|Intl. Notebook||Aug 17 2017|
|Intl. Notebook||Aug 12 2017|
|Intl. Notebook||Aug 10 2017|
Conflict and propaganda go hand in hand. During the Cold War the U.S. and Russia both produced political art bashing the other side, and some of that art has reached collector status today. We have an example above and below—a Soviet pamphlet featuring ink drawings by famed illustrator Alexander Moiseevich Zhytomyr attacking various aspects of the U.S., including capital punishment, mass incarceration, and nukes. Though the pamphlet was printed in 1964, most of the content is from earlier, generally the late 1940s. Basically, it's all pretty much self-explanatory, and timely too, considering many Americans are now highly critical of the same elements of their own country that the Soviets attack here. Whatever your politics happen to be, these pieces are all objectively quite nice. Have a look below.
|Intl. Notebook||Jul 31 2017|
|Intl. Notebook||Jul 22 2017|
This is a classic piece of tabloid art. Brigitte Bardot is pictured on this National Enquirer published today in 1962 reading what is supposed to be a tabloid paper and looking annoyed. The art suggests she thinks the press is lying about her, reporting fake news, as it were. And being the tabloid press, it probably was. Below you see the photo Enquirer cropped to get the cover. In it, Bardot sits on her younger sister Mijanou's lap between takes on the set of the 1959 comedy Voulez-vous danser avec moi?, aka Come Dance with Me, in Nice, France. Sis looks just as bothered as Brigitte, but she was probably just bored, since she wasn't appearing in the film. She did act in more than a dozen movies of her own, though.
|Intl. Notebook||Jul 14 2017|
Pan American World Airways knew how to imbue travel with an aura of romance. It launched in the late 1920s with mail service from Key West to Havana, and quickly expanded to become a passenger airline. Business boomed—well heeled Americans took flights to Havana in droves in what became known as the Cocktail Circuit, escaping U.S. prohibition to enjoy a weekend of decadent nightclubs and gambling before returning in time for Monday's real world obligations. Soon Pan Am expanded service throughout Latin America and the world. It bought seaplanes to get around the problem of many cities not having proper airports. With the ability to use docking facilities, virtually no destination was inaccessible.
The company dubbed its seaplane fleet “clippers,” evoking the masted sailing ships of the oceangoing era, and their draw was not just their mobility but their luxury. Some say it was a different era of corporate governance, a time when the mandate in the commercial travel industry was to earn loyalty with good service rather than to blackmail customers into avoiding misery. This is partly true, but it's also important to remember that air travel was initially considered a luxury indulgence. It was with the advent of travel for the masses that airlines began to exchange services for profitably packing people in like sardines. In that sense, their priorities have not changed much in fifty years.
Pan Am soon began promoting its services with colorful posters, many of which were created by a talented artist named Mark von Arenburg. These prints, which promised to take passengers around the world by clipper, hung mainly in airports and travel agencies and gave passersby fantastic glimpses of faraway destinations—indeed, it's difficult to look at any of them without feeling the pull of the exotic wider world. The company produced hundreds of these promos in various styles and multiple languages, but for our purposes we're interested today only in the posters advertising travel on that elegant Pan Am clipper.
Over the years the fleet evolved from seaplanes to jets, and while all were called clippers, it's the lovely skyboats that are most fondly remembered—and which provided so many entertaining settings in old movies and pulp fiction. The posters you see below are scans of both originals and reproductions, and there are quite a few. Even so, it isn't a complete collection. Some of the most famous posters are so rare they simply can't be found online at the moment. While it's true that air travelers are mainly treated like cattle rather than customers today, and commercial flying is a form of voluntary torture, the destinations are still there to make those difficult hours in the air worthwhile. Let these posters inspire you.
|Intl. Notebook||Jul 10 2017|
Mike Power, aka the Atomic Man, originated with the Hasbro toy company in the mid-1970s as part of its G.I. Joe Adventure Team. Power was born disabled. He spent his life developing atomic parts for his body, including a leg that helped him run 200 miles per hour, an arm that lifted 10,000 pounds, an eye that could see through six feet of solid steel, and an atomic heart to help him handle all the exertion. As you have probably guessed, Hasbro created him as competition for Kenner's Six Million Dollar Man action figure, but this one was going for around sixty dollars. We've seen cheaper ones that come without a box.
