Saturday, May 13, 2006

History - Fads during the 1920s

It's Saturday night, and what am I doing? Grading papers, watching the World's Strongest Man contest, and thinking about... stunts. After all, picking up giant rocks and putting them on columns is as much a stunt as it is a sport, right? So, in honor of my exciting Saturday night, I offer you some historical info on the 1920s, as well as some frightening and lovely information on the stunts that were popular at that time. David Blaine has nothing on these people. Also, here's some slang so that if you go back in a time machine, you'll fit in.

History - Shanghai Film Queens and "Oriental" Decadence

Check out this great article from the China Daily on Chinese movie stars of the 1930s. There's also this article on how Shanghai is being reborn as the Paris of the East. And this wonderful website, called "Tales of Old China", tells what life was like in China during the European occupation, especially in Shanghai. The photo is of film star Ruan Ling-yu, one of the greatest stars of the 1930s, and it is taken from the "Tales of Old Shanghai" section of "Tales of Old China".

Friday, May 12, 2006

Food and Drink - The Singapore Sling

Singapore had a reputation as one of the most decadent cities on earth during the 1920s and 1930s. This signature cocktail was made famous there, and it deserves a rivival. One word of warning- it's pretty potent. Don't let the alcohol content fool you. These are best drunk on a porch with a breeze, or over a long and lingering dinner. Plus the website offers a nice story to go along with the drink recipe.
BTW, the picture was taken from this website, which will lead you to one on more pre-19489 images of Shanghai, Beijing, and Kyoto.

History - Britain Between the Wars

I was looking up information on early cocktails, and found this informative page on Britain between the wars. The 'Bright Young Things' were the British equivalent to the Flapper. This page is a must-see if you are interested in fashion, as it has plenty of photos (which unfortunately I cannot reproduce here).

History - Parents Ruin Children... in 1925

According to this, 'sheik' fathers and 'flapper' mothers are ruining their children by running wild and being irresponsible! Those horrible parents refuse to grow up and teach their children proper values! Thank goodness parents have finally learned their lessons, or we'd all be walking around now listening to loud music and wearing skimpy clothes.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Art - Edvard Munch

While I missed the Edvard Munch exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, the MOMA website still has the audio tour available for interested parties.

History - What is a Flapper, anyway?

We at Modern Flapper fell in love with silent movies early in the game, but it took us a while to be exposed to the beauty that was Louise Brooks. When we finally saw her in Diary of a Lost Girl and Pandora's Box, her hair cut short and her mouth adorable, we fell in love. We also adored the charming drawings of John Held, Jr., which showed 'flaming youth' enjoying themselves and drinking beverages of dubious vintage. Most importantly, we were exposed to stories of the Harlem Renaissance, a period in African-American history that was chock-full of Flappers.

What is a Flapper? A Flapper is the kind of woman who enjoys herself. She is sexy and carefree, but not whorish; she knows how to have a good time without making a fool of herself. She can suffer though adversity so long as she has a tube of lipstick and an eyebrow pencil to accentuate her natural beauty. She can and often is collegiate and brainy. Margaret Mead was actually a Flapper. So was Marlene Dietrich. So was the incomparable Josephine Baker. While Flappers are thought to have died out at the end of the Jazz Age, we at Modern Flapper feel that they never truly went away. Every time a woman calls herself a feminist, dresses and loves as she pleases, and loves learning as much as good music, another Flapper is born.

Decoration - Miss Mary

Miss Mary is one of our favorite sites here at Modern Flapper, but right now it's even better than usual. Why? Because the wonderful Miss Mary is currently offering a book on Halloween fun, c. 1923. I know it's early in the year, but take a look.

Politics - Will Rogers and Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert's performance the other night at the National Press Dinner was nothing short of being both heroic and heartbreaking. Heroic because he siad the things that many of us, both liberal and conservative, have been thinking; and heartbreaking because it took a comedian to say them. Of all the people who should be speaking out for the preservation of our Republic and all it stands for, why should a funny-man have to be the one to do it?

Well, it's not the first time that this nation might not end up being saved by a comedian. Consider the fame of a 'simple' mixed-race cowboy from Oklahoma with a superb rope-trick act: Will Rogers. People now forget how Rogers' humor, which was seemingly gentle and folksy, satirized the pretensions of the rich, the powerful, the arrogant, and yes, even the fascistic. Because of Will Rogers, many Americans came around to recognizing why Hitler and his Fifth Columnist minions (including Charles Lindbergh) were enemies of everything this country stands for. In his own insinuating fashion, he explained to the nation why the socially progressive policies of FDR were needed to both heal the nation during the Depression, and to give us all a sense of community and caring for our neighbors. Modern Flapper will rarely venture into the realm of politics, but knowing the roles that comedians played during the Depression allows us to be filled with a sense of deja vu - and dread. We feel there are dark days ahead.

Culture - Vaudeville

I found this site on the history of Vaudeville, which was a form of variety entertainment popular around the turn of the last century. I'll be adding more info about modern forms of vaudeville later.

Movies - Busby Berkeley

I love Busby Berkeley. Berkeley was the first great film choreographer, and a perfectionist. The bizarre and exacting patterns he designed for his mostly female dancers are both machinelike and somewhat (unfortunately) Fascist in their precision. But, most importantly, some of his best dance sequences are some of the most erotic, naughty scenes ever put on film. If you like women dressed in see-through silken negligees going behind translucent drapes and taking off their clothes, his movies are the movies for you. Dames is my favorite for sheer naughtiness.

Welcome to Modern Flapper!

Modern Flapper will explore the love many of us have for the era known as 'the period between the wars', including dance music, fashion, culture and style. It will also look at modern incarnations of the Flapper and Depression culture mentality.

One example of the Modern Flapper mentality is the cult neo-music hall group The Tiger Lillies. They fit in well with the Edward Gorey mentality that the disturbing can be fun.
(drawing by John Held, Jr.)