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April 22, 2019

Ritchie Valens: The Pioneer of Chicano Rock and Latin Rock; and His Very Young Death

Born 1941 as Richard Steven Valenzuela in Pacoima, California, Mexican American singer, songwriter, and guitarist Ritchie Valens was a pioneer of Chicano rock and Latin rock and inspired many musicians of Mexican heritage.

Valens influenced the likes of Los Lobos, Los Lonely Boys, and Carlos Santana, as he had become nationally successful at a time when very few Latinos were in American rock and pop music. He is considered the first Latino to successfully cross over into mainstream rock.

Valens' recording career lasted eight months, as it abruptly ended when he died in a plane crash. During this time, he had several hits, most notably "La Bamba", which he had adapted from a Mexican folk song. Valens transformed the song into one with a rock rhythm and beat, and it became a hit in 1958, making Valens a pioneer of the Spanish-speaking rock and roll movement. He also had the American number 2 hit "Donna".

On February 3, 1959, on what has become known as "The Day the Music Died", Valens died in a plane crash in Iowa at the age of 17, an accident that also claimed the lives of fellow musicians Buddy Holly and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, as well as pilot Roger Peterson.

Valens was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

These beautiful photos that captured portrait of Ritchie Valens not long before his death.

Death Mask of Napoleon Bonaparte

Before the invention of photography it was common practice to make plaster or wax casts of the faces of famous people after they had died. Napoleon died on 5th May 1821, imprisoned on the island of St Helena at the age of 51.

François Carlo Antommarchi’s death mask of Napoléon (Musée de l'Armée, Paris)

After his defeat at Waterloo in 1815, Napoleon had been exiled to St. Helena, a tiny island in the South Atlantic. Here the British and their German, Austrian, Russian and Spanish allies hoped to keep the former Emperor from ever threatening European peace again.

There is controversy over who made the original cast of Napoleon’s features on the day following his death (6th May 1821). Some believe that it was Napoleon’s own doctor, Francois Carlo Antommarchi; others, that it was an army surgeon called Francis Burton. Probably more than one cast was made, as four original casts are said to exist today. In any event, numerous copies in bronze and marble appeared on the market as soon as the original casts reached Paris.

Napoleon’s original death mask was created on 7 May 1821, a day and a half after the former emperor died on the island of St. Helena at age 51. Surrounding his deathbed were doctors from France and the United Kingdom. Some historical accounts contend that Dr. François Carlo Antommarchi cast the original “parent mould”, which would later be used to reproduce bronze and additional plaster copies. Other records, however, indicate that Dr. Francis Burton, a surgeon attached to the British Army’s Sixty-Sixth Regiment at St. Helena, presided at the emperor’s autopsy and during that postmortem procedure cast the original mould. Antommarchi obtained from his British colleagues a secondary plaster mould from Burton’s original cast. With that second-generation mould, Antommarchi in France reportedly made further copies of the death mask in plaster as well as in bronze.

Yet another contention regarding the origins of the death mask and its copies is that Madame Bertrand, Napoleon’s attendant on St. Helena, allegedly stole part of the original cast, leaving Burton with only the ears and back of the head. The British doctor subsequently sued Bertrand to retrieve the cast, but failed to do so in court. A year later Madame Bertrand gave Antommarchi a copy of the mask, from which he had several copies made. One of those he sent to Lord Burghersh, the British envoy (representative) in Florence, asking him to pass it to the famous sculptor, Antonio Canova. Unfortunately Canova died before he had time to use the mask and instead the piece remained with Burghersh. The National Museums Liverpool version, cast by E. Quesnel, is thought to be a descendant of that mask.

Some people believe that Dr. Antommarchi lived in Cuba for a short period of time and contracted yellow fever. While there he lived on his cousin’s coffee plantation and became close to General Juan de Moya. Before Dr. Antommarchi died, he made General Moya a death mask from his mould. It is believed that the mask still resides in The Museum in Santiago de Cuba, province of Oriente, where there was a large group of French immigrants that established coffee plantations in the high mountains of the Sierra Maestra.

