Friday, July 3, 2015

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

This Day in Pop Culture: June 30th

The First Corvette Rolls Off the Production Line, 1953

We found this interesting 22 minute video on YouTube. It a "home movie" of the production of the '53 Vette. Don't try to adjust your speakers. There's no sound. But its interesting to watch how the fiberglass body is molded and glued together and it gives the first Vette the feeling of a custom car.

And for a few more pictures of the birthday boy please head over to KultureKat on Pinterest

Follow KultureKat's board Corvette on Pinterest.

A History of the Stone(d) Age

I have to admit that I have never given stoner culture much thought. For someone of my generation stoner culture was just always there. I grew up on Dobie Gillis, the Doobie Brothers, and Scoobie Doo. I mean, Shaggy was ALWAYS hungry. Then there was The Dude from The Big Lebowski, Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and Cheech and Chong from well, Cheech and Chong. Everyone laughed at Reefer Madness. Stoners were just part of the cultural wallpaper.

Wasn't it always like that?

Well I've now been enlightened (there's a pun in there somewhere) thanks to a recent article on which lays out the history of stoner culture from the publication of The Hasheesh Eater in 1857 (who knew?) to Snoop Dogg and beyond. Its time for all good KultureKats and Kittens to stare deeply at that wallpaper and unpack its complexities.

Here's the link to the aforementioned article, The Making of the Modern Stoner

And I feel the need to pick out the perfect stoner meme as a gift from my generation to your's. As I've already pointed out, there are SOOOO many from which to choose.

After careful consideration, I offer to you Arlo Guthrie's 1969 performance at Woodstock of "Coming Into Los Angeles". It's known, but not a cliche, and it escapes the attention of the article. I hope you enjoy it.

Finally for a few more stoner memes, visit the KultureKat board at Pinterest.

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Monday, June 29, 2015

This Day in Pop Culture: June 28th

Louis Armstrong and the Hot Five Record 'West End Blues', 1928

More has been written about this 3 minute 21 second piece of music than any other in jazz history. There's little I can add. But I will offer a cheat-sheet summary for those unfamiliar with the song.

 'West End Blues' was written by Armstrong's musical mentor, King Oliver. Oliver recorded his own version only 17 days before Armstrong and his Hot Five entered the recording studio on June 28th, 1928. By the time they left, Armstrong had set the course for modern jazz.

From its earliest origins, improvization was at the core of the jazz performance, but it was the band that improvized together as a unit. Armstrong opens West End Blues with a fifteen-second trumpet solo which signalled to musicians the future of individual improvizational creativity using the band as backdrop.

As a young clarinet player, Artie Shaw drove to Chicago in 1928 to hear Armstrong at the Savoy. Armstrong opened the evening's performance with West End Blues and, as with all other jazz musicians, changed Shaw's perspective on jazz.
I heard this cascade of notes come out of the trumpet. No one had ever done this before. So I was obsessed with the idea that this is what you had to do: something that was your own. I was influenced by him not in terms of the notes but in the idea of doing what you are.
For more on West End Blues, follow this link to an article from NPR. You can hear the song for yourself on YouTube.

And for a few photos of Armstrong and The Hot Five, please visit KultureKat's board on Pinterest.

Follow KultureKat's board Louis Armstrong on Pinterest.

Monday, June 8, 2015

In Passing: Julie Harris, Helped Bring 'Swinging London' to US

In a recent post on the hard-hat riots of 1970 we wrote about one dimension of the 1960's counterculture: youth politics. Today we have an excuse to write about the decade's defining fashion look with the recent death of Julie Harris.

On the set of 'A Hard Day's Night', 1964

Julie Harris was a costume designer for British films from the late 1940's to the the 1970's. But it was her work in three films in the early '60's that helped bring the fashion style of "Swinging London" to the US. These three films were A Hard Day's Night (1964), Help (1965), and perhaps the most influential, Darling (1965).

British youth culture in many ways lead the US version, most famously the "British Invasion" which re-exported rock music back to the states. And so too, with women's fashion. Mary Quant and the "Chelsea Girl" look (the subject of a future post) began evolving in the early '60s with bolder colors and ever rising hemlines.Women's fashion in 1964 America was more like the conservative look of the 1950's.

Then in 1965 John Schlesinger's film Darling, won a handful of Academy Awards, including Best Costume Design. Julie Christie plays Diana Scott--the "Darling" of the movie title. Scott is shallow, self-centered, young, beautiful and fashionable. The movie traces Scott's path through the film, advertising and media strata of Swinging London and its Mod culture.

Mses. Harris and Christie channeled the then fashionable look of 1960's London into Scott's screen style of short pinafore dresses, miniskirts, and knee socks. The look gave girls an everyday uniform for the fun, free and sexually liberated youth culture of the decade that clearly separated the generations. Older women were shocked by the look and found it difficult to incorporate into their lifestyle.

