Richard Nixon’s Tips For Getting Pandas to Have Sex, Caught on Newly-Revealed Audio Tape (1972)

NixonandPandas

 

Have you heard? Richard Nixon is back in the news. For one thing, John Dean, former Nixon legal counsel, has been making the rounds, promoting his third Watergate book The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It. Just this morning on NPR’s Diane Rehm show, Dean discussed the surprising new evidence that’s come to light in thousands of hours of tape-recorded conversations, all of which Dean has personally surveyed. This month will also see the release of Douglas Brinkley and Luke A. Nichter’s The Nixon Tapes 1971-1972.

Nixon recorded everything, which proved to be his undoing. But he also granted posterity such odd moments as the audio above, in which the president discusses the curious customs of panda bear mating. The conversation concerns Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing, the two pandas given to the National Zoo by Premier Zhou Enlai during Nixon’s famous trip to China. (As a young child in Washington, DC in the 70s and 80s, I remember seeing the pair on almost a monthly basis.) The attempts to mate the pandas made for national drama each year, though sadly none of the cubs Ling-Ling conceived survived. This was a difficulty Nixon anticipated. In the phone call above to Crosby Noyes, then foreign editor of The Washington Star, Nixon described the issue thusly:

Nixon: The problem with, uh—The problem, however, with pandas is that they don’t know how to mate. The only way they learn how is to watch other pandas mate. You see?

Noyes: [laughs]

Nixon: And, so they’re keeping them there a little while—these are younger ones—

Noyes: I see.

Nixon: —to sort of learn, you know, how it’s done.

Noyes: Sure, learn the ropes—

Nixon: Now, if they don’t learn it they’ll get over here and nothing will happen, so I just thought you should just have your best reporter out there to see whether these pandas—

Noyes: Well, we certainly will—

Nixon: —have learned. So, now that I’ve given you the story of pandas let me let you get back to your more serious questions. [laughter]

Read the full transcript of that conversation at “Post Everything,” and learn more about the long, eventful lives of Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing at the Smithsonian’s The Bigger Picture.

via DCist

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


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Bertolt Brecht Sings “Mack the Knife” in a 1929 Recording

brecht sings

Since 2008, a recording has been making the rounds on YouTube of Bertolt Brecht singing ‘Die Moritat von Mackie Messer,’ or what’s more commonly known as “Mack the Knife” in English, a song Kurt Weill and Brecht composed for The Threepenny Opera, which premiered in Berlin in 1928. The Brecht recording dates back to 1929, and, according to Discogs, it was released in 1960 on a 7-inch German album called Bertolt Brecht Singt. Below, you can hear Brecht make his way through the tune. The clip comes accompanied by a quirky, new animated video created by the studio Quality Schnallity, Inc.

“Mack the Knife” has, of course, been covered by countless artists over the years. Bobby Darin sang perhaps the most famous, swinging version in 1958. There are also classic versions by Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald, not to mention more contemporary ones by Lyle Lovett, The Psychedelic Furs, The Young Gods, Nick Cave, and Marianne Faithfull. Did we miss one of your favorites?

via WFMU


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Learn How Crayons Are Made, Courtesy of 1980s Videos by Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers

Some things are difficult to improve upon. Take crayons. The new generation may be clamoring for shades like “mango tango” and “jazzberry jam” but the actual technology appears unchanged since Sesame Street detailed the process in the early 80s, in the lovely, non verbal documentary above. Not a product placement in sight, I might add, though few can mistake that familiar green and gold box.

Those who prefer a bit more explanation might prefer Fred Rogers‘ hypnotic step-by-step guide, playing in perpetuity on Picture Picture.

By the time the industry’s giant gorilla got around to weighing in, the wooden collection boxes and analog counters had been replaced, but otherwise, it’s still business as usual on the ol’ crayon-manufacturing floor. Don’t expect to find the recipe for the “secret proprietary blend of pigments and other ingredients” any time soon. Just know they’re capable of cranking out 8500 crayons per minute. For those playing along at home, that’s enough to encircle the globe 6 times per calendar year, with a full third owing their existence to solar energy.

There’s a Homeland Security-ish vibe to some of the dialogue, but the Life of an American Crayon, above, does our native assembly lines proud. Prouder than the American slaughterhouse, anyway, or some other factory floors, I could name. The workers seem content enough to stay in their positions for decades, happily declaring allegiance to this or that hue.

