Dramatic Color Footage Shows a Bombed-Out Berlin a Month After Germany’s WWII Defeat (1945)

From Kronos Media comes a pretty astounding montage of video showing Berlin in July 1945 — just two months after the Nazis lost The Battle of Berlin and Hitler committed suicide, and a month after the allies signed the Declaration Regarding the Defeat of Germany and the Assumption of Supreme Authority by Allied Powers

The nearly 75-year-old footage shows a city in shambles. You see the wounded, and buildings reduced to piles of rubble. The Reichstag makes an appearance, as does the worn-out Brandenburg Gate, through which residents passed from British-controlled Berlin to Soviet-controlled Berlin. And mostly you see everyday people trying to get on with their lives. Most chilling is the final scene, where an aerial shot carries you over miles and miles of desolation. To see Berlin during an earlier, certainly better time, visit our 2013 post: Berlin Street Scenes Beautifully Caught on Film Between 1900 and 1914.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in May 2015.

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Download 78 Free Online History Courses: From Ancient Greece to The Modern World

Watch 9 Classic & Lost Punk Films (1976-1981): All Restored and Now Streaming Online

There is a purist feeling about punk to which I’m sometimes sympathetic: punk died, and its death was an inevitable consequence of its live-fast-die-young philosophy and thus should be reverently respected. To immortalize and commercialize punk is to betray its anarchist spirit, full stop. This kind of piety doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. For one thing, some of punk’s most influential impresarios were shameless hawkers of a sensationalized product. For another, from the critic’s perspective, “there is probably no one such thing as ‘punk.’”

So writes editor Bob Mehr at Nicholas Winding Refn’s online curatorial project Ears, Eyes and Throats: Restored Classic and Lost Punk Films 1976-1981. Punk emerged as a series of rock and roll art pranks and anti-pop stances; it also emerged in publishing, photography, poetry readings, performance art, graphic art, fashion, and, yes, film. Like earlier movements devoted to multiple media (Dada especially comes to mind, and like Dada, punk’s defining feature may be the manifesto), punk names an assemblage of creative gestures, loosely related more by attitude than aesthetic.

Punk’s looseness “presents a golden opportunity” for film curators, writes Mehr. “If there aren’t a lot of barriers thrown in your way, you’ve got a potentially wide array of work to choose from that can click together in illuminating ways.” The films showcased in Ears, Eyes and Throats feature few of the punk superstars memorialized in the usual tributes. Instead, to “illustrate the breadth of this material”—that is, the breadth of what might qualify as “punk film”—Mehr has chosen “films (and bands) which the general public probably wasn’t familiar with.”

This includes “San Francisco-by-way-of-Bloomington-Indiana’s MX-80 Sound and their Why Are We Here? (1980), Richard Galkowski’s Deaf/Punk, featuring The Offs (1979) [see a clip above] and Stephanie Beroes’ Pittsburth-based Debt Begins at 20 (1980).” There are other rare and obscure films, like Galkowski’s Moody Teenager (1980) and Liz Keim and Karen Merchant’s never-before-seen In the Red (1978). And there are films from more recognizable names—two from “legendary anonymous collective” The Residents, whom many might say are more Dada than punk, and a “2K digital restoration of the legendary first film by DEVO, In the Beginning Was the End: The Truth About De-Evolution (1976).”

Is punk relevant? Maybe the question rashly assumes we know what punk is. Expand your definitions with the nine films at Ears, Eyes and Throats, all of which you can stream there. And revise your sense of a time when punk, like hip-hop, as Public Enemy’s Chuck D says in an essay featured on the site, wasn’t something you “could go out and just buy… Couldn’t slide yourself into punk. You had to kind of get creative.”

via Metafilter

Related Content:

A Short History of How Punk Became Punk: From Late 50s Rockabilly and Garage Rock to The Ramones & Sex Pistols

The 100 Top Punk Songs of All Time, Curated by Readers of the UK’s Sounds Magazine in 1981

