Mister Rogers Demonstrates How to Cut a Record

When I was a little boy, I thought the greatest thing in the world would be to be able to make records. — Fred Rogers

By 1972, when the above episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood aired, host Fred Rogers had already cut four records, including the hit-filled A Place of Our Own.

But a childlike curiosity compelled him to explore on camera how a virgin disc could become that most wondrous thing—a record.

So he borrowed a “special machine”—a Rek-O-Kut M12S overhead with an Audax mono head, for those keeping score at home—so he could show his friends, on camera, “how one makes records.”

This technology was already in decline, ousted by the vastly more portable home cassette recorder, but the record cutter held far more visual interest, yielding hair-like remnants that also became objects of fascination to Mister Rogers.




What we wouldn’t give to stumble across one of those machines and a stash of blank discs in a thrift store...

Wait, scratch that, imagine running across the actual platter Rogers cut that day!

Though we’d be remiss if we failed to mention that a member of The Secret Society of Lathe Trolls, a forum devoted to “record-cutting deviants, renegades, professionals & experimenters,” claims to have had an aunt who worked on the show, and according to her, the "reproduction" was faked in post.

(“It sounded like they recorded the repro on like an old Stenorette rim drive reel to reel or something and then piped that back in,” another commenter promptly responds.)

The Trolls’ episode discussion offers a lot of vintage audio nerd nitty gritty, as well as an interesting history of the one-off self-recoded disc craze.

The mid-century general public could go to a coin-operated portable sound booth to record a track or two. Spoken word messages were popular, though singers and bands also took the opportunity to lay down some grooves.

Radio stations and recording studios also kept machines similar to the one Rogers is seen using. Sun Records’ secretary, Marion Keisker, operated the cutting lathe the day an unknown named Elvis Presley showed up to cut a lacquered disc for a fee of $3.25.

The rest is history.

More recently, The ShinsThe Kills, and Seasick Steve, below, recorded live direct-to-acetate records on a modified 1953 Scully Lathe at Nashville's Third Man Records.

(Legend has it that James Brown's "It's A Man's World" was cut on that same lathe… Cut a hit of your own during a tour of Third Man's direct-to-acetate recording facilities.)

via @wfmu

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An Interactive Map of Every Record Shop in the World

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine, current issue the just-released #60.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 9 for another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Actor Jonathan Joss (King of the Hill, Parks & Rec, Magnificent Seven) Discusses Indigenous American Representation on Pretty Much Pop Podcast #7

Jonathan built his career playing 19th century American Indians on horseback and is best known for his voice acting as John Redcorn III in King of the Hill (starting season 2) and then for his recurring role as Chief Ken Hotate in Parks and Recreation. Erica Spyres, Mark Linsenmayer, and Brian Hirt talk to him about those roles plus acting in The Magnificent SevenTrue Grit, and his current role as Sitting Bull in Annie Get Your Gun (also featuring Erica) currently running at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor.

Jonathan talks about Hollywood’s record and progress in portraying indigenous Americans, his own struggles to get native views reflected in the works he’s participated in and the differences between acting on stage vs. film and TV. When is an anachronistic work too far gone to update it, and is it even legitimate to try?

A few relevant clips from King of the Hill: “Hank asks John Redcorn about tool,” “John Redcorn makes a toast,”, “John wants his son back,” and “Big Mountain Fudgecake.” Here’s the Cartoon Conspiracy Theory video that Brian brings up.

Here’s John as Chief Hotate in Parks and Recreation playing Jeremy Jamm (John Glaser) like a fiddle.

Here's the scene from True Grit (2010) where Jonathan's character gets hanged.

Here’s Jonathan talking at Indegenous Comic Con 2017 about representation and acting, and here he is doing a fake panel.

The actor in the film Minutes that Mark refers to is comedian Tatanka Means. Jonathan brings up native author/activist John Trudell, and Erica brings up the play Tribes about the deaf community.

You may be interested in The Partially Examined Life’s episode on American Indian philosophy and the varying reactions to it.

This episode includes bonus content that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Lucy Lawless Joins Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #5 on True Crime

Lucy Lawless (Xena the Warrior Princess, currently starring in My Life Is Murder) joins Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to think about the true crime genre, of both the documentary and dramatized variety. What’s the appeal? Why do women in particular gravitate to it?

We touch on Making of a Murderer, SerialThe StaircaseAmanda Knox, Ted Bundy Conversations with a Killer, I Love You Now Die, Mommy Dead and Dearest (dramatized as The Act), American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, My Favorite MurderCasefileCrime Talk with Scott ReischTrue Murder, and American Vandal.

Sources for this episode:

Here’s an article about Lucy’s new show and her love of the true crime genre. Watch the trailer.

