There's never a RoboCop when you need one.
The city of Detroit recently rejected a statue of the main character from 1987's RoboCop, made by a local artist group and meant to be displayed at the city's Michigan Science Center. Seizing the opportunity, the mayor of Stevens Point, Wisconsin—which is where RoboCop star Peter Weller was born—has offered a place for the statue in the town of 26,000. Mayor Mike Wiza called the artists, as well as Peter Weller's family. in a so-far unsuccessful attempt to secure the figure. The story amused us because, though on the surface the statue seems like a fitting public monument for Weller's hometown, we wonder if Mayor Wiza knows that RoboCop, aside from being a very good movie, is director Paul Verhoeven's dark satire of the U.S.
The movie hits on several areas, including policing and television culture, but most particularly it's a cautionary epic about the power of corporations. It made the prediction, also made by others, that all life would soon be controlled by corporations, and by extension the unelected, megarich heads of those entities. Those who doubt we've reached this point should read up on private prisons, or Citizen's United v. FEC, or Facebook's recent attempt to punish the entire country of Australia by slapping it with a news ban.
RoboCop goes on to posit that corporations allowed to grow and spread unchecked inevitably make the business decision to place profit above human lives. It didn't mean lives in some distant corner of the globe, or some urban niche of Detroit, where the movie was set. That was already clear. The movie's incisive subtext was that the lives of middle Americans—the very people who live in Stevens Point—would soon be deemed expendable too.
When movies like this pop up they create a paradox: people generally won't watch social critique films unless they're violent and/or funny, but when they're violent and/or funny the majority of people don't get the critiques, even when those are obvious. Examples: Starship Troopers (also a Verhoeven film), Being There (which starred Dr. Strangelove's Peter Sellers), 2019's Us (whose unspoken but glaringly obvious alternative title is, “U.S.”), and, to cite a particularly clear-cut example of blunt satire, They Live, which a substantial minority of filmgoers still managed to think of as merely a strange and slow-moving sci-fi invasion flick.
It's possible Mayor Wiza knows exactly what RoboCop is about, but simply can't pass up the chance to plant something in the town square that will bring gawkers and Instagramers to local restaurants and add warm bodies to the yearly artwalk. If he succeeds, in public he'll hail his coup as an economic victory for his administration (though mainly for the town, always the town first). But later he'll stand at a window in city hall, looking down at RoboCop, nodding thoughtfully as he explains to some nearby aide, “The ironic part of turning that statue into a public monument is that RoboCop, aside from being a very good movie, is director Paul Verhoeven's dark satire of the U.S.”
Five iconic paintings depict the Ruelhs of aviation.
During the 1930s Wisconsin born artist Ruehl Heckman executed five aviation themed paintings for the Thomas D. Murphy Calendar Company illustrating the reach and romance of aerial machinery by juxtaposing it against far flung natural and urban U.S. vistas. There were five total, all collectible, and you see them above: “Dawn of a New Age,” featuring lower Manhattan and New York Harbor, “Racing the Sun,” featuring an unspecified area of the west, probably Arizona, “The Spirit of Progress,” showing San Francisco Bay and the Bay Bridge, “Flying over Avalon,” featuring Santa Catalina Island at twilight, and “Where Progress and Romance Meet,” showing pre-statehood Hawaii. These paintings are all iconic yet Heckman himself remains barely known. This could be because his career was cut short—he was killed in a car accident in 1942. As of right now he doesn't even have a Wikipedia page. But we think these pieces are quite nice. Like the early Pan Am posters we shared a while back, they capture a romance in aerial transport that is deader than a doornail today.
She was a woman of exceptionally high caliber.
We always thought it was weird that hip boots only come to mid-thigh, but we suppose if they came all the way to the hips they wouldn't be boots—they'd be a body cast. Above you see Wisconsin born actress Christa Helm, née Sandra Lynn Wohlfeil, in a promo made for her 1974 actioner Let's Go for Broke, in which she played the ass kicking Jackie Broke. It was one of only two movies she made, due to her unfortunate murder in 1977 at age twenty-seven by a still-unknown assailant who stabbed her thirty times.
Helm was a black belted practitioner of martial arts, but the prevailing theory, supported by forensic evidence, is that she was surprise attacked from behind. Because of the murder, she has attained a posthumous fame, partly kept alive by family members still seeking to solve the crime, and partly by a growing internet cult. We'd get into the story in detail, but others have written about it and done a thorough—if sometimes dubiously factual—job, so just appreciate the amazing photo. It's one of the cooler ones you'll ever see, and one of the very few of Helm that exist online.
Sightings of bizarrely garbed figures have South Carolina residents baffled and worried.
A rash of scary clown sightings have occurred in the U.S. in the last week in the state of South Carolina, mainly in Greenville and Spartanburg counties. The encounters have varied from clowns attempting to lure children into the woods, to a pair of citizens chasing two clowns into a waiting car driven by a third clown. The photo above is an actual shot made by a man in Greenville, which he posted to Twitter with the caption, “Just spotted a major freak behind Fleetwood Apts.” The building happens to be ground zero for some of the clown sightings.
The favored explanation online for all this weirdness is that it's a publicity stunt for the new Rob Zombie horror movie 31. If that's the case, we've done our part for Rob by sharing the promotional poster just below. But assuming these sightings are publicity stunts, doesn't that seem like a very serious risk to take? American cops are trigger happy, and it isn't glitter and confetti that comes out of their guns. Let's say instead of a clown getting ventilated, though, he was arrested. For what, we aren't sure, since it isn't illegal to offer kids candy, which is what reports say one of the clowns did—but whatever, clown gets arrested. All the suspect would have to say is, “I'm a clown, it's true, but not that clown.”
Absent fingerprints (“No prints, sir, he must have worn gloves.”), shoe prints (“The casts are finished, sir—he wore size 37.”) or DNA (best not to think about that), only an admission of guilt could connect the arrested clown to the previous clowns. Or maybe police could stage a line-up. Of clowns. Bring in a tearful witness. “Yes, officer it was the one on the far left. I'm sure of it. I'll never forget *sob* his big red nose.”
Our guess is that these sightings are one of those instances of bizarro cultural programming, like the one that causes UFO or Bigfoot sightings. Rogue clowns have been reported lately not just in South Carolina, but in Ohio, Wisconsin, California, and even jolly old England. For our part, we hope the sightings simply stop. We don't need to get to the bottom of them. If they're real, we don't want to know who (doubtless one or more smug white guys, though) figured it was a perfectly fine idea to dress in a weird costume and terrify bystanders—this in a country where people wearing nothing more than dark skin end up shot for jaywalking. Which raises the question: if a clown were to be shot, would it be tragic, tragicomic, or just plain comical? Guess it depends on how you feel about them.
Similar to the Tennessee Waltz but with less clothing.
We showed you Wisconsin born model and Playboy playmate Marilyn Waltz not long ago on one of the Technicolor lithographs we've been featuring the last couple of years, but some celebs deserve return engagements, so here she is again, pre-Playboy and pre-blonde, looking very girl-next-door. Waltz was one of Playboy's most popular playmates of the 1950s, appearing in the centerfold three times, twice under the name Waltz, and once as Margaret Scott. We're guessing this photo was made around 1953. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday
records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
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