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Scientists Have Created A Prosthetic Arm That Lets Patients Feel Touch Again

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Keven Walgamott using the LUKE to hold and move an egg (left) and pick grapes (right).

Perhaps one of the profound yet under-appreciated aspects of being alive is the ability to reach out with your hand and feel the world around you, whether it’s fresh-cut grass or the face of a loved one. For people who have lost a hand or arm, prosthetics may restore some functioning, but not the sense of touch itself. But scientists at the University of Utah in the U.S. say they’ve created technology that can return some degree of feeling for people with amputations.

There has been work elsewhere in creating prosthetics capable of providing sensation. But according to the team, the sensations people have while using them are limited and imprecise. They claim their work comes much closer to mimicking how our hands feel and sense the world around us.

The technology is the result of a collaboration between several institutions, not just the University of Utah, according to Gregory Clark, a biomedical engineer and neuroscientist at the university. One major contribution by the university’s researchers was the development of the Utah Slanted Electrode Array (USEA). The USEA, Clark told Gizmodo, provides an interface between a prosthetic hand and the user’s remaining sensory and motor nerves in their arm. These nerves and the person’s own thoughts then help operate the device.

This happens through the surgical implantation of hundreds of electrodes directly next to the nerve fibres.

They can “record from (listen to) or stimulate (talk to) small subsets of nerve fibres very selectively, and reasonably comprehensively,” Clark explained via email. This allows for a wide range of specific sensory and motor signals to be received and sent back between the prosthesis and the nervous system.

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“Metaphorically, having electrodes inside the nerve rather than outside is like having intimate and different conversations with small sets of selected people that you’re sitting close to, rather than shouting from outside a stadium so that everyone inside hears much the same message, and hearing only a garbled roar of the crowd in return,” Clark said.

In 2016, Clark and his team recruited the aid of Keven Walgamott, who lost his hand and some of his arm in an accident around 15 years ago. Walgamott was implanted with the USEA, which was connected to an advanced prosthetic arm developed by the company Deka and named LUKE in honour of the prosthesis that the Luke Skywalker donned in the Star Wars series. Then over the course of 14 months, Walgamott travelled to the university to test out the arm in their lab.

The final results of the team’s project with Walgamott were published Wednesday in Science Robotics.

When the interface was turned on (referred to as ‘stimming’ by Walgamott), he was not only capable of feeling the things his LUKE hand touched, but could distinguish between touching something soft or hard. That added sensitivity made it easier for Walgamott to pull off surprisingly complex movements, like picking grapes, delicately lifting a fragile box, or stuffing a pillow into its case. But most significant was how Walgamott reacted emotionally while using the LUKE.

When asked if there was anything else Walgamott wanted to do with the prosthesis at the end of one session, according to Clark, he simply said, “I want to clasp my hands together.”

“And that’s exactly what he did. He reached out, putting his two hands together, moving them and rubbing them against one another, feeling with his prosthetic hand as if it were almost real, and feeling perhaps almost whole again, for the first time in nearly 15 years,” Clark said.

The team’s prosthesis, while certainly impressive, is still an imperfect imitation of the human arm and hand. For one, there are orders of magnitude more nerve fibres in the arm than there are electrodes used in the USEA. But a weaker facsimile of feeling would still be invaluable to patients, Clark noted. The device could even tamp down the frequency and severity of phantom limb pain experienced by many, as it seemed to for Walgamott.

“We can’t yet fully replicate nature’s rich repertoire of sensation and perception,” he said. “But we can do far, far better than occurs when there’s no sensation at all.”

A major next step for the team is to improve on the design. They hope to create a portable version of the prosthesis, one that would be used at home. They also want to switch entirely to wireless implants for the interface, which would not only be less cumbersome for the user, but reduce the risk of infection or breakage. They plan to start at-home trials within the next few months, provided that the Food and Drug Administration approves them.

It’ll take years at least before these devices could be commercially available, though, even if these trials and others go off without a hitch. But that’s still enough time for people living with limb loss today to someday benefit from these advanced and more naturalistic prosthetics, Clark noted.

“To riff on the Luke Star Wars theme: That’s a new — but quite realistic — hope,” he said.

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Blade Runner Star Rutger Hauer Has Passed Away

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Rutger Hauer, a staple in science fiction and fantasy, has died at the age of 75. As reported by Variety, the Dutch actor who starred alongside Harrison Ford in Blade Runner passed away after a short illness.

The actor may be best known for playing Roy Batty, the replicant leader from Blade Runner with what might be one of the best monologues in modern science fiction history (which Hauer helped write). Blade Runner may have started out as a flop, but it’s since become a cinema standard in cyberpunk science fiction, raising important questions about the nature of humanity in the face of the technological revolution — a lot of that thanks to Hauer’s nuanced performance.

However, that’s not all he’s known for. Hauer has been a key figure in several beloved genre films and shows over the past several decades. His lengthy and legendary career included starring in Ladyhawke, playing the vampire lord Lothos in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie, a corporate jerk who wrestled control of Wayne Enterprises in Batman Begins, Sookie Stackhouse’s father on True Blood and took on the role of Joseph Peach in the third season of Channel Zero. More recently, he voiced the villain Xehanort in Kingdom Hearts 3.

Hauer had several projects in the works, including playing the Ghost of Christmas Future in an upcoming mini-series adaptation of A Christmas Carol, featuring Guy Pearce as Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s unclear whether he’d already filmed that segment, or what will happen with his other films and shows that were in development.

He is survived by his second wife and daughter from a previous marriage.

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The Trailer For Preacher's Final Season Is Here To Usher In The End Of Days

The last season of Preacher is on the way, and things are getting downright apocalyptic.

Preacher, AMC’s adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s legendary comic series, is heading toward the endgame as its fourth and final season approaches. Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), the Preacher himself, and his cohort of weirdos and warriors are facing down the barrel of God’s wrath, looking to reach the Almighty Himself to understand and maybe avert the impending apocalypse, as nuclear hellfire and bloodshed rains down all around them.

This week, IGN has released a trailer for that final season of the journey, first debuting at Comic-Con 2019, and it looks suitably intense, but still suffuse with the manic energy that’s been with the show since the beginning. Will our beloved anti-heroes be able to respond adequately to the crisis bearing down around them? Or is everything going to just blow the hell up?

We’ll start learning all the answers when Preacher’s fourth season starts on AMC on August 5 in the U.S.. In Australia, it will be airing on Stan weekly. Hallelujah.

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Stop What You’re Doing and Watch the Trailer for ‘The Fanatic’, Fred Durst’s Stalker-Thriller Starring John Travolta

Hot off the heels of the Cats trailer comes the latest film that has audiences around the world asking the question: “What in the actual fuck?” Quiver Distribution has released the first trailer for The Fanatic, an indie-thriller starring John Travolta and a wig he found behind a Los Feliz Arby’s as a stalker named Moose. Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst directed the film, his third feature-directing project. Watch the trailer, watch it again, then craft a letter to Leonardo DiCaprio letting him know his chances of a second Oscar in 2019 are done.

The gist of the story is this: Moose, a diehard fan of mega movie star Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa) is denied a chance to meet his hero at an autograph signing. Moose enlists the help of a paparazzi friend, Leah (Ana Golja), to locate Dunbar’s house. Things quickly take a turn for the torturous. At one point Travolta is rocking a hockey mask like Jason Voorhees enjoying a vacation. It’s great. It’s all just so great. It’s like a mix of Stephen King‘s Misery, 1996’s The Fan, and some bad acid you bought outside a strip mall. Extremely, extremely here for this movie.

Check out the trailer below. The Fanatic hits theaters and VOD on August 30.

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7 Spooky Abandoned Amusement Parks You Can Visit Around The World

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Amusement parks are completely fascinating to me. I’m not sure whether it’s my lack of exposure as a child, their weird, dark underbellies, or the fact that so many of them go out of business and leave rotting, decaying husks on the surface of the Earth.

See, when an amusement park goes out of business, it’s not an easy fix. Demolition is costly, and while rides can be sold off, they can hardly be put on eBay or Gumtree. Sometimes, owners are able to shift the land, the park is simply bulldozed and the world moves on. Other times, you end up with a giant Fred Flintstone statue watching over the empty Arizona desert for 50 long years.

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Bedrock City, Arizona’s premiere Flintstones theme park, was sold off in January of this year, with plans to turn it into a new roadside attraction. While Fred is no longer with us, there’s plenty of other spooky abandoned amusement parks you can visit around the world.

Fantasy World - Batangas, Phillipines

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Here’s a clue for budding amusement park entrepreneurs: if you’re planning on building a park, maybe don’t try to emulate the world-renowned and much-loved Disney World right out of the gate? This lesson was hard learned by the businessman behind the Phillipines’ Fantasy World, which was built 20 years ago today — and then never opened.

Like the real life version of that novel you started and forgot about, Fantasy World stands unfinished as a testament to the dreams and aspirations of its developers, ECE Realty & Development Inc. who planned it to be a hub of cultural development and excitement. On the site, there’s a fading castle you can climb up, a rickety rope bridge that leads to a treehouse and also sadness. Lots of sadness. It's like a monument to your crushed dreams.

You can check out all the morbid details over at TripAdvisor.

Pripyat Amusement Park - Pripyat, Ukraine

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That disaster tourism. So hot right now. Everybody knows about the Chernobyl disaster and the consequences of playing with radiation. The Pripyat amusement park was a high profile casualty of this fallout, only opening for a single day — April 27, 1986  — before the entire town of Pripyat was evacuated to safety after the local nuclear reactor blew. The park was closed permanently and (obviously) never re-opened.

The ferris wheel, long since ground to a halt, has gathered rust for 40 years and the bumper cars have largely been reclaimed by nature. It would be beautiful, if it wasn’t so downright horrifying. Oh, and there’s also the small matter of the grounds being riddled with nuclear radiation. Just a small note, but not one that's stopped curious tourists from visiting in the years since.

Adventurous travellers can see all that the amusement park has to offer via TripAdvisor and there's even a trip that comes bundled with a Chernobyl adventure if you really want to live out your S.T.A.L.K.E.R. dreams.

Land of Oz - North Carolina, U.S.A.

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In Beech Mountain, North Carolina, the yellow brick road awaits. But instead of leading you to Oz, the 44,000 brick path will probably get you lost in the American bush. Also, you’re definitely cursed now. Sorry.

Land of Oz opened in 1970 as a monument to the popular Oz franchise, but the entrepreneur behind the project never got to see its initial success — he died mere months after the opening. That’s not to mention the 1975 fire that destroyed the park’s Emerald City replica and took most of its irreplaceable Wizard of Oz memorabilia collection with it — or the fact that thieves kept breaking in and stealing its iconic props.

The park fell into serious disrepair in the late 70s, with the animatronics, buildings and installations needing replacements and TLC that would never come. It shut in 1980, and nature soon swept in to claim it. While the Land of Oz is on private property, the owners often open it to the public, as recently as June of this year.

Hồ Thuỷ Tiên - Hương Thủy, Vietnam

Like many of the amusement parks on this list, Hồ Thuỷ Tiên in Vietnam was planned to be a thriving hub of entertainment, with rides, shops and restaurants planned to populate the local area and rejuvenate it as a tourism hub. The park was never finished, yet it opened in 2004 anyway, much to the confusion of the locals. The vision for the park was incredible — and the centrepiece, a giant dragon installation — is still beautiful today, despite the decay.

When it opened, it drew crowds, but only a couple of years later, it was shuttered. Nobody ever received an explanation why. Today, the site is rumoured to be home to a colony of rogue crocodiles and it’s been overtaken by foliage, broken metal, rust and graffiti.

Intrepid travellers can visit the site today, but according to Atlas Obscura, you’ll need to pay the guards at the gate a ‘tip’ to walk this long-forgotten path. Also, you'll need to watch out for those crocs.

Spreepark - Berlin, Germany

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One of the older amusement parks on this list, Spreepark was opened in 1969 by the East German government and initially thrived. When new owner Norbert Witte took over its operations in 1991, things took a turn for the worst. While it received new rides and a good sprucing up, it also became home to a notorious cocaine smuggling ring. Family fun for all!

