6.30.2010

Undated: The Dreamachine

Artist-writer Brion Gysin (left), working off an idea from friend-mathematician-Beat Generation devotee Ian Sommerville, develops the Dreamachine, described as "the first art object to be seen with the eyes closed." It's a strobe-like device made from a cylinder with portions cut out, then placed on a record turntable. The "viewer" is supposed to enter a deeper state of consciouness, though the device can also trigger epileptic seizures.

* More about Brion Gysin: @
* Dreamachine websites: @ and @ and @
* Dreamachine documentary: @
* Watch a video simulation: @ (Instructions and warnings: @)
* How to make your own: @



6.29.2010

Wednesday, June 29, 1960: 'Elmer Gantry'

"Elmer Gantry," starring Burt Lancaster and Jean Simmons, has its world premiere in Los Angeles. A story of sin, salvation and the business of old-time religion, the movie was adapted from the 1927 novel by Sinclair Lewis. Lancaster would win an Academy Award the next year, as would Shirley Jones for her portrayal of a prostitute.

* Summary: @
* Trailer: @
* New York Times review: @
* The Sinclair Lewis Society: @

Wednesday-Friday, June 29-July 1, 1960: Cuba nationalizes oil companies

Cuba nationalizes (i.e., confiscates without compensation) the refineries of the U.S. oil companies Texaco and Esso as well as Shell's British facility after their refusal to refine Soviet oil. (Nationalization of all U.S. businesses and commercial properties would follow in the coming weeks.) It's the latest incident in steadily increasing tensions involving the United States, the Soviet Union and Cuba. Preceding events included:

* February: Soviets agree to buy 5 million tons of Cuban sugar over 5 years.
* March 17: President Eisenhower approves an anti-Castro plan.
* April 19: Soviet oil begins to arrive in Cuba.
* May 8: Cuba establishes diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.
* May 17: Radio Swan, financed by the CIA and broadcasting anti-Castro propaganda, goes on the air.
* May 27: U.S. says it will cut off economic aid to Cuba within 180 days.
* June 7: U.S. oil companies refuse to refine Soviet oil.



* Video of Esso takeover (click on clip 7): @
* More about Radio Swan: @ and @

* Fidel Castro meets writer Ernest Hemingway at a fishing tournment in Cuba on May 15, 1960. More about Hemingway's ties to Cuba: @ and @ and @



6.28.2010

Undated: Telephone answering machine

Telephone technology moves forward in 1960 as the answering machine is first offered for sale in the United States (the Bell System had previously leased equipment to customers). The "Ansafone" was developed by Kazuo Hashimoto of Toyko, though similar technology dates back to the 1930s.

* History of answering machines: @ and @ and @
* More about Hashimoto: @
* Patent application: @


6.23.2010

Thursday, June 23, 1960: The Pill (update)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gives formal approval to the oral contraceptive Enovid. (See post of May 9, when the FDA first announced its intention to approve the Pill.)


Thursday, June 23, 1960: U.S.-Japan security treaty

The treaty, revised from the original 1951 agreement, states that the United States will help defend Japan if it is attacked, and also provides for the continued use of bases and ports by the U.S. military. It was signed on January 19 but went into effect only after Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi forced it through the Japanese legislature. Because of widespread protests (photo) -- many Japanese resented the American presence, opposed an alliance with a nuclear-armed U.S. and feared Japan might be pulled into a war not of its own making -- President Eisenhower had canceled a planned trip; Kishi would resign following ratification.

* Chronology of U.S-Japan relations: @
* Text of 1960 treaty: @. (Details of Article VI: @)
* More about resistance to the treaty: @ and @ and @
* Text of 1951 U.S.-Japan treaty (which recognized both Japanese sovereignty and the country's limited capabilities for self-defense following World War II): @
* Text of concurrent 1951 treaty (the San Francisco peace treaty) that officially ended World War II: @
* More about Japan's postwar defense policy: @
* U.S. Forces in Japan (official website): @



