Intl. Notebook May 9 2014
SUMMER READING
Pulp fiction and nude sunbathing—two great tastes that go great together.


As the weather warms and spring morphs into a long rejuvenating summer, a group in New York City has devised a way to wring the most out of the upcoming season. Formed when two pulp aficionados learned that in NYC women can legally go topless anywhere it’s legal for men do so, the Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society combines reading and sun worship in the most pleasing way. They meet in Central Park, private rooftops, and anywhere else that suits their fancy. They’ve been around for several years, but this year their story has been picked up by media outlets such as The Guardian and Huffington Post. They aren’t quite what you’d call a viral sensation yet, but certainly their reach has expanded of late. Since we’ve been combining pulp with bare bodies for years, we thought we’d better join the chorus of support.

In our little nook of the world a four-block walk puts us plop on the nude end of our local beach. Perhaps that’s why when we wandered over to the Society’s blog, it was the pulp that interested us more than the skin. On that score we have to say that the group almost looks like a publicity arm for Hard Case Crime. Not that there’s anything wrong with Hard Case or its many entertaining publications. The company filled a market void withshinily packaged, much-appreciated pulp novels. But in our opinion, the true pulp aficionado finds it just as much fun to dig through the musty shelves of a dark, ancient bookshop as to loll in the sunshine. When we see photos of Society members enjoying the scuffed and moldy fruits of New York’s famed secondhand bookstores we’ll know they’re true pulp fans. In the meantime you can learn all about them here.

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Intl. Notebook May 2 2014
TUMBLING OUT OF CONTROL
Our civilization has avoided nuclear destruction so far, but has it been by design or chance?


This debris cloud was generated yesterday in 1952 by the nuclear blast codenamed Dog, which was part of Operation Tumbler-Snapper, a series of tests that occurred at the Nevada Test Site that year. The people you see in the image are just a few of the 2,100 marines who observed the explosion. Last month Chatham House released a sobering nuclear study showing that there have been thirteen incidents since 1962 that qualify as “near use” of nuclear weapons. In two of those—the famed Oleg Penkovsky incident and the less famous but more serious Stanislaw Petrov incident—nuclear holocaust may have been averted only because individuals disobeyed orders. Chatham House also details many instances of “sloppy practice.” Two examples: President Jimmy Carter once left the U.S. nuclear launch codes in a suit that was taken to the dry cleaners, and in 1981 when Ronald Reagan was shot, his bloody pants containing the launch codes ended up in the hands of FBI agents who had no authorization to possess them. There are instances of sloppy practice from as recently as 2013. If you’re in the mood for some sobering reading, the report is here. 

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Intl. Notebook Apr 18 2014
A GOOD FRIDAY
It’s a perfect opportunity for another quick break.

We’re leaving the country, but we’ll be back in three or four days. Or five. In the meantime take off your shoes and stay awhile. You like Japanese poster art? Try here. Pulp cover art? Here. Blaxploitation movies? Got you covered. General mayhem and weirdness? Crime history? Check and check. Enjoy your stay.

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Intl. Notebook Mar 25 2014
EXTRACURRICULAR RADIOACTIVITY
And poof! Like magic, a mushroom cloud. Now who wants to see me saw the principal in half?

In this photo taken today in 1950 a group of Washington, D.C. high school students watch a teacher simulate a nuclear pyrocumulus cloud. He did it by using a high frequency spark to ignite a mixture of sulfur and zinc. To complete the lesson the students simply had to imagine the cloud infinitely larger, preceded by an explosion hotter than the center of the sun, emitting an energy flash capable of instantly incinerating people, followed by hurricane winds, radioactive fallout, and millions of horrible, lingering deaths. Who said science can’t be fun?

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Intl. Notebook Mar 16 2014
LUCKY PENNIES
Winning against the Odds.

