Meet Alexander Graham Bell, Inventor of the Telephone and Popular TV Pitchman

Mr. Watson, come here! I want you to tell me why I keep showing up in television commercials. Is it because they think I invented the television?

- The ghost of Alexander Graham Bell

Not at all, my dear Mr. Bell. A second's worth of research reveals that a 21-year-old upstart named Philo Taylor Farnsworth invented television. By 1927, when he unveiled it to the public, you’d already been dead for five years.

You invented the telephone, a fact of which we’re all very aware.

Though you might want to look into intellectual property law.... Historic figures make popular pitchmen, especially if - like Lincoln, Copernicus, and a red hot Alexander Hamilton, they’ve been in the grave for over 100 years. (Hint - you’ve got five years to go.)


Or you could take it as a compliment! You’ve made an impression so lasting, the briefest of establishing shots is all we television audiences need to understand the advertiser's premise.

Thusly can you be co-opted into selling the American public on the apparently revolutionary concept of chicken for breakfast, above.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Mr. Watson gets a cameo in your 1975 ad for Carefree Gum. You definitely come off the better of the two.

You’re an obvious choice for a recent AT&T spot tracing a line from your revelatory moment to 20-something  hipsters wielding smartphones and sparklers on a Brooklyn rooftop. Their devices aren’t the only thing connecting you. It’s also the beards…

Apologies for the beardlessness of this 10 year old, low-budget spot for Able Computing in Papua New Guinea. Possibly the costumer thought Einstein invented the phone? Or maybe the creative director was counting on the local viewing audience not to sweat the small stuff. Your invention matters more than your facial hair.

Lego took a cue from the 80s Muppet Babies craze by sending you back to childhood. They also saddled you and your mom  with American accents, a regrettably common practice. I bet you would’ve liked Legos, though. They’re like blocks.

As for this one, your guess is as good as mine.

Readers, please share your favorite ads featuring historic figures in the comments below.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City in Paul David Young’s Faust 3, an indictment of the Trump administration that adapts and mangles Goethe's Faust (Parts 1 and 2) and the Gospels in the King James translation, as well as bits of Yeats, Shakespeare, Christmas carols, Stephen Foster, John Donne, Heiner Müller, Julia Ward Howe, and Abel Meeropol. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life” Is the Perfect Song to End Any Movie: The Graduate, Psycho, Easy Rider & 50+ Other Films

It’s hard to conceive of director Stanley Kubrick choosing a more perfect song for Dr. Strangelove’s final mushroom cloud montage than Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again.”

Ditto Mike Nichols’ The Graduate. Can you imagine Ben and Elaine making their existential getaway to the tune of anything other than “The Sound of Silence"?

Freelance video editor Peter Salomone can (see above). If he had his druthers, all films would end with Dire Straits’ 1985 hit, ”Walk of Life” a tune Rolling Stone described upon its release as a “bouncy Fifties rock & roll song about cool Fifties rock & roll songs,” noting its “cheesy organ sound.”


More recently, the New Zealand-based music blog Off the Tracks proclaimed it “god-awful,” suggesting that the CIA could surgically implant its “obnoxious” keyboard riff to trigger assassins, and asserting that it (“and those fucking sweatbands”) were the demise of Dire Straits.

Such critical evaluations are immaterial where Salomone’s The Walk of Life Project is concerned. Over the course of a couple months, he has gleefully applied it to the final minutes of over five dozen films, leaving the visuals unmolested.

There are no sacred cows in this realm. Casablanca and The Godfather are subjected to this aural experiment, as, somewhat mystifyingly, are Nanook of the North and Chaplin’s City Lights. Horror, Disney, musicals…Salomone dabbles in a wide variety of genres.

For my money, the most successful outcomes are the ones that impose a commercial send-em-up-the-aisles-smiling sensibility on deliberately bleak endings.

Director Danny Boyle may have allowed audiences to decompress a bit with heartwarming footage of the real life Aron Ralston, whose autobiographical account of a life-changing accident inspired the film 127 Hours, but Salomone’s choice to move the playhead to the moment shocked hikers encounter a dazed and dehydrated James Franco clutching his mutilated arm is sublime. That helicopter could not be more perfectly timed:

Some other dark gems:

Easy Rider:

Planet of the Apes

Psycho

Salomone told Gizmodo that he’s taking a break from the project, so if there’s a film you think would benefit from the Walk of Life treatment, you’ll have to do it yourself, with his blessing. Fan stabs at Scarface, The Silence of the Lambs and Gone with the Wind suggest that the trick is not quite as easy to pull off as one might think.