6.21.2010

Undated*: Zydeco

The spelling -- and wider awareness -- of the syncopated dance music took hold with "A Treasury of Field Recordings, Volume 1," released in 1960 by the London-based 77 Records. In a booklet accompanying the album, folklorist Mack McCormick uses the "zydeco" spelling in transcribing the song "Baby, Please Don't Go" by the Dudley Alexander Washboard Band. The song, with lyrics in English and French, includes the phrase "Les haricots sont pas salés" -- literally, "The snap beans are not salted"; figuratively, too poor to afford salt meat.
* Histories of zydeco: @ and @ and @ (includes Cajun and Creole music)
* Excerpt from "The Kingdom Of Zydeco" (book): @
* Excerpt from "The Roots of Texas Music" (book; see page 205 for how "les haricots" evolved into "zydeco"): @
* 77 Records discography: @
* Selected zydeco artists and songs: @
* Listen to Clifton Chenier (shown in photo) perform "Zydeco Sont Pas Salés" from 1965: @

(* Further research shows that "A Treasury of Field Recordings" was released in December 1960. I'll just leave it here and tag it under both "undated" and "December.")


6.18.2010

Undated: Origin of the word 'tree-hugger'

Among the earliest recorded appearances of this term, used to describe (and often mock) a nature lover or environmentalist, is the 1960 translation of the Finnish novel "Our Daily Bread: A Novel." The phrase would not catch on until years later.

* More about "Our Daily Bread" and its author, Kalle Päätaloa: @
* More about the Chipko Movement (activists in India, shown in photo): @ and @ and @ and @
* TreeHugger.com (an environmental website): @
* Tree Hugger art project: @


6.16.2010

Friday, June 17, 1960: 23rd Amendment

The U.S. Senate approves a constitutional amendment allowing residents of the District of Columbia to vote in presidential elections and also assigns 3 Electoral College votes to that area. (The amendment would be ratified by the requisite two-thirds of U.S. states on March 29, 1961.) The D.C. population at the time was some 760,000; at left is the D.C. flag.

* 23rd Amendment document: @
* Full list of amendments: @
* The amendment process: @
* History of Washington, D.C.: @


Thursday, June 16, 1960: JFK and Jack Paar

Sen. John F. Kennedy, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, is a guest on "The Jack Paar Tonight Show," at the time a rare instance of a politician appearing on an entertainment show. Kennedy's appearance followed that of his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, who the year before had been on the show and talked about his work as chief counsel on the Senate committee investigating ties between labor unions and organized crime.

On Paar's show, JFK discusses current events, answers audience questions and banters with Paar:

Paar: May I ask you, so that I don't look too naive, a tough question right off the bat?
JFK: Whether I'm a Democrat or a Republican?
Paar: Would it be rude of me if called you John?
JFK: That would be fine.
Paar: Because if you make it, it would be nice for my daughter to know that we have this arrangement, you know.

Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon would follow suit and appear on Paar's show on Aug. 25.

* Jack Parr biography and obituary: @ and @
* New York Times article on politicians and talk shows: @



Thursday, June 16, 1960: 'Psycho'

Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" opens in New York, shocking audiences with its signature shower scene. Based on a novel by Robert Bloch, it stars Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. The film's score, including the shrieking strings, was composed by Bernard Herrmann. Movie posters at the time emphasize Leigh (in a bra) and Hitchock himself more than Perkins.

* Short synopsis: @
* Long synopsis: @
* Cartoon synopsis: @
* Leigh poster: @
* Hitchcock poster: @
* Short trailer: @
* Long trailer (hosted by Hitchcock): @
* "Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho: A Casebook" (essays collected in book form): @
* "The Psycho File: A Comprehensive Guide to Hitchcock's Classic Shocker" (book): @
* Trivia: @
* More about Robert Bloch: @ and @
* More about Bernard Herrmann: @ and @


6.15.2010

Wednesday, June 15, 1960: Definition of a committee

The widely repeated quote from longtime NBC journalist Richard Harkness, writing in the New York Herald Tribune: "What is a committee? A group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary." The full quote, which was an observation of that year's presidential race: "When it comes to facing up to serious problems, each candidate will pledge to form a committee. And what is a committee? A group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary. But it all sounds great in a campaign speech."

Harkness is also said to have suggested to President Franklin D. Roosevelt to include "freedom from fear" in FDR's upcoming State of the Union speech in 1941. (It became known as the "Four Freedoms" speech.)