Spreepark was shut down in 2002 as visitors to the park slowed and Witte’s reputation as a criminal spread. In the years since, the park slowly began to lose its charm and in 2014, it lost pretty much everything else — with a fire gutting the majority of the remaining rides. In 2016, the Berlin government took ownership of the land and started removing the rest of the site, but many of its iconic features still remain and tours are offered by local travel agencies.

Yongma Land - Seoul, South Korea

Yongma Land was a thriving hub of activity in the 1980s when it opened, but it was soon overtaken by the nearby indoor theme park Lotte World, which became (and remains) a popular cultural hub. Now, it’s home to a ghost carousel, a rotting castle tower, a rusting Octopus spinner and a very sad-looking Papa Smurf, sans Smurf village. Of course, it’s also a hub for influencers and tourists.

It costs about $20 to enter the park, with the money going towards 'park upkeep' whatever that means. You can find out more at TripAdvisor.

Hobbiton USA - California, U.S.A.

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In New Zealand lies the gorgeous Hobbiton set used in the recent film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. It's is a lush, green landscape in the heart of Matamata that’s visited by fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings all year around. This is not that Hobbiton. This Hobbiton, in California, U.S.A. is a wasteland where hopes and dreams go to die.

In the 1970s, when Tolkien fever was running wild, Hobbiton USA was erected as a love letter to the much beloved franchise. Featuring a delightful windmill, replica hobbit holes, voice-activated storytelling and supposedly lumpy statues of the novel’s main cast, Hobbiton USA was a semi-popular roadside attraction when it opened in the 1970s.

It was closed in 2009, although nobody seems to know why. Probably-definitely-maybe, it might have had something to do with the fact that they never actually got permission from the Tolkien estate to build the park, but what do I know? The park might be mostly gone now, but you can still visit the last, lonely statue — the wizard Gandalf surveying his lonely domain.

This list is by no means comprehensive, with abandoned and defunct theme parks found in a variety of pockets around the world (including the remnants of iconic Australian theme park Wonderland Sydney, somewhere up in Eastern Creek).

There’s also plenty of abandoned theme parks you can’t visit, too.

That include’s Disney’s Discovery Island, a 11.5-acre abandoned island in Florida that houses the remains of the company’s failed aviary and wildlife park (and probably also the cryogenically frozen remains of Walt Disney). This one is a particularly fascinating case because not only is it abandoned, Disney closed it suddenly over 20 years ago — and flat out refuses to let anyone in, or even speak about it.

But that’s a story for another time.

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The First Zombieland: Double Tap Trailer Is Full Of Slow Motion And Surprises

Fans have been waiting ten years for the return of Tallahassee, Wichita, Columbus and Little Rock, and now they have it. The first trailer for Zombieland: Double Tap is here.

The film opens October 17 and brings back not just the director (Ruben Fleischer) and writers (Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick) from the original, but the four leads (Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Jesse Eisenberg, and Abigail Breslin) and a ton of new additions. 

It’s been so long since the first Zombieland, do you have much recollection of what happened in it? Not that you need to with this trailer. All you really need to see is that the film’s hyper-kinetic style is back and that the entire cast has gotten somehow even bigger and more famous since the first movie, with Stone even winning an Oscar for Best Actress, which they happily point out.

And though this trailer shows a lot, it doesn’t quite get into the plot. Which is a good thing. It just shows each character finding another person to connect with during all the zombie carnage.

“Through comic mayhem that stretches from the White House and through the heartland, these four slayers must face off against the many new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie, as well as some new human survivors. But most of all, they have to face the growing pains of their own snarky, makeshift family,” says the description. We’d imagine there will be lots of cameos and gross out moments too.

Zombieland: Double Tap opens October 17.

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Arcade1Up Opens Pre-Orders On “Star Wars” Home Arcade

Arcade1Up Opens Pre-Orders On "Star Wars" Home Arcade

The folks at Arcade1Up have officially opened up pre-orders for their Star Wars home arcade cabinet which was revealed back at E3 2019. The cabinet will be sold exclusively through GameStop, and will feature all the original Star Wars arcade games from the ’80s in the customized build with the special TIE-Fighter controller. for $500. You can read more about it below as the cabinet will officially be released on October 15th, 2019.

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The Star WarsTM Home Arcade Game from Arcade1Up features the artwork from the original arcade machine on the cabinet and the included riser. Standing at just over 5’ tall (slightly below 4’ without the riser), the arcade machine comes with a light-up marquee, full-color 17” display and dual speakers. These features, combined with the real-feel flight yoke and control buttons allow for endless hours of gaming. The Star WarsTM Home Arcade Game features the original arcade versions of the classic games based on Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi!

“The Star WarsTM Home Arcade Game cabinet holds a special place in the hearts of fans,” said Scott Bachrach, CEO, Tastemakers, LLC. “With the Skywalker saga coming to a close  later this year with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, we couldn’t think of a better way to honor the Star Wars legacy than by bringing back these classic arcade titles.”

 

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Jaws: Where Amity Island Is Supposed To Be (& Where It Was Filmed)

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Here's where Jaws' Amity Island was supposed to be located and where the movie was actually filmed. Spielberg's shark thriller is one of the greatest movies ever made. Nearly 45 years have passed since its release and it still terrifies people enough to reconsider swimming in the ocean. The setting for Jaws' shark attacks, however, is a little murky.

Setting Jaw in a smaller resort town was incredibly important to Spielberg because he wanted to make audiences feel like this horrifying event could happen anywhere. He also wanted to show how one shark could destroy tourism for a town that relied on vacationers. Jaws took place in the fictional beach town of Amity but it was also referred to as Amity Island. The deadly shark attacks took place along Amity's beach before the focus shifted offshore. So where was Amity Island intended to be located?

Amity's Chief of Police, Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), was said to have come from New York City. He hated the water since he was a kid but still took the lead in gathering a team to hunt down the infamous shark. Peter Benchley's novel indicated that Amity Island was a seaside town off of Long Island, New York. That was never directly clarified in the movie but it would make sense that Chief Brody took his family to spend the summer at a New York beach.

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The confusion about the setting of Jaws has stemmed from the fact that the Jaws was filmed in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusettes. The crew behind Jaws considered filming in Long Island to match the novel but they decided on Martha's Vineyard because of the demographic that vacationed there. They also noticed that the island was less crowded, which made it easier to shoot on-location and in the water. Even though the movie doesn't identify it's exact location, many New Englanders, specifically those who live in Martha's Vineyard, still take pride in their connection to Jaws.

The town of Amity may have been fictional but some of the details come from real events. Quint (Robert Shaw), the experienced shark hunter, was based on Frank Mundus, a shark fisherman from Montauk, New York. Benchley used Mundus' experience catching a gigantic great white shark off of the New York coast as inspiration for writing Jaws in the '70s. The story itself was also loosely based on the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916, a time when five people fell victim within two weeks in early July. Similar to Jaws, the Jersey Shore beach town paid people to hunt down the shark responsible as it was affecting tourism.

Richard Dreyfuss Thinks Jaws Can Be Improved By Adding a Digital Shark

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Jaws actor Richard Dreyfuss thinks the classic shark thriller should be re-released with a CGI shark in place of the movie's notoriously awful-looking mechanical beast. Upon its release in 1975, Steven Spielberg's Jaws became a sensation on its way to grossing a then-astonishing $260 million domestically (which translates to $1.187 billion when adjusted for ticket price inflation).

But before the movie's release to enthusiastic audiences, few in Hollywood believed the thriller had much of a chance to succeed. The film was plagued by all sorts of production issues, not the least of which was the clunkiness of the mechanical shark (nicknamed "Bruce") that was created to menace the movie's stars. As a result of the shark's fake-ness, Spielberg elected to minimize its on-screen presence and instead use indirect methods to create thrills. Many would argue the movie became more terrifying as a result of Spielberg's technique to overcome the limitations of his shark.

Though Jaws is still considered a classic today, the movie's dated special effects - and especially that fake-looking shark, which still gets plenty of screen time despite Spielberg trying to keep it hidden - arguably stand in the way of younger audiences embracing the film. Now one of the movie's stars, Richard Dreyfuss, is calling for modern-day VFX experts to step in and remedy the Jaws mechanical shark problem. Speaking to Deadline, Dreyfuss said he supports CGI being used to replace the fake shark with a more convincing beast, so that younger audiences can see the film and fully appreciate what it has to offer. Dreyfuss said:

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“I think they should do it, it would be huge and it would open up the film to younger people. Is that blasphemy? No, no, I don’t think so. The technology now could make the shark look as good as the rest of the movie.”

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Indeed, Jaws is much more than just a movie about a big, fake shark attacking people. The film also contains some all-time classic performances from stars Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Dreyfuss as the three men charged with killing the shark after it menaces the beaches of Amity at the height of the summer season. Many cite the extended sequence when the three principals hunt down the shark in Quint's too-small boat as one of the best examples in movie history of characters coming together under pressurized circumstances. Overall, the blockbuster contains some highly praised examples of thriller technique and many point to the film as exemplifying visual storytelling.

Naturally, there are purists who will argue that Jaws is perfect as it is - even with a bad-looking shark - and should be left alone. It's also fair to wonder if fixing the fake shark problem would be enough by itself to make the movie engaging to younger audiences. Though Jaws certainly has its moments of tension, it also has longer periods where nothing scary is happening and characters are just interacting. The storytelling is not nearly as fast-paced as what audiences have become used to in modern moviemaking, and that may be a turn off. Then again, in recent years, audiences have seemed more willing to embrace horror filmmaking that doesn't necessarily rely on relentless scares. The success of movies like Hereditary and A Quiet Place might suggest that modern audiences are willing to sit still through movies that feature slow-paced build-ups.

One thing that is certain: sharks are still popular in today's culture. That was proven again this year with the release of The Meg, a shark movie with state-of-the-art CGI that grossed $142 million domestically. Of course, The Meg is considerably less subtle than Jaws, and is much less reliant on good performances and old-school thriller technique. In the years since Jaws came out, shark movies have generally become a lot cheesier, unfortunately.

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Orphan Barrel Is Bottling Some Of The World’s Rarest Whisky

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No matter what day of the year it is, a top-shelf glass of whiskey on-the-rocks is always welcome to bring the night to a close. Orphan Barrel specializes in finding casks produced by defunct, but legendary distilleries — bringing you some of the rarest whiskey on the planet. Their latest offering is the Orphan Barrel Forager’s Keep Whisky sourced from a Scotch distiller Pittyvaich that closed its doors in 1993.

Forager’s Keep is a 26-year-old single malt whisky and the fourteenth release from Orphan Barrel. Although Pittyvaich only had an 18-year run, it closed due to restructuring and not the quality of its product. The Forager’s Keep Whisky has never been available to a wide range of people and is the first single malt scotch whisky offered by Orphan Barrel. The whisky gives off the aroma of fresh-cut apple, fruit, creamy vanilla, a hint of wood, and a touch of orange peel. And with 48% ABV, it has the power to help you unwind. The Forager’s Keep Whisky will be released this summer for $400.

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Roka’s Ultralight Performance Sunglasses Are Loaded With Style

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Too often, when choosing eyewear, we’re forced to pick between options that look good and those that can stand up to the punishment of an active lifestyle. But if you’ve been holding out for a pair that are as stylish as they are durable, the folks at Roka have heard your prayers and have answered them with their Cambridge sunglasses.

Created in part to pay homage to the Space Age, these glasses are loaded with technology that would impress any NASA astronaut. That includes an ultralight frame built from TR90 nylon for a total weight of just 22 grams. The glasses also boast nylon lenses that, paired with the frames, are resistant to fingerprints, sweat, and even exposure to chemicals. They also feature the brand’s patented GEKO no-slip technology on the nose and temples for a comfortable and secure fit regardless of your activity level. These timelessly-styled performance-focused sunglasses will be available for purchase at the end of this month, although pricing has yet to be unveiled.

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STERNGLAS TOPOGRAPH WATCH 

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Based in Hamburg, Germany, Sternglas creates functional, no-nonsense timepieces inspired by the Bauhaus design movement. The Topograph is one of their latest releases, centered around a black brushed stainless steel case and black dial with thin white markings. Among the highly legible indices is a Rehaut with each second inscribed that conveys the appearance of a technical measuring device. The minimalist watch is powered by rock-solid Miyota 821A automatic movement that's visible through the crystal case back and protected by slightly domed sapphire glass. Short, curved lugs make for a comfortable fit along with a leather strap that is handmade in Germany that can be swapped out in seconds for another thanks to the built-in quick release spring bars. $375.00

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ECURIE ECOSSE LM69 RACE CAR

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In 1956, a small racing team from Scotland won the 24 Hours of Le Mans driving customer Jaguar D-Types and would go on to do it again in 1957.

