Meet Viola Smith, the World’s Oldest Drummer: Her Career Started in the 1930s, and She Played Until She Was 107

Update: Viola Smith sadly passed away this past week. You can read her obituary at The Guardian.

She may be the most famous jazz drummer you’ve never heard of.

Viola Smith played with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, performed for Harry Truman’s inauguration in 1949, and played in the Kit-Kat Band (see them below on I’ve Got a Secret), in the first Broadway run of Cabaret from 1966-70. These mark only a handful of her career highlights. She’s still thriving—and still playing—at the age of 106. While a fall has forced her to rely on a walker, she “looks like a seventy-five-year-old in terrific shape!” writes Dan Barrett at The Syncopated Times.

Born Viola Schmitz in Mount Calvary, Wisconsin in 1912, Smith started playing in the 1920s with her family band, the Schmitz Sisters Family Orchestra (later the Smith Sisters Orchestra). Consisting of Viola, seven of her sisters, and one of her two brothers, they played the vaudeville and movie theater circuit on weekends. Their father managed, directed, and booked the band. An appearance on America’s Got Talent, “the 1930s radio version,” notes Barrett, gave Viola and her sisters the confidence to form the Coquettes, who garnered a considerable amount of fame after their debut in 1938.

In 1942, Viola wrote an article for Down Beat magazine titled “Give Girl Musicians a Break!,” suggesting that bands who lost musicians to WWII should hire women. Later that year, when Mildred, Viola’s last remaining sister in the Coquettes, got married, Viola moved to New York, “where I always wanted to be,” she tells Barrett. She earned a summer scholarship to Julliard, Benny Goodman asked her to join his band (she turned him down), and she played with Ella Fitzgerald and many other greats. She recorded film music and played with the National Symphony Orchestra. She appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show five times.

Though often compared to Gene Krupa, whom she considers a “lovely person” and an influence, Smith had a very distinctive style all her own, characterized by a twelve-drum kit with two 16-inch toms mounted on either side of her head, as you can see in the clip at the top of the post, in a 1939 performance with the Coquettes. This was no mere gimmick. Smith had studied tympani at Julliard and imported classical training into her big band sound. (She claims drummer Louis Bellson’s use of two bass drums was due to her influence.)

Why isn’t Viola Smith better known? It may have something to do with patronizing coverage in the press, where she was described as “the girl Gene Krupa,” the “fastest girl drummer,” “the famous girl drummer” etc. Other female instrumentalists were similarly belittled as “girl” novelty acts, or ignored, even when they played with bandleaders like Benny Goodman, whose orchestra featured trumpet players Billie Rogers and Laurie Frink. (Smith herself frowns on women playing brass instruments, for some odd  reason.) In her Down Beat article, Viola named a number of other top female players of the day who deserved more work and recognition.

She may forget things here and here, but Smith still has a steel-trap memory for a 106-year old who has lived such a rich life. Her interview with Barrett is full of detailed reminisces (she briefly dated Frank Sinatra, for example). She gives us a picture of a musician at the top of her game and in full command of her career during the golden age of big band swing. We can credit Smith’s lifetime as a professional musician with much of this confidence. Like all of her siblings she learned to play piano and read music from a young age, and she honed her skills as part of a hard-working family “pit band,” as she says. But she was also driven to succeed above all else, leaving behind the conventional life each of her sibling bandmates eventually chose.

Smith did it her way—reportedly turning down offers to play in Sinatra’s band and refusing bandleader Woody Herman in order keep playing with the Coquettes. She played for the radio show Hour of Charm until she was 63, and has played concerts recently in Costa Mesa, California, where she now lives, tended to by the staff of a quilting supply shop called Piecemakers. Smith talks easily about the sources of her musical longevity—her family band, education, and the tight-knit community of musicians who embraced her.

As for her physical vigor and stamina, this she chalks up to the rigor of playing the drums, and to relaxing with a drink or two on occasion—a lifetime of activity and moderation that has helped keep her sharp and healthy after all of her contemporaries have passed away. See Smith in interviews at 100, further up, and 102, just above, and read her recent interview at 106 at The Syncopated Times here.

via McGill Media

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

The Best of the Edward Gorey Envelope Art Contest

What a delight it must have been to have been one of Edward Gorey’s correspondents, or even a postal worker charged with handling his outgoing mail.