Punchboards such as the one you see above originated during the 1700s, and by the early 1900s were being produced at a rate of millions per year. They hit the peak of their popularity during the 1930s and 1940s and were generally found in bars and other places of merriment. So, what were they? Basically, you’d pay pennies to select numbers and if you punched out the right one you’d win something. That something used to be money, which made these similar to lottery tickets, but when that type of gambling came under legal pressure from state governments, the prizes became goods such as beer, cigarette lighters or, in this case, cigarettes. What makes this Odd Pennies punchboard particularly collectible is the art by pin-up king Rolf Armstrong. Probably 1940-ish on this item. 

Update: We got an email from Joe R., who writes: "RE: the Lucky Pennies post, the Lucky Strikes package went from green to white in 1942 (the famous "Lucky Strike Green has gone to war" ad campaign), so there's a good possibility that this punchboard goes back to the 1930s.

Joe: Thanks for writing in. Now that you mention it, we think you're right. We took a detailed look around the interwebs and some of the other punch boards Armstrong illustrated actually go all the way back to the late 1920s, apparently. So mid-1930s seems like a good deduction on the date here.

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Intl. Notebook Mar 4 2014
SPACE ODDITY
Some invitations are harder to come by than others.

When we first saw this post card/invitation card, we assumed it was for the gala 1993 Japanese re-release of Barbarella, but we’re told it’s actually from 1968, which makes sense considering how faded it is. In any case, it's an unusual and fun souvenir from an unusual and fun movie. See the reverse below. 


 
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Intl. Notebook Feb 20 2014
HAVING A FIELDS DAY
Are you serious? You call that thing a nose?

Comedian W.C. Fields, née William Claude Dukenfield, jokes around with chorus girls Helen Ellsworth, Helene Sheldon, Cricket Wooten, and Margy Martyn during a rehearsal for Florenz Ziegfeld’s Ziegfeld Follies revues. Fields was a Follies cast member off and on from 1915 until 1925. He was known from the beginning of his career for having a large nose, and it reddened and grew over time due to rosacea and rhinophyma. This shot is from today, 1925. 

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Intl. Notebook Feb 15 2014
SNOWBALL EFFECT
Winning is all about momentum.


We’re interested in World War II propaganda posters, and this 1942 piece from the U.S. Office of War Information is a fine example. It depicts Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito being chased down by a snowball representing runaway U.S. industrial production. Every country involved in the war produced propaganda, some more effectively than others, and often it was racist in nature, as you see with the Hirohito image here. For an international collection check out our previous post on this subject here.

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Intl. Notebook Feb 13 2014
THE END OF GENIUS
Legendary pin-up artist Aslan dies.

Sad news for the art world came across yesterday with reports of the death of Alain Gourdon, aka Aslan. He once said that he painted and sculpted women because the subject was inépuisable et éternel—inexhaustible and eternal. Certainly the work he produced over the decades has been both. Aslan lived in Canada for the last twenty years and it was there he died of a heart attack yesterday, aged 83. Above and below are two photos, one of him living the good life with two of his models, the second showing him (sort of) working. We'll put together a collection of his art soon.

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Intl. Notebook Jan 24 2014
NOIR OF THE WORLD
San Francisco’s famed film festival goes international.

Living overseas is sometimes bittersweet. While the people, the food, the bars, the beaches, the lifestyle, and a hundred other aspects are wonderful, there are no film noir festivals (and no decent pizza, but that's another story). Anyway, today we’re sad not to still be living in the San Francisco Bay area because it’s the first day of the Noir City Film Festival. Ironically, this year’s version, the twelfth in the series, looks toward other countries and includes movies set in France, Britain, Mexico, Singapore, Macao, and more. The films, which screen at San Fran’s Castro Theatre, include The Third Man, Akira Kurosawa’s Yoidore tenshi, aka Drunken Angel, Jules Dassin’s Du rififi chez les homes, aka Rififi, and two dozen other films. All in all, a great collection. The photoillustrated poster art above (the first is the official promo and the second is the teaser that came out last year) is also pretty nice, though not up to the standard of previous years. But you can decide that for yourself—we’ve shared the entire run of Noir City posters and you can see those here.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 22
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
September 21
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
September 20
1946—Cannes Launches Film Festival
The first Cannes Film Festival is held in 1946, in the old Casino of Cannes, financed by the French Foreign Affairs Ministry and the City of Cannes.

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