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At Grantland, Steven Hyden has a smart article about Los Angeles Plays Itself, one of my favorite movies. A documentary about the role of the “most photographed city in the world” in film and on television during the twentieth century, Thom Andersen’s long-form survey is brilliant, insightful and fierce. An excerpt from Hyden:

“An exhaustive, exhausting, funny, trenchant, and frequently cantankerous work of film criticism and social commentary, Los Angeles Plays Itself was envisioned as a double feature, Andersen said. When viewed this way, the first half plays as a witty observational comedy and the second half as an impassioned political docudrama. Andersen starts off by griping about L.A. movies the way only a longtime Angeleno would: He nitpicks Alfred Hitchcock for setting several films in the San Francisco area and none in Los Angeles, and Sylvester Stallone for taking undue ‘geographic license’ with local streets for the car chases in Cobra. It’s not just a matter of realism — though Andersen is a stickler for realism. He’s an unabashed L.A. partisan who bristles at any perceived anti–Los Angeles sentiment, starting with the nickname ‘L.A.,’ which he finds diminishing.

‘People who hate Los Angeles love Point Blank,’ he says of John Boorman’s 1967 psychedelic noir, though he does express sardonic appreciation for Boorman’s taste in garish decor, which ‘managed to make the city look both bland and insidious.’ He’s less forgiving of how filmmakers always put their villains in the city’s modernist architectural masterworks. The work of John Lautner has been especially exploited in this regard, finding favor among Bond villains in Diamonds Are Forever and Jackie Treehorn in The Big Lebowski.

If Andersen were just a provincial crank, Los Angeles Plays Itself would peter out well before the second act. But his eccentric narration also sticks some weirdly insightful landings, like when he compares the bare-knuckled fascism of Jack Webb’s Dragnet TV series to the austerity of Ozu and Bresson, or marvels at how the supposed dystopia of Blade Runner is actually ‘a city planner’s dream’ of bustling streets, bright neon, and easily traversable aerial highways. ‘Only a Unabomber could find this totally repellent,’ he observes.”


Marshall McLuhan and artist and ace typographer Harley Parker enjoyed a bull session in 1967’s “Picnic in Space,” which focused on meanings that shifted as spaces changed, a process that has speeded up exponentially in the years since it was shot, as many brick-and-mortar forms have gone digital. Film informed by the work of Warhol, Lichtenstein and Godard.

Years before the World Wide Web was created and the Internet became a thing for us all, when we could all be found in a search engine, psychologist Theodore Roszak could see where things were heading: He knew the emergence of personal computers was fetishizing information and knowledge was becoming secondary. While he thought it fine that airplane reservations were computerized, he believed the algorithmic future posed a danger if info was more important than experience and morality. As he pointed out, “All men are created equal” isn’t supported by a body of fact but is as important as any linchpin of America. Of course, Roszak doesn’t mention that relying on an algorithmic-supported truth can also remove bias from an equation.

In 1986, Jeffrey Mishlove interviews Roszak about the oncoming information onslaught.


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Four years ago, I began telling you about Joe Angio’s Revenge of the Mekons documentary, which was then just in its Kickstarter phase. Now it’s a completed, critically acclaimed movie about the legendary punk band, has played numerous festivals and is ready to begin its run at Film Forum in New York, the city’s best cinema. It’s scheduled for five showings daily from Wednesday, October 29 through Tuesday, November 4. (Buy tickets online at the theater’s site; I’ll leave a link at the top of the front page so that you can get there easily.)

Revenge of the Mekons is a movie that combines rock music, independent filmmaking and journalism, the second, third and fourth worst career choices possible. (Fuck you, Radio Shack clerk!) It’s a profile of a complicated and revolutionary group which refuses to go away after 37 years and continues evolving and making great music. It’s also a testament to maintaining focus on what’s important regardless of changing fashions (and the same can be said of the film itself).

Take a look at the trailer.