The late author and illustrator had a penchant for embellishing envelopes with the hairy beasts, poker-faced children, and cats who are the mainstays of his darkly humorous aesthetic.

(A number of these envelopes and some 60 postcards and sketches are included in Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyerwhich documents the correspondence-based friendship between Gorey and the author with whom he collaborated on three children’s books, including the delightfully macabre Donald Has a Difficulty.)

The Edward Gorey House, a beloved Cape Cod residence turned museum, has been keeping the tradition alive with its annual Halloween Envelope Art Contest.

Competitors of all ages vie for the opportunity to have their winning (and runners up and “very-close-to-being-runners-up”) Gorey-inspired entries displayed in the Gorey House and its digital extensions.

2019’s theme is the highly evocative “Uncomfortable Creatures” … and depending on the speed with which you can execute a brilliant idea and deliver it to the post office, you may still have a shot—entries must be postmarked by Monday, October 21, with winners to be announced on Halloween.

In addition to Stef Kiihn Aschenbrenner’s winning envelope from the 2018 contest’s over-18 category (top), some of our favorites from past years are reproduced here. Our inky-black hearts are especially warmed to see the spirit of the master kindling the imaginations of the youngest entrants—special shout out to Daniel Miley, aged 4.

View five years’ worth of notable Halloween Envelope Contest entries on the Edward Gorey House website (20182017201620152014) or download the official entry form and race to the post office with your bid for 2019 glory.

Entries must be postmarked by Monday, October 21 and addressed to Edward Gorey House, 8 Strawberry Lane, Yarmouth Port, MA 02675 USA.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 4 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Louise Jordan Miln’s “Wooings and Weddings in Many Climes (1900). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Martin Luther King Jr. Explains the Importance of Jazz: Hear the Speech He Gave at the First Berlin Jazz Festival (1964)

Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of full inclusion for Black Americans still seems painfully unreal fifty years after his death. By most significant measures, the U.S. has regressed. De facto housing and school segregation are entrenched (and worsening since the 60s and 70s in many cities); voting rights erode one court ruling at a time; the racial wealth gap has widened significantly; and open displays of racist hate and violence grow more worrisome by the day.

Yet the movement was not only about winning political victories, though these were surely the concrete basis for its vision of liberation. It was also very much a cultural struggle. Black artists felt forced by circumstances to choose whether they would keep entertaining all-white audiences and pretending all was well. “There were no more sidelines,” writes Ashawnta Jackson at JSTOR Daily. This was certainly the case for that most American of art forms, jazz. “Jazz musicians, like any other American, had the duty to speak to the world around them, and to oppose the brutal conditions for Black Americans.”

Many of those musicians could not stay silent after the murder of Emmett Till, the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, and a string of other highly publicized and horrific attacks. Jazz was changing. As Amiri Baraka wrote in a 1962 essay, “the musicians who played it were loudly outspoken about who they thought they were. ‘If you don’t like it, don’t listen’ was the attitude.” That attitude came to define post-Civil Rights Black American culture, a defiant turn away from appeasing white audiences and ignoring racism.

As jazz musicians embraced the movement, so the movement embraced jazz. While King himself is usually associated with the gospel singers he loved, he had a deep respect for jazz as a form that spoke of “some new hope or sense of triumph.” Jazz, wrote King in his opening address for the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival, “is triumphant music…. When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument. It is no wonder that so much of the search for identity among American Negroes was championed by Jazz musicians.”

Jazz not only gave order to chaotic, “complicated urban existence,” it also provided critical emotional support for the Movement.

Much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.

King’s take on jazz paralleled his articulations of the movement’s goals—he always understood that the particular struggles of Black Americans had specific historical roots, and required specific political remedies. But ultimately, he believed that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, and have access to the same opportunities and the same protections under the law.

Jazz is exported to the world. For in the particular struggle of the Negro in America there is something akin to the universal struggle of modern man. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy. Everybody longs for faith.

Jazz music, said King, “is a stepping stone towards all of these.” Wrought “out of oppression,” it is music, he said, that “speaks for life,” even in the midst of what could seem like death and defeat. Read King’s full address at WCLK 91.9. And at the top of the post, hear the speech read by San Francisco Bay Area artists for a 2012 celebration on King’s birthday.