The Story of Pure Hell, the “First Black Punk Band” That Emerged in the 70s, Then Disappeared for Decades

“Stay Free: The Story of the Clash” Narrated by Public Enemy’s Chuck D: A New 8-Episode Podcast

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

Every Nuclear Bomb Explosion in History, Animated

I suspect many fewer people are assigned John Hersey’s Hiroshima, a book most everyone in my cohort read at some stage in their education. And certainly, far fewer people are subjected to the kind of alarmist (and reasonably so) propaganda films that dramatized the grisly details of fallout and nuclear winter. Even the recent HBO miniseries Chernobyl, with its grotesque depiction of radiation poisoning, prompted a wave of tourism to the site, drawing Instagram generation gawkers born too late to have heard the terrifying news firsthand.

Yet, the threat of a nuclear disaster and its attendant horrors has hardly gone away. The UN General Assembly issued a statement this year warning of the highest potential for a devastating incident since the Cuban Missile Crisis. We are entering a new era of nuclear proliferation, with many countries who have no love for each other joining the race. “As the risk of nuclear confrontation grows,” writes Simon Tisdall at The Guardian, “the cold war system of treaties that helped prevent Armageddon is being dismantled, largely at Trump’s behest.” Calls for a No-First-Use policy in the U.S. have grown more urgent.

Living memory of the period in which two global superpowers almost destroyed each other, and took everyone else with them, has not deterred the architects of today’s geopolitics. But remembering that history should nonetheless be required of us all. In the Business Insider video above, you can get a sense of the scope of nuclear testing that escalated throughout the Cold War, in an animated timeline showing every single explosion in Japan and the various testing sites in Russia, New Mexico, Australia, and the Pacific Islands from 1945 into the 1990s, when they finally drop off. As the decades progress, more countries amass arsenals and conduct their own testing.

Despite the expert warnings, something certainly has changed since the fall of the Soviet Union. Over a forty year period, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. trained to annihilate the other, and the prospect of nuclear war became an extinction-level event. That may not be the case in a fragmented, multipolar world with many smaller countries vying for regional supremacy. But a nuclear event, intention or accidental, could still be catastrophic on the order of thousands or millions of deaths. The animation shows us how we got here, through decades of normalizing the stockpiling and testing of the ultimate weapons of mass destruction.

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

The 1926 Silent Film The Flying Ace Tells the Alternative Universe Story of a Black Fighter Pilot, Many Years Before African-Americans Were Allowed to Serve as Pilots in the US Army

The origin of dramatic storytelling in cinema is often traced to a single movie, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. It also happens to be a film that celebrates the racist violence of the Ku Klux Klan, based on a novel, The Clansman, that does the same. The film’s technical achievements and its racism became integral to Hollywood thereafter. Only relatively recently have black filmmakers begun entering the mainstream with very different kinds of stories, winning major awards and making record profits.

This would have been unthinkable in the 1920s, a period of intense racial violence when black WWI veterans came home to find their country armed against them. “When the soldiers returned,” writes Megan Pugh for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, “Jim Crow still reigned supreme and lynch mobs continued to terrorize the South.” Hollywood placated white audiences by only ever featuring black characters in subservient, stereotypical roles, or casting white actors in blackface.

Against these oppressive representations, black filmmakers like Oscar Micheaux and George and Noble Jackson “used cinema to confront American racism,” responding to Griffith with films like Micheaux’s Within Our Gates and the Jacksons’ uplifting The Realization of a Negro’s Ambition. There were also several white filmmakers who made so-called “race movies.” But most of their films avoid any explicit political commentary.

These include the films of Richard Norman, who between 1920 and 1928 made seven feature-length silent movies with all-black casts, “geared toward black audiences.” He made romances, comedies, and adventure films, casting black actors in serious, “dignified” roles. “Instead of tackling discrimination head-on in his films,” writes Pugh, “Norman created a kind of world where whites—and consequently racism—didn’t even exist.”