In addition to watching an exciting film, you’ll also witness a number of special guests introduce various screenings, including Mekons Jon Langford and Steve Goulding, The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn and the great critic Greil Marcus. Jonathan Franzen, who’s featured in the movie, is not scheduled to introduce a screening because he has Jonathan Franzen money, so fuck you. But one of my favorite writers, Luc Sante, will present a showing because he does not have Jonathan Franzen money. You’ll recognize Sante as he’ll be the one dressed like a Bolshevik, muttering something about an 1890s Bowery barber who severed a customer’s tongue with a straight razor. Nice and normal, Luc.

And I promise that if you go see this movie at Film Forum, I will never, ever mention it again.

Until the home video release.

Thanks, Darren.

We sell Victrolas.

Might I interest you in a Victrola?

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Do people still consider Marshall McLuhan to be so many mumbles the way they did when he fell from grace, without cause, by 1980 or so? He wasn’t always right, but the theorist was no Nostradamus, whose writing needs to be spun like an angel on the head of a pin to appear to be right. McLuhan was more correct about the looming Information Age than anyone. From Paul Herbert’s Pacific-Standard piece, “The Medium Is the Message: 50 Years Later“:

“TWENTY YEARS AGO, IN the introduction to a re-print of Understanding Media, renowned editor Lewis H. Lapham wrote that much of what McLuhan had to say made a lot more sense in 1994 than it did in 1964, what with two terms of Reagan and the creation of MTV. Twenty years after that, the banality of McLuhan’s ideas have solidified their merit. When Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, for example, compared the expansion of big data to the planet developing a central nervous system, that’s McLuhan. When Chief Justice John Roberts opined that an alien from Mars might mistake the smartphone as an integral feature of human anatomy, that’s McLuhan, too. In 2014, it’s hard to overstate McLuhan’s prescience.

‘People who don’t like McLuhan in the academic world are either lazy, stupid, jealous, or some combination,’ says Paul Levinson, a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University, where McLuhan taught for a year in the late ’60s. ‘McLuhan wasn’t into commonsense, reasonable propositions. He liked looking at things in a poetic, metaphoric way.’

And it’s true: McLuhan had a penchant for speaking in riddles and rhymes that might baffle at first, but grow into epiphany if given the chance. His rhetorical style was hyperbole. He didn’t shy away from playing the holy fool, as Wired would later call him, and on a number of occasions claimed his mission was simply to probe the new terrain, not come back to camp with answers.”


McLuhan with Tom Wolfe, one of his champions, in 1970:

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Those who still believe privacy can be preserved by legislation either haven’t thought through the realities or are deceiving themselves. Get ready for your close-up because it’s not the pictures that are getting smaller, but the cameras. Tinier and Tinier. Soon you won’t even notice them. And they can fly.

I have no doubt the makers of the Nixie, the wristwatch-drone camera, have nothing but good intentions, but not everyone using it will. From Joseph Flaherty at Wired:

“Being able to wear the drone is a cute gimmick, but it’s powerful software packed into a tiny shell could set Nixie apart from bargain Brookstone quadcopters. Expertise in motion-prediction algorithms and sensor fusion will give the wrist-worn whirlybirds an impressive range of functionality. A ‘Boomerang mode’ allows Nixie to travel a fixed distance from its owner, take a photo, then return. ‘Panorama mode’ takes aerial photos in a 360° arc. ‘Follow me’ mode makes Nixie trail its owner and would capture amateur athletes in a perspective typically reserved for Madden all-stars. ‘Hover mode’ gives any filmmaker easy access to impromptu jib shots. Other drones promise similar functionality, but none promise the same level of portability or user friendliness.

‘We’re not trying to build a quadcopter, we’re trying to build a personal photographer,’ says Jovanovic.

A Changing Perspective on Photography

[Jelena] Jovanovic and her partner Christoph Kohstall, a Stanford postdoc who holds a Ph.D. in quantum physics and a first-author credit in the journal Nature, believe photography is at a tipping point.

