Strange Vintage Adverts

Here’s a little collection of strange vintage adverts!

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1949 American Meat Institute Ad

1949 American Meat Institute Ad

1955 Torrington Needle Bearings Ad

1955 Torrington Needle Bearings Ad

Vintage Advertising Cigarette Case

Vintage Advertising Cigarette Case

1970s Eve Cigarettes Ad

1970s Eve Cigarettes Ad

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Those Curious Coen Brothers

Known for their unique characters and gripping dialogue, Joel Coen, 61, and Ethan Coen, 58, are the directors, writers and producers of numerous critically adored films including “Fargo”, “The Big Lebowski” and the Oscar-winning “No Country for Old Men”. The Economist

Joel Coen is often listed as the sole director on early projects, but this is only because guild rules stopped two individuals taking credit for one film. They have pretty much shared most roles throughout their careers.

I’ve seen people walk out of the cinema before a Coen film has ended, and I’ve heard the confused and annoyed chatter during the end credits, but the brothers have still managed to break really quite unusual, niche films into the mainstream. Perhaps this is partly due to the large list of popular actors who are keen to work with them.

Anyway, I thought I’d offer my thoughts on my top Coen films…

Burn After Reading (2008) is one of my favourites, with Brad Pitt and John Malkovitch giving hilarious performances, particular when in the same scene. Pitt’s character has grand plans but it’s a Coen film, so you know it’s not going to work out for him!

True Grit is another of my favourites, and it’s thanks to this film, Quentin Tarantino and the Weird West fiction genre, that I’ve finally realised westerns are great. The characters in True Grit seem very honest portrayals of human beings, doing what they want or need to do. I think it’s one of their more normal films too, which probably explains why it’s their most financially successful so far. I’d love some more recommendations for modern traditional westerns. It’s one of the Coen brothers’ few films that doesn’t mash up genres.Business Insider

I saw Barton Fink very late (last year I think) and it’s probably in my top three Coen films, being complicated and super exciting all the way through. It’s a bit of a secret film, meaning different things to different viewers.

Fargo the film is one of the best films of all time, Fargo series 1 was an extremely fun viewing experience… and I’m not sure I can even talk about Fargo series 2. “We have no problem with it. It just feels divorced from our film somehow.” – Joel Coen talking about the TV series. However, all three pieces of work make me wish we had more snowy settings on the big and small screens. Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) is possibly one of the best Coen creations.

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No Country for Old Men (2007) is a film that I often forget is by the Coen brothers. Watching it for the first time seemed like such a big experience and I felt like films were changing, they were going in a new, higher direction. It’s also their longest film at two hours two minutes, short by today’s standards. “I mean, after two hours with a character we feel we’re pretty much done with them.” – Joel Coen. Many say “No Country for Old Men” is objectively the best film the Coen brothers ever made. They have a point. “No Country” earned them their first Oscars for best director and best picture. The awards were well-deserved. At first, this doesn’t feel like any Coen brothers film ever made.Business Insider

If I had to pick a favourite, it would be A Serious Man (2009). It’s hard to explain why, but since first seeing it I’ve discovered the short stories of Ethan Coen and this film seems to have a lot of his mind in it. It is hilarious, but it’s also so… well, serious. “A Serious Man” is the most confident and personal film the Coen brothers have ever made… At one point, it diverges into a story about Hebrew letters found on a man’s teeth. That’s because the Coens can. Business Insider

And then there’s The Big Lebowski (1998). 

“The Big Lebowski” is bigger than just one movie.

The story of a laid-back stoner named The Dude (Jeff Bridges), who gets sucked into a seedy LA underworld after asking for a replacement for his soiled rug (“that was a valued rug”), was a box-office flop when it came out. But it slowly gained cult status. Now it plays to sold-out crowds at midnight showings. It has launched clothing lines and even a religion called Dudeism.

And even with the overexposure, “The Big Lebowski” never gets old. After countless viewings, I can’t quite put my finger on it, because my perception of this movie changes every time I watch it. That’s what happens when you have a story so intricate and well mapped out. The mystery gets more intriguing and makes more sense the more you watch it. And yes, this is a film you will want to watch many times.

