RIP Bruce Brown, groundbreaking surf film pioneer

The Endless Summer is the most important film in the history of surfing, and a lot of that is due to director Bruce Brown's evangelistic narration and participatory enthusiasm. Brown died this week at age 80. Read the rest

Grade-school gym nightmares: Go, You Chicken Fat, Go!

If the recent post on square dancing's racist history brought back memories of learning to do-si-do in gym class, perhaps this calisthenics regimen will resonate, too: Go, You Chicken Fat, Go!, performed here by the University of Evansville. Read the rest

The fascinating history of the first commercial jetliner

The de Havilland Comet, unveiled in 1952 to great acclaim, was beset with technical problems that grounded the entire fleet by 1954. One of the big design flaws? Square windows. Read the rest

Square dancing was a racist hoax funded by Henry Ford to get white people to stop dancing to black music

Wonkette writer Robyn Pennacchia went on a brilliant Twitter rant about the strange history of square dancing, which is not an old American tradition, but rather a 20th century hoax that Henry Ford and Dr Pappy Shaw created to get white people to stop dancing to music made by black people. Read the rest

"Time capsule" letters from 18th century found in Jesus's butt

Preservationists restoring an 18th century statue of Jesus that was hanging in Burgos, Spain's church of St. Águeda found a two handwritten letters tucked into the figure's buttocks. Dated 1777, the notes were written by chaplin Joaquín Mínguez from the Burgo de Osma cathedral. The letters will be archived by the office of the Archibishop of Burgos while copies were put back into the statue's bottom. From National Geographic:

In his letters, Mínguez paints a picture of the region's day-to-day economic and cultural activity. The chaplain first notes that the statue was created by a man named Manuel Bal, who created other wooden statues for churches in the region. He then describes the successful harvests of various grains like wheat, rye, oats, and barley and stores of wine.

Mínguez also names diseases like malaria and typhoid fever plaguing the village during this time period, but adds that cards and balls were used for entertainment.

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The only known recording of Hitler's normal speaking voice

In 1942, Hitler paid a secret visit to Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim, Marshal of Finland and Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish Defence Forces in honor of Mannerheim's 75th birthday. Read the rest

A visit to Europe's biggest retro-arcade

Arcade Club, near Manchester in England, is Europe's biggest collection of classic games. Retromash went for a visit.

Let’s cut to the chase. This place has over 250 arcade machines. Just take that in for a second. It’s the biggest arcade in Europe. I don’t know even know how many arcades in the UK had that many machines back in the 80s! Funspot and Galloping Ghosts in the US are definitely much bigger but this is still pretty massive for the UK. I obviously won’t list all the machines here but what I will do is list all the ones I can think of off the top of my head without taking a breath…

It looks amazing: in addition to the 250 cabinets, there's a newly-opened floor for pinball machines, Japanese-language games that never saw the light of day in the UK, and even a restaurant!

See also Retromash's collection of old Argos catalogs. Read the rest

Verizon is finally killing Compuserve Forums

Compuserve's sprawling, paleolithic forums were acquired along with Compuserve itself by AOL in 1998, and their fossil remains were augmented, year after year, decade after decade, by die-hard users who continued to participate there. Read the rest

Type samples from Smith-Coronas

Selectrics get all the hype, but I love the typefaces available on Smith-Corona typewriters from the 1960s. From the samples posted by munk, I think my favorites are the futuristic but legible "Classic Elite No. 86" and the handwriting-style Artistic Script (pictured).

There are about 20 in the set. The only ones that seem to be available as fonts are Numode No. 61, and this set with Smith-Corona's Prestige, Mini gothic and the script, bu all in very roughly-scanned form.

(Via this conversation between @hacklib and Marcin Wichary, who is writing a book about the typewriter and mechanical keyboard community.) Read the rest

What's under the yellowed crust of varnish on renaissance paintings

Art dealer and BBC presenter Philip Mould posted this video showing restoration work on a centuries-old painting. It's more vigorous than you might expect: a solvent tailored to the varnish but safe for the paint, and the resulting slimy mix simply wiped off to reveal surprisingly clear, vibrant color.

Mould hasn't shared the secrets of what method is being used. Turpentine is sometimes used with another solvent, but that doesn't appear to be what's happening here. No matter what method is employed, it takes a good deal of skill to remove the varnish and not have any impact on the actual painting underneath. Details about the featured painting aren't abundant. Mould later clarified that the "woman in red" is 36 years-old and was painted in 1618, according to an inscription.

Below is a digital restoration of the Mona Lisa. The varnish and paint are reportedly too chemically similar to attempt the job with current techniques.

Read the rest

New high-resolution scan of medieval Aberdeen Bestiary

The 12th-century Aberdeen Bestiary has just been digitally scanned and made available online. One of the most famous extant bestiaries, the new version includes newly-discovered details on the book's production. Read the rest

When you think of freedom, remember the Charter of the Forest, not the Magna Carta

800 years ago today, on Nov 6, 1217, the Charter of the Forest was sealed by King Henry III, making it "the first environmental charter forced on any government" in which were asserted "the rights of the property-less, of the commoners, and of the commons." Read the rest

Behold the unnervingly rectangular livestock of pastoral art

Spike, founder of Chicago's Iron Circus Comics, found these adorable monsters from an age when money, traditional technique and unusual subject matter first met.

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The Comic Book Story of Video Games goes deep

The Comic Book Story of Video Games: The Incredible History of the Electronic Gaming Revolution, by Jonathan Hennessey (author), and Jack McGowan (illustrator) is an entertaining full-color book about the roots of video games. It starts with the discovery of electricity and the birth of electronic digital computers in in World War II and ends with augmented reality games like Pokemon Go. In between we learn about the origins of Pong, Doom, Nintendo, Sega, and more. I feel like I learned as much as I ever want to know about video game history in one pleasant afternoon. This would make an excellent gift for kids who want to learn about the pioneers of video games.

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Micro documentary about VHS video horror art

From Entertain the Elk: "A love letter to video stores, horror films, and the AIDA Advertising Method that made the artwork on their VHS covers so effectively grotesque and memorable." Read the rest

Challenge Racist Narratives with Watermelons, Nooses, and Straight Razors, a New Book and Teaching Tool

Pre-order Watermelons, Nooses, and Straight Razors through Kickstarter to help cover the expensive printing costs of this 272-page, full-color, story-based book and increase accessibility by charging an affordable list price. Donations are tax deductible. Books will ship before the holidays. Check out the Kickstarter HERE.

Vintage Cray Research champagne glass

Attention, vintage supercomputer fans! This Cray Research champagne glass is yours for $28. Read the rest

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