Early cameras were bulky, expensive, and difficult to operate. The last hundred years have produced consistently smaller, cheaper, and easier-to-use cameras, but future developments are forking. Google Glass provides the ultimate in portability, but leaves wearers with a fixed perspective. Surveillance drones offer unique vantage points, but are difficult to operate. Nixie attempts to offer the best of both worlds.”•

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I don’t know if it will happen within ten years–though that’s not an outrageous time frame–but 3-D printing will automate much of the restaurant process, making jobs vanish, and will also be common in homes as prices fall. The opening of “Is 3-D Printing the Next Microwave?” by Jane Dornbusch at the Boston Globe:

“Picture the dinner hour in a decade: As you leave work, you pull up an app (assuming we still use apps) on your phone (or your watch!) that will direct a printer in your kitchen to whip up a batch of freshly made ravioli, some homemade chicken nuggets for the kids, and maybe a batch of cookies, each biscuit customized to meet the nutritional needs of different family members. 

It sounds like science fiction, but scientists and engineers are working on 3-D printing, and the food version of the 3-D printer is taking shape. Don’t expect it to spin out fully cooked meals anytime soon. For now, the most popular application in 3-D food printing seems to be in the decidedly low-tech area of cake decoration.

Well, not just cake decoration, but sugary creations of all kinds. The Sugar Lab is the confectionary arm of 3-D printing pioneer 3D Systems, and it expects to have the ChefJet, a 3-D food printer, available commercially later this year. Though tinkerers have been exploring the possibilities of 3-D food printing for a few years, and another food printer, Natural Machines’ Foodini, is slated to appear by year’s end, 3D Systems says the ChefJet is the world’s first 3-D food printer.

Like so many great inventions, the ChefJet came about as something of an accident, this one performed by husband-and-wife architecture grad students Liz and Kyle von Hasseln a couple of years ago. At the Southern California Institute of Architecture, the von Hasselns used a 3-D printer to create models. Intrigued by the process, Liz von Hasseln says, ‘We bought a used printer and played around with different materials to see how to push the technology. One thing we tried was sugar. We thought if we altered the machine a bit and made it all food safe and edible, we could push into a new space.’ More tweaking ensued, and the ChefJet was born.”


Walter Cronkite presents the kitchen of 2001 in 1967:

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You know that famous 1967 clip of a woman shopping online? Here’s a 21-minute segment of the film it’s from, “Year: 1999 A.D.” The Philco-Ford featurette follows the fictional Shaw family, led by the astrophysicist/botanist dad (played by game-show host Wink Martindale), who is employed on a Mars colonization project. Life tomorrow was to be computerized, monitored, networked, automated, centralized and quantified. It was supposed to be a bountiful technotopia “full of leisure.” If the Internet isn’t lying to me, McCabe & Mrs. Miller cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond shot it.

Wink recalls the film:

I previously posted the audio of the “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out” speech Timothy Leary delivered at UCLA in 1967, and here’s the video of the spirited LSD debate he participated in with Dr. Jerry Lettvin at MIT a few months later. In his remarks, Leary lambastes scientists and technologists devoted to manufacturing entertaining diversions. (Thanks to Open Culture.)

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Nobody calls anymore: It’s all texts, tweets and emojis. Phones are ever-more sophisticated, but most functions are silent. There are attempts, however, to remake the 135-year-old tool to fit the more fluid demands of what is becoming a post-voice world, though privacy may again suffer collateral damage. The opening of “Brave New Phone Call,” a just-published Medium piece by Steven Levy, the leading tech journalist of the personal-computing era:

“It is a gorgeous late summer afternoon, and I am sitting with Ray Ozzie in his spacious home office in Manchester-by-the-Sea, 30 miles up the coast from Boston. The software visionary who created Lotus Notes and who later succeeded Bill Gates as Microsoft’s chief software architect, is explaining to me how the humble phone call is not dying, as many might believe, but is busy being reborn.

It’s not an abstract subject for the 58-year entrepreneur. For the past few weeks I have been using the app his company is announcing today, called Talko. It’s a weird, almost magical, combination of phone calling, text messaging, virtual conferencing and Instagram-ish photo sharing. Depending on how you view it, Talko is three or 39 years in the making.

At one point, Ozzie wants to show me something on the app. We both pull out our iPhones and connect with each other; actually, in that moment, we reconnect to a conversation we’ve been having all month that’s been recorded and archived in the app. I think my editor might be interested in the discussion, so we expand the conversation to include him. He’s unable to join us at the moment—I should have known, because the app lets me see that he’s walking around somewhere on the West Coast—but I shoot a photo for him to look at anyway, and Ozzie and I continue talking. Later, my editor will listen to that part of conversation and see the picture at the moment we shot it. And he’ll have the option to comment, perhaps kicking off a longer discussion down the road, either by convening us together in real time or continuing in the same piecemeal fashion as today.