The Dude deserves to be in the pantheon of great cinematic characters as does Walter Sobchak (John Goodman). For creating a timeless comedy and a character whose face decorates both a shirt I wear and a mug I drink coffee out of every morning, I say, “the Dude abides.” Business Insider

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Moving on: The Coens are often praised for the music in their films, and composer Carter Burwell is responsible for the score in sixteen of them. He is not responsible for the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack, one of my least favourite of their films (it’s not a bad film but I expect amazing from these guys now, so I was disappointed). Not planning to be a film composer, Burwell received numerous requests after scoring the music for Blood Simple, the Coens’ first feature-length film. “It is, in fact, just an accident of the way that Blood Simple was received, frankly. Other people started calling me and asking me to do film scores. So, yes, it’s entirely their fault” – Carter Burwell.

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Despite Burwell’s lack of formal training, Joel Coen says the brothers have always felt like they were in good musical hands.

“Carter is so good at sort of moving into these different kinds of storytelling,” he says, “and understanding what the sort of imperatives of the movie are, and what it needs musically.”

That’s good, because the Coens don’t like to give Burwell too much instruction up front. Burwell says they discuss all the practicalities, but he can’t necessarily ask what a scene is really about…”I’m a bit more of a quieter person,” he says, “and often the music is more behind what’s going on.”…Burwell says he tries to work with people who understand the virtue of withholding information or leaving the audience uninformed and even confused. NPR

Their latest film, Hail, Caesar!, another period piece about Hollywood, isn’t released in the UK until next week, so I haven’t seen it yet! It looks silly and fun, so I’m looking forward to it. This twisted love letter to blacklist-era Hollywood finds the brothers at their most absurd, and it totally works. Business Insider

If you’re an aspiring film-maker, the brothers offer some tips here!

Music for Peace of Mind – The Theremin

Music for Peace of Mind was the last of the three projects on which Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman* played theremin on pieces composed by Harry Revel, following 1947’s Music out of the Moon and 1948’s Perfume Set to Music.

We are lucky enough to own a theremin, although I’ve yet to learn to use it properly! The same can be said for my accordion and musical saw…

I love the way that a theremin can sound like the singing of an old forties actress! It has also been described as “an electronic instrument whose sound sometimes resembles human vocalise, the theremin whoops and wails eerily in response to hand gestures near, but not touching, its antenna.” – If you don’t have Spotify (or something similar), you can listen to Music for Peace of Mind here. Many famous artists have included the theremin in their music too, including Tom Waits, The Tiger Lilies and Led Zeppelin.

*Dr. Hoffman started his musical career in New York as Hal Hope. During the daytime he worked as a chiropodist, but in the evening hours he played the violin in a swing and dance band. Samuel Hoffman saw the theremin first in Jolly Coburns band somewhere in the mid thirties and he decided to study the instrument because it would make an interesting novelty in his band. In 1941 Hoffman moved to Los Angeles, and he registered with the musicians local listing as a violin and theremin player…In 1949 Capitol records brought Hoffman and Revel together again, to make another post-war lounge music record: Music for peace of mind. This one is the most dreamy and romantic record in this box. To quote the record sleeve: ‘In every life there are times when things seem to go exactly right; when business and health, life and love, dovetail into a pleasant pattern that results in “peace of mind”. Out troubled and complex world today offers all too few periods when we can relax in this happy mood. At best perhaps we have memories of such moments—The music in this album is dedicated to such moments.Its written and played, not with the crashing chords of conquerors, but with simple relaxed harmonies…gentle rythms…we warm, vibrant tones of a flute in the low register, and themes on the exotic theremin…Songs on this record are: This room is my castle of quiet, The darkness gives me you again, Remembering your lips, My troubles float away like fallen leaves, Your soft hand on my brow, I dream of a past love…The guys at Basta did a wonderful job. The music quality is clear and bright. thereminvox.com

I also like to try to sing in the style of a theremin. I can’t really sing and it’s quite painful (physically to me and probably to anyone who hears it), but it’s lots of fun! There must be other people in the world that do this… surely? Or you could give it a go? It comes from the back of the throat. We could start a theremin vocal choir!

You can hear some of our experimental “music” on this earlier post.

This is a Good Read – The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

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A review of the great book The Joy Luck Club.

I only got round to reading Amy Tan’s book last year and I’m so glad I did!

