Saturday 24 April 2021

situationist international

Though better-known by the later stages of the collective’s existence for developing the principles of dรฉrive and psycho-geography, the burgeoning group of avant-garde artists and social revolutionaries formed in the late 1950s garnered public attention and some herostratic fame on this day in 1964 by decapitating the landmark bronze located on a waterside promenade in Copenhagen, the Little Mermaid, the first act in a long line of vandalism towards this poort statue motivated by various reasons. Radically left-leaning and convinced that the capitalism that Karl Marx had sought to redress, the Situationists—especially during this formative political period, was becoming more pervasive and all-encompassing and that the estranging forces of commodity fetishism were fast encroaching on every aspect of life and culture, helping limn and inform the summer of unrest and insurrection of Paris in May of 1968.

Saturday 27 February 2021

report from vietnam

On this day in 1968, CBS affiliates broadcasted respected television news anchor Walter Cronkite’s scathing assessment of US prospects, having been dispatched to cover the aftermath of the Tet Offensive, privately urging commanding generals to find a dignified way to extricate themselves from this quagmire. Editorialising the closing statement, Cronkite said: 

We have been too often disappointed by the optimism of the American leaders, both in Vietnam and Washington, to have faith any longer in the silver linings they find in the darkest clouds. They may be right, that Hanoi’s winter-spring offensive has been forced by the Communist realization that they could not win the longer war of attrition, and that the Communists hope that any success in the offensive will improve their position for eventual negotiations. It would improve their position, and it would also require our realization, that we should have had all along, that any negotiations must be that—negotiations, not the dictation of peace terms. For it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate. This summer is almost certain standoff will either end in real give-and-take negotiations or terrible escalation—and for every means we have to escalate, the enemy can match us, and that applies to invasion of the North, the use of nuclear weapons, or the mere commitment of one hundred, or two hundred, or three hundred thousand more American troops to the battle. And with each escalation, the world comes closer to the brink of cosmic disaster. To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honourable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could. 

Following this addendum, debriefed President Lyndon Baines Johnson announced that, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America,” ultimately contributing to LBJ’s decision not to seek another term in office, announcing his plans at the end of the following month.

Monday 14 December 2020

location scout oder deckname topas

Hearing that someone might be making a weekend of visiting nearby sites where films had been shot sounded like a fun activity and piqued my curiosity as to whether any might be in reach for me. I was surprised to come across this image from 1968 in the Stars and Stripes photographic archive of the filming of the 1969 release of the Cold War spy-thriller Topaz, the cinematic adaptation of Leon Uris’ novelisation of a real defection, the Sapphire Affair, that took place in 1962 directed by Alfred Hitchcock.  Here is the same building from last summer from a slightly different angle and perspective.
The story follows a French intelligence agent who becomes entangled in a spy ring and the geopolitical situation on the eve of the Cuba Missile Crisis. A high-ranking Soviet officer reveals that nuclear warheads will be placed in Cuba (mirroring the US installation in Turkey) and he and his family are evacuated to Wiesbaden. Filming also takes place in Copenhagen, Washington, DC, Paris, New York with Havana scenes filmed on a studio lot.

Monday 19 October 2020

font specimen

Boing Boing brings us a nice retrospective appreciation of the life and work of the recently departed typographer Ephram Edward (Ed) Benguiat (*1927), whose expansive family of fonts every one of us has surely encountered and used—Bookman, ITC Avant Garde, Panache, Souvenir—plus his formatting, layout and logotype for periodicals including Esquire, Playboy, Reader’s Digest, the San Diego Tribune newspaper and Sport Illustrated.

Beginning his work in graphic design just after World War II as a so called “cleavage retoucher,” Benguiat was part of a team assigned to airbrush out nudity or otherwise suggestive images in film and magazines to comply with Hays Code impositions, however by the 1970s his signature aesthetic for display typefaces and titles was in the kerning—regarded as “sexy spacing” between letters, flirtatiously not quite touching. Aside from movie posters and corporate campaigns for Super Fly (1972), Planet of the Apes (1968) and Foxy Brown (1974, ITC Caslon, № 224), Benguiat also was responsible for the opening credits sequence for the prestige television series Stranger Things. Learn more at the links above.

