Mercy, the Mummy Mumbled: the 1918 African American Silent Film

With Halloween approaching, here’s a shoutout to an early mummy movie. Mercy, the Mummy Mumbled, is an all-black silent film from 1918. Several silent movies featured mummies as plot devices; The Egyptian Mummy, for example, was released in 1914 but Mercy is likely the only one made by African-American filmmakers for African-American audiences.

The plots of the two films are very similar: a mad scientist is willing to pay big bucks for a mummy to experiment on; a young man needs money to marry his girlfriend; a fake mummy is created. Mercy adds two Egyptian secret agents tracking down their country’s stolen artifacts to the story, all within an 11 minute run time.

Mercy, the Mummy Mumbled was released by the short-lived Ebony Film Corporation  of Chicago and is included in Pioneers of African-American Cinema box set (but Mercy is only on the Blu-ray collection, not on the DVD collection) by Kino Lorber. The five discs include movies from as early as 1915 and as late as 1946.  See the New York Times review for more details: Black Filmmaking Aborning. Much of the film can also be viewed on YouTube, and stills from Mercy can be seen at the DAARAC site. The Egyptian Mummy, released by the much larger Vitagraph company, can be streamed on Amazon Prime.

Members Only: There is No Excuse Not to Vote

Members Only, the makers of the now-classic 1980s racer jacket, encouraged Americans to vote in the 1988 elections using imagery that probably seemed overly dramatic at the time. The U.S. Constitution, the narrator intoned, “suggested a very simple way to keep fools like these out of our government.” The fools? Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini. The remedy? Voting. Some commercials are timeless.

That jacket is itself pretty timeless:

Members Only Stranger Things

Harrison Ford’s Childhood Home Is For Sale Near Chicago

Harrison Ford’s childhood home, Park Ridge, Illinois. Source: realtor.com/Century 21.

The circa 1920s Tudor-style house that Harrison Ford lived in as a child is for sale in Park Ridge, Illinois, (not far from O’Hare International airport, if you want to fly in to take a look at the place) for only $400,000. The yard needs work, but, contra the realtor, there’s no apparent need for a gut rehab – though there’s no photos of the 1.5 baths, so who can say how bad they might look. The rest of the interior, however, does seems to postdate the 1940s-1950s, when Ford lived there (the reports are vague about exactly when the Ford family lived there). Harrison’s bedroom was the one with balcony, according to Architectural Digest. The basement, where Ford’s father accidentally cut off his own finger, is still unfinished. Ford graduated from nearby Maine East High School in 1960 (a few years after actress Karen Black graduated, and just before Hillary Rodham Clinton attended), and left Illinois to head north to Ripon College in Wisconsin, and then west to California.

The Mysterious Toynbee Tile – Raise Dead Planet Jupiter

 

Toynbee Tile, Atlantic City
Toynbee Tile, Atlantic City

One of the many mysterious Toynbee Tiles. This one was seen stuck to the street  in Atlantic City, New Jersey, near the Forever 21 outlet store.

The tiles are cut from linoleum and stuck to the road surface. The words consistently refer to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, resurrection, and Jupiter.

They are found in and around Philadelphia, in New Jersey, and in many other cities primarily along the Boston-Washington D.C. axis, but also as far away as Santiago, Chile. The original ones, first sighted in the 1980s,  were likely the work of one individual, but new ones (probably including the one above) that have appeared in the last few years probably have been placed by copycats.

While many Toynbee tiles have been destroyed or covered over by road repaving, one government group, the Philadelphia Streets Department, at least made an effort to preserve some of them . Are they worthy of preservation? If you peel up ephemeral street art and put in a museum, is it still ephemeral street art? As the original Toynbee Tiles are threatened with extinction in the wild, they may live forever, if not on Jupiter, at least in cyberspace.

How Inuit Gather Mussels. In the Winter. Under the Ice.

…in the coldest months, when the ice is thickest, some venture beneath the ice to gather mussels. Every two weeks the pull of the moon combines with the geography of this region to create unusually large tides. The water falls as much as 55 feet in some places, emptying the bay under the ice along the shore for an hour or more. That’s when some Inuit climb aboard their snowmobiles and head out onto the bay.

Craig S. Smith writes in the New York Times about how people in Northern Quebec venture under the ice to gather mussels. Photos by Aaron Vincent Elkaim.

Below Luminous Ice, a Bounty of Mussels

New Jersey Beaver Dinner

The Fraternal Order of Eagles in Salem, New Jersey, are having their first ever  Wild Beaver Dinner. The beavers are trapped in South Jersey, butchered, soaked in salt water, and slow-cooked for six hours. Beaver has been served by the FOE with other species as part of their wild game dinners in the past, but at this dinner, beavers get the spotlight to themselves.

Wild Beaver, It’s What’s for Dinner at NJ.com (warning: contains photos of dead beavers)