This team was Ecurie Ecosse and would shut down in the early '70s before being reborn in the '80s and racing to the present day. In 1966, Jaguar shut down the XJ13 program that supposed to bring them back to Le Mans after they realized the car was already old tech before it had even hit the race track. With the LM69, Ecurie Ecosse is realizing what might have been if the XJ13 was updated to race at the 1969 Le Mans.

Partnering with Design Q and XJ13 replica company Building the Legend, the LM69 is street-legal and built to the FIA's regulations in 1969, with an improved body design, suspension, and 5.0-liter V12 based on the XJ13's unit. Only 25 will be built, the amount required to homologate the car for competition under 1969 rules.

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URWERK X THE HOUR GLASS UR-105 WATCH

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Created to commemorate The Hour Glass' 40th anniversary, this UR-105 is a highly limited timepiece. Its sandblasted bronze top plate is meant to age and patina over time and sits atop a domed crystal that recalls the UR-103, as well as an oversized crown taken from the UR-200 collection. The remainder of the 39.5mm case is made from titanium, housing a UR 5.03 automatic movement, and finished with a black alligator strap. Limited to just three examples.

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1 hour ago, MIKA27 said:

Arcade1Up Opens Pre-Orders On “Star Wars” Home Arcade

 

 

No good. I don't see a coin slot, so I can get my visitors to pay for the arcade machine! :lol3:

  • Haha 1

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The Boys' Showrunner Wants It To Be 'The Most Brutally Realistic Depiction Of Superheroes'

When the television adaptation of The Boys hits Amazon Prime this week, showrunner Eric Kripke says that the series’ main aim is to show “superheroes as insecure, fucked-up, self-serving and selfish as real humans really would be if given super powers”. How does that feel? According to Jack Quaid, who plays main character Hughie: “Gooey.”

Created as a comics series in 2006 by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson, The Boys centres on a team of non-powered humans who’ve decided to keep the world’s most popular and powerful superheroes in check. Those superheroes — banded together as a superteam called the Seven — enjoy adulation and excesses in line with top-level celebrities, not caring about anyone who gets hurt.

Hughie gets recruited in The Boys by black-ops agent Butcher (Karl Urban) and becomes part of a nasty, violent campaign to make the Seven accountable for all the collateral damage they leave in their wake.

Last week, Kripke, Quaid, Urban and the series’ other co-stars held court at a press conference during San Diego Comic-Con. Asked about partnering with Amazon, Kripke said that the mega-corp’s giant coffers have allowed the show to feel “as outrageous as [it] wants and needs to be” and on par with big-budget films operating in the same genre.

“This one cannot feel like a parody, it has to feel like the real thing,” he said “Amazon has the resources to give us that. And creatively, they’ve just been amazing. They’ve really given us the chance to make this really strange, perverted show.”

Part of what’s “strange” and “perverted” about The Boys is how it critiques hero worship and celebrity obsession culture. Erin Moriarty (Jessica Jones) plays photon-powered character Starlight, and said she didn’t know quite how deep the show would go when she signed on.

“When you’re sent a script that’s called The Boys, you kind of make an assumption about it,” she began.

“The first assumption I made was that it was going to be this kind of superhero drama that adhered to that stereotypical formula. And the second assumption I made when I read the name ‘Starlight’ was that she was going to fit into that box that we’re all really familiar with — and she doesn’t.”

“She doesn’t know the world that she’s getting herself into and then she’s smacked in the face with reality,” Moriarty continued.

“It turns into a really morally ambiguous situation, and I really like that, here, you’re presented with this young woman who we all know — we see it from her eyes — she’s a good person. We can’t dispute that. And, you know, good people can make bad decisions in the moment out of our own visceral reactions.”

Like Starlight, Quaid’s Hughie finds himself entering into a new reality where he learns the truth about the Seven. His journey starts with an awful loss when speedster A-Train runs through his girlfriend Robin and liquefies her right in front of his eyes. Kripke says he always viewed that scene as vital to the Boys’ ethos, something he doubled down on after talking to Darick Roberston.

“When we were having really early conversations, I asked, ‘What’s important to you?’ And he said ‘Please, the most important thing is that A-Train runs through Robin.’ And I was like, ‘Well, that’s really important to me, too, and we’re definitely going to do it.’ Just because, to me, that really sets the tone of what this show is going to be.”

Quaid told the audience that day of filming was a mix of experiences. “[It was] really gooey. Lots of stuff shot with an air cannon,” he said. “But, despite all the special effects, it was a really important scene. It’s crazy, but it sets my character on his entire journey, so it was one of the most challenging, but one of the coolest and most surreal days I’ve ever had on set.”

Despite the fact that The Boys is a dark satire set in the superhero genre, Karl Urban said he sees a thread of commentary in its DNA.

“What really appealed to me about the show [is] these blue-collar young men who decide to take on the Seven with no superpowers. I was very intrigued by how you sustain that conflict. You know, people scream ‘power’ [when] you turn on the TV these days and see the current events. But our show’s a comedy. It’s really a comic book genre and really, a comic book movie.”

Laz Alonso, who plays Mother’s Milk, said that he thought about situational ethics while filming the series. “Mother’s Milk is pretty much the moral compass of the Boys in his logic and way of thinking,” he offered. “But their ‘normal’ is so ridiculous that even as morally upright as he tries to be, they still have to justify all kinds of fucked up shit.”

One of the show’s most violent characters is the Female, played by Karen Fukuhara, who previously wielded a samurai sword as Katana in Warner Bros’ Suicide Squad and voices Glimmer on Netflix’s She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Fukuhara saw a primal need in her character’s motivation, and that of the rest of the team.

“I think we’re all survivalists, and what we’re doing, it all comes down to survival,” she said.

“All the things we do to various people is for a reason. For my character, it’s usually about survival. What’s different about the comic book version [is that] it isn’t just a feeling or physical need or desire, it’s because she needs to stay alive. So that’s how I survive, playing the character.”

Inner conflicts about their actions roil inside both teams on the series; Kripke said that he still sees the Boys as heroic because of how they deal with those conflicts.

“The Boys are the heroes because they stay together and they show each other loyalty and they’ve got each other’s back and they’re willing to admit vulnerability and weakness,” the showrunner observed. “They’re scared and outmatched and outgunned, but, you know, they’re taking on these powerful forces.”

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Those powerful forces are superheroes who represent the worst of humanity’s collective id. “So, overall, what we’re really trying to do is [ask] what is the most brutally realistic depiction of superheroes in the real world?” Kripke said.

“And with superheroes as insecure and fucked up and self-serving and selfish as real humans really would be if given super powers, they’d all be super Bill Cosby. Sick. So... did I say something? Was that too soon? Too soon for all you f**king Bill Cosby fans in the audience?”

After the groans and chuckles died out, Kripke reiterated that this take comes from behaviours observed amongst the rich and famous: “Those people often behave in really awful ways that you want to be unflinching about.”

Staying on the subject of powerful people behaving in awful ways, Kripke didn’t shy away from linking the show’s ambitions to current political realities. “Especially in this day and age, what I love [about] the heroes of this show [is that they are] people who can express vulnerability and weakness and be imperfect,” he said.

“The villains of the show are these sort of slick people who can stand in front of the world and refuse to admit any sort of weakness, and somehow think projecting or demonstrating strength at all times is good, when what it is is dictatorial and autocratic and total bullshit.

“So, the people who appear strong in the show are actually quite weak. And the people who appear weak in the show are actually quite strong. Because, we all need each other as people.”

Kripke succinctly summed it all up this way: “If [superheroes] were real, they’d be dicks. Here’s the team that fights them. And you can watch the show and have a blast at that level. But we spend a lot of time building the iceberg under the water with the emotion and the satire and with the thematics to make sure there’s a real deep level if people want to explore it.”

The Boys is streaming on Amazon now.

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Europe's Heat Wave Threatens Record Melting Of Greenland Ice Sheet

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A heat wave has shot up temperatures in Europe to new highs. Now, it’s set to continue moving north to Greenland. And that’s bad news for the ice sheets, the World Meteorological Organisation reports.

This dangerous heat — which brought temperatures close to 43C in parts of France — was caused by warm air entering the atmosphere from the Sahara and Spain. Now, the heat is expected to flow northward.

This heat isn’t just a threat to the people who have to live through it. It’ll likely melt Arctic sea ice. And the Arctic doesn’t need any more heat: It’s warming more than two times faster than the rest of the planet, per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There’s concern the melting could be as bad — or worse — than in 2012 when Arctic sea ice was the lowest in recorded history.

“This will result in high temperatures and consequently enhanced melting of the Greenland ice sheet,” said Clare Nullis, spokeswoman for the World Meteorological Organisation at a United Nations briefing this week, per Reuters.

Iceland just lost its first glacier. Alert, Canada, the northernmost inhabited place on Earth, hit 21C for the first time ever. The situation has grown so dire for the planet’s coldest (and quickly warming) places that scientists have proposed artificially creating snowfall to prevent at least one glacier from totally collapsing into the ocean, which would exacerbate sea level rise around the world.

If the poles melt, that’s bad news for all us coastal peeps. Our seas will rise by at least 20cm and could even shoot past 3m if we lose the West Antarctic glaciers, the most unstable. Every glacier counts, though, and this heat heading to Greenland is bad news.

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Why Quentin Tarantino’s Stunning ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ Is Shrouded in Controversy

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Tarantino’s latest, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, has generated plenty of buzz for its quality—and criticism for its acclaimed filmmaker’s past misdeeds.

Note: This article contains spoilers for the ending of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

In Sharon Tate’s breakout role in The Valley of the Dolls, her character Jennifer is told again and again that her ambition will take her only as far as her looks. “I know I don’t have any talent, and I know all I have is a body, and I am doing my bust exercises,” she relents in a phone conversation with her hypercritical mother. (“To hell with ’em. Let them droop,” she resolves a minute after hanging up, plopping into bed.) Later, after her husband, a singer and aspiring actor, is committed to a sanitarium with Huntington’s disease, Jennifer is diagnosed with a malignant tumor and learns she must undergo a mastectomy. “It’s funny,” she tells a friend, in Tate’s airy, aristocratic lilt. “All I’ve ever had is a body and now I won’t even have that.”

Nothing lasts forever, even for the most talented or beautiful people in the world. Valley of the Dolls, like Quentin Tarantino’s latest, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, is an expression of the anxieties and melancholy brought on by the passage of time, especially for those in show business. (Exploiting then discarding talent is as crucial to the churn of Hollywood as the elevation of new stars, both films remind us.) Knowing that Tate, three friends, and her unborn child were murdered in her home by Charles Manson cultists just two years after Valley of the Dolls adds extratextual notes of longing to that film’s images of her: If only those brainwashed hippies had never found their way to Cielo Drive the night of August 9, 1969. If only an era of “paranoia” had never been “fulfilled” with Tate’s death, as Joan Didion estimated it had. If only the ’60s never died. In Once Upon a Time, Tarantino takes those wistful notes and composes a feature-length symphony, scripting a sprawling “what-if” scenario that seeks to restore the future Tate lost. It’s the most hopeful, vulnerable movie Tarantino’s ever made, and one of his best in years.

Tarantino’s ninth feature covers the months leading up to Tate’s murder, unspooling a warm, dreamy vision of late-’60s Hollywood. It’s a moment of cultural upheaval, as the demise of the old studio system makes way for a younger, scruffier generation of “Movie Brat” filmmakers—Coppola, Lucas, Spielberg, Scorsese, etc.—who in turn shaped Tarantino’s independent film career in the ’90s. (There’s more than a touch of self-reflection on Tarantino’s part here, as he approaches his tenth and allegedly final film in a landscape politically and culturally transformed from the one he started out in.) There are those who thrash against the change, like former western TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a self-pitying alcoholic who lives for stardom but finds himself “slightly more useless each day.” Then there are those who just aim to get by, like Rick’s stunt double best friend, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). He’s a chill if deceptively dangerous dude who once steered cars off bridges but now spends his days playing overqualified chauffeur, housesitting, and buying beers for their Sunday night TV appointments.

