I find images and illustrations from World War I to be more frightening on average than almost anything — the Holocaust excepted — from World War II. There’s something morbidly fascinating about the weaponry used in that conflict. It certainly was new and cutting edge for its time, but looks curiously antique now.
It gives drawings like this one from the July 1915 issue of Popular Mechanics all the more sinister. It showcases a German soldier wearing an oil tank with a mask and goggles, which can all be used for just one thing: shooting liquefied fire at his enemies.
And just to complete the look, he’s got a service pistol at the ready.
This sort of military ensemble would probably be called steampunk now, if it weren’t so cruel in its very design. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to know that someone wrote an entire book on German flamethrowers of WWI.
In modern times, comic book superheroes tend to view armed conflict with a healthy dose of skepticism regardless of which side they’re on. But that wasn’t the case during World War II, when costumed do-gooders from Superman all the way down to the lowliest nobody of a crime fighter eagerly signed up to wallop the Axis powers on behalf of Uncle Sam. And hey, if they had to deal in period racism to get the job done, who were we to question that?
So just in time for Memorial Day, here’s a gallery of vintage WWII-era Golden Age comic book covers showing our heroes fighting the Nazis and the Japanese on behalf of Uncle Sam. Many of these images were sourced from the excellent Digital Comic Museum — check ’em out!
We’ve grown accustomed to machines taking over routine jobs that humans used to perform (think auto assembly, telephone operators, etc.). But now, the machines are even taking away our fun. Recently, researchers at Japan’s Ishikawa Oku Laboratory unveiled a robotic hand that is unbeatable at the time-honored game of rock-paper-scissors (Roshambo).
That’s right, the friggin’ machines have taken rock-paper-scissors away from us. And this is simply the latest example of artificial intelligence ruining our cherished games and acting like a giant buzzkill with circuits in the process.
“What Is an Ass-Kicking?”
In 2011, IBM’s Watson supercomputer appeared on Jeopardy!and wiped the floor with two of the show’s greatest champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Even after missing the Final Jeopardy clue, Watson still racked up $35,734 in winnings. Jennings and Rutter combined won just over $15,000.
King Me, Hoser Meatbag!
Canadian researchers developed a computer program named Chinook, which was essentially unbeatable at checkers/draughts. In 1995, Chinook won the Man vs. Machine World Checkers Championship, defeating Grandmaster Don Lafferty 1-0, with 31 draws. In 2007, the lead developer on the Chinook team, Jonathan Schaeffer, published a humble paper titled “Checkers Is Solved.”
Computers Own Chess in Two Hemispheres
We all know about IBM’s Deep Blue computer besting world chess champion Gary Kasparov in 1997, but that was small potatoes. After all, Western chess only has 10123 games that can be played out. The Japanese version, shogi, has 10224. And a computer named Akara 2010 only needed 86 moves to beat top women’s shogi player Ichiyo Shimizu in 2010.
RoboKeeper Is Unstoppable, Available for Bar Mitzvahs
Scientists are still working on robots that can beat the best humans at soccer, but German researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute seem to already have the goal keeping thing down. Behold RoboKeeper, a motion-detecting robot that can block everything kicked its way. Oddly enough, RoboKeeper seems to be used mostly for parties and other money-making events, which is kind of a waste. But you can’t argue with the results.
Here’s video of RoboKeeper stopping some pretty damn good kicks. Skip ahead about a minute if you don’t care about the setup.
Othello/Reversi — A Minute to Learn, a Lifetime to Lose
Computers have actually been kicking our ass in Othello for years. An early program called Moor (get it?) first won a game against world champion Hiroshi Inoue in the early ’80s. The domination was complete by 1997, when an improved program called Logistello whipped world champion Takeshi Murakami 6-0.
Murakami was quoted at the time as saying, “Frankly, I have a very slim chance of winning it. I can not find any defect or weakness.”
The 2012 London Summer Olympics are in full swing now, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t use this column to hop into the time machine and look at images from Olympiads past. Let’s set the chronometer for 100 years, which puts us back to 1912 and the Games of the V Olympiad in Stockholm, Sweden.
The images you see here were collected from the Library of Congress. Click on any for a larger version.