New Orleans authorities moved their death mask in 1853. During the tumult that accompanied the Civil War, the mask disappeared. A former city treasurer spotted the mask in 1866 as it was being hauled to the dump in a junk wagon. Rather than return the mask to the city, the treasurer took the mask home and put it on display there. Eventually Napoleon's death mask wound up in the Atlanta home of Captain William Greene Raoul, president of the Mexican National Railroad. Finally, in 1909, Napoleon’s death mask made its way back to New Orleans. Captain Raoul read a newspaper article about the missing mask and wrote to the mayor of its whereabouts. In exchange for suitable acknowledgement, Raoul agreed to donate the death mask to New Orleans. The mayor transferred the mask to the Louisiana State Museum that year.

So-called “Malmaison” death mask of Napoleon I. Plaster taken by Antommarchi (or possibly Burton or Arnott), given by Antommarchi’s descendants. Considered authentic and to be the original imprinting of Napoléon’s face after his death.

Francis Burton’s death mask of Napoléon.

Bronze mask of Napoleon I by Francis Burton, 1829.

Bronze mask of Napoleon I by Francis Burton, 1829.

Bronze death mask of Napoleon I. Modeled in 1821; cast in 1833.

Death mask of Napoleon I by Archibald Arnott, in wax, 1821. (Musee de Musée Masséna, Nice)

Death mask of Napoleon I by Archibald Arnott, in wax, 1821. (Musee de Musée Masséna, Nice)

Death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte made of plaster by Francesco Antommarchi on May 7, 1821. (Militärhistorischen Museum Wolkenstein, Schloßplatz 4, Wolkenstein)

Death mask of Napoleon I in 1937.

32 Photos of Marlon Brando as Mark Antony in 'Julius Caesar' in 1953

Julius Caesar is a 1953 epic adaptation of the play by Shakespeare, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, produced by John Houseman by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film’s cast was a large ensemble of Oscar winners and nominees include Marlon Brando, Greer Garson, Edmond O’Brien, John Gielgud, James Mason, Louis Calhern and Deborah Kerr. It received numerous favourable reviews upon its release, plus five Oscar nominations for the 26th Academy Awards and won one for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White.

Brando played Mark Antony, the role that was considered for Paul Scofield should Brando’s screentest not work out, since his casting was initially met with skepticism following his infamous “mumbling” in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). In order to improve his elocution, Brando adopted every recommendation in reciting Shakespeare from John Gielgud, with whom he befriended during filming. His performance turned out exceedingly well, which brought him his third consecutive Best Actor Oscar nomination after A Streetcar Named Desire and Viva Zapata! (1952), in 1955 he got the fourth one and ultimately won for On the Waterfront (1954). New York Times stated in its review of the film: “Happily, Mr. Brando’s diction, which has been guttural and slurred in previous films, is clear and precise in this instance. In him a major talent has emerged.”

The top billing was given to Brando, even though Mason’s role was more central to the plot. Brando was well aware of the strong bond between director Mankiewicz and Mason following 5 Fingers (1952), and after noticing the subsequent shift in directorial focus, he threatened to walk off the movie unless the initial attention was restored. Fortunately, production carried on with very little disturbance, as a result of “Mankiewicz’s consummate tact” according to Gielgud.

Below are 32 impressive photos and stills of Brando as Mark Antony in the film:

Life Magazine Cover.

Contact sheet shows images of Marlon Brando in costume as Mark Antony in the fim 'Julius Caesar.' Photo by John Swope.

Marlon Brando, barechested, seated on a block of cement and reading from a book on the outdoor set of 'Julius Caesar.' Photo by Hulton Archive.

Photo by MGM.

Marlon Brando laughs while crouching next to a water cooler with a cone-shaped paper cup in his hand on the set of 'Julius Caesar.' Photo by Hulton Archive.

35 Rare Portrait Photos of Vietnamese People From the 1880s

Born 1838 in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Haut-Rhin, French photographer Émile Gsell served in the military from 1858 to 1866, during which time he learned photography and travelled to Cochin China (now Southern Vietnam), becoming the first commercial photographer based in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City).

