The lost golden city of Luxor, Egypt

Archaeologists have unearthed a 3,000-year-old city in Luxor, Egypt.

The “lost golden city” dates back to the 18th-dynasty of King Amenhotep III (1391 to 1353 BC). Experts believe the city may have been used by Tutankhamun.

Dr Zahi Hawass, a former antiquities minister who lead the mission, said:

“Many foreign missions searched for this city and never found it. […] Within weeks, to the team’s great surprise, formations of mud bricks began to appear in all directions. What they unearthed was the site of a large city in a good condition of preservation, with almost complete walls, and with rooms filled with tools of daily life.”

via The Guardian

Amongst the discoveries were items of jewellery, pottery, scarab beetle amulets and mud bricks “bearing the seals of Amenhotep III”. Let’s hope none of this finds its way into the British Museum as they have enough stolen artefacts as it is.

Weird and wild Wikipedia rabbit holes

During my first attempt at a university education away from home, I spent a lot of time falling down Wikipedia rabbit holes to combat loneliness. It filled my head with even more useless information but I had fun doing it.

Back in January, writers from The Ringer discussed some of the weirdest Wikipedia wormholes they’d found themselves in. Some were straightforward like John Gonzalez’s trip from Prometheus (the movie) to Prometheus (the Ancient Greek god who stole fire from the Gods to give to humanity, which he made from clay, and suffered the consequences).

Others were more long-winded like Michael Baumann’s route from Sir Arthur Currie, an officer in the Canadian army who fought in WWI, to Sea Dragon, a concept-designed rocket that could launch from the sea (At 150m long and 23m in diameter, it would have been the largest rocket ever built.)

My point is: All Wikipedia wormholes lead to giant rockets and/or giant explosions.

For me, I can’t remember any specific Wikiholes but I’ll make some time and report back.

African Americans in Soviet Russia

George Tynes, flanked by Soviet army cadets

Zakkiyah Job wrote an interesting piece on the great African American escape to Soviet Russia.

Under Stalin’s de facto policy of ethnic cleansing, it’s hard to picture the USSR as any kind of paradise for persecuted minorities, but in stark contrast to the trauma and systemic oppression that people of colour had long-faced in the many parts of the western world, Mother Russia poised itself as a beacon of equality, ahead of the historical curve.

The likes of Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Dorothy West found themselves in the USSR, much to the chagrin of the American federal government. But the history of Black people in Russia goes further back to include people such as Abram Petrovich Gannibal, a Cameroonian aristocrat who started an Afro-Russian dynasty in the 18th century.

After Ottoman forces kidnapped him as a boy from Cameroon, he was sold to a Russian diplomat and “gifted” to Peter the Great, who publicly adopted and freed him. Abram became a military engineer, a high-ranking general and a nobleman. He is also a maternal great-grandfather to the famed Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

For more on the subject, check out the following list of texts:

A brief history of DisneyQuest

Cancelled - Disney Quest

Bright Sun Films‘s Cancelled series looks at various projects that were cancelled for one reason or another. In S1E2, they looked at DisneyQuest, an ambitious Disney theme park that I had the luxury of visiting twice before it shut down (once in 2010, once in 2016).

Disney planned to build DisneyQuest theme parks across the US, starting with a park in Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs and my visits were before and after the name change) in 1998 and Chicago in 1999. However, low attendance at the Chicago site resulted in its closure 2 years later and the project was ultimately cancelled. But the main Downtown Disney site remained open until it finally closed in 2017.

It’s one of Disney’s many project failures but because Disney owns everything and earns billions from its successes, it’s not so bad! I liked DisneyQuest at least.

Chiso is a 466-year old Japanese kimono house

Truly great gowns, beautiful gowns from Chiso, a traditional Japanese textile producer in Kyoto, Japan.

When Yozaemon Chikiriya established his garment business, Chiso, in Kyoto, his primary customers were monks who required fine clerical vestments. That was 1555. More than four centuries later, the company’s intricately cut robes are coveted as luxury garments, and Chiso—having persevered through shrinking economies, shifting trends, wars, and more—has found itself among the last of Japan’s bespoke kimono houses.