Col. Robt. Thompson accepting Flag for Olympic team
On the right is Robert Means Thompson (1849-1930), who served as a United States Navy officer, businessman, and a president of the American Olympic Association. On the left is Ralph Waldo Rose (1885-1913), an American track and field athlete. He won a gold medal at Stockholm for the two-handed shot put. He died the next year, at 28, of typhoid fever.
1912 U.S. Olympic Team (Stockholm, Sweden Games)
There’s not a lot of info available for this photo, which appears to be of some American athletes. The man in the “M” shirt may be Ted Meredith, who won two gold medals at the Stockholm Games. He set a world record in the 800-meter run, and won another gold as a member of the 4×400-meter relay team.
The 100-Meter Swim
I’m not sure which 100-meter swim this is for.
“Army Rifle Shooting”
Again, this is a little vague. The title of this probably refers to one of the military rifle shooting events. I can’t tell if this is a team or individual event. The Americans took gold in the team event, while Sándor Prokopp of Hungary took the gold in 300 m free rifle, three positions.
Here’s a trio of unidentified swimmers. Those dudes have some seriously large thighs.
This is labeled by the LoC as a 110-meter race, but strictly speaking there was no such event at the 1912 Games. The only track event of 110 meters was the hurdles, but this doesn’t appear to be it.
English football team
Great Britain’s football (soccer team) captured gold in Stockholm, defeating Denmark 4-2. It was the second Olympics in a row where the Brits beat the Danes in the final.
This is Canadian Duncan Gillis, who won the silver medal in the hammer throw. He also participated in the discus throw event and finished 14th.
This is Josef Waitzer of Germany, who finished 19th in the javelin throw and 16th in the discus throw. He also participated in the pentathlon competition, but was eliminated in the third event because he did not finish his 200-meter run.
Prince William – Crown Prince, King Sweden at Olympic games
Our last shot contains a bit of Swedish royalty. From left to right in the front row of seats are Prince Wilhelm (1884-1965), Duke of Södermanland, Crown Prince Gustav VI Adolf (1882-1973), and their father King Gustaf V. Gustaf V reigned from 1907 until his death in 1950, when Gustav VI Adolf took over. He reigned until his death in 1973. Prince Wilhelm was Gustav V’s second son.
This is the first of what I hope will be a long-running feature on the site. Each Wednesday I’ll post a handful of vintage photographs that strike my fancy. Some weeks there will be a theme, others not so much. If you have any subjects you’d like me to look for, or have photos you’d like to share, let me know!
This week’s collection is drawn from the Photochrom Print Collection on the Library of Congress website. From the site:
The Photochrom Print Collection has almost 6,000 views of Europe and the Middle East and 500 views of North America. Published primarily from the 1890s to 1910s, these prints were created by the Photoglob Company in Zürich, Switzerland, and the Detroit Publishing Company in Michigan. The richly colored images look like photographs but are actually ink-based photolithographs, usually 6.5 x 9 inches.
Like postcards, the photochroms feature subjects that appeal to travelers, including landscapes, architecture, street scenes, and daily life and culture. The prints were sold as souvenirs and often collected in albums or framed for display.
Arab school of embroidery – Algiers, Algeria (c. 1899)
Arrowmaker, an Ojibwa brave (c. 1903)
Opening of the Kiel Canal, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany (1895)
Str. “City of Erie,” Cleveland and Buffalo Line (c. 1900)
This piece originally ran in October 2008. I’ve republished it because, really, this should run annually. But to show I’m not just being lazy, I’ve added posters from Denmark and Italy below!
October 25 marks a momentous day in horror history — the 30th anniversary of the release of John Carpenter’s slasher classic Halloween. While it certainly wasn’t the first horror film on the block, it is one of the best and most influential. I and many other fans of classic horror consider it to be part of the holy trinity of the genre, alongside Friday the 13th (1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).
In retrospect, it seems like such a simple concept that it’s hard to believe it hadn’t been fully explored before. A psychopath is on the loose in the streets of a quiet, suburban town (Haddonfield, Illinois) and strikes during the most sinister day of the year… Tax Day! No, actually it’s Halloween.
Director and co-writer Carpenter took a $325,000 budget and spun a cinematic tale that relied as much on an atmosphere of dread and anticipation as on outright violence (and even that violence is tame compared to today’s standards). Contributing to this atmosphere was Carpenter’s iconic score, played pretty much entirely on piano and synthesizer.