Portraits of Vietnameses taken by Émile Gsell in the 1880s

On the strength of his Cambodian photographs Gsell was awarded a medal of merit at the Vienna International Exhibition, which was held from 1 May to the 31 October 1873 and during which Gsell exhibited two albums of photographs, one of the ruins of Angkor and the other of "the mores, customs, and types of the Annamite and Cambodian populations".

In April 1875, Gsell accompanied a mission, led by Brossard de Corbigny, to Huế, though he was not allowed to photograph the people he met nor the Citadel. However, two of his photographs demonstrate that he was in Hanoi at the end of 1875 and from November 1876 to January 1877 Gsell was able to take many views of Tonkin (now Northern Vietnam).

Gsell's photographs were marketed by Auguste Nicolier, who sold chemicals and photographic supplies in Saigon from 1876.

Émile Gsell died at home in Saigon on 16 October 1879.

These rare and amazing photographs Gsell took portraits of Vietnamese people in the 1880s.

Two wealthy girls from An Nam, 1880

A governor in Cho Lon district, 1880

A Saigon girl, 1880

A wealthy Annamese woman and her daughter, 1880

Portrait of a wealthy family with servant man behind, 1880

April 21, 2019

Crop Top: Favorite Fashion Style of Young Women in the 60's, 70's and Especially 80's

Although the crop top started gaining prominence in the fashion industry during the 1930s and 1940s - the latter in particular due to fabric rationing in World War II - it was largely confined to beachwear at the time.

It was not until the sexual revolution of the late 1960s and early 1970s that it started to achieve widespread acceptance, promoted by celebrities such as Barbara Eden and Jane Birkin. A variant style, the tied top or knotted shirt, also started appearing in 1940s fashion and spread in popularity during the 1960s.

In the 1980s, cutoff crop tops became more common as part of the aerobics craze and as a result of the popularity of the movie Flashdance. Singer Madonna wore a mesh crop top in her video for the song "Lucky Star".

These cool snapshots that show young women in crop tops from between the 1960s and 1980s.

16 Wacky and Funny Vintage Easter Photos From Around the World

It’s that time of year again, the season when we take all of our tiniest, most vulnerable humans and give them the same scarring our parents inflicted upon us so many years ago. It’s the psychic hazing that we’re, as a society, all pretty comfortable with. We speak, naturally, of a visit with the dreaded Easter Bunny.

Intrepid vernacular photography collector Robert E. Jackson curated a delightful selection of creepy, fun, and funny vintage photos of the Easter Bunny.

The Last Known Photo of the Space Shuttle Challenger Crew Boarding the Space Shuttle on January 28, 1986

This is the last known photo of the Space Shuttle Challenger crew boarding the space shuttle on January 28, 1986. Tragedy would strike 73 seconds into launch as the shuttle’s O-ring on it’s right booster failed leading to the separation of the Solid Rocket Booster. Extreme aerodynamic forces then broke up the orbiter. The crew compartment survived the break but the impact with the ocean surface was too violent to be survivable.

Crew members of STS-51L mission walk out of the Operations and Checkout Building on their way to Pad 39B where they will board the Space Shuttle Challenger. From front to back: Commander Francis R. “Dick” Scobee; Mission Specialists Judith A. Resnik and Ronald E. McNair; Pilot Michael J. Smith; Payload specialist Christa McAuliffe; Mission Specialist Ellison Onizuka; and Payload specialist Gregory Jarvis. (NASA)

On January 28, 1986, the NASA shuttle orbiter mission STS-51-L and the tenth flight of Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-99) broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, killing all seven crew members, which consisted of five NASA astronauts, one payload specialist and a civilian school teacher. The spacecraft disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 11:39 a.m. EST. The disintegration of the vehicle began after a joint in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. The failure was caused by the failure of O-ring seals used in the joint that were not designed to handle the unusually cold conditions that existed at this launch. The seals' failure caused a breach in the SRB joint, allowing pressurized burning gas from within the solid rocket motor to reach the outside and impinge upon the adjacent SRB aft field joint attachment hardware and external fuel tank. This led to the separation of the right-hand SRB’s aft field joint attachment and the structural failure of the external tank. Aerodynamic forces broke up the orbiter.