Get more at prettymuchpop.com. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Google Play. Maybe leave us a nice rating or review while you're there to help the podcast grow. Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is produced by the Partially Examined Life Podcast Network. This episode includes bonus content that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop.

Pretty Much Pop is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #4 – HBO’s “Chernobyl”: Why Do We Enjoy Watching Suffering?

On the HBO mini-series Chernobyl. Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt first get into the various degrees of looseness in something’s being “based on a true story.” Does it matter if it’s been changed to be more dramatic? We then consider the show as entertainment: Why do people enjoy witnessing suffering? Why might a drama work (or not) for you?

We also touch on Game of ThronesThe KillingGod Is DeadIt’s Always Sunny in PhiladelphiaBig Little LiesSchindler’s List, Vice, Ip Man, and more.

Some of the articles we looked at to prepare:

Our Lucy Lawless interview will be out next week! Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is a member of the The Partially Examined Life Podcast Network.

Get more at prettymuchpop.com. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Google Play. Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is produced by the Partially Examined Life Podcast Network. This episode includes bonus content that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop.

Mister Rogers Creates a Prime Time TV Special to Help Parents Talk to Their Children About the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (1968)

Nearly three minutes into a patient blow-by-blow demonstration of how breathing works, Fred Rogers’ timorous hand puppet Daniel Striped Tiger surprises his human pal, Lady Aberlin, with a whammy: What does assassination mean?

Her answer, while not exactly Webster-Merriam accurate, is both considered and age-appropriate. (Daniel's forever-age is somewhere in the neighborhood of four.)

The exchange is part of a special primetime episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, that aired just two days after Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination.




Rogers, alarmed that America’s children were being exposed to unfiltered descriptions and images of the shocking event, had stayed up late to write it, with the goal of helping parents understand some of the emotions their children might be experiencing in the aftermath:

I’ve been terribly concerned about the graphic display of violence which the mass media has been showing recently. And I plead for your protection and support of your young children. There is just so much that a very young child can take without it being overwhelming.

Rogers was careful to note that not all children process scary news in the same way.

To illustrate, he arranged for a variety of responses throughout the Land of Make Believe. One puppet, Lady Elaine, is eager to act out what she has seen: "That man got shot by that other man at least six times!”

Her neighbor, X the Owl, doesn't want any part of what is to him a frightening-sounding game.

And Daniel, who Rogers’ wife Joanne intimated was a reflection "the real Fred,” preferred to put the topic on ice for future discussions—a luxury that the grown up Rogers would not allow himself.

The episode has become notorious, in part because it aired but once on the small screen. (The 8-minute clip at the top of the page is the longest segment we were able to truffle up online.)

Writer and gameshow historian Adam Nedeff watched it in its entirety at the Paley Center for Media, and the detailed impressions he shared with the Neighborhood Archive website provides a sense of the piece as a whole.

Meanwhile, the Paley Center’s catalogue credits speak to the drama-in-real-life immediacy of the turnaround from conception to airdate:

Above is some of the footage Rogers feared unsuspecting children would be left to process solo. Readers, are there any among you who remember discussing this event with your parents... or children?

Ever vigilant, Rogers returned in the days immediately following the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, with a special message for parents who had grown up watching him.

Related Content:

Mr. Rogers’ Nine Rules for Speaking to Children (1977)

When Fred Rogers and Francois Clemmons Broke Down Race Barriers on a Historic Episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1969)

All 886 episodes of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood Streaming Online (for a Limited Time)

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, September 9 for another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

What Happened to the 1200 Paintings Painted by Bob Ross? The Mystery Has Finally Been Solved

Very few artists enjoy the degree of recognition that’s been conferred upon the late television educator Bob Ross, though sales of his work hover around zero.

It’s not due to scarcity. Ross pumped out three nearly-identical paintings per episode of his series, The Joy of Painting (watch them online here). That's 403 episodes over the course of 31 seasons on public television—or 1209 canvases of clouds, mountains, and “happy little trees.”

Shouldn’t economics dictate that these would have only increased in value following their creator’s untimely death from lymphoma in 1994?




A handful have been donated to the Smithsonian National Museum Of American History’s permanent collection. Leaving those aside, why are there no Bob Rosses fetching high prices on the auction block?

Is the painter’s legendary hypnotic appeal a factor? Did he subconsciously manipulate even the most cutthroat collectors into a state of sentimental attachment wherein profit matters not a jot?

As The New York Times-produced video above points out, Ross’ great mission in life was to get others painting—quickly and joyfully.

Which is not to say he blithely tossed the fruits of his labor into the incinerator after that purpose had been served.

The reason Ross’ paintings aren’t on the market is they’re neatly stacked in cardboard cartons at Bob Ross Inc. in Herndon, Virginia. It hardly constitutes archival storage, but the boxes are neatly numbered, and everything is accounted for.