That’s a typical Talko phone call—mixing presence and playback for a totally new experience. God knows that the old experience of a phone call is getting tired.

A few days later, to note the irony of it all, Ozzie sends me a photo in the same ongoing conversation. It’s a plaque in downtown Boston, a block from a Talko engineering office there:

Here on June 2, 1875, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas A. Watson first transmitted sound over wires.

That phone call represented an amazing advance in communications. But Ozzie considers it equally amazing that in the 139 years since ‘Mr. Watson, come here,’ phone calls haven’t changed much.”


Debut of the Picturephone, 1970:

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On the final day of the 2014 Major League Baseball regular season, here’s a repost of a ridiculous artifact from the sport’s past.

Bazooka Joe: Eye lost to knife fight on pier.

In 1975, Joe Garagiola hosted a remarkably stupid and wonderful bubble-gum blowing competition among baseball players, which was sponsored by Bazooka, a brand of gum favored by hobos during World War II. One entrant was Philadelphia catcher Tim McCarver, whose head was the size of a medicine ball. The moment the contest ended, the players went in search of the nastiest groupies they could find.

Why the fuck did the soon-to-be-single Bruce Jenner do it to himself? Here he is in 1976 becoming the greatest athlete in the world, before the divorces, the Village People, the cosmetic surgeries and the Kardashians–before he performed reverse alchemy, going from gold to plastic.

From a 1980 People profile of Jenner at 30, just as his first marriage ended: “At the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal, Bruce Jenner won the gold medal in the decathlon and became the great American Olympic hero—perhaps the last of the line, given the parlous state of the Olympics today. He was lionized shamelessly. He and wife Chrystie were invited to a state dinner at the White House. His was the face on the Wheaties box. He apparently learned from the amazing vanishing act of Mark Spitz. 

Today Jenner endorses everything from lines of shoes and sporting clothes to 10-speed bicycles and weight-lifting equipment. He has a syndicated sports advice column and a sky-high deal to advertise Minolta cameras. He didn’t pass his screen test for Superman, but makes his movie debut in June in Allan Carr’s Can’t Stop the Music (co-starring Valerie Perrine and the Village People). He has co-authored a spectators’ handbook to the Lake Placid Olympics. He has a sports commentator’s contract with NBC that will take him to Moscow if the American athletes go. He is negotiating with NBC to produce a couple of made-for-TV movies. He makes big bucks on the lecture circuit (‘I’ve just raised my price—it separates the men from the boys’), mostly from corporate audiences. And when others might grab for the Geritol, Jenner, at 30, feels on top of the world. ‘I’m very fortunate,’ he says smugly. ‘I now no longer have to do things I don’t want to do.’

But Bruce’s decathlon of life since 1976 has taken atoll. One casualty is his seven-year marriage to Chrystie, who worked as a United stewardess to see him through the grueling training that led to the Olympic gold. ‘Chrystie didn’t like the whole public scene,’ explains Bruce tersely.”

Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, but he wasn’t alone. The automobilist will forever be crowned the inaugural winner, but fellow driver Cyrus Patschke also handled the wheel of his car, the Marmon Wasp, for a spell, a maneuver common to drivers in early auto races who wanted to take a breather. Ralph Mulford, another entrant who drove his vehicle all by himself for the race’s duration, was actually considered the more impressive driver, and protested Harroun being named winner. The complaint, though, wasn’t directed at Harroun employing a “relief driver,” but rather the fact that Mulford received the checkered flag first, and while he was running several extra laps just to be sure that he’d completed enough tours of the track, Harroun made his way to the winner’s circle. The historic moment had left Mulford in the dust.