Julie Christie as Diana Scott in 'Darling', 1965

The effect of the Beatles on fashion was more limited at the time. Suits became a little tighter and lapels a bit narrower. Some in the US wore the Chelsea demi-boot that was part of the Beatles look. But after all, the boy's were rockin' suits in the movies and men's fashions were moving in a decidedly less formal direction.

For the New York Times obituary for Julie Harris, please click here. For something about Mary Quant and the "rise" of the miniskirt, click here.

If you'd like to see some photos of Swinging London fashions or from the movie Darling, please visit the KultureKat Pinterest board below.
Follow KultureKat's board Julie Harris and the Look of Swinging London on Pinterest.

Friday, May 8, 2015

This Day in Pop Culture: May 8th

The Hard Hat Riots, 1970

The period of American culture bearing the convenient handle "The Sixties" is a tangle of images and ideas which in retrospect seem easily identifiable from the preceding decade and the decade which followed. The tougher task is answering the more basic questions. What were the characteristics of The Sixties that made it so unique in American cultural history? When did The Sixties, the culture not the decade, begin? When and how did it end? As worthwhile as these questions are, I'm incapable of providing a complete answer to any of them, but today I'll try to provide a partial answer to the last.

Because on May 8th of 1970, the Hard Hat Riot occurred in Manhattan, throwing youths and adults, the educated and blue-collar workers, in to open battle, and ending forever the utopian dream of a student-led democratic reformation of American society.

In the American Left Movement, students had traditionally been relegated to the support role of organizing the industrial workers who would serve as the impetus of change. But several events of the 1960's - the Mississippi Summer Project, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, the Columia University Protests, among others - convinced student organizations they could help lead social change.

The relationship between American students and establishment groups was conflicted throughout the second half of The Sixties. But by 1969 a common ground was beginning to form in the growing impatience with the war in Vietnam.

On April 30th, 1970, President Richard Nixon, who had campigned on a promise to end the war, announced an escalation of hostilities which would target North Vietnamese bases in Cambodia. Campuses erupted in a nation-wide student strike. Nixon, caught on tape referring to the students as "bums", added more fuel to their anger.

Kent State University in northwest Ohio was home to one of the more aggressive branches of the SDS, the Students for a Democratic Society. In the days following Nixon's announcement, Kent State students attacked police, burned the campus' ROTC, and ignored the curfew established by the governor. On May 4th, while trying to disperse a protest on campus, the National Guard inexplicably fired into the students, killing 4 and wounding 70.

The student left and its supporters were enraged, sparking further protests across the country. But the Kent State Shootings had the opposite effect on the other Americans. Many believed the shootings were justified, seeing the students as unappreciative of their priviledge and violating acceptable standards for protest. In a Gallup Poll taken after the shooting, 58% of the respondents blamed the students for the deaths, while only 27% blamed the National Guard.

In the wake of the riot, New York Mayor John Lindsay ordered the American flags on city buildings to be flown at half-mast. On May 8th, and estimated 1000 students gathered in lower Manhattan for a memorial to those killed at Kent State and to continue their protest against the war.

At noon, approximately 200 construction workers appearred at the protest, many wearing hard hats and carrying American flags. Some also carried pipes and crowbars. The workers quickly swept past the police.  Some forced their way into City Hall, climbing to the roof to fully raise the flag from half-mast. Many climbed over the police cars and attacked the students, punching them with their fists or beating them with their hardhats. Hundreds of bystandards shouted their encuragement to the workers. In total, about 60 people were injured, mostly students, along with a handful of police.

One week later 150,000 construction and other workers peacefully marched through New York as workers in the surrounding buildings showered the marchers with ticker tape.

Many student organizers were demoralized. Political activity on campuses lost energy. Those who maintained the fight became more radicalized, calling for the violent overthrow of the US government, and becoming even more isolated from mass politics. Nixon instinctively sensed the power of this new mainstream anger, and used it to justify increasingly aggressive tactics agains the Left.

Events of 1969 had begun to erode any hope of lasting cooperation between student and establishment groups. The random violence of the Days of Rage in Chicago. The seeming moral corruption of the counter-culture as symbolized by the Charles Manson murders, The killing of a young man by the Hell's Angels at the Altamount Music Festival. The early activities of the Weather Underground. But it was the tragedy at Kent State that proved to be the final fracturing of the generations.

For the New York Times coverage of the Hard Hat Riot, please click here.

For more images related to the Hard Hard Riot, please visit the KultureKat Pinterest board below:

Follow KultureKat's board Hard Hat Riot on Pinterest.