Rick and Cliff’s dilemma of middle-age recalls one of the most cutting lines from Jackie Brown, delivered by a snot-nosed cop to a 44-year-old flight attendant making $16K a year: “Didn’t exactly set the world on fire, did you, Jackie?” (Jackie Brown might be the Tarantino movie spiritually closest to Once Upon a Time, with its laid-back, character-driven, mad-about-L.A. pulse and musicality.) Still, the deep loyalty these men have for one another—along with DiCaprio and Pitt’s effortless rapport in their first onscreen pairing; neither has ever been funnier—gives the film much of its sweetness. The plot centers on the sunset of their careers, contrasting it occasionally with the rising stars next door: Rosemary’s Baby director Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and his angelic It Girl wife, Tate, played by Margot Robbie.

Robbie plays Tate like an irrepressible beam of light; she’s often dancing, is rarely seen without a smile, and seems to love simply being around people. Though he includes title cards that count down to the night of the real-life Tate’s murder, Tarantino distances this depiction of Tate from victimhood. Instead, we see her in everyday life: packing for a trip, listening to records, buying a copy of Tess of the D’urbervilles for her husband (who is barely in the movie at all). He even gently pokes fun at her a bit. She snores loudly in bed, mid-afternoon sun seeping through a window. She’s met with blank stares when she tries to get recognized at the Bruin, a movie theater in Westwood. Once the staff figures it out and lets her in to watch herself in The Wrecking Crew, it’s the real-life Tate onscreen, pratfalling in a cheesy gag that shows she had a sense of humor about herself. It’s the film’s most moving scene, in which Tate simply sits and takes pride in her work. She glows with every round of laughter that her performance draws from the audience. During her big fight scene with Nancy Kwan, she remembers training with Bruce Lee, the movie’s fight choreographer. The kicks they practiced, hers ever more awkward than his, the hugs and encouragement he offered. The audience cheers when she beats the baddie and she nearly bursts with joy.

Scenes like this emphasize that not only was Tate a person, she was an artist, a worker, and there is more to her memory than the way she died. It pairs nicely with the film’s other best scene, in which an eight-year-old actress on a TV set (played by Julia Butters) stuns Rick out of his jaded stupor with her commitment to her own artistry. Of course, Tate is less a character than a presence throughout the film; like the Manson cult, she is featured only sparingly throughout its runtime. That led to consternation at the film’s Cannes premiere, where a reporter tallied Robbie’s lines in the movie and confronted Tarantino. His response was predictably brusque (“I reject your hypothesis”). But it bears repeating that this is neither a Sharon Tate biopic, nor one of the recent slew of exploitation movies that fixate on conspiracy theories and gruesome details of her murder.

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Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Tarantino consulted with Tate’s only living immediate family member, her younger sister Debra, on the script. As she told Vanity Fair, he implemented “ever so slightly a few” of her suggestions. She also lent Robbie some of Tate’s favorite pieces of jewelry and a half-used bottle of her perfume; the movie theater scene, she says, brought her to tears. “The tone in her voice was completely Sharon, and it just touched me so much that big tears [started falling],” she said. “The front of my shirt was wet. I actually got to see my sister again…nearly 50 years later.” Debra Tate, for the record, does much more than consult on movies. She has worked tirelessly since Sharon’s death to ensure Manson family members stay behind bars until they rot. She has attended surviving cultists’ parole hearings for nearly 50 years and has helped change California law in favor of crime victims. The effect of a scene that directs new audiences to Tate’s work and imparts a sense of how her loved ones knew her should be quantified in something other than word count.

Even so, calls to cancel Tarantino have drummed on in the lead-up to Once Upon a Time’s release. And it’s true that the director has not made himself easy to stomach—at any point in his career, but especially in the last two years. His relationship with Harvey Weinstein, who distributed each of his films through Miramax until being exposed as an alleged rapist and serial predator, by the director’s own admission, made him complicit. “I knew enough to do more than I did,” Tarantino confessed the same month that the allegations broke. Uma Thurman, the star of three of his films, then shared video of a horrific stunt gone wrong on the set of Kill Bill that Tarantino encouraged her to perform herself—though she stressed that the director “was deeply regretful and remains remorseful” and that she holds Weinstein and the movie’s producers “solely responsible.” (The two still seem to be on good terms.)

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There was the vile Howard Stern clip, recorded during Kill Bill’s 2003 press tour, in which Tarantino defends Polanski’s rape of then-13-year-old Samantha Geimer. Tarantino called Geimer to apologize personally after the clip resurfaced, then issued a public apology. Geimer later told Indiewire, “I am aware that my rape is being used to attack him and I really don’t like that,” but the damage was done. All of this descended in the wake of the announcement that Tarantino, two years off his bleakest film, The Hateful Eight, would turn next to a story about Charles Manson and Sharon Tate, to be released on the 50th anniversary of Tate’s murder—a macabre idea that Debra Tate was right to persuade him to change. Topping it off, Emile Hirsch would have a role in the film as hairstylist Jay Sebring, Tate’s ex-lover and close friend, despite his 2015 conviction for violently assaulting a female movie executive at a Sundance party. Tarantino has yet to answer for that decision, and it continually seems to slip reporters’ minds while interviewing him.

There’s endless fodder for detractors to choose from. His films’ casual racism and love of stylized violence; how women are as likely a target for it as men.The news that he’d choked Diane Kruger for a scene in Inglorious Basterds; the actress’ swift assurance to the public that Tarantino had treated her “with utter respect and never abused his power or forced me to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with.” There’s no easy answer. No one-size-fits-all way to square his mistakes with his apologies with the ways he has or hasn’t changed with his incredible gifts and the cinematic worlds he’s opened up for a generation. It is entirely up to a viewer, the individual. (So it would be nice if we stopped charging women, as a whole, with the sole moral responsibility of canceling someone with headlines like “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Is Not for Women.”)

But individuals make up an audience, and audiences are fickle. It’s no wonder Once Upon a Time feels so personal in its anxieties about middle age, and about being an artist running out of time. In some ways, Tarantino seems to identify with Rick, a wannabe cowboy set in his ways, convinced the gates are slowly closing in on him. 

The movie’s fairy tale ending is as much for him as it is for Sharon Tate. After the would-be Manson killers are righteously flame-broiled, curb-stomped, and shred to bits at his house and Cliff, tripping on acid, is rushed to the hospital, Rick has his first run-in with Sebring. He asks what went down. Rick plays it cool and relishes the younger man’s admiration—turns out Sebring recognizes him from his old TV show, Bounty Law. That earns Rick an invitation from Tate to come in for a drink and meet her friends. He can hardly believe it. For him, it’s the invitation he thought would never come, into renewed relevance in the new Hollywood he thought was leaving him behind. And for her, it’s just the beginning. It’s a hopeful, lovely moment, preserved forever in time just before the credits roll—the kind of magic only possible in the movies.

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Heaven Hill’s Latest Spirit Might Be The Smokiest Rye Whiskey Ever

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For those not in the know, Heaven Hill’s Parker’s Heritage Collection is a yearly, experimental, specially-selected whiskey release created to pay homage to the brand’s late Master Distiller, Parker Beam. And while each year is quite different from those that came before, we’re especially excited about this 13th offering: an 8-year-old rye whiskey.

Interestingly, the 2019 Parker’s Heritage Collection Rye Whiskey utilizes the brand’s standard rye mashbill — the same one used in their fabled Rittenhouse Rye. But this American whiskey isn’t special because of its distillation or ingredients. Rather, it’s difference lies in the finish. You see, whereas most Heaven Hill offerings are finished in Level 3 char barrels, this one was aged in Level 5 char barrels — meaning it’s a good deal smokier than just about any of its counterparts. The result is a spirit that’s exceedingly flavorful, especially when it comes to its spicier notes, with a proof of 105 and an MSRP of $150. But it’s an extremely limited release, so you’ll want to snatch a bottle up quickly if you’ve got any hope of trying it.

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1957 ASTON MARTIN DB2/4 MK II COUPE

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A large part of what makes a classic car valuable — or not — is the story behind it. Whether it's a racing car with an illustrious history of wins and famous drivers or a road car owned by celebrities, it's hard to underestimate the value of a good story. This 1957 Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk II doesn't have a record of notable owners or race wins, but the record of its life is just as interesting as it's well-worn exterior. The car was found in the Californian desert, it's aluminum body stripped of paint during a stalled restoration. Don Bose purchased the car and had it mechanically restored — except for the body and interior. Don raced the car in numerous vintage races over the years, and the car proudly wears every dent and imperfection acquired over its long life with pride. Incredibly unique, this DB2/4 Mk II is an eye-catcher for all the right reasons. $300K+

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BAMFORD X BLACK BADGER FORDITE TAG HEUER CARRERA WATCH

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A term for the overspray that collects in car factory paint bays, Fordite can reveal amazing patterns when cut open.

That's exactly what makes up the dial of these Tag Heuer Carreras. A collaboration between Bamford and Black Badger, each one is unique, made using Fordite found in Michigan Ford factories during the 1970-1990s era. They're powered by Calibre 5 automatic movements, feature black Military Grade Titanium Coatings, and are water-resistant to 300 feet.

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The Fascinating History of New Orleans’ Oldest Bar

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We go all the way back to the early 1700s for the history of the Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street.

At the dawn of Prohibition there were three world-famous bars in New Orleans: Henry Ramos’s Stag Café, Chris O’Reilly’s Sazerac House and Pierre Cazebonne’s Old Absinthe House, perhaps the most famous of the three. Two of those bars enjoy truly mythical stature in the modern cocktail revolution. Their signature drinks are among the bedrock classics and their histories are recounted in bars from Sarasota to Singapore, St. Petersburg to Punta Arenas.

Conveniently for their legends, the Sazerac House, opened in 1851, and the Stag, successor to the bar that Ramos opened down the street in 1887, never came back after Prohibition; they never had to scrape by during the dry years, try to rebuild their clientele during the 1930s, pump cheap rum drinks into G.I.s and gyrenes, flyboys and swabbies during World War II, figure out what the visiting merrymakears wanted to drink during the buttoned-down 1950s or compete with hard drugs and hookers in the 1960s and 1970s. They’re not still keeping the lights on by selling Vodka Sodas to sorority girls and Bud Light to guys who look like their dads.

The Old Absinthe House, open pretty much continually since at least 1842 (there were a couple of years during Prohibition when the place was padlocked—but its actual bar was still in use, in a building down the street), has done all those things. It is a true survivor: the oldest bar in New Orleans and one of the oldest in America. In all that time, it has grown its own crust of myth and legend, a rough, patchy thing that is as neglected as it is ancient. The last time the bar’s actual history was investigated in any detail was in the 1930s. I think it’s time for an update, particularly since, as far as can be determined, 2019 is the 150th anniversary of its embrace of the word “absinthe” in its name.

Because we’re in the realm of mythology here, I’ll begin at the very beginning, in the Dreamtime.

The Place

In the beginning was earth and water, sun and wind—separated as God intended, to be sure, but perhaps not quite so well as they were separated in other, tidier places. Alligators and herons, frogs and mosquitoes, leeches and palmetto bugs, cypress, sawgrass and purple muscadine, all shared the sloppy patchwork of fetid water and the stinking muck that passed for land; all simmered together under a sun of balled-up fire and hunkered together against the howling winds and whipping rain that periodically blew the thick air clear.  

Then the humans came—“Nahchee,” they called themselves—and trapped some of the ducks and the deer and pried some of the fat oysters out of the ooze. In some places, where there was more earth and less water, they piled the dirt up into elegant ceremonial mounds and maybe planted some corn and squash and beans around them. But mostly they slipped silent and sure-footed through the swamp, hunting and fishing and reveling in the veiled bounty of what surrounded them.

In the fullness of time, other men came; French men. They did nothing quietly, hacking out a trading post here and throwing up an earth-and-log fort there, seizing dominion over a handful of the places where the earth was firmest and highest. One of those was on a bend in the great river that slowly bulled its way through the wilderness, a little way upstream from where the “Mississippi,” as the French rendered its name, spilled itself untidily into the Gulf of Mexico. By way of a branchy little channel, a bayou, the site offered a short and easy overland portage between the river and the grand lake that lay just to the north of it. Since time immemorial, it had been a key link in Natchee trade routes.