An article about the soon-to-be-run race in the May 28, 1911 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which featured the comments of driver Ralph DePalma:


In 1961, Harroun appeared on What’s My Line? fifty years year after his most famous moment:

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Even by the oft-eccentric standards of your garden-variety cyberneticist, Warren Sturgis McCulloch was something of an outlier. Known for his purported diet of cigarettes, whiskey and ice cream, the MIT genius was the proud father of 17 adopted children. More than six decades ago he was extrapolating the power of then-rudimentary machines, concerned that eventually AI might rule humankind, a topic of much concern in these increasingly automated times. The below article from the September 22, 1948 Brooklyn Daily Eagle records his clarion call about the future.


In 1969, the year before McCulloch died, his opinions on the Singularity had changed somewhat.


On the day after the People’s Climate March, I think it’s clear that though we’ve yet to reach a tipping point in terms of green-energy use, hearts and minds have been won. Wallets and bank balances are soon to follow, as alternative power is going to keep dropping in price the way fossil fuels never could. From Vivek Wadhwa at the Washington Post:

“In the 1980s, leading consultants were skeptical about cellular phones.  McKinsey & Company noted that the handsets were heavy, batteries didn’t last long, coverage was patchy, and the cost per minute was exorbitant.  It predicted that in 20 years the total market size would be about 900,000 units, and advised AT&T to pull out.  McKinsey was wrong, of course.  There were more than 100 million cellular phones in use 2000; there are billions now.  Costs have fallen so far that even the poor — all over world — can afford a cellular phone.

The experts are saying the same about solar energy now.  They note that after decades of development, solar power hardly supplies 1 percent of the world’s energy needs.  They say that solar is inefficient, too expensive to install, and unreliable, and will fail without government subsidies.  They too are wrong.  Solar will be as ubiquitous as cellular phones are.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil notes that solar power has been doubling every two years for the past 30 years — as costs have been dropping. He says solar energy is only six doublings — or less than 14 years — away from meeting 100 percent of today’s energy needs. Energy usage will keep increasing, so this is a moving target.  But, by Kurzweil’s estimates, inexpensive renewable sources will provide more energy than the world needs in less than 20 years.  Even then, we will be using only one part in 10,000 of the sunlight that falls on the Earth.”


1976: “It may hold the solution to the energy problem.”


I posted this remarkable 1978 footage on the site a couple of years ago when it was briefly available. It shows the mysterious new world that was booting up inside the Palo Alto Byte Shop, one of the outlets in Paul Terrell’s early personal computer retail chain.

It makes me a little sad, though, that just for a brief, shining moment, the machinery and not merely the content, was in the hands of the users. Now it’s a top-down affair again, with consumers eagerly awaiting the next product announcement from Apple.

I don’t mean to disparage the amazing tools we’ve been handed, but I think that’s part of the problem: They’ve been handed to us. Perhaps our use of these tools would be more productive and less narcissistic if more of it had been the product of our own hands. Maybe the Maker culture will proliferate and change all of that.


When a piece of the Underground Economy is exposed to the light of day, what happens to those peddlers who were most adept when skirting the law was a part of the bargain? From Paul Hiebert’s Pacific-Standard profile of a pot dealer whose business model has been disrupted:

“RIGHT NOW, IT’S HARD to tell what the end of marijuana prohibition would mean for Raymond. The experiments in Colorado and Washington are still young. The Washington Post reports that Colorado’s black market is nowhere near dead because the illegal stuff remains cheaper since it isn’t taxed or subject to other regulatory costs. The New York Times reports similar price issues in Washington caused by a small amount of regulated supply in the face of huge demand.

Some, however, think that once more growers and dispensaries enter the legal market, prices will adjust accordingly. It also may simply take a while for loyal customers to sever relationships with their established dealers. In the long run, Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California-Los Angeles and renowned expert on the topic of drug legality, believes street-level dealers will disappear almost completely. ‘I think illegally growing marijuana in those states will become as common as illegally brewing whiskey,’ he told a reporter last July.

‘If this was happening and I was 23 with no college degree or work experience, I’d be losing my mind,’ Raymond says. ‘I’d be like, ‘What the fuck am I going to do?”

But Raymond has investments and well over a year’s worth of salary saved up. He knows a lawyer who wants to transform his operation into a legitimate business when the time is right, but he also seems like he’d be fine with just walking away.”