Power was also low rent in the sense that he never had a television show like the Six Million Dollar Man, but Hasbro put out a comic, and those are collector's items today. There were actually two versions of Power. Here you see the British version, which was manufactured by Palitoy, and the main difference was Power's plastic hair was replaced by a flocked hairdo that looked like a white guy ’fro. Below you see what Power is packing under his jumpsuit (“Daddy, why doesn't he have a wiener?” “Well son, that's because Atomic Man had it cut off when he became what's called a eunuch. Bled like a pig, he did.”). You can see a couple more entries on vintage dolls here and here. And if you're into futuristic toy ray guns, check here.
|Intl. Notebook||Jul 6 2017|
This photo shows the crater made by the Sedan nuclear test, also known as the Storax Sedan test, which happened today in 1962 as part of Operation Storax. The crater is the result of an explosion that displaced twelve million tons of earth, and at 320 feet deep and 1280 feet in diameter is the largest man-made crater in the United States. It's also—bizarrely we think—listed on the National Register of Historic Places, especially weird when you consider that it sent two radioactive plumes wafting northeast from the Nevada explosion site, cross country from state to unsuspecting state, to settle especially heavily upon Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Illinois. Of all the nuclear tests conducted in the United States, Sedan ranked highest in overall activity of radionuclides in fallout, distributing nearly 7% of the total amount of radiation which fell on the U.S. population during all of the nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site. Historic indeed. You see the explosion that caused all that below.
|Intl. Notebook||Jul 4 2017|
Models Joan Brown and Betty Bland demonstrate the tensile qualities of Krene Plastic by using a sheet as a hammock in this photo shot in Cypress Gardens, Florida in 1955. Krene Plastic was 1/100th of an inch thick but was strong enough to support the weight of both models plus two others—at least according to its makers the Bakelite Company. At the time it was touted as a miracle material, perfect for a wide range of applications, but ultimately it was used mainly to make shower curtains.
|Intl. Notebook||Jul 3 2017|
Above we have an issue of The National Insider that hit newsstands today in 1966, and as you can see the cover is given over to Sheriff Jim Clark, who tells the story of how he saw civil rights activists involved in an orgy in Selma, Alabama. Clark actually writes the article himself, and it's mostly a defense against unflattering portrayals of him in the national press. He claims the accounts are part of “one of the most effective propaganda campaigns since Josef Goebbels sold Adolf Hitler to 70 million Germans—and destroyed a nation in the process.” It's always best to drop Hitler into the narrative early, Godwin be damned. Clark goes on: “The civil rights organizations and their hired agitators who descended on Selma knew that the sheriff must enforce the law and maintain order. They knew, and I knew, that I was playing into their hands. I was the heavy. They were the martyrs.”
Taking a step back and looking at it from the reality based world, we cannot think of any instances where civil rights protestors risked their safety and freedom fighting oppression that was a figment of their imaginations. In every case the protestors were correct, from southern Alabama to South Africa. Sometimes it's ethnic majorities that are oppressed, but never the economically dominant. Sometimes the economically oppressed and economically dominant are the same ethnicity, leading to scenes such as those during the Great Depression when white police violently broke up the protests of the white unemployed. But in order to believe that rights protestors would risk their already tenuous status over a non-issue, one already has to have a low opinion of them. The upshot of Clark's article is that the Selma marchers had no true grievances. We know today that's false. Similarly, there are people who would have us believe that today's civil rights protesters have no valid grievances. This again, is demonstrably false. We'll have more from The National Insider later.