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How Animated Cartoons Are Made: Watch a Short, Charming Primer from 1919

Ayun Halliday is an author, homeschooler, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

 


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Greek Myth Comix Presents Homer’s Iliad & Odyssey Using Stick-Man Drawings

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The next time some know-it-all moralist blames any number of social ills on violent video games or action films, ask them if they’d rather kids stick to the classics. When they invariably reply in the affirmative, you can smugly direct their attention to Greek Myth Comix’s astonishing infographic detailing the multitude of gruesome killings in the Iliad. Homer’s epic unflinchingly describes, for example, in graphic detail, the death of Lycon, who in Book 16 has a sword thrust through his neck: “nothing held but a piece of skin, and from that, Lycon’s head dangled down.” And if you’ve held on to your lunch, you may be interested to know the grisly circumstances of the other two candidates for “grimmest death.” Just below, see a section of the comic celebrating “stand out performances in battle.” Can Zack Snyder’s King Leonidas match kills with Homer’s Achilles? Only one way to find out….

IliadStandouts

The Iliad graphic is great fun—as well as a succinct way to render modern scolds speechless—but Greek Myth Comix doesn’t stop there… Oh no! Fans of Homer’s Odyssey will not be disappointed; Books 5-7, and much of 9, 10, and 12 also get the “comix” treatment. The artwork is admittedly crude, but the text comes from a much more authoritative source than 300, no disrespect to Frank Miller. Lauren Jenkinson is a “Classical Civilisation and Literature teacher, writer and, apparently, artist,” and her online adaptations are intended primarily to help students pass their GCSE (OCR), the British secondary exams whose nearest equivalent in the States might perhaps be the SATs.

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But Greek Myth Comix won’t only appeal to struggling students in the British Isles. Educators will find much to love here, as will lovers of mythology in general. Online access to the site is free, and you can purchase copies of the comix in PDF—either individually, in bulk, or in poster-size resolution. The site’s full archive has other goodies like the above, “What Makes a Homeric Hero?” And with such recent updates, no doubt Greek Myth Comix has much more in store for those struggling to enjoy or understand Homer’s bloody-minded epics, and those who simply love their myths in comic form as well as ancient lyric.

via HolyKaw

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


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Ubu Roi: Alfred Jarry’s Scandalous Play Strikingly Adapted for Television (1965)

“Merdre,” the very first word spoken in Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, needs no introduction. When it first opened — and closed — on stage in 1896, it didn’t have to do much more than that to get its audience worked up. As soon as this hyper-vulgar satire of the powerful came to its deliberately undramatic end, a “riot” broke out, history books invariably note. Something in Jarry’s tale of the savage, infantile, and all-desiring royalty of the title touched a nerve, and the Surrealist and Theatre of the Absurd movements that followed would strive to keep on touching it. But the strange, low-minded Ubu Roi and its sequels would, while no longer liable to prompt fisticuffs, retain a kind of power over the next century and beyond. That legacy is visible even in French political discourse, where the insult “Ubuesque” tends to get thrown around to describe a certain impulsive, self-satisfying kind of public figure.

Jean-Christopher Averty’s television production of Ubu Roi above first aired in 1965. Its content, presumably by then familiar enough to the viewing audience, no longer shocked, but its aesthetic choices still look striking today. “I can almost guarantee you will never see another film that looks even remotely like this,” says The Sick, the Strange, and the Awful. It “dispels any types of camera panning, zooms and even moving the camera at all,” placing, “at any one time, three, four, six different mini-scenes onscreen, all interacting with each other in bizarre ways. Characters will pass things to each other, and the item will change size depending on where the camera is. It’s visually disorientating, and cool as hell.” The simply attired characters against backgrounds reduced to their most basic elements (when not just a black void) retain the theatricality of the material, but it all comes together visually with the kind of optical effects that had only recently become possible. Jarry’s daring presaged the era of anything-goes theatre; only natural that his work would go on to explore the limitless visual possibilities opened at the dawn of the video age. But if it started any riots in middle-class French living rooms, history has left them unrecorded.

Related Content:

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The Hearts of Age: Orson Welles’ Surrealist First Film (1934)

Man Ray and the Cinéma Pur: Four Surrealist Films From the 1920s

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.


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The Touching Moment When Nicholas Winton Met the Children He Saved During the Holocaust

Procrastinators take note.