Though we may see this as a cynical commercial decision, and its own kind of appeasement to segregation, the approach also enabled Norman to tell powerful, alternate-universe stories that a more realist bent would not allow. 1926’s The Flying Ace, for example, Norman’s only surviving film, is about a black fighter pilot returning home to “resume his civilian career as a railroad detective—without removing his Army Air Service uniform, a constant reminder of his patriotism and valor.”

Norman tells the moving story of Captain Billy Stokes (see Part 1 at the top), “a model for the ideals of racial uplift,” despite the fact that “African-Americans were not allowed to serve as pilots in the United States Armed Forces until 1940.” One might say that rewriting recent history as wish-fulfillment has always been a function of cinema since… well, at least since The Birth of a Nation, if not further back to The Great Train Robbery.

Norman takes this impulse and dramatizes the life of an impossibly heroic black WWI serviceman, at a time when such men faced widespread abuse and discrimination in reality. While he insisted that he only made genre films, and avoided what he called the “propaganda nature” of Micheaux’s films, it’s hard not to read The Flying Ace as a political statement of its own, and not only for its oblique topical commentary.

The film centers on positive, complex black characters at a time when studios made quite a bit of money doing exactly the opposite. Norman gave black audiences heroes of their own to root for. In The Flying Ace, Captain Stokes not only returns from flying dangerous missions for his country, but he then goes on to capture a band of thieves who stole his employer’s payroll. The character “never would have made it onscreen in a Hollywood movie of the time.”

Norman established his studio in Jacksonville Florida, at the time considered “the Winter Film Capital of the World.” Many major studios decamped there from New York until WWI, when they moved west to L.A. Norman, who grew up in Middleburg, Florida, made a fortune inventing soft drinks before turning to movies. He returned to his home state to find little competition left in Jacksonville in the 1920s.

His studio would become “one of the three leading producers of race films in America,” next to the Micheaux Film Corporation and the Jacksons’ Lincoln Motion Picture Company. In 2016, Norman Studios was designated a National Historic Landmark. The filmmaker’s son, Richard Norman Jr. became a pilot, inspired by The Flying Ace, and has plans to turn the building into a museum celebrating Jacksonville’s, and Norman’s, cinema legacy.

via Silent Movie GIFS

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

10 Paintings by Edward Hopper, the Most Cinematic American Painter of All, Turned into Animated GIFs

The image of America is an image bound up with the movies. That even goes for America as represented in media other than film, suggesting a certain cinematic character in American life itself. No painter understood that character more thoroughly than Edward Hopper, an avid filmgoer who worked for a time creating movie posters. He even “storyboarded” his most famous 1942 Nighthawks, whose late-night diner remains the visual definition of U.S. urban alienation. And though Hopper’s America also encompasses the countryside, never would his views of it feel out of place in a work of film noir. His cinematic paintings have in turn influenced cinema itself, shaping the visual sensibilities of auteurs across countries and generations.

Nighthawks, cited as an influence on urban visions like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, has also been faithfully recreated in films like Herbert Ross’ Pennies from Heaven, Wim Wenders’ The End of Violence, and Dario Argento’ Deep Red. 1952’s House by the Railroad has inspired directors from Alfred Hitchcock in Psycho to Terrence Malick in Days of Heaven.

A glance across the rest of Hopper’s body of work reminds each of us of countless shots from throughout cinema history, American and otherwise. Perhaps even more films will be brought to mind by the Hopper-paintings-turned-animated GIFs commissioned by travel site Orbitz as “a 21st-century tribute to this titan of 20th-century art, for the younger generation who may not have been directly introduced to his work.”