Tuesday 29 September 2020

unprocessed cartoons

PRINT magazine contributor Steven Heller has a nice retrospective appearance and remembrance for an underground political cartoonist often overshadowed by his contemporary R. Crumb in R. Cobb. While many might more readily recognise the Cheap Thrills that duly excoriated our modesties of the former, we might not be as familiar with the latter, who recently departed (*1937) after a long bout of dealing with dementia, whose extensively syndicated illustrations laid bare how the governments—most pointedly the US establishment—was eroding civil rights, liberties and the environment.

Cobb turned his talents to raising awareness and championing social justice causes after being dismissed as redundant by Disney studios in 1957 once the animation of Sleeping Beauty was complete—notably the last film to use hand-inked cels. There are an embarrassment of panels from the late-1960s that are very resounding and correspond, appearing in the Freep plus more mainstream outlets, with what we face at present (see a whole gallery at the source up top), but we are choosing to highlight the ecology symbol Cobb created—combining e (environment) and o (organism) into a ฮธ-like glyph that gifted into the public domain and was adopted by the conservation movement. After his career as a cartoonist, Ron Cobb designed conceptual art for science-fiction films such as Star Wars, Alien, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unfinished Dune, The Abyss and Total Recall.

Saturday 26 September 2020

america is hard to see, kids

Via one of our favourite newsletters, Kottke, we come to discover the extensive and ethnographic photorealistic art of Robert Bechtle (*1932 – †2020) in memoriam with the reports of his recent passing.

Indistinguishable from a candid, house-proud family photograph from a distance, this representative triptych ’61 Pontiac (1968-1969) captures his style and message, life at the pace of point-and-click documentation but fastidiously rendered by brushstrokes. The painterly quality to this deadpan portrayal is unsettling, rattling the viewer until one can appreciate the beauty underlying the freeze-frame of the moment. Almost the entire portfolio of this San Francisco Bay Area painter features cars though human subjects are the exception. Much more to explore at the link above.

Tuesday 15 September 2020

movie night

In an exploration of how film informs our sympathies and limn the present through memory and reinterpretation over the years, couching the present of the movie-makers in our own, This America Life producer Sean Cole digs up an obscure title from 1968, which despite its all-star ensemble cast was singularly bad to have not garnered much attention or conservation heretofore though presently in the redemptive and consoling way that cinematic homeopathy can arise to, even if the inversion of current climate. With several points of resonance to today (that year was also a particularly tumultuous time) we cycle through distrust in science, mask-mandates, downplaying the contagion (the vector being instead of bats a toucan), negative implications for the economy, retreating to a bunker and the suggestion that the virus was manufactured in a laboratory for nefarious ends—though the infection and its attendant co-morbidities result in euphoria and an altered outlook that is particularly communicable.

Thursday 11 June 2020

don’t be a creep, buy a freep

Hyperallergic presents and nice retrospective and appreciation of the Los Angeles Free Press, a pioneering underground weekly, which during its initial run from the mid-1960s until 1978 was the only chronicle of social unrest, injustice and police violence as well as the environmental and anti-war movements—subjects that the mainstream press avoided—in the city and beyond. In a strong condemnation of police reaction during the Watts Rebellion of 1965, the paper editorialised, “Attempts to simply establish ‘law and order,’ to simply establish the pre-demonstration status quo, are doomed to failure.” For forcing the public to confront white supremacy and other discomforts, staff were constantly terrorised and under assault, including an office bombing in 1968. Revived with the same spirit fifteen years ago by its founder, radical socialist Art Kunkin (*1928 – †2019), its masthead (see also) reads Est’d 1964—Re-Incarnated by Necessity.

Tuesday 9 June 2020

look for the helpers—you will always find people who are helping

Our peripatetic ally Messy Nessy Chic brings us a nice vignette remembering Patrol Officer Franรงois Scarborough Clemmons, who was a part of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood for over a quarter of a century, becoming one of the first reoccurring African-American characters on US television.
The two were acquaintances from church (a choir member who would go on to become a Grammy-winning singer) and the show’s creator approached him in 1968 about having a role as a policeman, which Clemmons initially rejected because of his bad experiences with cops growing up but eventually embraced the idea.  Fred Rogers, in a 1969 episode, had invited Clemmons to cool his feet and take a break from his regular beat and the two reprised the scene for their last appearance together in 1993.

