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A filmmaker named Melton Barker travelled America from the 1930s to the 1970s, making and remaking a short movie called "The Kidnapper's Foil," which featured a large cast of kids. He'd roll into small towns, announce that he was going into production, and advertise for proud parents who wanted their kids to break into the movies. He'd raise local money to (re)make the film with an all townie cast, have it produced, and leave it behind. There are lots of versions still extant, but there are probably hundreds more that may never be recovered. They're a fascinating insight into the lives of Americans across the country and the years.
She estimates that Barker made hundreds of versions of “The Kidnappers Foil,” but fewer than 20 have been unearthed and digitized. In advance of his arrival to a new town — like Reidsville, N.C., or Allentown, Pa. — Barker, who Ms. Frick said probably died on the road in 1977, would broker a deal with a local theater to screen the film upon completion, handing over the reels once they’d been developed, either by himself (working in his hotel room) or by a lab in Dallas. (During part of his career Barker, like the filmmakers of his era, was working with cellulose nitrate, a wildly flammable film stock that is difficult and dangerous to store.) All the currently accessible prints are available to view on meltonbarker.org, a Web site Ms. Frick and her colleagues built to raise more interest in Barker’s work. That collection, Ms. Frick reasoned, might lead to the recovery of more prints.
Dan Streible, a film historian and an associate professor of cinema studies at New York University, is the director of a recurring symposium for so-called “orphan films” like “The Kidnappers Foil.” Mr. Streible said such films, which he defines loosely as “amateur films and home movies, medical films, outtakes, uncompleted films, fragments — things which were not commercial features,” are also “the ones that need the most preservation and advocacy.” He added, “There wasn’t an obvious commercial value to them, and there isn’t always an obvious owner in the legal sense, and they’re films that are left behind in archives for any number of haphazard reasons.”
These lost artifacts can become essential cultural documents, and what they occasionally lack in narrative coherence or flash they make up for in historical worth. Unlike Hollywood films set in fake small towns and populated by professional actors, “The Kidnappers Foil” captures, however incidentally, an authentic American culture and locale. “By going to all those small towns, throughout the South and all over, Barker was preserving regional dialects that cannot be heard in a single Hollywood film,” Mr. Streible said. “No one else was recording people in Childress, Tex., in 1936, and here they are, a large group of them all talking in their natural voices.”
The Legacy of a Camera-Toting Huckster [NYT/Amanda Petrusich]
(via Making Light)
(Image: Texas Archive of the Moving Image)
Potential Prostitutes is only the latest sleazy site to wed personal photos to public humiliation. Its offer to publicize anonymous claims of sex crimes, however, is a novelty: any woman may be be anonymously tagged as a prostitute.
The site accepts anonymous submissions through an online form and promises to post uploads in a browsable "offender" database seeded with mugshots of convicted prostitutes. Entries may be removed by those listed—so long as they pay a hefty removal fee. Read the rest
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Last week, the Chicago Sun-Times first exposed allegations that "Boobies Rock!," a for-profit business that purports to fund-raise for “breast-cancer awareness” in Chicago and around the US, wasn't actually funneling funds to charities it claimed to benefit.
At left, the president of Boobies Rock!, Adam Shyrock. I don't know what could possibly not be forthright about a breast cancer "awareness" effort run by a guy who looks this douchey, especially when the project, which is about an awful terrible disgusting disease that kills people, is called "Boobies Rock!" (the exclamation point, it should be noted, is part of the name).
The idea itself— to build a car that runs on ordinary water— is total crap, scientifically. It violates at least one law of physics, and pisses off a few others. But the idea behind the idea— a car that runs on something so plentiful and cheap it’s almost valueless— will never go away. It’s just too tantalizing to give up.
My introduction to Gary Trudeau's Doonesbury happened around the age of 8, when I discovered my father's anthology collections. (I was extraordinarily up on early 1970s pop culture for a late 1980s grade schooler.) Reading the new strip and the daily archives is still part of my morning routine. But, given that I was born in 1981, I don't always get all the references. Sometimes, that leads me to discover weird bits pop history.
For instance, the strip above ran on July 19, 1977. My first response this morning, "What the hell is Laetrile?" I mean, it's Duke, so I assumed it was a drug. But I wasn't expecting it to turn out to be a quack cancer treatment, the promotion of which led to a strange bedfellows situation where alt-med proponents joined forces with the John Birch Society to fight the federal government for the right to sell desperate cancer patients a potentially dangerous treatment that had never been tested for effectiveness or safety.
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The FDA has released a list of fraudulent H1N1 flu protection products. Highlights include: Sketchy, black-market flu vaccine (link included for maximum LULZ); all manner of home defense kits, ranging in price from the classic $19.95 to $570; and silver nanoparticle shampoo. Washing your hands: Still free. For now.
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