Some teens of my acquaintance have been agitating for a meeting with a Holocaust survivor. These encounters, common enough in my childhood, are growing less so as those with firsthand knowledge enter their golden years. Bear in mind that Eva Lavi, the youngest person named on Oskar Schindler’s List, is now 76.

Sir Nicholas Winton, at 105, is definitely an inspiring figure, and not just for his remarkable longevity. From late 1938 until the start of the war, he managed to rescue 669 Czech children—most of them Jews.

Winton made no public mention of his heroics, until 1988, when the BBC obtained his rescue scrapbook and used it to coordinate a massive live on-air surprise during the program That’s Life (see above).

I plan on using the 60 Minutes episode below to introduce my teen friends—most of whom stoutly declare they’d have hidden Anne Frank without a second thought—to a man whose actions speak louder than words.

via Holy Kaw

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Ayun Halliday is an author, homeschooler, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday


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Colorized Photos Bring Walt Whitman, Charlie Chaplin, Helen Keller & Mark Twain Back to Life

whitman color

When disco pioneer Giorgio Morodoer released a colorized version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – featuring a soundtrack with Billy Squier, Pat Benatar and Adam Ant, no less – film purists everywhere howled with disbelief at how the film’s moody black and white had been turned into Easter egg pinks and blues. It felt like a gimmick and, worse, it just didn’t look real.

Colorization has come a long way since then. In the hands of the right Photoshop wizard – like artist Dana Keller – a colorized photograph of, say, the Oklahoma dust bowl or turn-of-the-century Coney Island gives viewers the chill of the uncanny. People and things that have long since departed this world suddenly seem vital and alive. It makes that foreign country called the past feel eerily familiar.

Above is a picture of poet Walt Whitman. His trademark long hair and Karl Marx beard would look right at home in certain corners of Portland. Apart from that, there is both a sensitivity and ferociousness about this picture. Whitman definitely looks like he’s capable of delivering a barbaric yawp. You can see what the picture looked like in its original black and white here.

chaplin and keller color

This photograph of Helen Keller drawing a hand over Charlie Chaplin’s face from 1919 looks like it could be a still from an upcoming Oscar bait biopic. In fact the picture was taken in Hollywood while Keller was on one of her speaking tours. (See original here.)

twain color

Likewise with this portrait (original here) of Mark Twain. You can almost hear him make some pithy comment like “A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.” As you can see from the picture, Twain didn’t take that risk, opting for more of a whiskery scowl.

goebbels color

This picture of Joseph Goebbels (original) staring down a Jewish photographer is simply terrifying. It’s the sort of death stare common among psycho-killers, death row inmates and, apparently, Nazi propaganda ministers.

burger color

And this picture of a humble burger flipper from 1938 is so crisp that it looks like it might have been taken yesterday.

If you have an hour to kill, you can see many, many more colorized pics from the past over at Inspire 52.

A big H/T to Natalie W. G.  for sending these our way.

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Marilyn Monroe Reads Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1952)

Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his art blog Veeptopus.


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Above LA: A Top-Down Timelapse View of the Great Megacity

Chris Pritchard tells us: “Above LA showcases the often unseen beauty of Los Angeles from above. It was shot on hilltops, mountains, and high-rise rooftops around the city and features a number of day to night transitions and rare weather. My goal was to capture the depth, beauty, and movement of a vast and bustling megacity from a new angle, and encourage people to get out and experience their environments in new ways. I never thought I’d appreciate this city so much until I spent countless hours staring at it from high above.” You can learn more about Above LA over at Chris’ blog here.


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Why R.E.M.’s 1991 Out of Time May Be the “Most Politically Important Album” Ever

Raise your hand if you bought your first music on cassette tapes. No, not those detourned objects of nostalgia circa 2013, but the “this is the latest technology and that’s that” kinda thing. Okay, you in the back there, remember when the CD came to town? Yeah, and remember those boxes—all that ridiculous packaging, with the long cardboard box twice as long as the product? What was that all about? The rest of you, keep up: It was a different time. Okay, since we all still know what vinyl looks like when handsomely placed on store shelves (maybe you’ve seen this at your local Urban Outfitters), we know that record sleeves are big and square and CD cases are small and square. And the problem for those record stores when the CDs came to replace tapes—but not the precious vinyl—was that the main displays were for the big squares, and the stores didn’t wanna change ‘em. Thus the long CD box: two of them side by side equaled the area of one record.