The 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival (poster above) was the first in the illustrious annual event. See many other stunning posters from the series here.

via JSTOR Daily

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The Internet Archive Makes 2,500 More Classic MS-DOS Video Games Free to Play Online: Alone in the Dark, Doom, Microsoft Adventure, and Others

Back in 2015 we let you know that the Internet Archive made 2,400 computer games from the era of MS-DOS free to play online: titles like Commander KeenScorched Earth, and Prince of Persia may have brought back fond 1990s gaming memories, as well as promised hours of more such enjoyment here in the 21st century. That set of games included Id Software’s Wolfenstein 3D, which created the genre of the first-person shooter as we know it, but the Internet Archive’s latest DOS-game upload — an addition of more than 2,500 titles — includes its follow-up Doom, which took computer gaming itself to, as it were, a new level.

The Internet Archive’s Jason Scott calls this “our biggest update yet, ranging from tiny recent independent productions to long-forgotten big-name releases from decades ago.” After detailing some of the technical challenges he and his team faced in getting many of the games to work properly in web browsers on modern computers — “a lot has changed under the hood and programs were sometimes only written to work on very specific hardware and a very specific setup” — he makes a few recommendations from this newest crop of games.

Scott’s picks include Microsoft Adventure, the DOS version of the very first computer adventure game; the 1960s-themed racer Street Rod; and Super Munchers, one in a line of educational titles all of us of a certain generation will remember from our classroom computers. Oddities highlighted by classic game enthusiasts around the internet include Mr. Blobby, based on the eponymous character from the BBC comedy show Noel’s House Party; the undoubtedly thrilling simulator President Elect – 1988 Edition; and Zool, the only ninja-space-alien platformer sponsored by lollipop brand Chupa Chups.

This addition of 2,500 computer games to the Internet Archive also brings in no few undisputed classics whose influence on the art and design of games is still felt today: Alone in the Dark, for example, progenitor of the entire survival-horror genre; Microsoft Flight Simulator, inspiration for a generation of pilots; and SimCity 2000, inspiration for a generation of urban planners. Among the adventure games, one of the strongest genres of the MS-DOS era, we have Discworld, based on Terry Pratchett’s comedic fantasy novels, and from the mind of Harlan Ellison the somewhat less comedic I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. One glance at the Internet Archive’s updated computer game collection reveals that, no matter how many games you played in the 90s, you’ll never be able to play them all.

Get more information on the new batch of games at the Internet Archive.

via Boing Boing

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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.

Banksy Launches a New Online Store: Make Purchases Through October 28

Has Banksy sold out? Fans and critics alike of the street-art provocateur-turned-globally recognizable brand can argue that question endlessly. But we do know, at least, that Banksy sells: earlier this month he broke his own record when his 2009 painting Devolved Parliament went for £9.88 million (about $12.20 million USD) at Sotheby’s. Not all the followers attracted by Banksy’s anti-capitalistic, anti-corporate, anti-wealth image can afford to pay quite so much for a Banksy of their own, but if they can come up with anything from £10 to £850.00, they stand as much of a chance as anyone else of making a purchase from the artist’s newly opened online store, Gross Domestic Product, the second phase of a project that began, as many of Banksy’s ventures have, on a London street.

In this case it wasn’t a mural but a shop, or rather, an installation designed to look like a shop, “opened” right in time for Frieze Week, when the art world passes through the city. “Taking up large windows facing the street, the shop, ‘where art irritates life,’ is a classic display of the artist’s ingenuity and razor-sharp sense of reason and humor,” writes Juxtapoz’s Sasha Bogojev.

Its stock included a “baby crib surveillance mobile toy, along with ‘early learning counting set’ consisting of wooden figures of refugees, welcome mats made from life vests salvaged from the shores of the Mediterranean, disco ball made from old police helmets, plates/clocks with running rats, works on canvas, cushions, and even badly done ‘Banksky’ T-shirts, mugs and plates.” Much to the dismay of many a Frieze-goer, nothing in Banksy’s brick-and-mortar store was available for sale.

