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.” 


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.


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

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