The ten of Hopper’s works thus brought to life include, of course, Nighthawks and House by the Railroad, as well as other of his paintings both early and late, such as 1927’s Automat and 1952‘s Morning Sun. Both paintings depict a woman alone, a motif emphasized by the notes accompanying the animations. In the nighttime of Automat, she “has an empty plate in front of her, suggesting she’s already had something to eat with her coffee,” and the window’s reflection of lamps extending into the darkness suggests her “possible loneliness.” In the daytime of Morning Sun, the building outside the window “suggests that the woman’s view is not a particularly scenic one,” and “the fact that she is sitting merely to enjoy the sun could be interpreted as her desire to be closer to the outdoors, to nature, and escape the bleakness of urban life.”

Even in a more scenic setting, like the Cape Elizabeth, Maine of 1927’s Lighthouse Hill, an enriching touch of bleakness nevertheless comes through. “Both the lighthouse and cottage are the focal points of the painting, yet despite the blue sky and calm scenery displayed, the shadows bring an ominous feeling to what one would assume is an inviting house.” Befitting the work of a painter whose use of light and shadow still inspires artists of all kinds today, these GIFs mostly animate light sources: the blink of a neon sign, the sun’s daily arc across the sky.

The GIF of 1939’s New York Movie, Hopper’s most overt tribute to the cinema, introduces the flickering of the film projector. Purists may not appreciate these touches, but many of us will realize that Hopper’s projectors have always been flickering, his neon signs always blinking, his cups of coffee always steaming, and his suns always setting, at least in our minds. See all of the animated gifs here.

Related Content:

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Edward Hopper’s Iconic Painting Nighthawks Explained in a 7-Minute Video Introduction

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Paintings by Caravaggio, Vermeer, & Other Great Masters Come to Life in a New Animated Video

See Classic Japanese Woodblocks Brought Surreally to Life as Animated GIFs

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Alice B. Toklas Reads Her Famous Recipe for Hashish Fudge (1963)

toklas cookbook

Alice Babette Toklas met Gertrude Stein in 1907, the day she arrived in Paris. They remained together for 39 years until Stein’s death in 1946. While Stein became the center of the avant-garde art world, hosting an exclusive salon that welcomed the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Toklas largely preferred to stay in Stein’s shadow, serving as her secretary, editor and assistant.

That changed in 1933 when Stein wrote The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas — a retelling of the couple’s life together with Toklas serving as narrator. The book is Stein’s most accessible and best-selling work. It also turned the shy, self-effacing Toklas into a literary figure.

After Stein’s death, Toklas published The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook in 1954, which combined personal recollections of her time with Stein along with recipes and musings about French cuisine. Yet it wasn’t her stories about tending to the wounded during WWI or her opinions on mussels that made the book famous. Instead, it was the inclusion of a recipe given to her by Moroccan-based artist Brion Gysin called “Hashish Fudge.”

In this 1963 recording from Pacifica Radio, Toklas reads her notorious recipe. The snack “might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR,” Toklas notes in her reedy, dignified voice. Then she gets on to the recipe itself:

Take one teaspoon black peppercorns, one whole nutmeg, four average sticks of cinnamon, one teaspoon coriander. These should all be pulverized in a mortar. About a handful each of stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together. A bunch of Cannabis sativa can be pulverized. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts, kneaded together. About a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter. Rolled into a cake and cut into pieces or made into balls about the size of a walnut, it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient.

Toklas concedes that getting the key ingredient “can present certain difficulties” and recommends finding the stuff in the wild, which might have been possible to do in the early 1960s. Nowadays, the best course of action is to move to Washington, Colorado or Uruguay.

In the recording, Toklas then goes on to recall how hashish fudge came to be included into her book.

“The recipe was innocently included without my realizing that the hashish was the accented part of the recipe,” she says without a trace of facetiousness. “I was shocked to find that America wouldn’t accept it because it was too dangerous.”

“It never went into the American edition,” she says. “The English are braver. We’re not courageous about that sort of thing.”

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in January 2014.

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.