Renowned's John Dean on Zoom calls with Angela Davis

Angela Davis wearing a Renowned t-shirt featuring herself

Renowned is a streetwear brand created by John Dean III and in his interview with In The Know, he discussed how it all began and his Zoom calls with Angela Davis.

I had the opportunity to have a Zoom meeting with Angela Davis. It was amazing. Talking to her is like talking to fairy godmother; this icon—she’s a feminist, philanthropist, scholar, the total representation of culture. For her to wear my t-shirt and send me a picture just shows how powerful the t-shirt was but just also how the messaging is effective.

Angela Davis appears in her own exclusive Renowned line alongside the likes of Huey Newton and Kathleen Cleaver.

Stream the interview below.

John Dean's streetwear brand, Renowned, is a celebration of Black heroes and Black culture

25 Black art documentaries you need to watch

Last February, Lachelle Chyrsanne compiled a list of 25 must watch Black art documentaries.

From the list, I’ve only seen 5:

  1. Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (2011)
  2. Black Is the Color: A History of African American Art (2017)
  3. I Am Not Your Negro (2016)
  4. Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010)
  5. Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019)

There’s no time limit on watching these so I’ll add them to my ever-growing Letterboxd watchlist. The documentaries I have watched were very powerful and worth your time and investment.

See also: James Baldwin on the meaning of liberty, Toni Morrison on Jazz, and Jean-Michel Basquiat on how to be an artist.

Donate to the TLF Freelance Emergency Fund

My dear friend Keidra is the co-founder of The Learned Fangirl and they have an emergency fund for freelancers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

More info:

As a small indie publisher, The Learned Fangirl has always been committed to uplifting the voices of writers from marginalized groups.

The COVID-19 outbreak has made times especially difficult for freelance writers. Many have not been paid for outstanding invoices or no longer have work coming in for pay. We want to help in any way we can to support rent, food, utilities, and other needs.

In partnership with our nonprofit fiscal sponsor Independent Arts & Media, The Learned Fangirl has created the TLF Freelance Emergency Fund to support freelance culture writers who have been negatively impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Our priority is arts and culture writers who self-identify as being from a marginalized identity (ex. person of color, Indigenous, disabled, LGBTQ)

As the fund is running low at the moment, I urge you to donate if you’re in a position to do so as freelance writing is hard at the best of times. It would help a lot of writers from marginalised groups continue working and give us the best cultural pieces we’ve ever written.

Donate to the TLF Freelance Emergency Fund today.

A word on Cultrface in 2021 and beyond

cultrface logo

I started the site in 2015 as an outlet during a time when I was going through some personal issues. I also made a joke to a friend about setting up the site as a showcase for his photography (which I eventually did 5 years later). Now Cultrface is 6 years old this year and over the last 12 months, I’ve been thinking about what I want this place to be and what I want it to represent.

Black Lives Matter and the COVID-19 pandemic have shaped my output both in quality and quantity. I said I wanted to showcase more Black-focused content which I’m achieving slowly but surely. I’ve also ramped up the frequency of posts.

As an SEO, I’m used to writing and working with structured longform content for the purpose of ranking better on Google (there’s more to that but this isn’t the place to discuss it. I’m adding this caveat to appease any colleagues reading). But I didn’t want Cultrface to feel like work; I do this in my spare time and I want to enjoy it. So I write shortform pieces, add quotes where necessary, and leave it at that. I write about things that interest me that you might not find anywhere else or some things you do. I don’t “both sides” anything because that’s not who I am and there are plenty of other outlets that do that kind of thing. I’m mostly a one-person band.

But ultimately, I want Cultrface to be a calm space away from the storm; an escape from doomscrolling. These are my personal takes on the culture around us and while I still try to figure out precisely what *this* is, I’ll keep writing about cool stuff and more Black stuff. For the cultrs.

Copyrighted works from 1925 enter the public domain today

Cover art for The Great Gatsby

Happy new year to you all. I sincerely hope 2021 is better than 2020 (unless you’re Jeff Bezos).

