Wit Larded with Malice

Or: The Satirical Russian Magazines of 1905-08

In Russia, following a string of embarrassing defeats in the Russo-Japanese War and the infamous Bloody Sunday incident, during the period of the so called Failed Revolution, no less than 480 underground magazines sprung-up to voice the outrage of the many disparate groups and factions and movements—nihilists, anarchists, socialists,  Mensheviks, Bolsheviks, etc—which though unorganized, were united in their calls for Tsarist reform. This outpouring of printed materials, critical of the State, was no small thing in a country with a long history of strict censorship and brutal punishments for dissension. These many short-lived publications are referred to, collectively, as “satires.” 

08.12. filed under: art. comedy. death. design. history. 9

On The Magic Island

By W.B. Seabrook with illustrations by Alexander King.

In 1929 a travelogue was released that would, through the chain reaction it set off, have a profound effect on American popular culture and by extension the American collective consciousness. It was written by a fellow with a questionable resume of personal traits said to include alcoholism, occultism, sensory deprivation, and sadism, who would ultimately commit suicide by pill-overdose. His is not a household name, and is rarely spoken, yet it is through the continued fascinated invocation of another name altogether that we unknowingly evoke his legacy: Zombie! Zombie!! Zombie!!!

06.29. filed under: belief. books. death. film. history. people. 4

Piero Fornasetti (1913-1988) was an Italian painter, sculptor, designer, craftsman, engraver, and compulsive collector of printed ephemera. A precursor to pop-art and an exemplar of a post-modernism which would not be named for decades hence. Prolific and unafraid of the utilitarian he created tens-of-thousands of objects in his lifetime. Perhaps most recognized for his Themes and Variations series (which reworked a single image of opera singer Lina Cavalieri he found in a 19th century French magazine over 500 times) his works include porcelain and gold plates, chairs, jars, tables, bureaus, teapots, umbrellas, lamps, screens, clothes, etc. Evidently he once said of his work: “I believe in neither periods nor dates. I refuse to define the value of an object in terms of its era.” Fitting for a man whose objects, by remaining somehow stylistically relevant decade after decade, seem to defy era as well. 

I post all this, very simply, because the plate pictured above made me laugh. Reason enough, no? If you’d like to know more about Fornasetti Designboom did a very nice feature way back in 2001 and, of course, there is an official site, kept up by Fornasetti’s son (and heir to the aesthetic) Barnaba. 

10.09. filed under: art. death. people. 5

Juice of Cursed Hebenon

History of Poison. Poisoning in Ancient Times. Poisoning in the Middle Ages. Poisons in the Renaisance. Poisoning in the 16th, 17th and 18th Century. Poisoning in the Victorian Times. Poisoning in the 20th Century. Don’t Chew the Wallpaper: A History of Poison. A Brief History of Poison. Folklore Poisons. List of Poisonings. A Brief History of Poisoning. The Elements of Murder. The Fine Art of Poisoning.

The one conclusive argument that has at all times discouraged people from drinking a poison is not that it kills but rather that it tastes bad. -Nietzsche.

What is the Most Deadly Poison in the World? A Poison Tree. Illustrated Index of Poisionous Plants. Poisonous Plants Database. Poison Apple. Wild Inedible and Poisonous Mushrooms. Mushroom Poisoning. Poisonous Plants, Animals, and Arthropods. Poison Harpooned Cone Snail. Poison in a Cone. Poison Frogs. Poison Dart Frogs. Poison Powder. Poison Cups. Drink Me. Poison Jewelry. Poison Arrow. Arnesic in the Eye. Antique Poison Bottles. Collecting Poison Bottles. Antique Poison labels. Mr. Yuk. About Mr. Yuk. And Finally…

 

08.22. filed under: death. history. link dump. 6

Endless battle of the Monkeys and the Crabs

Or: no blood for persimmon juice!

There is an old story in Japanese folklore which is told to teach the following lesson: “If a man thinks only of his own profit, and tries to benefit himself at the expense of others, he will incur the hatred of Heaven.” The story is called Battle of the Monkey and the Crab and there are many versions, which though different in their particulars, share that same nugget of implied wisdom. Just recently I came upon a version of the story which deviates from the norm enough to be not only a broad lesson in human nature but strangely applicable to modern events as well. Creepily applicable you might say. I’ve transcribed it below…

06.14. filed under: art. !. books. death. fiction. lies. politics. 6

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is dead.

He’s not only merely dead, he’s really most sincerely dead.

Wake up you sleepyhead. Rub your eyes, get out of bed. Wake up Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s dead. Tra la la… This morning the news was a-buzz with the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in an air strike. The reporters were all just possitively a-twitter. “Death, Terrorism, and ‘good news’ all in one story?! Whoopee!” I believe I actually saw one correspondent wet himself. I can’t help but react exactly as I did when it was reported that Saddam Hussein was captured, with a resounding “...AND?” It changes nothing.

06.08. filed under: !. death. headlines. politics. 5

Gargantua the Great

Or: Buddy, the gorilla who was scared of lightning.

I came across a few photos of a lowland gorilla in a book about the history of the circus which piqued my interest. I’m a big fan of the primate you see (some being dearer to my heart than others) and I went searching the web to find out more. The Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus billed him as “Gargantua The Great, the world’s most terrifying creature” but as it turns out a previous owner had dubbed him Buddy, short for Buddha, and he had a very sad past. Not only that but he was scared of lighting. What follows are a few brief notes on Buddy’s story and some related images.

06.04. filed under: !. death. history. life. people. 3

| page 1 |