But now, in the year 1718, it was French, and to make sure it stayed that way the new inhabitants cleared the cypress and live oak off of a 400-acre rectangle, surrounded it with drainage ditches and heaped up some mounds of their own. Only theirs surrounded the clearing on three sides—the river closed the box—and had cannon-studded bastions at the corners. Within these walls, they laid out a grid of streets and began building wooden houses. “La Nouvelle Orléans,” they called the place, after the Duke of Orléans, who was acting as regent for King Louis XV, who was eight.

After a little adjustment to the walls, Nouvelle Orléans ended up with 66 square blocks. Not that it needed that many: a 1763 map shows houses clustered together in only about half of them. That same year, France ceded the town to Spain without a fight. In spite of—or maybe because of—being administered from Havana with a loose hand, the city quickly began to fill out. Even two devastating fires and a subsequent requirement that everything be rebuilt in brick instead of wood didn’t hold things back. In 1800, the city went back to France, which promptly turned around and sold it and the rest of French North America to the United States.

The House

As contemporary maps show, at some point between 1788 and 1817 one of the remaining empty blocks, over near the city walls, finally got some houses built on it, including one at the corner where Bienville Street met Bourbon Street. If you stood in Bienville with your back to the river, this house was on the near left corner (locally that’s known as the “uptown riverside” lot; in New Orleans, the normal compass rose has been replaced with “riverside” and “lakeside,” “downtown”—that is, down the Mississippi towards the Gulf—and “uptown”). It’s still there today, more or less: it’s been repaired, redecorated, remodeled, renovated, rebuilt, reopened and remojoed more times than Cher. But it’s still the same house, standing in the same place it’s occupied since some time around the Louisiana purchase.

Nobody’s sure precisely when it was built, which hasn’t stopped them from throwing out years; French Quarter historian Stanley Clisby Arthur, the last person to seriously investigate the bar’s history, gives the year as 1806, without evidence. There were some “edifices” on the property as early as 1797, but we don’t know if they included the house; on the other hand, an 1820 property transfer describes the building perfectly as it still stands. It’s entirely possible that it was built, or rebuilt, after the great hurricane of 1812, which wreaked havoc on the city and left most of it under water.   

The house is a standard New Orleans corner shop, circa 1800: a two-and-a-half story stucco-brick cube with two big, arched floor-to-ceiling windows on the Bienville St. side and two more on the Bourbon one, along with a separate kitchen extension and a walled-in courtyard that once held the house’s well. At some point in the late nineteenth century a cast-iron balcony was added, right under the top-floor windows. The high-ceilinged ground floor held two stores; the top floor was residential. The extra half-story—an “entresol” in the local terminology—was shoehorned in between them as a place to keep goods and servants, be they free or enslaved.

Whenever the actual house was built, in 1806 the property came under the ownership of a pair of Catalan business partners, Pedro Font (or Fon) and Francisco Juncadella. Catalonia was an uneasy part of Spain, and its people often found refuge in the colonies; New Orleans was one of the centers of their migration. At the same time, the partners built, or at least bought, another, humbler one-story house kitty-corner to that one. I don’t know who lived in which or if they actually lived in either. They may have run a grocery on the ground floor, as Arthur claims, or leased it to someone else who did, but Juncadella died in 1820, Font went home to Spain and by 1822 the house was occupied by Antoine Cruzat, the treasurer of the parish of Orleans—“parish” being Louisianan for county. There may have still been a grocery on the ground floor: city directories list one at the corner of Bourbon and Bienville, but of course every intersection has four corners and Cruzat was an important man, unlikely to live above someone else’s shop. But hey, it’s New Orleans.

The Bar: The Aleix Dynasty

The Cruzat family was still in the house when the “Racer’s Storm” of 1837 blew roofs off throughout the town and left much of it under water. In 1841, however, they ended their tenure when Antoine Cruzat built his own house over on St. Louis Street. Within a year, we find one “Mr. Aleix” disbursing liquors at the location (Francisco Juncadella’s widow, Rosa, was an Aleix, and she had inherited his share of the building). New Orleans local historian Ray Bordelon, an expert on all things Absinthe House, has uncovered a liquor license dating to January 14, 1843 for a “coffeehouse”—that’s New Orleans-speak for “bar”—issued to Jacinto Aleix and before that licensing for a “cabaret or commodities house.” These are two different kinds of establishment, but in New Orleans both of them sold liquors.

In any case, the first time the establishment appears in print is in April, 1842, when the men of Washington Fire Co. No. 4 took out an add in the Daily Picayune to thank “Mr. Aleix” for supplying them with “refreshments” while they were fighting a recent fire on Bienville St. (Back then, volunteer fire companies had a rough and tumble reputation and tended to be peopled by the sportier elements of society; the ones who kept corkscrews twisting and waiters stepping. If you ran a retail liquor dispensary, they were the people you wanted to butter up.) They could have come from a grocery, but the sending of iced drinks to firemen and other workers in the public interest was a fairly common thing for fancy nineteenth century bars to do.

As if that weren’t murky enough, there’s also the fact that various people, over the years, have claimed that the coffee house was open well before Cruzat moved out; years later, the bar gave 1836 as the year of its founding, although this later slipped back to 1826. It seems as unlikely that the county treasurer would live over a bar as a grocery store, but again, New Orleans.

The next time the bar turns up it is under a different Aleix: the Annual and Commercial Register for 1846 has Jacinto running a shoe store at the same corner and the coffee house under the proprietorship of the mysterious “A. Aleix,” who does not appear elsewhere in the contemporary records to which I have access. Three generations later, however, the brothers who were running the business—Ferrers, not Aleixes, but kinsmen nonetheless—believed that it had been founded by Antonio Ferrer, a great grandfather. It is possible they got their genealogy bollixed up and it was Antonio Aleix. Pending further research, “A. Aleix” will have to remain a mystery.

Whoever A. was, his or her tenure was brief: by 1850, Jacinto was firmly in charge.

Born in Catalonia in 1800, give or take a year, he had emigrated to Havana in his youth. There, he worked as a sailor on the New Orleans run. He appears to have settled in the city for good in 1823 and later spent at least a decade running a shoe store on the next block of Bourbon St., until he got tired of smelling feet.

We know vanishingly little about Aleix’s operation beyond the fact that he had a large mirror behind the bar and a big old clock. While the city had a number of showplace drinking establishments, elaborate temples to Bacchus such as Hewlett’s Exchange, the St. Charles Bar, and the Gem, Aleix’s was not one of them. It received no mention in the survey of the city’s best and most popular bars the Weekly Delta printed in 1850. Just about the only time it made it into the newspapers was in August, 1851, when word reached the city of the failure of Ecuadoran revolutionary Narciso López’s latest attempt to liberate Cuba from Spain. That failure was followed by the public execution in Havana of 50 of his men, most of them Americans, many of them recruited in New Orleans. Anti-Spanish feeling ran high in the city, and on the night of the 24th rioters swept through the French Quarter, sacking the Spanish Consul’s office and a number of Spanish-owned businesses. Aleix’s was among them. “The mirrors, bottles, decanters and liquors were cast into the street,” the Weekly Delta reported, and the place was “completely sacked.”

Odds are it wasn’t Aleix’s French-Quarter neighbors who did the damage. By the 1830s, the old city had grown a whole new city, across Canal Street, which ran from the river toward the lake on the Uptown border of the old town, where one of the city walls had been. Now that old town was known as the “French Quarter,” while the new part was the “American Quarter.” The French Quarter was peopled largely by French and Spanish families who had been there before the Louisiana Purchase—the city’s famous “Creoles”—and their compatriots who had come over to join them.

The American quarter, technically a separate municipality from 1836 until 1852, was full of hard, charging, “go ahead” Americans, manifest-destiny types from New York and Boston and Hartford and such who regarded the less-driven, tradition-obsessed French-Quarter Latins with suspicion and more than a little contempt. The feeling was mutual. Lopez had recruited mostly among the Americans, and they were most likely the ones who rampaged through the French Quarter.

The American-Creole divide stretched through the bars the city’s residents drank in. French-Quarter residents tended to prefer “cabarets,” as they called them, to the more elaborate American bars of the day. These were low-key places, “modest in pretension” and “plain in furniture,” as the Daily Picayune observed in 1850, where most of the clientele shared an ethnicity with the owner; where French and Spanish wines—Burgundies, Garnachas, and the like—were far more popular than bourbon and old Monongahela and you were much more likely to find a vermouth or an Anisette and Water on the bar than a Gin Cocktail or a Mint Julep. For those, you’d need to amble over to a bar like the Sazerac House, opened by Aaron Bird in 1852 half a block below Canal (for all intents and purposes, the American Quarter actually began a block before the official Canal Street border), where you could stand at the bar and throw down Whiskey Cocktails and Brandy Smashes and all the other potent gum-ticklers characteristic of the American school of drinking.

At any rate, Aleix put his business back together, with no help from the city authorities, whom he sued unsuccessfully for the $3,500 damage he claimed the mob caused. He ran it more or less without incident for the next few years, unless the Bernardo Attores who was arrested in 1856 for “selling liquor to slaves” at the corner of Bourbon and Bienville worked for him (it should be noted that Charles Ogilvie, the grocer across the street, was arrested two years later for precisely that offense). Some time around 1860, Jacinto brought his son Pierre Oscar in as a “clerk,” the genteel way of saying “barkeeper.” Despite the events of 1851, Oscar, as he was known, and his brother Leopold seemed to have no hard feelings toward the local Anglos, since when Louisiana joined the Confederacy in 1861 they both enlisted immediately, serving in local militia units until New Orleans fell to the Union in April 1862.

By then, Jacinto had been dead for almost a year and his widow, Severine Espinoso Aleix, was running the bar in his name. When we next see it, in 1865, Leopold had taken over the day-to-day operation, sometimes with Oscar’s help, but the business was still in Jacinto’s name. But now the bar had acquired a new nickname: “The Absinthe House,” which first appeared in an advertisement in the New Orleans Times that August (the bar had ice, and wanted to let the world know). By the late 1860s, the Aleixes’ old cabaret was starting to get noticed: in 1869, the Times-Democrat dubbed it a “popular resort.” Although it wasn’t old enough to be truly picturesque, the bar had still been around long enough to be a familiar survivor, and a small counterweight to the modernization that was beginning to transform the big American saloons in the city, and the Americanization that was beginning to rob the French Quarter of some of its distinctive flavor.

A big part of that counterweight was Aleix’s promotion of absinthe-drinking. To the average American of the day, absinthe-drinking was, as one of the city’s American-Quarter newspapers reminded its readers in 1868, a form of “dangerous dissipation.” The seductive green liquid was known mostly as the thing that drove Parisian café-loafers to the poorhouse and then the madhouse, a powerful, mind-altering nerve toxin that left people hollow, gibbering wrecks. For the next 40-odd years, the newspapers, and particularly those aligned with American-Quarter interests, published frequent reminders of its toll, usually translated from the more sensationalist segments of the French popular press.

Meanwhile, in the French Quarter of New Orleans, here was a quiet little neighborhood bar—Bourbon Street in 1865 was not the Bourbon Street of 1965 or 2015—proudly identifying itself as a place to drink absinthe. New Orleans had been importing absinthe since at least 1821, but if it caused any fuss it didn’t make the papers. It’s significant that the Aleixes didn’t take a stand in favor of it until the 1860s, when it was becoming an identifier for Bohemian tendencies and worse; when it was singled out as foreign and un-American.

I don’t want to make Leon Aleix out to be some hero of diversity: in the most important things, he was anything but. A small December, 1874, ad in the New Orleans Bulletin is co-signed by him as an officer of the “Ogden Invincibles,” one of the many political clubs that sprang up to support one political candidate or another. This one supported Frederick N. Ogden for governor. Ogden, a former Confederate officer like Aleix, had served under Nathan Bedford Forrest and shared his virulent views on race. In July, 1874, he founded the Crescent City White League, dedicated to naked white supremacy.