And that is where they’re likely to remain, according to executive assistant Sarah Strohl and president Joan Kowalski, the daughter of Ross’ longtime business partner. (Her mother, Annette is Ross’ former student and the foremost authenticator of his work.)

For now, if anyone endeavors to sell you a Bob Ross original, it’s safe to assume it’s a fake.

Better yet, paint your own. Bob Ross Inc. tends to both the master’s reputation and his lucrative off-screen business, selling instructional books and painting supplies.

Be forewarned, though, it’s won't be as easy as the ever-placid master made it seem. Have a look at these comedians scrambling to keep up with his moves for the Bob Ross Challenge, a fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Ross, of course, never broke a sweat on camera, which lends a bit of cognitive dissonance to the Times’ video’s frenetic editing. (I never thought I’d have to issue a seizure warning for something Bob Ross-related, but those canvases flash by awfully quickly at the 1:09 mark and again at 10:36. )

Explore a complete database of 31 seasons’ worth of Bob Ross’ Joy of Painting artworks here. Or watch all of the televised shows here. Just don’t expect to purchase one any time soon.

Related Content: 

Watch Every Episode of Bob Ross’ The Joy Of Painting Free Online: 403 Episodes Spanning 31 Seasons

Watch 13 Comedians Take “The Bob Ross Challenge” & Help Raise Money for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

A Big List of Free Art Lessons on YouTube

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inkyzine.  Join her in NYC on September 9 for the kick off of another season of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

 

The Ruins of Chernobyl Captured in Three Haunting, Drone-Shot Videos

Voices of Chernobyl—Svetlana Alexievich’s oral history of the 1986 nuclear explosion in Ukraine—brings together the harrowing testimonies of over 500 eyewitnesses to the accident: Firefighters, nurses, soldiers, former Soviet officials, engineers, nuclear scientists, and ordinary Soviet citizens (at the time), who saw, but could not understand, events that would cost tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of lives.

We will never know the exact toll, due to both internal cover-ups and the immeasurable long-term effect of over 50 million curies of radionuclides spread out over the Soviet Union, Europe, and the globe for over three decades. But Alexievich’s book eschews “the usual approach of trying to quantify a disaster in terms of losses and displacement,” notes Robert Matthews at the Journal of Nuclear Medicine. She opted instead to tell the stories “of individuals and how the disaster affected their lives.”




The inherently moving, dramatic stories of people like Lyudmilla Ignatenko—the wife of a doomed firefighter whose unforgettable journey opens the book—immediately draw us into the “psychologic and personal tragedy” of the disaster. For their vividness and sheer emotional impact, these stories have a cinematic effect, filling our imagination with images of grisly tragedy and a grim persistence we might not exactly call heroism but which certainly counts as a close cousin.

It’s no wonder, then, that parts of Alexievich’s deservedly-Nobel-winning history made such a brilliant transition to the screen in Craig Mazin’s HBO miniseries, which draws from stories like Lyudmilla’s in its portrait of the explosion and its containment. The series' psychological focus, and the need to create individual heroes and villains, creates “confrontation where confrontation was unthinkable” in reality, as Masha Gessen writes in her critique at The New Yorker. We cannot trust Chernobyl as history, though it is incredibly compelling as historical fiction.

Rather what the show gives viewers, writes Gessen, is a stunningly accurate visual portrayal of the time period, one that seems at times to have recreated historical footage shot-for-shot. The show’s total immersion in the bleak, bureaucratic world of mid-eighties Soviet Russia has so enthralled viewers that people have taken to posting Instagram photos of themselves inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Though it may seem like a foolish thing to do given the levels of radiation still present in much of the area, Chernobyl has in fact been slated for redevelopment since 2007. Tourists began visiting the area not long afterwards.

Since the zone became accessible, hours of footage from Chernobyl and nearby city of Pripyat, former home of Lyudmilla Ignatenko, have appeared in amateur video and and more professional productions like “Postcards from Pripyat” (top), shot by Danny Cooke for CBS, “The Fallout,” a demo reel shot by Aerobo Designs, and the drone footage in the Wall Street Journal video just above. These are stunning montages of decaying Soviet cities left behind in time. Even emptied of the individuals whose stories keep us compulsively reading eyewitness accounts like Alexievich’s and watching fictionalized dramas like Mazin’s, the videos still have a story to tell, a visual account of the remains of an empire brought low by corruption, fear, and lies.

Related Content:

Scenes from HBO’s Chernobyl v. Real Footage Shot in 1986: A Side-By-Side Comparison

A Haunting Drone’s-Eye View of Chernobyl

The Animals of Chernobyl

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

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