After a slow start at the box office, Halloween picked up steam and eventually grossed about $55 million worldwide, catapulting Carpenter and star Jamie Lee Curtis into the big time. The film and its numerous sequels also gave the inimitable Donald Pleasence steady work for the ensuing 15 or 16 years until his death. The original film was re-imagined by Rob Zombie in 2007, but I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about the marketing campaign for the ’78 classic.
Those familiar with the movie probably recognize this image — it’s the main promotional poster used in the U.S., and was designed by Bob Gleason (who went on to create the artwork for Halloween II and III.)
Pretty effective if you ask me, even with the rather prominent veins on the back of the hand. Is that some kind of common trait with serial killers?
Seriously, leave it to our Teutonic friends to take a scary concept and make it even weirder. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a jack o’ lantern or that weird mask thing from Super Mario Bros. 3. Anyway, the subtitles translate to “The Night of Horrors” and “The night he came home.” The knife is downsized from the American version and looks more like a switchblade here.
Here’s the French poster, in case you couldn’t tell. Pretty much a straight lift from the American, other than the translation of the title to La Nuit des Masques, or The Night of Masks. Ooh la la!
The Belgian poster is pretty much the same as the French one with the addition of the subtitle, which translates roughly as “The Night of the Creeps.”
Forget what I said about that West German poster — the Japanese trump them for sheer weirdness. Witness Michael Myers, who appears to have traded in his trademark William Shatner mask for a Dr. Zaius model. Or maybe it’s supposed to be a simian Mr. Roboto motif.
Boy, the Swedes don’t mess around to they? Instead of going the typical horror movie poster route of showing a frightened teen, they slap on a picture of Lynda (P.J. Soles) post-murder. And we get the return of the super vein-bulge hand from the American poster.
“‘Cause he’s once…twice…three times a killer… “
Ah, the good old cut ‘n’ paste technique finally makes an appearance, courtesy of this Spanish-language poster for La Noche de Halloween (The Night of Halloween). Jamie Lee Curtis is understandably mortified at the clumsiness of this design.
This British/Australian entry takes the lazy way out and simply uses a frame from the movie. But they do add an original touch with the “The trick is to stay alive” and “Everyone is entitled to one good scare” taglines. Struth!
I’m pretty certain this one is also British/Australian, as it has the same tagline as the previous poster. Then again it does share a font with the Spanish-language one above, so it’s not entirely clear. Again, we get a scene from the movie, but taken out of context it looks for all the world like Michael Myers has the ability to project some sort of killer light beam from his hands.
And here we have another take on the killer light beam motif. This one seems a little more artful than the Australian take above, although it leaves you with even less of an idea of what the film’s about. I do like that jagged film title font.
I like this one. It has a decidedly ’70s feel, in terms of the quality of the illustration. Really makes Halloween seem more tied to that decade than we think of it now.
Nothing special here, but it’s accurate at least.
Anyway, for the last entry let’s enter the realm of moving pictures and check out the original 1978 movie trailer (or at least until the YouTube Censorship Squad kills the link):
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It’s been nearly 40 years since Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss put greasepaint on their faces and took the stage as Kiss for the first time. Since then they’ve amassed 24 gold albums in the United States, took the makeup off, got a bunch of new members, put the makeup back on, and toured seemingly in perpetuity.
In those four decades a lot of facts, rumors, and myths about Kiss have circulated. Of course the diehard members of the Kiss Army usually know what’s what, but for everyone else, here are ten things you probably didn’t know about Kiss.
10. Katey Sagal was a backup singer on Gene Simmons’ 1978 solo album.
Before she gained fame with American television audiences for her portrayals of Peg Bundy (Married… with Children) and later Leela (Futurama), Sagal juggled a music career with bit parts in TV movies in the early ’70s. She sang in a short-lived act called The Group With No Name, which released one album on Casablanca Records (Kiss’ label at the time) in 1976.
Sagal also sang backup for artists such as Bob Dylan, Tanya Tucker, Etta James, Molly Hatchet, Olivia Newton-John, and Bette Midler. She released solo albums in 1994 and 2004, and contributed a song to the Sons of Anarchy: Shelter EP in 2009.