The crew compartment and many other vehicle fragments were eventually recovered from the ocean floor after a lengthy search and recovery operation. The exact timing of the death of the crew is unknown; several crew members are known to have survived the initial breakup of the spacecraft. The shuttle had no escape system, and the impact of the crew compartment at terminal velocity with the ocean surface was too violent to be survivable.

“The whole country and the whole world were in shock when that happened, because that was the first time the United States had actually lost a space vehicle with crew on board,” said former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao, who flew three space shuttle missions during his career (in 1994, 1996 and 2000), and also served as commander of the International Space Station from October 2004 through April 2005.

“It was even more shocking because Christa McAuliffe was not a professional astronaut,” Chiao told “If you lose military people during a military operation, it’s sad and it’s tragic, but they’re professionals doing a job, and that’s kind of the way I look at professional astronauts. But you’re taking someone who’s not a professional, and it happened to be that mission that got lost — it added to the shock.”

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger’s STS-51L mission, which ended in tragedy 73 seconds after launch on Jan. 28, 1986. From left to right: Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judy Resnik, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Michael Smith and Ellison Onizuka.(NASA)

The disaster resulted in a 32-month hiatus in the shuttle program and the formation of the Rogers Commission, a special commission appointed by United States President Ronald Reagan to investigate the accident. The Rogers Commission found NASA's organizational culture and decision-making processes had been key contributing factors to the accident, with the agency violating its own safety rules. NASA managers had known since 1977 that contractor Morton-Thiokol’s design of the SRBs contained a potentially catastrophic flaw in the O-rings, but they had failed to address this problem properly. NASA managers also disregarded warnings from engineers about the dangers of launching posed by the low temperatures of that morning, and failed to adequately report these technical concerns to their superiors.

Approximately 17 percent of Americans witnessed the launch live because of the presence of high school teacher Christa McAuliffe, who would have been the first teacher in space. Media coverage of the accident was extensive: one study reported that 85 percent of Americans surveyed had heard the news within an hour of the accident. The Challenger disaster has been used as a case study in many discussions of engineering safety and workplace ethics.

In this Jan. 27, 1986 file picture, the crew members of space shuttle Challenger flight 51-L, leave their quarters for the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. From foreground are commander Francis Scobee, Mission Spl. Judith Resnik, Mission Spl. Ronald McNair, Payload Spl. Gregory Jarvis, Mission Spl. Ellison Onizuka, teacher Christa McAuliffe and pilot Michael Smith. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Four crew members of the space shuttle Challenger leave their quarters Jan. 27, 1986, en route to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center. The launch was put off until the next day, when faulty O-rings in one of the booster rockets caused the Challenger to explode, killing the full crew of seven. From front are: Payload specialist Greg Jarvis, mission specialist Ellison Onizuka, school teacher Christa McAuliffe and pilot Mike Smith. (AP Photo)

Christa McAuliffe and Commander Francis Scobee walk to a jet for a test flight at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, Jan. 24, 1986. Scobee is holding his ears as protection against the noise of a jet engine. McAuliffe and Scobee are members of the crew for the Space Shuttle Challenger scheduled for launch on Sunday. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)

Classmates of the son of America’s first school teacher astronaut cheer as the space shuttle Challenger lifts skyward from Pad 39B, Jan. 28, 1986. Their delight soon turned into horror as the shuttle exploded about 70 seconds into flight. The boy in the white hat and glasses at center is not a schoolmate but is Peter Billingsley, spokesman for the young astronaut program. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after lifting off from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 28, 1986. All seven crew members died in the explosion, which was blamed on faulty o-rings in the shuttle’s booster rockets. The Challenger’s crew was honored with burials at Arlington National Cemetery. (AP Photo/Bruce Weaver)

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