At first glance, there seems a disconnect between Leon’s repugnant, reactionary racial politics and his promotion of some decidedly un-American drinking customs, but New Orleans is a complicated place and the Anglo-Creole divide had been largely wiped away by the Civil War and the enthusiastic enlistment of young men like Aleix in the Confederate cause. Rather than fighting each other, the two groups had banded together to fight the Yankees, and now their black fellow citizens (the Spanish, after all, had historically hardly been paragons of racial enlightenment, and indeed listed among Francisco Juncadella’s property when he died were “Paul and Joseph,” two human beings).

Fortunately, we don’t have to deal with Leopold Aleix anymore, as the Absinthe House was about to change hands, and families, and move to new heights of popularity. For that, and the rest of its history, including Absinthe Frappes, Prohibition, Fake Pirates, the unstoppable Brennans, and much more, see Part II, coming soon.  

Prohibition Was No Match for New Orleans’ Most Famous Bar

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By hook or by crook, the French Quarter’s famed Old Absinthe House was able to survive the Great Depression and Prohibition.

A few months back, we looked into the early history of New Orleans’s famous Old Absinthe House, the oldest bar in that city and one of the oldest in America. Here, in Part II of our investigation, we’ll look at the bar’s fortunes during Prohibition and the Great Depression. 

In 1919, when Prohibition was imposed, the Old Absinthe House, at the corner of Bourbon and Bienville streets in the heart of the French Quarter, had been in operation for some 80 years, the last 20 of them as one of the most famous bars in America. Its proprietor, Pierre Cazebonne, a rotund, pugnacious little Frenchman from Pau in the Pyrenees, had owned the bar since 1913, buying it from the Ferrer family, who had bought it in the 1870s from the family that founded it, the Aleixes. All the owners had faced challenges, but none would face as grave ones as Cazebonne. 

THE CAZEBONNE DYNASTY

Prohibition descended on a deeply divided land, where half the people were grumbling and incredulous and half grimly satisfied at the other half’s discomfiture. As one would expect, New Orleans was in the grumbling half. In fact, Prohibition really threw the city for a loop. A quarter of a century before, it had transformed itself from a commercial port city into a tourist Mecca, on the basis of good food, good times and good drinks—and plenty of them. Without the drinks, the rest of the package was in danger, like a three-legged stool when you take a Carrie-Nation hatchet to one of the legs. 

All three of the famous bars that served as tent-poles for the city’s drinking culture—the Sazerac bar, Henry Ramos’s Stag Café, and the Old Absinthe House—were of course forced to stop serving alcohol. The Sazerac reopened as an “oyster bar and soda fount,” selling a non-alcoholic “Sazerac Fizz” concocted by Joe Pittari, late of Henry Ramos’s bar. There was liquor, too, of course, but after one bust the bar stuck to the straight and narrow. As for Ramos, he quit his lease, auctioned off all of the bar’s fixtures—from the “elegant mahogany bar…and counters costing $6,000” to the large oil paintings of race-horses and such, to the “beautiful art glass canopy, 50 feet long” that graced the front of the building—and turned over the keys to François Sartre, who had run the reasonably popular “Old 27” restaurant on Carondelet St. and wanted to expand. Ramos and his brother then went into the paint business (their brand: “Ramos Jinn Phizz Paints”). He died in 1928, having never picked up his bar tools again. 

Chris O’Reilly, owner of the Sazerac bar, wriggled around for a while—when the soda fountain failed, he tried a restaurant, then a delicatessen, then he went into the hardware trade, leaving the Marx Art Store to take over the hallowed old space. But he had incorporated, right before Prohibition, and the speed with which he brought his Sazerac Corp. back into the liquor business when Repeal was announced suggests he might have sort of kept a hand in, one way or another. In any case, the Sazerac Corp. is still with us, still selling booze,and doing better than ever. 

Unlike Ramos and O’Reilly, Pierre Cazebonne was no quitter. Sure, he was calling his place a “French restaurant,” and with Louis Chevalier, former head chef at the St. Charles Hotel, in the kitchen, it was, for a time. But when that didn’t work, he was quick to change it into a soda fountain. In any case, he kept the interior just like it always had been, and he kept selling liquor, just like he had always done. Once the Federal government put some teeth in their Prohibition enforcement, that also meant that Cazebonne got arrested, hauled into court, and fined. That was in January, 1920. And again, in March, 1920. 

After that, Cazebonne wised up, and got other guys to be the figurehead of his operation. Thus, it was no longer Pierre Cazebonne’s Old Absinthe House you went to in order to drink Scotch Highballs when you weren’t supposed to, but rather Herbert Roscher’s or Joe Garfield’s or Louis Massera’s Old Absinthe House—Cazebonne went through figureheads like Donald Trump does Acting Secretaries. After the joint had been raided so often that the Absinthe House name had become radioactive, then you were drinking at Anthony DiFranco’s A.B.H. Cabaret, or Ferdinand Trambino’s Casino. Whoever was fronting the place, it was always Cazebonne who cashed the checks (literally—the Feds had copies) and Cazebonne’s lawyers who posted bail.

Judging by some sketchy police reports, Trambino seems to have been something of a yegg—a wise guy (Di Franco, on the other hand, was a kitchen guy: he had been Chevalier’s sous chef). That raises some suspicions about the Casino, which featured live music and dancing. Prohibition, it turns out, had not been the only upheaval in Crescent City nightlife: at the end of 1917, the Navy forced the city to close Storyville, the 38-block district just a five-minute walk from the Absinthe House where prostitution in all its myriad permutations was practiced openly and legally. 

Of course (as legend holds it that Mayor Martin Behrman said at the time), “you can make illegal, but you can’t make it unpopular.” The closing of Storyville was like dropping a large, flat rock into a very shallow mud puddle. All the muck in there—the whores, the madams, the bartenders, the bouncers, the squid-fingered whorehouse piano “professors,” the blasting, pumping, gutbucket trumpeters, everyone—slopped out and into the surrounding blocks. 

Before Prohibition, Bourbon St. had been a fairly quiet one—in fact, the Absinthe House was about the rowdiest thing on it, not counting the old French Opera House (the one that burned down in 1919, only months after Prohibition took hold). Yet as Richard Campanella points out in his magisterial 2014 Bourbon Street: a History, there were enough seeds of an entertainment street there—a German beer garden, a few restaurants (including Galatoire’s, founded by a homeboy of Cazebonne’s and still going strong), a couple of other bars and, of course, the Absinthe House itself—to make it the natural choice among the neighboring streets for someone looking to open a speakeasy or other illicit sporting resort. 

Bourbon St. began filling up with decidedly wet cabarets and dance clubs of the sort which had previously been confined to Storyville. To be sure, not all of the women who frequented them were professionals. But not all of them weren’t, either. At the same time, the even quieter side streets between Bourbon and Basin St., where Storyville had begun, started filling up with bogus “hotels” and “rooming houses” where the fishers of men could bring their catches.

I don’t know exactly what went on in Cazebonne’s various cabarets, but seems somehow significant that one of his arrests came in 1926 when, at age 50, he was caught in City Park “spooning” in his car with an unnamed young lady. In any case, the Prohibition authorities took a dim view of Cazebonne, his cabarets and his various partners and later that year they succeeded in getting the building “padlocked,” a tactic whereby the authorities literally put a court-ordered padlock on a space that was a persistent nuisance and left it there for a year. That year would be the only extended period that no alcohol was served in the building on the uptown, riverside corner of Bourbon and Bienville since the Aleix family had begun setting ’em up there. 

Let’s step back for a moment and consider the effect of Prohibition here. In 1919, the Old Absinthe House was—besides being one of the most famous drinking establishments in America and an icon of Creole New Orleans—an often busy but never disorderly bar. It avoided disorder by having a culture and a code of behavior that was enforced by the older habitués and absorbed by the novice drinkers who came there, to be exported in turn to the other, newer establishments they patronized. Prohibition killed most of these old institutions: they were attractive targets for the authorities, well-known enough to set an example, and raids were frequent. If, on the other hand, they managed to avoid official attention the things they had to do to stay open all too often rendered them unfit for civilized drinking. Meanwhile, all the uncivilized places chugged along with barely a dent in their business. 

The padlock marked the end of the Cazebonne period of the bar’s history, which was plenty sporty but was yet too brief to be a true dynasty. Or at least it would have marked the end, if not for a surprising little coda that occurred in 1928, when the bar was finally unlocked. At that point, the building’s lease had been signed over to the Vieux Carré Commission, organized to preserve the French Quarter’s unique heritage. The plan was that the occupant of the building’s top-floor apartment, Jacinto “Jos” Ferrer, the Absinthe House bartender whose brother had sold Cazebonne the lease in the first place, would sell the Louisiana Historical Society the historic old fixtures, still preserved in the padlocked barroom: the marble absinthe fountains, the walnut bar, the intricately-carved old clock,the mirrors, the cavalry sword and all the rest. They would then loan these to the Association, who would then re-open the Absinthe House as some sort of—well, nobody was exactly sure. They had a plan.

So, however, did Pierre Cazebonne. As soon as the padlock was off, he popped into the old barroom, claimed the fixtures as his by right of sale in 1914, and hauled everything off to an undisclosed location, right down to the old business cards that Jos had allowed the bar’s customers to tack all over the walls. Undisclosed, that is, unless you knew a New Orleans cabdriver, newspaper boy or soda jerk, who would direct you to the old brick building at 400 Bourbon St. on the corner of Conti—one block from the Old Absinthe House. There, if you could convince the eye in the door-slot that you were no Prohibition agent, you could drink all the bootleg booze you wanted, slid over the very bar that had graced the Absinthe House for more than 80 years. Cazebonne, who perhaps had more balls than brains, finally even put the old sign right out front. After a couple of raids, this building, too, was padlocked. 

Come Repeal, however, Cazebonne was back, with a new sign: The Old Absinthe Bar, it read, which was strictly accurate, if damned confusing for the tourist. (Even more confusing for the old-timers was the fact that he put Jos Ferrer, who evidently bore no hard feelings, back behind the bar he had manned for so many years before Prohibition.) Pierre ran a nice, orderly and very popular bar for the rest of his days, like he was apparently born to do. When he died, in 1940, his son Lucien took over, thus qualifying the Cazebonnes as an Absinthe-House dynasty, if a schismatic one. This Rome-Avignon situation continued until 2004, when the bar was finally returned to the Absinthe House; but we’ll get to that another time.

Mamie Kelley and Her Wake

In the meanwhile, there was the Vieux Carré Commission, sitting there with four historic walls and nothing historic to put inside them. The original Absinthe House remained empty until the end of 1928, when the Commission finally broke down and leased it out. When it came to sinning, the lessee, one Mary Lee Kelley, made Pierre Cazebonne look like a fourth grader. Sure, Kelley billed the place as a complex of “Dining and Banquet Rooms, Coffee Shop and Art Gallery,” which all sounds innocent enough, but the tagline at the bottom of the advertisement she took out to announce its opening read “Music and Favors.” 

Kelley knew from favors. A large and brawling Irish girl from Boston, Mamie Kelley found her calling in Panama, where she was touring with “800 Pounds of Harmony,” a singing quartet of similarly proportioned girls. That calling was not singing, but saloon keeping. In 1920, three years after arriving in Panama, she opened her first bar there. By 1925, she had opened Kelley’s Ritz, in Panama City. Kelley’s Ritz was truly notorious, a bar that pushed the bounds of decency, as they were then understood, far past the breaking point. She gave her clientele, composed mostly of sailors and coastal artillery gunners, interspersed with Prohibition-dodgers, transient fortune-hunters, and all the other Tropic-seeking riff-raff, what they wanted: booze, girls, and a floor show to make their jaws drop. 

For Mamie Kelley, the Absinthe House was never more than a sideline, something to do when she went north to beat the heat, recruit new talent and audition hot jazz bands. Nonetheless, she made sure that it had all the essentials: loud music, dancing, and girls, all hiding behind a po-faced insistence that her place was, as she advertised in 1929, a “genteel” one—in fact, “Orleans’ smartest rendezvous.” The cover charge: a cool five dollars. That fin must have covered at least a couple of drinks, which flowed freely. When the Times-Picayune asked her, many years later, what she had served at the Absinthe House, she replied: “Never mind that…just say that I never took a rap.” 