Thursday 28 May 2020


According to the director’s original vision, the iconic and arresting prop from the 1968 cinematic adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey and a character in its own right (see previously) was to be a transparent hulking block of acrylic.  After having the two tonne megalith delivered—fulfilled by Stanley Plastics, a speciality company near Portsmouth, it failed the camera test and Stanley Kubrick went with the matte black basalt structure that we’re familiar with.
The Tycho Magnetic Anomaly has an exacting ratio of 1 : 4 : 9—1 : 2² : 3³, suggesting that the sequence extends out beyond our three spatial dimensions. Although the transparent version was mothballed and gathered dust in a studio backlot for years, the rejected prop did see a second career in the hands of Slovakian artist Arthur Fleischmann (*1896 – †1990), who was generally besotted with modern materials like Lucite and Perspex (also creating the UK Pavilion for Expo70) carved it into a sparkling “Crystal Crown,” unveiled by the Queen herself on the occasion of her Silver Jubilee. The commemorative artefact can still be visited at St. Katherine Docks just downstream of the Tower of London.  More to explore at Amusing Planet at the link above.

Sunday 15 March 2020

satire x

First airing on this day in 1968, the penultimate episode of the second season of Star Trek: The Original Series “Bread and Circuses” takes its title from an eponymous satirical poem written by Juvenal that addresses how constituencies are easy led astray from weightier issues if their base needs are satisfied takes place on an alternate Earth (Magna Roma, 892-IV) where the Roman Empire never fell and in a twentieth century setting.

The landing party visit the planet after finding wreckage of a survey vessel without a trace of its crew and compliment, eventually realising that the former captain, now elevated to Princeps Civitatis (emperor and first citizen), went native and sacrificed his company to the gladiatorial games from a conviction that the civilization be shielded from cultural contamination (the Prime Directive), having not yet arrived at the technological threshold of interstellar travel, and tries to convince Kirk and Spock and the rest of the away team to do the same and abandon their Star Fleet careers. Resistant, Kirk and Spock are thrown into the melee and disappointing the audience by dispatching their opponent swiftly and non-bloodily with a Vulcan nerve pinch and then scheduled for execution—to be televised. Deus ex machina, Scotty causes a power disruption and beams them aboard just in time, the blackout preserving the Romans from potential future shock.

Monday 9 March 2020

n&b block

Previously we’ve explored Nintendo’s business enterprises prior to video games but didn’t know about their foray into toy building blocks to compete with LEGO bricks until encountering this range of construction sets. Designed to be compatible and complementary with the Danish original, N&B blocks (courtesy of Present / & / Correct, produced from 1968 to 1972) though unlicensed were not a simple counterfeit and offered several unique kits and accessories.

Sunday 22 December 2019


In contrast to an early twentieth century conjecture that the then three and a half billion humans could all be fit on the Isle of Wight if all were standing shoulder-to-shoulder, science fiction author John Killian Houston Brunner (*1934—†1995) predicted that the population of seven billion of the 2010’s—an accurate foresight like many of the other visions of his future, overcrowded world, with all its attendant calamities—in his 1968 novel Stand on Zanzibar would need a significantly larger landmass.
The rather pioneering piece for the genre alternated between narrative and expository chapters that formed the future world setting that’s strangely familiar and would be one dystopia recognisable to contemporaries. A world of propagandised social media, centralised super computers, American hegemony, nuclear proliferation and mobile, instantly-accessible encyclopรฆdic knowledge, the litany of negative predictions that do ring true is a bit bleak (though there are on balance enlightened ideas and attitudes towards gender-identity, sexuality and race that have their place in this future as well) but the methodical process that led Brunner to correctly extrapolate the fantastical and unimaginable by the conditions and trajectory he witnessed more than a half a century ago confer a certain solace on our inability to appreciate future consequence.

Wednesday 27 November 2019

how did we get here?

Via a circuitous daisy-chain of links, (which are the best kind), first by way of this site then referred on with a warm hand-off in the form of a post that collected cinematic titles that are synonymous with hypertext markup language tags: body, form, h4 , etc.) we are acquainted with the Monkees movie Head, a plotless and lightly derivative but creative romp and vehicle for the eponymous but well-lauded soundtrack, the screenplay co-written by Jack Nicolson. Here’s a sample below (the third musical performance in) from the rather darkly-themed yet upbeat “Ditty Diego” about deadbeat parents. The movie also featured (once a rarity) the actual Happy Birthday Song, performed by the standard’s authors. Terri Garr and Bela Lugosi also lend their vocal talents to several of the tracks.