But everything in Banksy’s online store is: “ offers a wide range of household products, artworks and basically a whole range of Banksy™ knick-knacks,” writes Bogojev. “From mugs for which ‘the artist got the kids to do it, then signed the result,’ sculptural edition made in collaboration with Escif, learning sets, t-shirts” — one modeled after Girl with Balloon, shredded bottom half and all — “soft toys, clocks, all the way to two new print editions.” Such is Banksy’s popularity that you might well assume everything has already run out, but no: each hopeful buyer can register to purchase one item — but just one — until October 28th, at which point a lottery process will determine which of them will actually have the privilege of making their desired purchases. In the highly likely event of “demand outstripping supply,” Gross Domestic Product will use as a determining factor applicants’ responses, consisting of fifty words or fewer, to the question, “Why does art matter?”

One hopes that when this latest Banksy stunt has finished, the winning responses to that question will be made public; the art-world commentariat would certainly make much of an answer from Banksy himself. But Banksy-watchers know that the artist, whatever his real identity, is always on the move: no sooner have we learned of his latest piece of work, whatever form it takes, than he’s primed the next one to drop. Banksy has described Gross Domestic Product as legally motivated, prompted by a greeting card company’s attempts “to seize legal custody of the name Banksy from the artist, who has been advised the best way to prevent this is to sell his own range of branded merchandise.” If anyone makes Banksy greeting cards, it’s going to be Banksy. And if he were to announce his own Hallmark Store, lines would surely start forming right away.

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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.

Watch Teenage Kurt Cobain and Friends’ Horror Movie from 1984

Because Kurt Cobain died so young (and some would say so mysteriously) his pre-Nirvana works can be over-examined as harbingers of his fate. Maybe death was always riding hard on his tail, these works can tell us, though any number of proto-grunge teens in the Pacific Northwest would have been writing about death and the devil. That’s the cool stuff, man.

A Super 8 film made by a 17-year-old Cobain, Dale Crover (future drummer of the Melvins) and Nirvana bass player Krist Novoselic popped up among bootleg collectors in 1998, and dates from 1984. Fans dubbed it “Kurt’s Bloody Suicide” to juice its value, back in the days when you actually had to buy bootlegs and then later be very disappointed. Now it’s up on YouTube as “Kurt Cobain Horror Movies.”

Crover has described it as “fucking around with a camera,” which indeed it is, but with some intent. It features Kurt in a Mr. T mask, lighting candles in a pentagram and snorting up a pile of cocaine (no doubt using a hidden vacuum cleaner). Then some odd shots of a Mr. T puppet, somebody’s mom at the window, a black labrador, very brief attempts at stop motion, somebody’s granddad, shots of downtown Aberdeen, Washington, and more goofing off (with a guitar!).

Then we get to the “money shot,” so to speak, with Cobain fake slitting his throat and stabbing himself. There’s some more knife violence, then a shot of a cat, a shot of a dog, some fake gun violence, plenty of shots of a pet turtle, and finally back to a horror movie: a bloody Virgin Mary, and some stabbings and some decent fake wounds. (However, the traveling shot of the running dog gets my vote for most skillful.)

Should we read anything into the gore and Satanism? (“This kid was a ticking time bomb,” says one YouTuber.)

I’d say no…and yes. There’s something fun about watching these bored teens making a film for their own entertainment. It’s silly, unfocused, but definitely an indication that these guys wanted out of their boring town and they’d have to create something to do that. Nirvana was right around the corner…

via Dangerous Minds

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW’s Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

Chill Out to 70 Hours of Oceanscape Nature Videos Filmed by BBC Earth

Those who harbor a deep-seated fear of the water may want to look for other methods of stress relief than BBC Earth’s relaxing 10-hour video loops, but everyone else is encouraged to take a dip in these stunning natural worlds, presented without commentary or background music.

All seven 10-hour playlists are salt-water based: coral reefscoastlinesdeep oceanopen ocean, frozen seasocean surfaces, and sea forests.

As in most compelling nature documentaries, non-human creatures loom large, but unlike such BBC Earth offerings as Creepiest Insect Moments or Ants Attack Termite Mounds, there’s a benign, live-and-let-live vibe to the proceedings.

Unsurprisingly, the photography is breathtaking, and the uses of these marathon-length portraits are manifold: meditation tool, sleep aid, child soother, social media decompressor, travelogue, and—less calmingly—call to action.

Science tells us that many of these life forms, and the ocean in which they dwell, are in serious danger, thanks to decades of human disregard for the environment. This is an opportunity to immerse ourselves in what we stand to lose while it’s still possible to do something about it.

If that thought seems too depressing, there’s also strong scientific evidence that nature documentaries such as these promote increased feelings of wellbeing

What are you waiting for?