Today is Public Domain Day again and that means copyrighted works from the US from 1925 are open to all. (For more information on it, we wrote about it in 2019.) The official Public Domain Day 2021 page explains why this year is so good:

In 2021, there is a lot to celebrate. 1925 brought us some incredible culture. The Harlem Renaissance was in full swing. The New Yorker magazine was founded. The literature reflected both a booming economy, whose fruits were unevenly distributed, and the lingering upheaval and tragedy of World War I. The culture of the time reflected all of those contradictory tendencies. The BBC’s Culture website suggested that 1925 might be “the greatest year for books ever,” and with good reason. It is not simply the vast array of famous titles. The stylistic innovations produced by books such as Gatsby, or The Trial, or Mrs. Dalloway marked a change in both the tone and the substance of our literary culture, a broadening of the range of possibilities available to writers, while characters such as Jay Gatsby, Hemingway’s Nick Adams, and Clarissa Dalloway still resonate today.

Below you will find a list of applicable works from 1925. Always remember to check works from any years prior to 1925 to make absolutely sure you follow any licence requirements (if there are any). And below the list is a Disney cartoon from 1925 not featuring Mickey Mouse.

A list of lists of public domain works from 1925

Walt Disney - 1925 - Alice Solves the Puzzle

Bridget Minamore's "When Will Theatre Come Black?"

bridget minamore

Presented by Bridget Minamore (Lines of Resistance, Titanic), When Will Theatre Come Black? is a look at Black theatre in Britain and the people that make it great:

Setting out her vision, Bridget asks if the confluence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the devastating impact of the pandemic on the theatre industry might be an opportunity to build a more egalitarian theatre sector with greater opportunity for black makers, performers, backstage workers, and audiences – and, as a consequence, for other marginalised groups.

The radio production features thoughts from the likes of Tobi Kyeremateng, Kwame Kwei Armah, Paulette Randall MBE and Roy Alexander Weise MBE, amongst others.

Listen to it on the BBC Sounds website.

archtype: the culture-rich creative agency

archtype logo

The Black Lives Matter protests this summer reinforced my relationship with my Blackness and the Black people around me. I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with Josh Akapo on Twitter and thought I’d pay it forward with a post on his creative agency.

archtype is a creative agency that started in 2016 as a clothing company for young people (the site notes that they were known as “ARCHTYPE” and a “louder set-up back then”) before becoming an agency in January 2020.

The three founders are:

  • Jaydon (Co-founder and Creative Director)
  • Josh (Co-founder and Head of Accounts)
  • Thomas-James (Co-founder and Head of Finance & Merchandising)

The trio has 15 combined years of experience, having worked with the likes of DLT, Samm Henshaw, #Merky Books, and Lovebox Festival.

For archtype, it’s all about “creating impactful moments in culture” which is something I can happily endorse. They do this by providing merchandising strategy, design, production, and garment finishing amongst other services.

If you want to get involved, send them an email at hello@archtype.co.uk or sign up to their newsletter for future updates (at the bottom of any page on the site).

Christopher Reeve on the media and being Superman

christopher reeve in speechless

While looking for clips of Rear Window (1998) a few years ago, I stumbled upon this 1994 interview with Christopher Reeve. It was one of his last interviews before his tragic horse-riding accident which left him paralysed from the shoulders down.

At the start of the interview, where he was promoting his new film “Speechless”, he remarked how he’d played so many news reporters in his career—and said that Clark Kent was a good reporter (alongside his primary job as Superman).

He then delved into the media, media consumption by the masses, and how the press invaded people’s lives and sold sleazy stories. On tabloid news shows, he said:

“When I see those things, I want to break my TV, I really do […] you can feed all kinds of stuff down to the public’s throat because things will sink to the lowest common denominator. We are not particularly noble as human beings; we like trash, we like gossip, we like snooping around […] but should we cater to it? No culture before ours has ever gone to this length to make a dollar off appealing to people’s print (sic?) interest as much as we do now.”

When asked if he still got spotted by the public for being Superman, he replied: “you know, I go many, many days at a time without hearing anything about it”.

Christopher Reeve and Jimmy Carter talk about Speechless

Albert Murray on race, jazz, and modernism

albert murray

Tim Keane wrote an essay on jazz writer Albert Murray for Hyperallergic. He touched on Murray’s life and his work examining modernist art and jazz:

In Murray’s view, jazz converts psychological pain and its vernacular offshoots into ritualized, polytonal, integrated music and dance. Jazz adapts and expands the written scores that the musician follows and ultimately surpasses; its best improvisers are extemporizing formalists learning from and competing with the innovations of peers, collaborators, and forerunners. Its refinements universalize the particular, dissolving personal history and psychosocial baggage, and call participants into the mythic dimension — an aesthetic realm that involves getting on the dusty dance floor.