Wednesday 13 November 2019

pavlovian response

Though sadly his predictions about being up to our necks in bugs did not come to pass and by losing the insects we are losing the song birds as well and we’d prefer this method of conditioning feline instincts, I think that it was a pretty noble notion on the part of inventor and erstwhile actor Desmond Slattery to save our avian friends from our domestic ambush by associating a poaching with a violent and memorable explosion through a treacherous decoy that did exactly that. Debuting his prototype in 1968, Slattery hoped that cats and birds would going forward coexist in harmony.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

senate joint resolution 1

After it was revealed that less than a one percent margin in the popular ballot in the US 1968 presidential election had netted Richard Nixon a domineering fifty-six percent of the electors in the Electoral College (populists George Wallace and retired General Curtis LeMay of the American Independence Party also ran), Congress came for the first and closest time in history to abolishing the institution during debates held in the chamber on this day in 1969, bi-partisan support three hundred thirty-nine in favour with seventy against.
The bill to rescind the institution through constitutional amendment, sponsored in response to public concern by Brooklyn representative Emanuel Celler (*1888 – †1981, serving in Congress just two months shy of fifty years), received endorsement by Nixon and was championed in the Senate by Birch Bayh (*1928 – †2019, whose successful bid for senator in 1962 was larger attributed to the catchy campaign jingle ‘Hey, look him over,/He’s your kind of guy./His first name is Birch,/His last name is Bayh.’).
The motion, debated in the senatorial chamber the next September, on the eighth, however encountered opposition from smaller states, fearful that they would face political marginalisation without the outsized power of their electors (see also) and progress was stymied with filibustering. Though Nixon did not publicly withdraw his support, he also refused to try to persuade any fellow Republican to alter their stance, causing the attempt to fall short of the required threshold.

Monday 5 August 2019


Having first organised in 1968 as a trade association before representing the interests of members as a fully-fledged labour union and lobby, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers‘ Association was effectively disbanded on this day in 1981 when then president Ronald Reagan declared their strike, called two days prior, illegal as a “peril to national safety” and ordered the federal workforce back on the job, breaking the strike by firing over twelve-thousand employees.  Faced with a lifetime ban (later eased by degrees, relaxed first to allow them civil service jobs, just not their old positions back) on government employment and disempowered to pursue the working conditions that the industry needed, Reagan‘s firings—catching many off guard, the unions have backed his candidacy over Jimmy Carter‘s re-election over sore dealings with the Federal Aviation Administration thinking relations would improve—marking the beginning of the decline of organised labour in the US, lockouts, sickouts and strike actions having dropped precipitously over the decades.

Wednesday 24 July 2019


Previously we’ve looked at some of the artefacts that accompanied the astronauts on their mission to the Moon, and now on the anniversary of their splashdown and safe return, we’re reminded how the crew beta-tested new technologies—and not just the obvious ones or Tang—but also the prototype for Sony’s Walkman, the rather revolutionary cassette player becoming commercially available a decade later. Though not quite the soundtrack from Guardians of the Galaxy (I wonder if the plot device was an homage), the best part of learning about this is that the playlist is available and includes Spinning Wheel, Everyday People and Angel of the Morning by Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts, charting in the previous year

Sunday 30 June 2019


Via the inestimable Nag on the Lake, we learn that an exemplar of the iconic protest poster that captured a symbolic act of defiance of Bill Greenshields (previously) burning his draft card—though it was suspected that Greenshields at the time was an undercover agent trying to incriminate others, designed and distributed by activist Kiyoshi Kuomiya (*1943, in a Japanese-American internment camp in Heart Mountain, Wyoming – †2000) is being sold at auction. Using the pseudonym Dirty Linen Corporation, Kuromiya got out copies of through mail order, encouraging people to share with mothers and the White House, but was eventually caught by the FBI and charged with for using the postal service for trafficking in lewd materials. Read more about Kuromiya’s life and career dedicated to social justice at the links above.

Wednesday 26 June 2019

graphical user interface

Debuting with the Mother of All Demos as did most things that inform the way we interact and communicate today, we enjoyed watching this well-researched look into development of the mouse cursor, via the Awesomer, presented by sound engineer and recording artist Michiel de Boer.
Displayed generally as a jagged angle since that made for better visibility on lower-resolution screens, we’ve become pretty blind to the ubiquitous pointer and how it transforms when dragged across one’s desktop from arrow, to hand to I-beam to hour-glass (more on skeuomorphs here) so it was nice to indulge this bit of computing history and to imagine what might come next.