trip in the Australian interior. Chamberlain claimed a dingo had taken the baby, but a jury decided Chamberlain cut the infant's throat and buried her. The body was never found, but forensic experts played a large role in the conviction. Four years after the trial the baby's jacket is found inside a dingo lair, backing up Chamberlain's claim, and she is released from prison.

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