You can view the complete collection on The Walk of Life Project’s website or YouTube channel.

via Gizmodo

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  She’ll is currently appearing as one of the clowns in Paul David Young’s Faust 3, opening this weekend in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

When Bowie & Jagger’s “Dancing in the Street” Music Video Becomes a Silent Film: Can the Worst Music Video Ever Get Even Worse?

You might remember it. Back in 1985, Mick Jagger and David Bowie recorded "Dancing in the Street" to raise money for Live Aid, the famine relief mega-concerts organized by Bob Geldof. Originally written by Marvin Gaye, and first made famous by Martha and the Vandellas in 1964, "Dancing in the Street" topped the British charts when Bowie and Jagger recorded their version in 13 short hours. The collaboration also yielded what's possibly the worst music video ever made. Or so this survey by The Guardian would conclude. NME ranks it as the 11th worst of all-time.

Shot by David Mallet at the London Docklands, the original video (see below) features "Bowie in an oversized yellow raincoat and leopardish jumpsuit and Jagger in yellow sneakers and a flouncy electric-green blouse," writes Mark Kurlansky in his book, Ready For a Brand New Beat: How "Dancing in the Street" Became the Anthem.


He adds, "It is hard to understand what is going on in this video of two men dancing and hopping around each other." And if you turn the sound off, it only gets worse ... if that's possible.

Above, see what happened when writer & director Strack Azar created a "silent" version of the Jagger/Bowie video last year. It's laugh-out-loud funny at times. It's also a good reminder that when you watch something visual, you can't discount the impact that the soundtrack makes on the total experience.

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“If Life Were Only Like This”: Woody Allen Gets Marshall McLuhan to Put a Pontificating Professor in His Place

The digital revolution created a mighty forum for those who once held forth from around the pickle barrel or atop a sturdy soap box.

The Internet has spawned many commentators whose thoughts are cogent, well researched and well argued, but they’re sadly outnumbered by a multitude of blowhards, windbags, and other self-appointed experts, forcefully expressing opinions as fact.

And, as you’ve likely heard, many consumers fail to check credentials before believing unsubstantiated statements are the rock solid truth, to be repeated and acted upon, sometimes to lasting consequence.


Compare the unmanageability of our situation to that of 40 years ago, when an obnoxious bloviator could apparently be silenced by the introduction of irrefutable authority…

Ah, wait, this is fiction…

A notable thing about the above scene from 1977’s Annie Hall---besides how beautifully the comedy holds up---is that the bad guy’s not stupid. His qualifications are actually quite impressive.

(We speak here of the Guy in Line, not writer-director-star Woody Allen, whose reputation has been permanently tarnished by personal misconduct, some of it easy to substantiate.)

The scene’s best punchline comes from pitting intellectual against intellectual, not intellectual against some mythical “regular” American, as we’ve come to expect.

The audience is well positioned to side with Allen and his ace-in-the-hole, media philosopher Marshall McLuhan. It’s a revenge fantasy designed to appeal to anyone whose freedom has been impinged by some loudmouthed stranger sounding off in a public area.

That’s all of us, right? (Though how many of us are willing to cop to the occasions when we may have been the narcissistic jerk monopolizing the conversation at top volume …)

The courtly McLuhan, a last minute replacement for director Federico Fellini, possessed the perfect temperament to skewer the overinflated self-worth of a pontificating egomaniac.

He was, however, not much of a performer, according to Russell Horton, who played the Guy in Line:

Woody would pull him out and he’d say something like, ‘Well you’re wrong, young man.’ Or, ‘Oh, gee, I don’t know what to say.’… We did like 17 or 18 takes, and if you look at it carefully in the movie, McLuhan says, ‘You mean my whole fallacy is wrong’ which makes no sense. How can you have your fallacy wrong?

Read the recent, and extremely amusing Entertainment Weekly interview with Guy in Line (and voice of the Trix cereal rabbit) Horton in its entirety here.