3 webisodes from Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair’s High Maintenance, currently one of the most miraculously written and acted shows in any format.

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From an Ask Me Anything at Reddit by Matt Wells, a Guardian editor who is Scottish, a brief exchange about his homeland’s potential break from the UK:


What would independence mean for Scotland as it relates to their economy, EU membership, and future relations with Britain?

Matt Wells:

The economy: The ‘No’ campaign says the economy will be severely harmed by independence, pointing to Scotland’s ageing population, the finite nature of Scotland’s oil reserves, and the increased taxes that will be needed to plug the gap.

The ‘Yes’ camp points out that there are vast untapped reserves of oil, that Scotland’s GDP is 2,300GBP higher than that in the rest of the UK, which would make it the 14th richest country in the world.

The real answer is that no one really knows, because there is no precedent for this.

EU membership: Another scare tactic deployed by the No camp is that Scotland would not be able to re-enter the EU very easily. Most observers however think that the process could be quick. The EU doesn’t want instability.

Scotland in 50 years: Like everywhere else, much the same except a little warmer.”•


Peter Sellers as a Scotsman:


Good history from the New York Times about the convergence of cars and computers, initially the unintended consequence of the battle over airbags.

While Roman Polanski is obviously far from perfect, his 1968 film, Rosemary’s Baby, is essentially flawless. Here’s the Criterion Collection video about the making of that masterpiece, courtesy of Vice. The movie caused a permanent rift between producer Robert Evans and Frank Sinatra. It was worth it.

The subtext: I know you don’t confuse the artist and the art, but it seems hypocritical that Mia Farrow speaks so glowingly of Polanski given her outspokenness about Woody Allen.

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Here’s another video that’s popped up again after being unavailable for a spell. It’s narrated 1977 footage of innovations aimed to aid the deaf and blind. At the 3:40 mark, there’s excellent footage of the Kurzweil Reading Machine and its inventor.


Speaking of model Gia Carangi, here’s an interview from 1982, four years before she died from AIDS-related complications, in which she discusses her dream of becoming a cinematographer. The name of the Director of Photography she’s torturing over is Vittorio Storaro.

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The famous “Crying Indian” PSA from four decades ago, which showed a Native-American tearing up over how we had carelessly polluted this great land, was a rousing success, playing upon both a sense of guilt (of both the environmental and genocidal varieties) and one of patriotism. The print and TV ad’s weeping star, Iron Eyes Cody, became (literally) the poster boy for “American Indians.” One problem: He was Italian-American, as much a fake as the glycerine tear he had “shed.” Many parties had an interest in maintaining the lie, and even after the actor was at long last exposed, he continued to deny the ruse until he passed away at 94. Talk about commitment to a role. From Zachary Crockett at Priceonomics:

“From 1930 to the late 1980s, Iron Eyes starred in a variety of Western films alongside the likes of John Wayne, Steve McQueen, and Ronald Reagan. Clad in headdresses and traditional garb, he portrayed Crazy Horse in Sitting Bull (1954), galloped through the plains in The Great Sioux Massacre (1965), and appeared in over 100 television programs. When major motion picture houses needed to verify the authenticity of tribal dances and attire, Iron Eyes was brought in as a consultant. He even provided the ‘ancestral chanting’ on Joni Mitchell’s 1988 album, Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm. 

By all accounts, he was Hollywood’s — and America’s — favorite Native American.

But several (real) Native American actors soon came to doubt Iron Eyes’ authenticity. Jay Silverheels, the Indian actor who played ‘Tonto’ in The Lone Ranger, pointed out inaccuracies in Iron Eyes’ story; Running Deer, a Native American stuntman, agreed that there was something strangely off-putting about the man’s heritage. It wasn’t until years later that these doubts were affirmed.

The Italian Cherokee

In 1996, a journalist with The New Orleans Times-Picayune ventured to Gueydan, Louisiana, the small town Iron Eyes had allegedly grown up in, and sought out his heritage. Here, it was revealed that ‘America’s favorite Indian’ was actually a second-generation Italian. 

‘He just left,’ recalled his sister, Mae Abshire Duhon, ‘and the next thing we heard was that he had turned Indian.’