Eventually, Kelley grew tired of the fencing with Prohibition agents and went back to Panama City (she came back after the war and established herself as one of the city’s most successful madams). The Vieux Carré Commission sold her fixtures off in 1931, a year before its lease expired. Between then and the end of 1933 there were three different operators in the space, none of whom made much of an impression or, more importantly, much money. At least the last one, Santo Pecoraro, was able to avoid getting raided: taking advantage of the first crack in the dry law, he opened the whole place up as a (legal) beer garden. Unfortunately, to the speakeasy-trained drinking public, beer held little interest. From Pecoraro it went to another Italian, Johnny Marchese, who brought in liquor—Prohibition had finally ended—but also brought back the cabaret and the dancing. Marchese kept putting on two shows nightly throughout the 1930s. 

As a columnist for the Kansas City Star put it in 1935, “Today America’s oldest saloon again is in operation, but it is a far, far cry from the place that knew the tread of the feet of Jackson, Bowie, Lafitte, Burr and O. Henry.” To be sure, it wasn’t the country’s oldest saloon, and of that long list of worthies, the only one who ever set foot in the bar was O. Henry. But one can still agree with the writer’s conclusion: “Somehow a jazz band in such a place seems highly incongruous.”

There is a 1941 photo of Marchese’s Absinthe House that shows it sporting a sign that reads “The Original Old Absinthe House—Dancing,” as if dancing were a part of the bar’s tradition. Beneath it hangs a big old “Drink Jax Beer.” Back in the 1870s, when Cayetano Ferrer was overseeing the bar’s rise to fame, if you were at the Absinthe House and you wanted to drink beer, you pushed your chair back, walked out onto the sidewalk and headed down Bienville to Chartres, where if you made a right you would find the Tivoli Beer Garden and Concert Hall. They would give you beer. At the Absinthe House, you drank absinthe, or maybe a little French brandy or a glass of Spanish wine. It was a refined place, for those with refined tastes. 

Prohibition had swept away the oldest New Orleans drinking traditions, where the moderate consumption of alcohol was an unremarkable, if pleasant, part of daily life, not something to be doubled down on and hammered into a spree. Johnny Marchese might have run a square joint, but he wasn’t the man to find something to replace those traditions; to bring refined drinking New Orleans-style into the looming Atomic age. 

That man was Owen Brennan, who I’ll talk about at a later date. Stay tuned.

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How Subsea Robots Will Explore Earth’s Final Frontier

photo of subsea autonomous underwater robot shell xprize coral reef auv aus map world ocean underwater

In 2012, acclaimed oceanographer Paul Snelgrove told a TEDTalk audience that the next frontier wasn’t in our skies, but rather underwater.

“We know more about the surface of the Moon and about Mars than we do about the deep sea floor despite the fact that we have yet to extract a gram of food, a breath of oxygen, or a drop of water from those bodies,” he said.

Seven years later, over 80 percent of the ocean remains unmapped. Sonar can map less than 10 percent of the ocean’s bottom and satellite gravity data cannot detect anything smaller than a kilometer in size.

But a global competition sponsored by Shell, the Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, might change our understanding of Earth’s final frontier. The competition will dole out $7 million on Friday to the team producing the best technology for rapid, unmanned, and bathymetric—the measurement of the depth of water—exploration.

If making a device to explore the deep waterworld sounds easy, the finalists show that it’s not. Judging took place at the end of 2018 in Kalamata, Greece, after years of engineering and development, narrowing down the competition to five finalist teams. The goal: mapping a 500 kilometer square area of seafloor 4 km below the surface in under 24 hours with no human intervention and equipment fitting within a 40-foot container.

It turns out the best way to explore the deep sea are autonomous underwater vehicles, or AUVs—underwater-swimming robots that are computer-controlled. They work in tandem with autonomous surface vehicles, or ASVs, vessels that tow, deploy, and retrieve AUVs without humans.

AUVs come with a score of benefits for ocean exploration, diving deeper than human divers and floating on shallower waters for longer than boats. They can be easily manipulated by scientists, who can choose the kind of sensors they will attach to them according to their objectives. And they can carry sophisticated imaging-instrument than can detect hazards such as live underwater mines.

In fact, they can become powerful alliances to a wide range of human endeavors, from archaeological expeditions to hunt for shipwrecks to oceanographic endeavors to study water conductivity, pollutants, salinity, temperature, and more.

One strong example of such an AUV was that of Japan’s Team KUROSHIO, whose ASV actually towed multiple AUVs “by using a simple, customizable floating frame,” Takeshi Ohki, the team’s co-director, told The Daily Beast.

The grand feature of the Japanese design includes remote release mechanisms that can control poles holding a floating frame, allowing for ground-based mission control from satellites. That means scientists can map the seafloor efficiently to locate features.

A team composed of 15 members from around the world, GEBCO-NF Alumni Team, is competing with a multibeam echosounder on their design, which provides room for a sonar to chart the seabed.

“Our ASV does not only behave to the AUV… but can simultaneously do surveys at slightly lower resolutions and collect seafloor bathymetry data,” Rochelle Wigley, team lead, said.

These innovations aren’t cheap. The British team’s technology lead, Hua Khee Chan, told The Daily Beast that designs for AUVs can cost “at least $6 million.”

“An equivalent system from us will not go over $1.5 million,” Chan added.

Those costs add up with extraneous features that teams hope will add to our understanding of the ocean floor. Chan’s team is utilizing the “swarm approach,” a swarm of torpedo-like drones that swim vertically instead of horizontally.

“The conceptual idea was to create an ‘elevator’ that can access the ocean,” Chan explained. “Our drone swims vertically to the bottom of the ocean, ‘sees’ the seabed (this happens with the aid of an altimeter fitted in it), hovers at 100 m above it, and does a vertical 360-degree spin. At the same time, an embedded sonar records the line scan every 0.5 degrees and implanted sensors record parameters like temperature and salinity.”

And because the team made each drone ultra small and light, the same process can be simultaneously repeated by about 12 drones working simultaneously.

“Imagine what happens when all these drones work together; they will scan an area much greater than that a conventional AUV does and at a cost orders of magnitudes lower,” said Dale Wakeham, Chan’s partner and team lead.

One of the greatest challenges navigation in underwater environments faces is getting precise positioning because of the absence of GPS signal underwater. Team Arggonauts, Germany’s representation in the contest, equipped their AUVs with an extra sonar system to tackle this.

Arggonauts made their own swarm of 12 super light AUVs using syntactic foam and named them “Great Divers.”

Ulrich Pontes, head of communications at Fraunhofer IOSB, the research organization behind the team, said Great Divers were penetrable by water, but buoyant enough to swim.

To map the seabed, the Great Divers came equipped with bathymetric sonar systems; this was the point when a second sonar system came in handy. “It connected our Great Divers with our surface vehicles and synced atomic clocks for precise time measurements,” Pontes said.

Having this information, the Arggonauts then calculated the position of the Great Divers relative to that of the GPS-enabled surface vehicles to generate their map.

No matter which team wins, the endeavors are likely to change—perhaps even transform—our understanding of the world’s oceans in the next few years.

XPRIZE Ocean Discovery lead Jyotika Virmani said that each team has contributed to humanity’s understanding of the ocean floor in a way we never knew possible before. “These are prototype technologies,” she said. “Next, we will get them out there in the field. Our goal is to have a complete map of the world’s oceans by 2030.”

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The Story Of The Porsche 'Black Widow'

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Last year, Porsche debuted a new 911 GT2 RS Clubsport in a charming black Martini colour scheme. I don’t know how many recognise the car or the race it pays tribute to, but both were among the sketchiest I’ve come across.

Back in 1976, Porsche debuted its new prototype race car, the 936. Weight was 700kg. The engine made 520 horsepower. Big turbo, no roof. A sketchy car by specs alone. That’s before you get to how its first race went.

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The debut itself was at the 300 km sprint race at the Nürburgring that year, running, as you would back then, on the Nordschleife with little in the way of crash barriers.

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Rolf Stommelen, the quick returning factory driver at the time, was at the wheel. He qualified second for the Porsche works team (then called Porsche System Engineering), the specialist David behind the relative manufacturing Goliath of Renault, Porsche’s big endurance racing rival at that time before Lancia stepped in just before Group C got going.

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The race started out well, but things quickly went, uh, not great, as Motorsport-Info.de recalls in some German I’ll roughly translate:

Quote

 

Stommelen führte das Rennen bis zur 6. Runde an, dann mußte er mit einem klemmenden Gaszug zur Box. Sein Gasschieber blieb auf einer 3/4-Offen-Stellung stehen. Normalerweise wäre das Rennen für den 936 beendet gewesen. Angesichts des kurzen Rennens lohnte ein Wechsel des Gaszuges nicht.

Also wurde Rolf wieder auf die Strecke geschickt. Er fuhr den Wagen mit dem Hauptstromschalter. Vor den Kurven Strom (und damit auch der Motor) aus, danach Strom wieder ein und Vollgas. Kaum einer mag wirklich beurteilen können, welche gigantische fahrerische Leistung Rolf ablieferte.

Stommelen led the race up until the sixth lap, then he had to pit with a stuck throttle cable. His throttle was holding at 3/4s open. Normally, the race would be over for the 936. But given that it was a short race, it didn’t make sense to swap out the throttle cable.

So Rolf got sent back out on track. He drove the car with the main power cutoff switch. Before a corner, cut the power (and the engine along with it), then power back on and full throttle. One can hardly figure what significant, ahem, driving power Rolf was dealing with.

 

Ah, yeah, driving the car on/off with a stuck throttle using the kill switch. Cool.

Stommelen finished second, even after all that. Unreal.

This isn’t a story you’d come across in any of Porsche’s official history pages, nor could I find any pictures of the car on its site. I emailed Porsche and got these photos from Porsche’s ever-helpful archives, a wild story, if one that the company maybe doesn’t rush to tell.

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I would say that this is presumably how the car got its nickname of “black widow,” but I don’t know if this race was the only part of it. The 936 won Le Mans that year, but only after the lead 936 broke a connecting rod, and the next 936 blew a head gasket, by which point the third 936 was sitting in 41st place thanks to a bad injection pump that took half an hour to replace, as detailed in Paul Frère’s The Porsche Book.

Porsche swapped drivers around and managed to claw back half an hour of time, climbing to the lead, limping the car around so gingerly that it seized a piston running on part throttle. The car finished its last two laps down a cylinder.

So when you see the black, red and blue 911 GT2 RS Clubsport, know that it honours a race car that was scarier than most, even in its day.

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‘The Hunt’ Trailer Reveals Damon Lindelof’s Violent Blumhouse Thriller

Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions have released the first official trailer for the upcoming thriller The Hunt, and it looks terrific. The film is based on an idea cooked up by The Leftovers alums Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse, who wrote the original screenplay. The very-2019 story takes place in a world where globalist elites gather at a remote house to hunt humans they’ve kidnapped. GLOW standout Betty Gilpin stars as Crystal, one of the people being hunted who decides to turn the tables on the hunters as she makes her way towards the woman at the top, played by Hilary Swank.

While The Most Dangerous Game is a story that’s been told before, Lindelof and Co. are clearly trafficking in socio-politically relevant territory here, and I’m eager to see how this thing tracks thematically. But even just on the surface, this looks like a hell of a time at the movies, anchored by a badass performance from an immensely talented actress.

The film also stars Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, and Ethan Suplee and opens in theaters on September 27th.

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Jules Brunet, The Military Officer Behind The True Story Of ‘The Last Samurai’

Jules Brunet Portrait Closeup

Jules Brunet was sent to Japan to train the country's soldiers in Western tactics. He wound up staying in order to aid the samurai in a battle against Imperialists trying to further Westernize the country.

Not many people know the true story of The Last Samurai, the sweeping Tom Cruise epic of 2003. His character, the noble Captain Algren, was actually largely based on a real person: the French officer Jules Brunet.

Brunet was sent to Japan to train soldiers on how to use modern weapons and tactics. He later chose to stay and fight alongside the Tokugawa samurai in their resistance against Emperor Meiji and his move to modernize Japan. But how much of this reality is represented in the blockbuster?

The True Story Of The The Last Samurai: The Boshin War

Japan of the 19th century was an isolated nation. Contact with foreigners was largely suppressed. But everything changed in 1853 when American naval commander Matthew Perry appeared in Tokyo’s harbor with a fleet of modern ships.