Click here to travel the oceans with polar bears, jellyfish, dolphins, seahorses, brightly colored tropical fish and other creatures of the deep, compliments of BBC’s Earth’s Oceanscapes playlists.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Monday, November 4 when her monthly book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain celebrates Louise Jordan Miln’s “Wooings and Weddings in Many Climes (1900). Follow her @AyunHalliday.

How to Paint Like Willem De Kooning: Watch Visual Primers from the Museum of Modern Art

Before you learn how to paint like Dutch American Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning, you might ask, why should you paint like Willem De Kooning? Shouldn’t every artist have his or her own inimitable personal style? We might ask, why learn to play piano like Nina Simone or write prose like William Faulkner? If you stop at mere imitation, there may be no good reason to mimic the masters.

But if you take their techniques and make them yours—steal, if you will, their best parts for your work—then, with enough talent and persistence, you might be on your way toward an inimitable personal style of your own. Or, you could simply watch these videos on how to paint like De Kooning to get a vivid, live-action demonstration of how the artist himself did it.

You need never have held a paintbrush to appreciate the Museum of Modern Art’s “How to Paint Like” series, featuring videos of MoMA educator and conservator Cory D’Augustine, who shows us how to imitate the methods of not only of De Kooning, but also Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Agnes Martin. All of these tutorials come from D’Augustine’s Coursera class “In the Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting.”

And as his other videos, here D’Augustine offers a comprehensive overview of the artist’s tools and techniques: low-viscosity oil paint held in large quantities in bowls, rather than small blobs of paint on a palette; the big powerful full-body gestures to achieve “action painting.” If you are trying this at home, be advised, D’Augustine moves fast, assuming a lot of prior experience and a serious artist’s collection of supplies.  Think more Bob Vila than Bob Ross—you will need a good set of tools. But if you’re aspiring to paint like De Kooning, odds are you’ve got it covered.

D’Augustine has also been responsive to critics in the comments, releasing the follow up Part 2 video, above, to address the absurdity of actually “doing a De Kooning-esque painting in a day.” Additionally, as he notes above, De Kooning “reinvented himself again and again and again,” meaning “there certainly isn’t one way, there certainly aren’t a hundred ways, to make a De Kooning since he was relentlessly inventive.”

That is to say, we’re seeing a curated selection of De Kooning’s materials and application techniques, which still may be quite enough to influence a budding painter on the way to a unique technique of her own—or to inform De Kooning fans who do not paint, but who have stood before his fearfully, brutally energetic canvases and wondered how they came to be.

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

The Politics & Philosophy of the Bauhaus Design Movement: A Short Introduction

This year marks the centennial of the Bauhaus, the German art-and-design school and movement whose influence now makes itself felt all over the world. The clean lines and clarity of function exhibited by Bauhaus buildings, imagery, and objects — the very definition of what we still describe as “modern” — appeal in a way that transcends not just time and space but culture and tradition, and that’s just as the school’s founder Walter Gropius intended. A forward-looking utopian internationalist, Gropius seized the moment in the Germany left ruined by the First World War to make his ideals clear in the Bauhaus Manifesto: “Together let us call for, devise, and create the construction of the future, comprising everything in one form,” he writes: “architecture, sculpture and painting.”

In about a dozen years, however, a group with very little time for the Bauhaus project would suddenly rise to prominence in Germany: the Nazi party. “Their right-wing ideology called for a return to traditional German values,” says reporter Michael Tapp in the Quartz video above, “and their messaging carried a typeface: Fraktur.” Put forth by the nazis as the “true” German font, Fraktur was “based on Gothic script that had been synonymous with the German national identity for 800 years.” On the other end of the ideological spectrum, the Bauhaus created “a radical new kind of typography,” which Museum of Modern Art curator Barry Bergdoll describes as “politically charged”: “The Germans are probably the only users of the Roman alphabet who had given typescript a nationalist sense. To refuse it and redesign the alphabet completely in the opposite direction is to free it of these national associations.”