At first, residents of Gueydan were reticent to reveal Iron Eyes’ true story — simply because  they were proud he’d hailed from there, and didn’t want his image tarnished. Hollywood, along with the ad agencies that had profited from his image, was wary to accept the man’s tale as fabricated. The story didn’t hit the newswires and was slow to gain steam, but The Crying Indian’s cover was eventually blown.”

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Fallaci by Scavullo, 1990.

Fallaci by Scavullo, 1990.

I posted this video once before, but it was removed soon thereafter: It’s a fun look from 1978 inside the studio of legendary fashion and portrait photographer Francesco Scavullo. Star-crossed model Gia Carangi is his ridiculously beautiful subject.

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Andrew Carnegie was among the wealthy philanthropists who funded public libraries in America so that learning wasn’t limited to just the school day. He got no arguments, of course. Bill Gates, who wants to change curriculum, has unsurprisingly had a bumpier ride. A champion of Common Core and the force behind the multidisciplinary Big History courses designed by Australian educator David Christian, Gates and his good intentions have raised the question of whether a billionaire’s influence should have a seat in the classroom itself. While I would have personally loved taking Big History in high school, the issue is a real one. From Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times:

“Beginning with the Carnegies and the Rockefellers, billionaires have long seen the nation’s education as a willing cause for their philanthropy — and, with it, their own ideas about how students should learn. The latest crop of billionaires, however, has tended to take the line that fixing our broken educational system is the key to unlocking our stagnant economy. Whether it’s hedge-fund managers like Paul Tudor Jones (who has given tens of millions to support charter schools) or industrialists like Eli Broad (who has backed ‘blended learning’ programs that feature enhanced technology), these philanthropists have generally espoused the idea that education should operate more like a business. (The Walton Foundation, backed by the family that founded Walmart, has taken this idea to new heights: It has spent more than $1 billion supporting various charter schools and voucher programs that seek to establish alternatives to the current public-school system.) Often these patrons want to restructure the system to make it more efficient, utilizing the latest technology and management philosophies to turn out a new generation of employable students.

For many teachers, [American Federation of Teachers President Randi] Weingarten explained, this outside influence has become off-putting, if not downright scary. ‘We have a really polarized environment in terms of education, which we didn’t have 10 years ago,’ she said. ‘Public education was a bipartisan or multipartisan enterprise — it didn’t matter if you were a Republican or Democrat or elite or not elite. People viewed public education as an anchor of democracy and a propeller of the economy in the country.’ Now, she said, ‘there are people that have been far away from classrooms who have an outsize influence on what happens inside classrooms. Beforehand, the philanthropies were viewed as one of many voices in education. Now they are viewed — and the market reformers and the tech folks — as the dominant forces, and as dissonant to those who work in schools every day. She took a deep breath and softened her tone: ‘In some ways, I give Bill Gates huge credit. Bill Gates took a risk to get engaged. The fact that he was willing to step up and say, ‘Public education is important,’ is very different than foundations like the Walton Foundation, who basically try to undermine public education at every opportunity.’

Gates appears to have been chastened by his experience with the A.F.T. When he speaks about his broader educational initiatives, he is careful to mention that the change he supports comes from the teachers, too. ‘When Melinda and I go on the road and talk to teachers, it’s just so clear there is a real hunger for this,’ he said. ‘If you can take a teacher and give him or her the help to become a great teacher, everyone benefits: the kids, the teacher, the community, the unions. Everyone.’

Gates resists any suggestion that Big History is some sort of curio or vanity project. But some of this earlier antipathy has raised skepticism about his support of the Big History Project. ‘I just finished reading William Easterly’s The Tyranny of Experts,’ says Scott L. Thomas, dean of the School of Educational Studies at Claremont Graduate University in California. ‘It’s about philanthropists and their effect on the poor globally. It’s this exact idea that here you have this ‘expert’ in the middle’ — that is, Gates — ‘enabling the pursuit of this project. And frankly, in the eyes of the critics, he’s really not an expert. He just happens to be a guy that watched a DVD and thought it was a good idea and had a bunch of money to fund it.'”


Louis C.K. hating on Common Core:

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