Sep 23 2018175 Approved by the Comics Code Authority, Part Two

From 1954 until 2011 the Comics Code Authority exercised control over what could and couldn’t be in comic books. The first version of the code was one of the most restrictive content regimes U.S. media has ever known, banning subject matter such as sex, drugs, and supernatural elements such as werewolves and vampires. The Code was revised in 1971 and 1989, before slowly fading away after 2001 and then being wholly abandoned by 2011. The Comics Code Authority seal is now, ironically, owned by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Aug 20 2018172 Live at the Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven, The Tempest and the New World

Shakespeare’s Tempest is a fantasy, but it’s backgrounded by European encounters with the New World. When the play was written in 1610 or 1611 European sailors had already been exploring the Americas for over a century. References to the New World show up in both the play’s text and themes, and scholars have often viewed the tempest through a colonial or postcolonial lens, though it still escapes easy allegory.

This episode was recorded live at The Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven, a Portland art space.

Jul 08 2018169 The Telharmonium

In the first decade of the 20th century you could pick up a phone in New York City and listen to the world’s first ever electronic synthesizer. The Telharmonium was the invention of Thaddeus Cahill, and the 200 ton musical instrument used rotating cogs to produce electronic sounds, accessible to anyone who subscribed to what’s arguably the progenitor of all musical streaming services.

Aug 22 2017138 Confederate Statues

Confederate statues have been in the news lately. Memorials always reflect the time they were built in moreso than the time they commemorate, and the vast majority of confederate statues were built in the Jim Crow era, in the early 1900s as part of a neo-Confederate propaganda campaign to bolster the South’s reputation. Most of the statues were built quickly and cheaply by the Monumental Bronze Company, which mass-produced both Union and Confederate monuments.

Aside from glorifying white supremacy and slavery, the statues (in this podcaster’s opinion) are bad history. Eastern bloc memorials such as Budapest’s Memmento Park could offer some guidance about what to do with monumental propaganda to an oppressive regime.

Jul 31 2017136 Durer’s Rhinoceros

For almost three hundred years Europeans were not entirely sure what rhinos looked like. The most popular image of the beast was a print made by Albrecht Durer in 1515, which shows an Indian rhinoceros as a plated, scaled, animal with an extra horn between its shoulderblades. The print also includes text about how rhinos hunt and kill elephants. Durer never actually saw the rhino, which was a gift from the sultan of Cambay the the king of Portugal, but that didn’t stop his print from becoming one of the most influential pieces of media of all time.

Oct 27 2016103 How Gothic Got Goth

“Gothic” has described a lot of things: Mustachioed barbarians just outside the Roman empire, grand cathedrals such as Notre Dame and Chartres, eerie literature like Dracula and Frankenstein, and music by bands such as Joy Division and The Cure. This week we dive into why “gothic” has been the go-to adjective for various forms of art, and what the common threads are connecting architecture, literature, and music.

Pictured below: The Abbey in the Oakwood by Caspar David Friedrich, painted in 1809. It features a procession of monks bearing a coffin before a ruined Gothic abbey.

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Oct 20 2016102 Five Scary Clowns

Anymore it seems like scary clowns outnumber standard, whimsical clowns. Clowns are monsters, figures of fear, and they seem more likely to laugh with homicidal mania than laugh with joy. How did that happen? How did a figure of fun and comedy turn into a figure of fear? How did clowns get scary?

Easy: Clowns have always been scary.

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Sep 01 201696 Funeral on the Moon, the Story of Fallen Astronaut

There is a statue on the moon. In 1971 the crew of Apollo 15 placed a small figurine and a plaque on the lunar surface to memorialize American and Soviet astronauts who had died in the pursuit of space exploration. The memorial, dubbed “Fallen Astronaut,” was meant to enshrine their memory in space. However, the artist who made the figurine itself, Paul Van Hoeydonck, had other ideas.

Van Hoeydonck did not see the statue as a memorial. Instead, he wanted to make a statue that represented all of humanity reaching for the stars. He also wanted to be known as the man who made the statue on the moon, and hoped to sell replicas of the work in his New York gallery. The public reaction to Van Hoeydonck’s attempt to commercialize space was mostly negative, and he never gained the fame or success that he thought the moon statue would bring him.

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Aug 25 201695 Live at the Jack London Bar: Teddy Roosevelt and the Mystery of the Missing Time Capsule

Teddy Roosevelt buried a time capsule in Portland in 1903. One hundred years later, Roosevelt’s time capsule was nowhere to be found. The box laid by the president that was meant to preserve history for 100 years could not be found a century later. However, time capsules are generally not valuable finds for serious historians or archaeologists. The artifacts preserved are generally out of context from people’s daily life, and therefore they lack the provenance that is of interest to future scholars. For the most part, time capsules serve mostly to get the public interested in history, rather than preserve it.

This episode was part of Stumptown Stories, a Pacific Northwest history collective in Portland, Oregon.

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May 12 201680 Live at the Jack London, the Rise and Fall of Claymation

Claymation was a dominant force in American popular culture during the late 1980s, which characters such as the California Raisins and the Noid achieving a sort of pre-Internet media ubiquity. The creative force behind Claymation was Will Vinton Studios, a Portland, Oregon production house that first rose to fame with the hallucinatory 1975 short Closed Mondays which won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short. Despite a fair amount of critical and commercial success, though, Will Vinton Studios only made a single feature film, The Adventures of Mark Twain, and in the 1990s Claymation ceased to be the powerhouse that it once was.

The live event featured in this episode was put on by Stumptown Stories, a local Portland history collective dedicated to popularizing weird and overlooked episodes in Pacific Northwest history.

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