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

Vin Mariani

“never has anything been so highly or justly praised.”

A good 20 years before the original cocaine-infused Coca-Cola taught the world to grind its teeth and give ineffectual bathroom-stall handjobs in per•fect har•mo•ny, there was another drink of choice among those wishing to feel invigorated and overconfident for no good reason. It was called “coca wine” and it was loved not only by self-important blowhards wearing too much jewelry but by Kings and Popes and… oh, right. Anyhow, it was called Vin Tonique Mariani (or simply Vin Mariani) was sold as a curative, and in the latter half of the 19th century it was a medicinal, recreational, and marketing powerhouse. To paraphrase J.J. Cale “Czars don’t lie, Popes don’t lie, Queens don’t lie…”

08.09. filed under: design. history. people. 4

Objectified Circuitry

There is something terrifically satisfying about seeing, with your own eyes, the humble genesis of world-changing creations. The image above is a case in point. What we see pictured here, as I’m sure many of you already know, is the world’s first integrated circuit, created by Jack S. Kilby in the summer of 1958. That this creation, with its bubbled wax and carefully twined wire, is the work of human hands is unmistakable. The seemingly messy, cobbled-together, simplicity of it is heartening somehow when one compares it to the microchips of present day, which a human hand is not meant to touch and could only hope to damage with its meaty, imprecise groping. This is a technology which though reality-shaping has, in large part, been complexified right out of direct human contact.

06.07. filed under: bits&bytes. design. history. science. 4

As an enthusiast for interesting, beautiful, forgotten thingamagigs, I’ve made many small discoveries. I’ve learned things. One overarching lesson has been that when searching out hand-made objects of any kind, especially those of ancient origin, one can always look East, specifically to Japan, to find the kind of obsessive attention to detail and devotion to craft that elevates damn near anything to a masterpiece-spawning artform. Today, as example of just this principle, I offer a cursory glance at the tsuba.

03.13. filed under: art. design. history. 8

Digging The Diggers

In case you are not up on your 60’s history and are as yet unfamiliar with them I offer the following: The Diggers, who took their name from the English Diggers of the seventeenth century, were an underground improv theater troupe, of radical-left / anarchist bent, operating in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco in the mid-1960’s. They preformed street theater, staged art-happenings, disseminated broadsides and leaflets, organized concerts, opened “free stores” and, most famously, distributed free food in Golden Gate Park to anyone with an empty stomach.

I can hear what you’re thinking: “In other words they were hippies.”

Yes. In other words they were hippies.

03.02. filed under: art. design. history. people. 4

As promised, here I will continue with my series on Graphis Annuals of years past (previously: ‘59/60 parts 1, 2, 3 and ‘71/72). This time I’ll be presenting some material from the 1957-58 edition. It’s not my favorite year but it’s an interesting year because you can see the past and future jostling for position. Though much of it feels distinctly 50’s some of the 60’s advertising style that would soon overtake everything was already making inroads. Below I have culled 22 images for your perusal, so happy perusing.

02.18. filed under: design. history. 9

Watermarks

Though the terminology is misleading a “watermark” is not at all what it sounds like, and should never be confused with a mark actually made by water on the surface of a piece of paper! Spots like these were considered ghastly errors in the glory days of artisan-made paper and were thus referred to by the altogether more dramatic term “papermaker’s tears.” Confusing the two, say in a shadowy tavern, over a flagon of mead, could very well result in the dreaded “papermaker’s fists” impressing themselves into the pulp of your face.

01.25. filed under: design. history. 2

Long Duration Love Affair

That cylindrical object you see pictured above is a roughly school-bus sized structure which was deployed into space in 1984. It orbited the Earth for five and a half years with nothing expected of it other than to float there, getting battered about by whatever the great black yonder saw fit to throw at it. You see, every inch of its outside surface was covered with Science. 57 separate experiments, mounted in 86 trays, involving the participation of “more than 200 principal investigators from 33 private companies, 21 universities, seven NASA centers, nine Department of Defense laboratories and eight foreign countries.” Its purpose was to study the effects of space on a multitude of materials. Its name is the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) and I am deeply in love with it.

01.20. filed under: design. science. space. 13

Miscellaneous Characters

I was looking through a Linotype specimen book today from 1920, glancing at the faces, the advertising figures, some info on “the Rogers Tabular Matrix,” that sort of thing, when I came upon a page in the “miscellaneous characters” section which made me pause. It was a page titled “party emblems” and featured icons meant to represent 10 separate political parties. I thought, “In 1920, less than a single lifetime ago, there were 10 political parties in America taken seriously enough to warrant a logo?” My my, how times have changed.

01.13. filed under: design. history. observations. politics. 6

A little something for all my NYC readers in tha house… For a year now I’ve been wondering when some enterprising “urban fashion” brand would seize upon the T-shirt design just staring them in the face every morning and night, on the subway and on the bus flanks, but it never, to my knowledge, materialized. So today, coming across a New York Times article revisiting the subject, I decided to just whip the damn thing up myself. And thus, I give you- “1,944 Snitches.” Perfect for that hustlin’ New Yorker keepin’ it really really real. Larger image here, and see the alternate version, with underscoring MF Doom quote, here. Hands-off Sean John.

01.08. filed under: design. play. 7

| page 1 |