There was also a brief critique of Murray’s 1970 essay collection, The Omni-Americans:

The book dismantles American Black separatism as a regressive, escapist fantasy that cedes the premise of white supremacy — the Balkanization of the country by race — to the nation’s bigots. Though he necessarily deploys them to make his points, misleading or reductive labels infuriate Murray, who believes that being American involves being neither wholly Black nor wholly white, while insisting that Blackness be defined as a characteristic as primarily American as whiteness has been since the country’s founding.

Fifty years on, such liberal hypocrisy is endemic to hyper-gentrified gluten-free neighborhoods, where Black Lives Matter posters hang in the windows of pricey condos, boutiques, and galleries — stretches of real estate that once housed working-class Black families and businesses.

Grab a copy of The Omni-Americans on Amazon and read Tablet Magazine’s review of the book on its 50th anniversary.

5 retro videos from The VHS Vault

xena: warrior princess

VHS might be old hat now but that doesn’t stop people from collecting them or keeping them around. Check your attic, I bet you’ll find boxes of tapes. My love of VHS is more overt as I have two VCRs in my house (although one is broken so that’ll need replacing) and a humble collection of tapes, some recorded, some official.

I could digitise them but that costs money on equipment and I don’t care enough to do it. Fortunately, some people did and uploaded their works to The Internet Archive’s VHS Vault. It’s a treasure trove of nostalgia with over 25,000 uploaded videos covering all kinds of genres.

I’ve picked 5 to look through:

1. Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout

(Content warning: contains nudity from the offset)

If the horror part is watching a naked woman not wash her legs in the shower, consider this a scarefest. In fact, why did it even start with a sultry shower scene when it’s not a porno? Here’s the synopsis from IMDB:

After a nice shower, Linnea does some warm-up stretches and then goes for a run. She encounters some flabby zombies who follow her back to the house, where she leads them in some poolside aerobic routines. Later she unwinds by inviting some girlfriends over for a slumber party and some exercise. When something goes bump in the house, her friends begin experiencing an attrition problem.

What’s the point in weight loss for the undead? Fatphobia is truly boundless.

2. Microsoft Windows 95 Video Guide

This is still pretty famous now and back in 1995, it was a masterstroke having two famous actors demonstrate how to use Windows 95, if a little peculiar.

The video guide was split into three sections:

Our guide is separated into three sections.

  • Section one presented the world’s first “Cyber-Sitcom”, starring Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry set in the Bill Gates’s office.
  • Section two gives a step-by-step review of all the Windows 95 components demonstrated in section one.
  • Section three answers the 20 most asked questions about Windows 95.

I’m sure this wonderfully hilarious 25 years ago but it just seems very cheesy and outdated.

3. Power Rangers In Space Psycho Ranger Saga

AJ Brown is a Power Rangers fan so I’m sure he’d appreciate this and correct me if I’ve got anything wrong in this description.

This video appears to be an episode from the “Psycho Ranger” story arc where the evil Astronema creates a team of Psycho Rangers to gain more power. I only ever watched Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers but I did notice Zordon and Bulk & Skull in the credits so that was pleasant to see.

4. VHS 1987 – 1998 – ThunderCats, DuckTales, Pooh, Donald Duck, ScoobyDoo, Ghostbusters, Flintstones

That’s right—it’s a collection of 5 videos featuring episodes of:

  • ThunderCats
  • Duck Tales
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • Donald Duck
  • Scooby Doo
  • Ghostbusters
  • The Flintstones

It’s a childhood dream for any millennial. There are some tracking issues (when the picture gets distorted and those lines wipe down the screen) but that adds to the charm.

5. The Ultimate Xena Warrior Princess Video Tape

To complete the 90’s fest, here’s “The Ultimate Xena Warrior Princess Video Tape” starring an intro with Lucy Lawless, loads of bloopers, and interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.

For any Xena fans, this will be a dream come true.