Brunets Painting Of Rebel Samurai Troops

A painting of samurai rebel troops done by none other than Jules Brunet. Notice how the samurai have both western and traditional equipment, a point of the true story of The Last Samurai not explored in the movie.

For the first time ever, Japan was forced to open itself up to the outside world. The Japanese then signed a treaty with the U.S. the following year, the Kanagawa Treaty, which allowed American vessels to dock in two Japanese harbors. The U.S. also established a consul in Shimoda.

The event was a shock to Japan and consequently split its nation on whether it should modernize with the rest of the world or remain traditional. Thus followed the Boshin War of 1868-1869, also known as the Japanese Revolution, which was the bloody result of this split.

On one side was Japan’s Meiji Emperor, backed by powerful figures who sought to Westernize Japan and revive the emperor’s power. On the opposing side was the Tokugawa Shogunate, a continuation of the military dictatorship comprised of elite samurai which had ruled Japan since 1192.

Although the Tokugawa shogun, or leader, Yoshinobu, agreed to return power to the emperor, the peaceful transition turned violent when the Emperor was convinced to issue a decree that dissolved the Tokugawa house instead.

The Tokugawa shogun protested which naturally resulted in war. As it happens, the 30-year-old French military veteran Jules Brunet was already in Japan when this war broke out.

Satsuma And Choshu Samurai

Samurai of the Choshu clan during the Boshin War. 1860s Japan.

Jules Brunet’s Role In The True Story Of The Last Samurai

Born on Jan. 2, 1838 in Belfort, France, Jules Brunet followed a military career specializing in artillery. He first saw combat during the French intervention in Mexico from 1862 to 1864 where he was awarded the Légion d’honneur — the highest French military honor.

Then, in 1867, Japan’s Tokugawa Shogunate requested help from Napoleon III’s Second French Empire in modernizing their armies. Brunet was sent as the artillery expert alongside a team of other French military advisors.

The group was to train the shogunate’s new troops on how to use modern weapons and tactics. Unfortunately for them, a civil war would break out just a year later between the shogunate and the imperial government.

On Jan. 27, 1868 Brunet and Captain André Cazeneuve — another French military advisor in Japan — accompanied the shogun and his troops on a march to Japan’s capital city of Kyoto.

Brunet Vs Algren

On the left is a portrait of Jules Brunet and on the right is Tom Cruise’s character Captain Algren who is based off of Brunet.

The shogun’s army was to deliver a stern letter to the Emperor to reverse his decision to strip the Tokugawa shogunate, or the longstanding elite, of their titles and lands.

However, the army was not allowed to pass and troops of the Satsuma and Choshu feudal lords — who were the influence behind the Emperor’s decree — were ordered to fire.

Thus began the first conflict of the Boshin War known as The Battle of Toba-Fushimi. Although the shogun’s forces had 15,000 men to the Satsuma-Choshu’s 5,000, they had one critical flaw: equipment.

While most of the imperial forces were armed with modern weapons such as rifles, howitzers, and Gatling guns, many of the shogunate’s soldiers were still armed with outdated weapons such as swords and pikes, as was the samurai custom.

The battle lasted for four days, but was a decisive victory for the imperial troops, leading many Japanese feudal lords to switch sides from the shogun to the emperor. Brunet and the Shogunate’s Admiral Enomoto Takeaki fled north to the capital city of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) on the warship Fujisan.

Living With The Samurai

Around this time, foreign nations — including France — vowed neutrality in the conflict. Meanwhile, the restored Meiji Emperor ordered the French advisor mission to return home, since they had been training the troops of his enemy — the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Jules Brunet In Samurai Regalia

The full samurai battle regalia a Japanese warrior would wear to war. 1860.

While most of his peers agreed, Brunet refused. He chose to stay and fight alongside the Tokugawa. The only glimpse into Brunet’s decision comes from a letter he wrote directly to French Emperor Napoleon III. Aware that his actions would be seen as either insane or treasonous, he explained that:

“A revolution is forcing the Military Mission to return to France. Alone I stay, alone I wish to continue, under new conditions: the results obtained by the Mission, together with the Party of the North, which is the party favorable to France in Japan. Soon a reaction will take place, and the Daimyos of the North have offered me to be its soul. I have accepted, because with the help of one thousand Japanese officers and non-commissioned officers, our students, I can direct the 50,000 men of the confederation.”

Here, Brunet is explaining his decision in a way that sounds favorable to Napoleon III — supporting the Japanese group that is friendly to France.

To this day, we’re not entirely sure of his true motivations. Judging from Brunet’s character, it’s quite possible that the real reason he stayed is that he was impressed by the military spirit of the Tokugawa samurai and felt it was his duty to aid them.

Whatever the case, he was now in grave danger with no protection from the French government.

The Fall Of The Samurai

In Edo, the imperial forces were victorious again largely in part to Tokugawa Shogun Yoshinobu’s decision to submit to the Emperor. He surrendered the city and only small bands of shogunate forces continued to fight back.

Hakodate Port In 1930

The port of Hakodate in ca. 1930. The Battle of Hakodate saw 7,000 Imperial troops fight 3,000 shogun warriors in 1869.

Despite this, the commander of the shogunate’s navy, Enomoto Takeaki, refused to surrender and headed north in hopes to rally the Aizu clan’s samurai.

They became the core of the so-called Northern Coalition of feudal lords who joined the remaining Tokugawa leaders in their refusal to submit to the Emperor.

The Coalition continued to fight bravely against imperial forces in Northern Japan. Unfortunately, they simply didn’t have enough modern weaponry to stand a chance against the Emperor’s modernized troops. They were defeated by November 1868.

Around this time, Brunet and Enomoto fled north to the island of Hokkaido. Here, the remaining Tokugawa leaders established the Ezo Republic that continued their struggle against the Japanese imperial state.

By this point, it seemed as though Brunet had chosen the losing side, but surrender was not an option.

The last major battle of the Boshin War happened at the Hokkaido port city of Hakodate. In this battle that spanned half a year from December 1868 to June 1869, 7,000 Imperial troops battled against 3,000 Tokugawa rebels.

French And Japanese Military Leaders

French military advisors and their Japanese allies in Hokkaido. Back: Cazeneuve, Marlin, Fukushima Tokinosuke, Fortant. Front: Hosoya Yasutaro, Jules Brunet, Matsudaira Taro (vice-president of the Ezo Republic), and Tajima Kintaro.

Jules Brunet and his men did their best, but the odds were not in their favor, largely due to the technological superiority of the imperial forces.

Jules Brunet Escapes Japan

As a high-profile combatant of the losing side, Brunet was now a wanted man in Japan.

Fortunately, the French warship Coëtlogon evacuated him from Hokkaido just in time. He was then ferried to Saigon, Vietnam — at the time controlled by the French — and returned back to France.

Although the Japanese government demanded Brunet receive punishment for his support of the shogunate in the war, the French government did not budge because his story won the public’s support.

Instead, he was reinstated to the French Army after six months and participated in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, during which he was taken prisoner during the Siege of Metz.

Later on, he continued to play a major role in the French military, participating in the suppression of the Paris Commune in 1871.

Jules Brunet Chief Of Staff Photo

Jules Brunet had a long, successful military career after his time in Japan. He’s seen here (hat in hand) as Chief of Staff. Oct. 1, 1898.

Meanwhile, his former friend Enomoto Takeaki was pardoned and rose to the rank of vice-admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy, using his influence to get the Japanese government to not only forgive Brunet but award him a number of medals, including the prestigious Order of the Rising Sun.

Over the next 17 years, Jules Brunet himself was promoted several times. From officer to general, to Chief of Staff, he had a thoroughly successful military career until his death in 1911. But he would be most remembered as one of the key inspirations for the 2003 film The Last Samurai.

Comparing Fact And Fiction In The Last Samurai

Tom Cruise’s character, Nathan Algren, confronts Ken Watanabe’s Katsumoto about the conditions of his capture.

Brunet’s daring, adventurous actions in Japan were one of the main inspirations for the 2003 film The Last Samurai.

In this film, Tom Cruise plays American Army officer Nathan Algren, who arrives in Japan to help train Meiji government troops in modern weaponry but becomes embroiled in a war between the samurai and the Emperor’s modern forces.

There are many parallels between the story of Algren and Brunet.

Both were Western military officers who trained Japanese troops in the use of modern weapons and ended up supporting a rebellious group of samurai who still used mainly traditional weapons and tactics. Both also ended up being on the losing side.

But there are many differences as well. Unlike Brunet, Algren was training the imperial government troops and joins the samurai only after he becomes their hostage.

Further, in the film, the samurai are sorely unmatched against the Imperials in regards to equipment. In the true story of The Last Samurai, however, the samurai rebels did actually have some western garb and weaponry thanks to the Westerners like Brunet who had been paid to train them.

Meanwhile, the storyline in the film is based on a slightly later period in 1877 once the emperor was restored in Japan following the fall of the shogunate. This period was called the Meiji Restoration and it was the same year as the last major samurai rebellion against Japan’s imperial government.

Last Battle Of Samurai Rebellion

In the true story of The Last Samurai, this final battle which is depicted in the film and shows Katsumoto/Takamori’s death, did actually happen. But it happened years after Brunet left Japan.

This rebellion was organized by the samurai leader Saigo Takamori, who served as the inspiration for The Last Samurai’s Katsumoto, played by Ken Watanabe. In the true story of The Last Samurai, Watanabe’s character who resembles Takamori leads a great and final samurai rebellion called the final battle of Shiroyama. In the film, Watanabe’s character Katsumoto falls and in reality, so did Takamori.

This battle, however, came in 1877, years after Brunet had already left Japan.

More importantly, the film paints the samurai rebels as the righteous and honorable keepers of an ancient tradition, while the Emperor’s supporters are shown as evil capitalists who only care about money.

As we know in reality, the real story of Japan’s struggle between modernity and tradition was far less black and white, with injustices and mistakes on both sides.

Captain Nathan Algren learns the value of the samurai and their culture.

The Last Samurai was well received by audiences and made a respectable amount of box office return, though not everyone was as impressed. Critics, in particular, saw it as an opportunity to focus on the historical inconsistencies rather than the effective storytelling it delivered.

Mokoto Rich of The New York Times was skeptical as to whether or not the movie was “racist, naive, well-intentioned, accurate — or all of the above.”

Meanwhile, Variety critic Todd McCarthy took it a step further, and argued that fetishization of the other and white guilt dragged the film down to disappointing levels of cliche.

“Clearly enamored of the culture it examines while resolutely remaining an outsider’s romanticization of it, yarn is disappointingly content to recycle familiar attitudes about the nobility of ancient cultures, Western despoilment of them, liberal historical guilt, the unrestrainable greed of capitalists and the irreducible primacy of Hollywood movie stars.”

A damning review.

The Real Motivations Of The Samurai

History professor Cathy Schultz, meanwhile, arguably had the most insightful take of the bunch on the film. She chose instead to delve into the true motivations of some of the samurai portrayed in the film.

“Many samurai fought Meiji modernization not for altruistic reasons but because it challenged their status as the privileged warrior caste…The film also misses the historical reality that many Meiji policy advisors were former samurai, who had voluntarily given up their traditional privileges to follow a course they believed would strengthen Japan.”

Regarding these potentially grievous creative liberties Schultz spoke to, translator and historian Ivan Morris noted that Saigo Takamori’s resistance to the new Japanese government was not merely a violent one — but a call to traditional, Japanese values.

Ken Watanabe’s Katsumoto, a surrogate for the real like Saigo Takamori, attempts to teach Tom Cruise’s Nathan Algren about the way of the bushido, or the samurai code of honor.

“It was clear from his writings and statements that he believed the ideals of the civil war were being vitiated. He was opposed to the excessively rapid changes in Japanese society and was particularly disturbed by the shabby treatment of the warrior class,” Morris explained.

Jules Brunet’s Honor

Ultimately, the story of The Last Samurai has its roots in multiple historical figures and events, while not being completely true to any of them. However, it’s clear that the real-life story of Jules Brunet was the major inspiration for Tom Cruise’s character.

Brunet risked his career and life to keep his honor as a soldier, refusing to abandon the troops he trained when he was ordered to return to France.

He didn’t care that they looked different than him and spoke a different language. For that, his story should be remembered and rightfully immortalized in film for its nobility.

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