* Video clip of Harkness talking about color TV: @
* Listen to Harkness, in Washington, reporting on D-Day: @
* Text of "Four Freedoms" speech: @
* Audio of "Four Freedoms" speech: @
* "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House" (book): @


Wednesday, June 15, 1960: 'The Apartment'

Starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray, the movie tells the story of an insurance clerk who lets the higher-ups at his company use his apartment for their extra-marital liaisons. The trailer is interesting in that it gives away the movie's last scene and line.

* Synopsis: @
* Watch trailer: @
* New York Times review: @


6.13.2010

Monday, June 13, 1960: Loretta Lynn

"I'm a Honky Tonk Girl," by little-known singer Loretta Lynn, enters the country music charts at Number 28. The 25-year-old mother of four has a recording contract with Zero Records, which had little to no money to promote the song. Lynn and her husband, Oliver "Mooney" Lynn, promote it themselves by sending out hundreds of copies to radio stations and by driving to stations across the country to get DJs to play the record.

* Listen to "Honky Tonk Girl": @
* Biography: @
* Loretta Lynn website: @


6.12.2010

Undated: 'Lifeline to an Oyster'

A short film made by the oil industry on how, through research, it was determined that oysters could not only survive, but thrive in oil-tainted waters.

* Watch the film: @
* A short summary of the Louisiana oyster industry: @
* Louisiana Oyster Task Force: @
* American Petroleum Institute: @


6.07.2010

Tuesday, June 7, 1960: Nuclear fire

An explosion and fire at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey burns a BOMARC nuclear missile shelter as well as a nuclear warhead. There is no nuclear explosion, but plutonium is released into the air and groundwater.

* More about the accident and cleanup: @ and @
* More about the BOMARC missile: @ and @ and @
* More about McGuire AFB: @ and @
* Air Force report from 1992 on "final remedial action for radioactive wastes": @
* Summaries of nuclear accidents, 1950-1980: @


Undated: Volkswagen's 'Lemon' ad

One of the most successful campaigns in advertising history gets under way as Volkswagen begins publishing a series of witty, droll ads for the Beetle. "Lemon," part of what came to be called the "Think Small" campaign (after another famous ad), pointed to this car as failing VW's rigorous inspection system. The ad ended with the line, "We pluck the lemons; you get the plums."

* More pictures of ads: @ and @
* VW videos and enlarged "Lemon": @
* More about "Lemon": @
* More about the campaign: @
* "Think Small": @
* VW advertising in The New Yorker: @
* "Remember Those Great Volkswagen Ads?" (book): @


6.06.2010

Monday, June 6, 1960: Meter maids

Parking meter enforcement comes to the streets of New York as 100 female "meter maids" (also known as "Brownies" for the color of their uniforms) begin work. A ticket costs $5. "Flying squads of meter maids mixed reason with enforcement yesterday in an auspicious debut," said The New York Times. Men joined the unit in 1967.

* Magazine articles: @ and @
* Short history of the parking meter: @
* Patent for "Coin Controlled Parking Meter": @




6.04.2010

Saturday, June 4, 1960: Danish Embassy opens

Denmark's King Frederick IX and Queen Ingrid attend the official opening of the Royal Danish Embassy in Washington. The building is hailed as the first "modern" embassy in design; many countries had simply bought large mansions to house their embassies.

* More about the embassy: @
* Interior photos: @
* Embassy Row tour: @
* Overview of Danish architecture: @

6.03.2010

Friday, June 3, 1960: Aerospace Corporation

The Aerospace Corp. is established in El Segundo, California. Its mission is "to serve the Air Force in the scientific and technical planning and management of missile-space programs." It is set up as a nonprofit company, presumably free of conflicts of interest involving technology applications. Its first president, Ivan Getting (left), would later help create the Global Positioning System (GPS).

* More from Aerospace website: @ and @
* Oral histories: @
* Aerospace Corp. and TRW: @
* List of Federally Funded Research and Development Centers: @
* "The Quasi Government" (report to Congress on FFRDCs): @
* More on the origins of GPS: @ and @

6.01.2010

Wednesday, June 1, 1960: Broadway blackout

In a dispute over pension plans for actors, all Broadway shows are shut down, starting with "The Tenth Man." There are no performances for nearly two weeks, and 3 of the 22 shows never reopen. The New York Daily News, while urging a quick end to the work stoppage, is not entirely sympathetic: "The fact is that they are not engaged in an essential industry."

* More about the dispute: @ and @ and @
* More about "The Tenth Man": @ and @


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