The culture of the Bauhaus also provoked public discomfort: “Locals railed against the strange, androgynous students, their foreign masters, their surreal parties, and the house band that played jazz and Slavic folk music,” writes Darran Anderson at Citylab. “Newspapers and right-wing political parties cynically tapped into the opposition and fueled it, intensifying its anti-Semitism and emphasizing that the school was a cosmopolitan threat to supposed national purity.” Gropius, for his part, “worked tirelessly to keep the school alive,” preventing students from attending protests and gathering up leaflets printed by fellow Bauhaus instructor Oskar Schlemmer calling the school a “rallying point for all those who, with faith in the future and willingness to storm the heavens, wish to build the cathedral of socialism.” In their zeal to purge “degenerate art,” the Nazis closed the Bauhaus’ Dessau school in 1932 and its Berlin branch the following year.

Though some of his followers may have been firebrands, Gropius himself “was typically a moderating influence,” writes Anderson, “preferring to achieve his socially conscious progressivism through design rather than politics; creating housing for workers and safe, clean workplaces filled with light and air (like the Fagus Factory) rather than agitating for them.” He also openly declared the apolitical nature of the Bauhaus early on, but historians of the movement can still debate how apolitical it remained, during its lifetime as well as in its lasting effects. A 2009 MoMA exhibition even drew attention to the Bauhaus figures who worked with the Nazis, most notably the painter and architect Franz Ehrlich. But as Anderson puts it, “there are many Bauhaus tales,” and together “they show not a simple Bauhaus-versus-the-Nazis dichotomy but rather how, to varying degrees of bravery and caprice, individuals try to survive in the face of tyranny.”

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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.

Stream Dozens of Classic & Contemporary Horror Movies Free Online in October

There is a paradox in the genre we call horror. Its main engine has remained constant for millennia—primal fears of death (and afterlife), and relatedly inescapable phenomena like birth, aging, and sickness. At the same time, horror is always contemporary, reflecting “society’s collective anxieties throughout the decades,” writes Lauren McGrail at the Lights Film School blog.

We can see this in horror movies, dividing them by decade according to their most pressing concerns. 1920s German expressionism recoiled from the growing threat of fascism. The 1930s and 40s created a cult of personality around deathless horror icons.

“In the 1950s,” McGrail writes, “the fear of invasion and atomic war fueled films in which the effects of radiation created larger-than-life monsters.” The 60s saw deviancy everywhere, especially among the supposedly normal.

“In the 1970s, Hollywood looked inward, inventing threats that sprung from within,” sometimes quite literally. The ‘80s dealt in panic over satanism, teenage promiscuity, and childhood abuse. The ‘90s gave us charming sociopathic killers, horror parodies, (and bees). “More recently, an uptick in prestigious ‘elevated horror’ films is tackling modern social issues head-on.” Get Out uses disorienting shocks and scares for a heady examination of racism. Midsommer represents the fear of isolationist, homogeneous communities (ethnostate horror, if you will).

Kanopy, the free film streaming service, has made its horror film catalogue available online, allowing us to test this theory by watching classic movies from nearly every decade of cinema history. They’ve included a generous portion of recent highly acclaimed horror films, like Ari Aster’s Hereditary, Robert Eggers’ The Witch, and Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In. There are classic subgenre-defining films like George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Robert Wiene’s Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Even the oldest of horror movie tropes get updated every few years to illustrate contemporary social conflicts. Frankenstein and his monster, Dracula: such 19th century literary characters came to life on celluloid again and again in the first half of the 20th century, when Hollywood horror was still figuring itself out. These oft-campy characters aren’t well-represented in the Kanopy collection. But there are offbeat psychological thrillers like Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy, crime thrillers about real monsters like David Fincher’s Zodiac, and horror comedies like Kevin Smith’s Tusk.

The horror film arrived before the 19th century ended, with Georges Méliès’ 1896 The Haunted Castle, a visual effects feast for 1890s filmgoers’ eyes. Its imagery now calls to mind a seasonal candy aisle—bats, witches, devils, skeletons, and a bubbling cauldron. Fall is a commercial bonanza for fun-sized candy bars and scary movies. Like pharmacies stocking giant bags of candy come summer’s end, no major studio should find itself without a horror release—or re-release—this time of year.

Halloween—the harvest-festival-turned-quasi-Christian/occult-ceremony-turned-major-shopping-season—may do as much to keep horror alive in popular culture as Christmas does for films about family dysfunction. Whether they’re digging up the corpses of ancient evils or inventing new metaphors for old-fashioned fears, horror films give Halloween its best costume ideas, and the best reason to gather up friends and family and get scared out of your wits together (ideally).