9. Only two members of Kiss played with the band using their given names.
Of the ten people who have been official members of Kiss, only guitarists Bruce Kulick and Tommy Thayer perform with their birth names. The eight other members (and their original names) are Gene Simmons (Chaim Weitz), Paul Stanley (Stanley Harvey Eisen), Ace Frehley (Paul Daniel Frehley), Peter Criss (George Peter John Criscuola), Eric Carr (Paul Charles Caravello), Vinnie Vincent (Vincent John Cusano), Mark St. John (Mark Leslie Norton), and Eric Singer (Eric Doyle Mensinger).
8. Paul Stanley briefly abandoned his “Starchild” image in favor of a “Bandit” persona.
While Gene, Ace, and Peter had settled on the basic ideas for their makeup designs by about mid-1973, Paul tried out a new look now referred to as the “Bandit.” The first version, with plain black framing both eyes, made him look more like a raccoon. The second variation was more diamond-shaped, and while it didn’t last long there is ample photographic evidence that he used it.
7. Kiss has performed in public as a trio just twice.
On January 28, 1982, with Ace just about out of the band entirely, Gene, Paul, and Eric Carr appeared as a trio at Studio 54 to lip-synch “I” (from the recently released Music from “The Elder”) for satellite transmission to the San Remo Music Festival in Italy.
Prior to a show on July 27, 2007, Paul was hospitalized with an extremely rapid heartbeat. In his absence, Kiss performed live in concert as a trio for the first time ever. This was the first Kiss concert Stanley had missed during his then 34-year tenure with the group.
6. “God of Thunder,” Gene Simmons’ signature song, was written by Paul Stanley.
Since its release in March 1976 (on the Destroyer LP), “God of Thunder” has been synonymous with Gene and his Demon persona. In concert it marked the point where Gene would usually play his bass solo, spit blood, and even be hoisted up above the stage with wires. But it was originally arranged and sung by Paul, who wrote the song to prove he could take on heavier and darker material as well as Gene.
But producer Bob Ezrin felt it didn’t sound right as Paul’s song, so he and Simmons modified the lyrics and the arrangement — slowing the tempo down quite a bit in the process — and gave the song to Gene. Paul wasn’t thrilled with Ezrin’s decision, but went along with it anyway. The original version of “God of Thunder” did not see the light of day officially until Kiss released their five-disc box set in 2001.
I’ll cop to not being the biggest Amy Winehouse fan in the world, but there’s no denying the incredible talent she possessed. That talent is on display during the concert I’m sharing with you today.
This is from a July 29, 2011 broadcast on Deutschlandfunk, a German radio station. It captures Amy performing in support of her debut album, Frank, on September 28, 2004 at the Tränenpalast in Berlin, Germany.
This is the Amy that fans will likely want to remember. Before the scandal, before the very public — and ultimately losing — battles with addiction, and before the days of mysteriously canceled shows and poor performances. Here, she’s in great voice and hits a groove with her sterling backing band.
(These are all in .mp3 format by the way. If you want to download the show in .FLAC format, click this MediaFire link.)
And so ends our three-part journey through 1960s Germany (as presented by View-Master). Today we say auf wiedersehen to Bavaria and head northwest to the states of Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Lower Saxony.
#1 – Black Forest Farmhouse Has Stable in Rear
OK, so not every View-Master picture can be a winner.
#2 – Heidelberg’s Arched Bridge and Famous Castle
This bridge has spanned the Neckar River since 1786. That’s a long time.
#3 – Cochem Castle Overlooks Moselle Valley
The Reichsburg Cochem had its first documentary mention in 1130. In 1151, it was occupied by King Konrad III, who declared it an Imperial castle. In 1688, the castle was overrun by French King Louis XIV’s troops in the course of the Nine Years’ War (known in Germany as the Pfälzischer Erbfolgekrieg, or War of the Palatine Succession), and the following year, they destroyed it. The castle complex long lay in ruins before in 1868 it was bought by the Berlin businessman Louis Fréderic Jacques Ravené for 300 Goldmark and then reconstructed in the Gothic Revival style.
Since 1978 it has been owned by the town of Cochem and is administered by a company named Reichsburg GmbH.