The Joy Luck Club is the story of four Chinese immigrant mothers living in San Francisco and their relationships with their grown Chinese-American daughters. I have read other reviews of this book written by Chinese or Chinese-American women. Not being Chinese, American, or Chinese-American, I still found the book easy to relate to, being a woman with a mother. It also gave me an insight into a variety of cultures, since the book is set in various times and places. The flashbacks were my favourite parts of the novel, a series of anecdotes from eight different people, making it seem like a collection of short stories. It’s testament to Tan’s writing that this can be done so seamlessly without coming across as disjointed or confusing. Perhaps one of the reasons that it took me so long to give this book a chance is because I generally avoid what is termed as “chick-lit”. This is not chick-lit. Some parts are horror, some are weird fiction, some philosophical. Fellow-avoiders of chick-lit: please give this book a chance! It’s a rich and fulfilling read. I really must get round to watching the film one evening.

The dedication in The Joy Luck Club: “You asked me once what I would remember. This, and much more.” An emotional and often harrowing anthology of stories wrapped in one Chinese-American woman’s journey to understand her roots.

I would love to know other people’s thoughts on this book.

This book was also featured in the post My Top 101 Books.

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links which give me a cut if you make a purchase. This comes at no cost to you and allows me to continue running this blog and filling it with awesome free content!

Tyrion Lannister (spoilers)

I love the Song of Ice and Fire books and the Game of Thrones TV series. Like many thousands of people, Tyrion Lannister is my favourite character. So far, his story in the books is more exciting than in the TV show, but that’s like saying that peanut butter is better than Nutella; Nutella is still fantastic.

Varys and Tyrion Lannister (Conleth Hill and Peter Dinklage) were last seen in Meereen, trying to rule the city with Grey Worm and Missandei in the absence of Daenerys Targaryen.

Varys and Tyrion Lannister (Conleth Hill and Peter Dinklage) were last seen in Meereen, trying to rule the city with Grey Worm and Missandei in the absence of Daenerys Targaryen.

HBO have released a series of photos from the next series, suggesting that Tyrion will still be in Meereen. He will apparently be visited by Kinvara, a new red priestess, who will offer assistance in the ruling of Meereen now that Daenerys has done a runner on her dragon. I must admit, I’m not ecstatic about another red priestess… We shall see.

The teaser trailer also seems to show a dead Tyrion (and Jon Snow), but I don’t buy this just yet.

There are many theories floating around about what might be revealed in series 6, one of which is that Tyrion is actually a Targaryen. Tywin once told Tyrion: “Mens’ laws give you the right to bear my name and display my colours since I cannot prove that you are not mine.” I’m not sure I want this to be true – it’s not exciting enough. Although Tyrion does deserve a dragon of his own.

“I think Tyrion can be the most relatable to the modern sensibility because he’s not a hero and not a villain. He has a sense of humour even in the worst of times. Who relates to Ned Stark? Is he anybody sitting at the dinner table? But Tyrion is one of the dinner party.” – Peter Dinklage, taken from this great Guardian interview.

Peter Dinklage with his wife, theatre director Erica Schmidt, in New York in 2013. Photograph: Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Peter Dinklage with his wife, theatre director Erica Schmidt, in New York in 2013. Photograph: Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Let’s face it, George R.R. Martin knows that Tyrion is the world’s favourite character, so he’s probably not going to do too well in the end…

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links which give me a cut if you make a purchase. This comes at no cost to you and allows me to continue running this blog and filling it with awesome free content!

My Top 5 Favourite Strange Photos of David Bowie

I’ve spent my whole life listening to David Bowie and no one comes close to his beautiful and inspiring music and lyrics. I’ve also spent an awful lot of time looking at pictures of him. Here are my favourite strange photos of the Black Star himself.

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We will miss you Mr Bowie, but we’re grateful we have so much to remember you by.

Food for Thought: a Review of Nothing Is Strange by Mike Russell

Nothing Is Strange is 99cents until Feb 23rd!

Muzzleland Press

Review by: R. L. Jones

Published by Strange Books (UK)

Mike Russell’s Nothing Is Strange is a series of 20 one-shots of varying degrees of eeriness, but all with a distinct surreal feel. The book’s tone, and some of the stories, reminded me of episodes of Dark Mirror, though not as dark or disturbing. It’s a quick read and can be comfortably read at night without worry of fright. No, these stories left me more pensive than disturbed or scared. I enjoyed some of the subtle and clever twists the stories took, presenting themes on humanity, society, and the individual, one utilizing a giant flesh-and-bone creature in the sky known as the Living Crown.

Russell’s writing is simple and effective; he’s not weighed down with extraneous detail or description of the nothing1characters or places. The characters are named, the setting stated, and the story commences, sometimes the reader is…

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