Should you be hosting such a gathering, or looking to freak yourself out, you’ll find contemporary horror aplenty free to stream at Kanopy. All you’ll need is your local library card. (To check and see whether your library–or university–is among Kanopy’s partners, just type it into the search window on this page.) “We stream thoughtful entertainment to your preferred device with no fees and no commercials by partnering with public libraries and universities,” says Kanopy’s about page, explaining that you need only “log in with your library membership and enjoy our diverse catalog with new titles added every month.” A very small price to pay indeed for such high-quality content. Enter Kanopy’s horror collection here.

Related Content:

The First Horror Film, George Méliès’ The Haunted Castle (1896)

Martin Scorsese Creates a List of the 11 Scariest Horror Films

Time Out London Presents The 100 Best Horror Films: Start by Watching Four Horror Classics Free Online

What Makes a Good Horror Movie? The Answer Revealed with a Journey Through Classic Horror Films Clips

Stephen King’s 22 Favorite Movies: Full of Horror & Suspense

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

How Magazine Pages Were Created Before Computers: A Veteran of the London Review of Books Demonstrates the Meticulous, Manual Process

The London Review of Books is celebrating its 40th anniversary, but somehow the magazine has always felt older than that: not like the product of a stuffier age, but of a more textually and intellectually lavish one than the late 1970s. Pick up an early issue and you’ll see that, as much as it has evolved in the details, the basic project of the LRB remains the same: publishing essays of the highest quality on a variety of subjects literary, political, and otherwise, allowing their writers a length sufficient for proper engagement of both subject and reader, and — perhaps most admirably of all — refusing, in this age of internet media, to burden them with semi-relevant pictures and clickbait headlines.

“Much in those early numbers still looks fresh,” writes Susannah Clapp, who worked at the LRB during its first thirteen years. “But the apparatus and surroundings that produced them seem antique. Typewriters. Letters covered in blotches of Tipp-Ex, for which the office name was ‘eczema.’ No screens; hand-drawn maps for layout; tins of Cow Gum.” The cow gum was an essential tool of the trade for Bryony Dalefield, who since 1982 has worked “pretty near continuously” for the LRB as what’s called a “paste-up artist.” In the video above, she describes how her job — whose title remains “pleasingly still in the vocabulary in the digital age” — once involved “literally cutting up copy and pasting it onto a board so it could be sent to the printers and photographed for printing.”

Dalefield doesn’t just recount the process but performs it, summoning a presumably long-dormant but well-honed suite of skills to paste up a current page of the LRB just as she did it in the 80s. First she takes the text of an article, fresh from the print shop, and cuts it into columns with scissors. Then she spreads the Cow Gum, with its “strong petrol smell,” to fix the columns to the board, fearing all the while that she’ll stick them on out of order. Even in order, they usually require the addition or removal of words to fit just right on the page, and at the LRB, a publication to whose meticulous editing process each and every contributor can attest, another round of edits follows the first pasting. We then see why X-ACTO knives are called that, since using one to replace individual words and phrases on paper demands no small degree of exactitude.

With the wrong bits cut out and the right ones pasted in and held down with Magic Tape, the completed page is ready to be sent back to the printer. Pasting-up, which Dalefield frames as a marrying of the work of editors and typographers, will seem astonishingly labor-intensive to most anyone under the age of 50, few of whom even know how magazines and newspapers put together their pages before the advent of desktop publishing. But the very word “desktop,” in the computer-interface sense, speaks to the metaphorical persistence of the old ways through what Dalefield calls the “falling out of trades” in the digital age. I myself have done a fair bit of “cutting,” “copying,” and “pasting” writing this very post — but I suppose I never did say, “Oh, that’s very sticky” while doing so.

Related Content:

The End of an Era: A Short Film About The Last Day of Hot Metal Typesetting at The New York Times (1978)

The Art of Collotype: See a Near Extinct Printing Technique, as Lovingly Practiced by a Japanese Master Craftsman

Mark Twain Wrote the First Book Ever Written With a Typewriter

The Art of Making Old-Fashioned, Hand-Printed Books

How to Jumpstart Your Creative Process with William S. Burroughs’ Cut-Up Technique

J.G. Ballard’s Experimental Text Collages: His 1958 Foray into Avant-Garde Literature

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.

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