Problem solved? Not for spoilsports like R.E.M. who (you in the back, remember?) released that album Green in ’88 and went on endlessly about “think global, act local” enviro—blah blah. Why they cared so much about the lives of shade-giving, wish-granting trees I’ll never know, but they did, and it bothered them, these wasteful boxes. So, enter Tipper Gore. Wait, what? Who? How? A short history: Some time ago, Al Gore’s wife Tipper and many others were upset by raunchy lyrics—especially by the 2 Live Crew fellows—and lobbied for those “Parental Advisory” stickers to get stuck on explicit CDs, and some music was censored, and Gore and her coalition of mostly right-wing friends found a convenient boogeyman in popular music. (Are you googling? It’s spelled “PMRC”). A lot of this agitation over explicit lyrics came from genuinely concerned parents. A lot of it came from political opportunists and people who like using legislation to enforce their religious morality.

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Where in Stipe’s name is this going? It ties together through one man, Jeff Gold, Warner Brother’s exec during the release of the band’s 1991 album Out of Time. Gold needed the long box for this CD, and he wanted the then-new Rock the Vote project to register millions of young music buyers, who would then, he reasoned, vote out the pols who did the censorship. Gold and Rock the Vote founder and Virgin records co-founder Jeff Ayeroff convinced the band to do the long box thing by making half the box a Rock the Vote petition for the Motor Voter Bill, which would allow voters to register through their local DMV. And that, according to radio show 99% Invisible, is how REM became the face of Rock the Vote and the Motor Voter Bill in 1993. Marketing! And environmentalism. See that sensitive activist at the top of the post? That’s Michael Stipe making a Rock the Vote pitch. See that picture above? (Click to embiggen.) That’s the dorsal side of Out of Time’s CD long box package. The card at the bottom addresses itself to the young record buyer’s Senator. It says,

Dear Senator:

I support the Motor Voter Bill. According to the U.S. Census, in the last presidential election 78% of 18-29 year olds who were registered to vote voted. We aren’t as apathetic as some people think. It’s just that the laws make it hard for many of us to register.

I hope I can say my Senator supports the Motor Voter Bill.

Your Constituent

In no small part because of R.E.M.’s lobbying, the Motor Voter Bill was passed. Many did not like it then and do not like it now. They say it encourages voter fraud, which you might think would be rampant and completely out of control by now, but is not in the least. In any case, the law remains unreasonably controversial, as do many, many laws that make it easier for all kinds of citizens to vote. But you probably know that story already.

For more on why Out of Time is possibly “the most politically important album of all time,” listen to the first episode of new podcast Pitch below, and visit their site for a transcript of their detailed interview with Jeffs Gold and Ayeroff. And for Stipe’s sake, get yourself registered and get to the polls this November.

via 99% Invisible

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


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Watch The Reality of the Virtual: 74 Minutes of Pure Slavoj Žižek (2004)

Slavoj Žižek must make a tempting documentary subject; you have only to fire up the camera and let him do his thing. Or at least the Slovenian academic provocateur and intellectual performance artist, in films like The Pervert’s Guide to CinemaThe Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, and Žižek!, has given the impression that he can effortlessly carry a film all by himself. The directors of those aforementioned movies did a bit more than sit Žižek down before a rolling camera, but Ben Wright, maker of The Reality of the Virtual, seems to have taken the man’s raw oratorical value as the very premise of his project. This 74-minute documentary — if even the word “documentary” suits such a radically simplified form — simply has Žižek sit at a table, in front of some bookshelves, and talk, ostensibly about “real effects produced by something which does not yet fully exist,” as he identifies them in the realms of psychoanalysis, politics, sociology, physics, and popular culture.

Shot by Ben Wright over the course of a single day,” writes the New York Times’ Nathan Lee, “here is the apotheosis of the talking-head movie, made up entirely of seven long, static takes of Mr. Žižek,” animated only by his own “habitual repertory of twitches, spasms and uncontrolled perspiration, an alarming frenzy of exuberance that contributes to his reputation as a rock star of philosophy.” The theme at hand, which certainly has something to do with belief and truth, possibility and impossibility, the reality within the unreal and the unreal within reality, takes him through the widest possible range of associated subjects. Those who appreciate Žižek primarily as a master of focused digression — and I have to imagine his fan base contains many such people — will find no purer expression of that particular skill. Then again, to truly experience Žižek, maybe you have to take an actual class taught by him. If The Reality of the Virtual inspires you to do so, count yourself as braver than I.

Find many more heady films on our list of Free Documentaries, part of our larger collection, 675 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.


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