Tag Archives: Style

Stasi Style

130613_SimonMenner-StasiImages14

Foreign Policy magazine is carrying a rather funny set of photographs gleaned from Stasi (East German secret police) records. They were originally intended as tools to aid agents in remaining inconspicuous in public while carrying out their duties:

A portly man wearing a cranberry-colored cardigan stands uncomfortably still, his hands clasped together over the paunch of his belly. Behind tinted sunglasses his downcast gaze is awkward, avoidant. But wait, there he is again … or is he? This man in the next frame — possibly, obviously the same man — in a long shaggy brown coat and Ushanka style faux-fur cap, is wearing the same sunglasses but now there’s a dark swipe of a mustache under his nose that wasn’t there before.

There are others just like him posing in self-conscious stance with impassive expressions — a tourist impossibly conspicuous in bright red pants, outfitted with not one but two cameras; a somber-faced woman in casual jeans and a forgettable black leather jacket is later “transformed” donning a lush winter coat, her hair tucked under a fur cap, gold earrings dangling. These men and women were trained to blend in; they were trained to infiltrate, observe, and inform. They were Stasi agents, part of the East German secret police.

Stasi Style!   [ForeignPolicy]

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Static Culture

Writing in Vanity Fair, Kurt Andersen argues that there’s been no significant change in popular culture in the West in 20 years – a very strange thing indeed.

The past is a foreign country. Only 20 years ago the World Wide Web was an obscure academic thingamajig. All personal computers were fancy stand-alone typewriters and calculators that showed only text (but no newspapers or magazines), played no video or music, offered no products to buy. E-mail (a new coinage) and cell phones were still novelties. Personal music players required cassettes or CDs. Nobody had seen a computer-animated feature film or computer-generated scenes with live actors, and DVDs didn’t exist. The human genome hadn’t been decoded, genetically modified food didn’t exist, and functional M.R.I. was a brand-new experimental research technique. Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden had never been mentioned in The New York Times.China’s economy was less than one-eighth of its current size. CNN was the only general-interest cable news channel. Moderate Republicans occupied the White House and ran the Senate’s G.O.P. caucus.

Since 1992, as the technological miracles and wonders have propagated and the political economy has transformed, the world has become radically and profoundly new. (And then there’s the miraculous drop in violent crime in the United States, by half.) Here is what’s odd: during these same 20 years, the appearance of the world (computers, TVs, telephones, and music players aside) has changed hardly at all, less than it did during any 20-year period for at least a century. The past is a foreign country, but the recent past—the 00s, the 90s, even a lot of the 80s—looks almost identical to the present. This is the First Great Paradox of Contemporary Cultural History.

Think about it. Picture it. Rewind any other 20-year chunk of 20th-century time. There’s no chance you would mistake a photograph or movie of Americans or an American city from 1972—giant sideburns, collars, and bell-bottoms, leisure suits and cigarettes, AMC Javelins and Matadors and Gremlins alongside Dodge Demons, Swingers, Plymouth Dusters, and Scamps—with images from 1992. Time-travel back another 20 years, before rock ’n’ roll and the Pill and Vietnam, when both sexes wore hats and cars were big and bulbous with late-moderne fenders and fins—again, unmistakably different, 1952 from 1972. You can keep doing it and see that the characteristic surfaces and sounds of each historical moment are absolutely distinct from those of 20 years earlier or later: the clothes, the hair, the cars, the advertising—all of it. It’s even true of the 19th century: practically no respectable American man wore a beard before the 1850s, for instance, but beards were almost obligatory in the 1870s, and then disappeared again by 1900. The modern sensibility has been defined by brief stylistic shelf lives, our minds trained to register the recent past as old-fashioned.

You Say You Want a Devolution?   [Vanity Fair]

Veiny Hose

Veiny-Hose

Check out these cool and maybe/maybe-not anatomically-correct (Dammit, I’m a doctor, not a biologist!) pantyhose from upFactory. Cool!

Bas veines et artères [UpFactory]   (Seulement en français)

[via LikeCool]