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Watch a 44-Minute Supercut of Every Woody Allen Stammer, From Every Woody Allen Film

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

Philosophical, Sci-Fi Claymation Film Answers the Timeless Question: Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

It’s a question that’s occupied our greatest thinkers, from Aristotle and Plato to Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye:

Which came first---the chicken or the egg?

The debate will likely rage as long as there’s a faith-based camp to square off against the evidence-based camp.

With that in mind, and the weekend looming, we’re inclined to go with the Claymation camp, in the form of Time Chicken, Nick Black’s 6-minute stop-motion meditation, above.


Described by its creator as a “philosophical-action-fantasy into the world of science, religion, knowledge and creation,” Time Chicken benefits from an appropriately bombastic original score performed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra and the seeming-eyewitness testimony of its admittedly clay-based, all-poultry cast.

Black’s copious cinematic references and science fiction tropes are every bit as delectable as a Mughal style egg-stuffed whole chicken slow cooked in a rich almond-poppy seeds-yogurt-&-saffron gravy.

Kudos to the filmmaker, too, for eschewing the uncredited dubbing that made fellow claymator Nick (Park)’s Chicken Run a crossover hit, trusting instead in the (unsubtitled) original language of his subjects.

Readers, watch this hilarious little film and weigh in. Which came first? The chicken? Or the egg?

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

The Day When Chivalry Officially Came to an End in 1363 AD: A Short Comedy Film

When did chivalry come to an end? Some would say it's a matter of historical debate. But not for Jake Mahaffy. His short, funny film lets you see the embarrassing circumstances under which chivalry died, somewhere in a marsh in 1363. Enjoy.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

via Vimeo Staff Picks

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Sad 7-Foot Tall Clown Sings “Pinball Wizard” in the Style of Johnny Cash, and Other Hits by Roy Orbison, Cheap Trick & More

Readers, are you overcome with the Friday Feels?

Puddles Pity Party, a 6’8” Pierrot from Atlanta, empathizes.

The ‘Sad Clown with the Golden Voice’ has taken to releasing emotionally-freighted covers on select Fridays.

There’s something about a giant sad singing clown that comforts us, let’s us know it’s ok to feel, to show our feelings. It’s a sad and beautiful world, and we’re all in it together, even when we’re totally alone.

So quoth Big Mike Geier, the founder and frontman of the band Kingsized, and the man behind Puddles’ white makeup and rickrack-trimmed clown suit.


Whatever he’s tapped into, it’s real. The New York Times’ Jason Zinnoman, in a slightly skeeved-out think piece on clowns last year, wrote:

What makes him transcend the trope is his vulnerability. When you first see him charging down the aisle, he’s an intimidating figure, but his body is actually not aggressive. It slumps, passively. When he asks for a hug, it looks as if he really needs it. He makes you feel bad for finding him off-putting, and then he belts out a lovely song.

Friday, March 3 found Puddles accompanying himself on a red guitar for “It’s a Heartache,” a hit for Bonnie Tyler and later, Rod Stewart. They both have their strengths, but Puddles is uniquely suited to tap into the heartache of 'standing in the cold rain, feeling like a clown."

A previous Friday Feel, Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” was a fan request. (Yes, he’s still taking them.)

The video for “She’s Gone Again”---previously covered by Don Ho---touches on Puddles’  obsession with actor Kevin Costner.

February 10’s Friday Feel brought new listeners to a younger artist, Brett Dennen. Puddles praised his "Heaven" as “beautiful and thoughtful song,” confessing that he “barely held it together on this one.” Also see Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me" down below.

The piece de resistance, wherein the lyrics of Pinball Wizard are sung to the tune of Folsom Prison Blues, is at the top of the page. It’s no great surprise that that one’s gone viral. Puddles is transparent, however, giving credit to the late Gregory Dean Smalley, an Atlanta-based songwriter who died of AIDS in the late 90s:

 Back in 1994 or so, I saw (him) perform this mashup at the Star Community Bar. I was floored. Greg was a force of supernatural proportions and he is missed. Many people have done it prior to me doing it. I guess it was always meant to be.

You can listen to more of Puddles Pity Party on Spotify, or support the artist with a purchase on Google Play or iTunes. Subscribe to his youtube channel to stay abreast of future Friday Feels, or request a song.

via BoingBoing

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

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