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Gertrude Stein Recites ‘If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Picasso’

Improv Comedy (Live and Otherwise) Examined on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #20


What role does improv comedy play in popular culture? It shows up in the work of certain film directors (like Christopher Guest, Adam McKay, and Robert Altman) and has surfaced in some of the TV work of Larry David, Robin Williams, et al. But only in the rare case of a show like Whose Line Is It Anyway? is the presence of improvisation obvious. So is this art form doomed to live on the fringes of entertainment? Is it maybe of more apparent benefit to its practitioners than to audiences?

Mark, Erica, and Brian are joined by Tim Sniffen, announcer on the popular Hello From the Magic Tavern podcast, and a member of the Improvised Shakespeare Company and Baby Wants Candy (improvised musicals). He’s also written for Live From Here and other things. We discuss different types of improv, a bit of the history and structure of Second City, improv’s alleged self-help benefits, how improvisation relates to regular acting, writing, podcasting, and other arts, and more.

Here are a few improv productions to check out:

For further reading, check out:

For musical improv, try Nakedly Examined Music #30 with Paul Wertico and David Cain, and also #55 with Don Preston (Zappa’s keyboardist) whom Mark quoted in this discussion.

This episode includes bonus discussion 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: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.


Nikola Tesla Accurately Predicted the Rise of the Internet & Smart Phone in 1926

Certain cult historical figures have served as prescient avatars for the techno-visionaries of the digital age. Where the altruistic utopian designs of Buckminster Fuller provided an ideal for the first wave of Silicon Valley pioneers (a group including computer scientist and philosopher Jaron Lanier and Wired editor Kevin Kelly), later entrepreneurs have hewn closer to the principles of brilliant scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla, who believed, as he told Liberty magazine in 1935, that “we suffer the derangement of our civilization because we have not yet completely adjusted ourselves to the machine age.”

Such an adjustment would come, Tesla believed, only in “mastering the machine”—and he seemed to have supreme confidence in human mastery—over food production, climate, and genetics. We would be freed from onerous labor by automation and the creation of “a thinking machine” he said, over a decade before the invention of the computer. Tesla did not anticipate the ways such machines would come to master us, even though he cannily foresaw the future of wireless technology, computing, and telephony, technologies that would radically reshape every aspect of human life.

In an earlier, 1926, interview in Colliers magazine, Tesla predicted, as the editors wrote, communicating “instantly by simple vest-pocket equipment.” His actual words conveyed a much grander, and more accurate, picture of the future.

When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is…. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket. 

The complexity of smart phones far outstrips that of the telephone, but in every other respect, Tesla’s picture maps onto the reality of almost 100 years later. Other aspects of Tesla’s future scenario for wireless also seem to anticipate current technologies, like 3D printing, though the kind he describes still remains in the realm of science fiction: “Wireless will achieve the closer contact through transmission of intelligence, transport of our bodies and materials and conveyance of energy.”

But Tesla’s vision had its limitations, and they lay precisely in his techno-optimism. He never met a problem that wouldn’t eventually have a technological solution (and like many other techno-visionaries of the time, he heartily endorsed state-sponsored eugenics). “The majority of the ills from which humanity suffers,” he said, “are due to the immense extent of the terrestrial globe and the inability of individuals and nations to come into close contact.”

Wireless technology, thought Tesla, would help eradicate war, poverty, disease, pollution, and general discontent, when were are “able to witness and hear events—the inauguration of a President, the playing of a world series game, the havoc of an earthquake or the terror of a battle—just as though we were present.” When international boundaries are “largely obliterated” by instant communication, he believed, “a great step will be made toward the unification and harmonious existence of the various races inhabiting the globe.”

Tesla did not, and perhaps could not, foresee the ways in which technologies that bring us closer together than ever also, and at the same time, pull us ever further apart. Read Tesla’s full interview here, in which he also predicts that women will become the “superior sex,” not by virtue of “the shallow physical imitation of men” but through “the awakening of the intellect.”

via Kottke

Related Content:

Electric Photo of Nikola Tesla, 1899

The Electric Rise and Fall of Nikola Tesla: As Told by Technoillusionist Marco Tempest

The Secret History of Silicon Valley

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

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