Artist in residence at Pervasive Media Studio, Bristol, February-March 2022.
Lives of the Necromancers: Silly cow
More from Lives of the Necromancers (1834) by William Godwin. See Orpheus for an introduction to Godwin and the book.
Although this anecdote is ridiculous, it comes from the late 16th century witch hunt period so it has a predictably brutal ending. John Fian was a young schoolmaster from Tranent, near Edinburgh. He was one of a number of unfortunate people tortured over accusations of witchcraft. Godwin writes that Fian was “tortured by means of a rope strongly twisted around his head, and by the boots.” The boots were actually cruder than they sound, usually just a kind of vice designed to crush the feet and lower legs. Even people who survived the torture were usually crippled.
“He told of a young girl, the sister of one of his scholars, with whom he had been deeply enamoured. He had proposed to the boy to bring him three hairs…
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“Good-bye, dead-wide Dick!”
The Hotspur, October 1944. “GOOD-BYE, DEAD-WIDE DICK!”
Two accidental forays into surrealism by British boys’ paper The Hotspur, which amazingly lasted until 1981. I say amazingly, although on the other hand there were lots of British colonial era things that inexplicably carried on into the 1980s and beyond. Not to mention that The Hotspur‘s first issue had on its cover a plane-sized eagle attacking an actual aeroplane, and came with a free “Black Cloth mask” for no immediately apparent reason, so they definitely started as they meant to go on.
The cover above is almost certainly not referring to the fact that this football player has a feature likely to make him popular with the ladies and about 10% of the gentlemen, but instead that he scores goals by kicking unexpectedly wide. As for how and why somebody decided to counter this tactic by installing a gung ho…
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Too much impetus in mounting, and other Victorian problems
Firm advice for ladies who pride themselves on saucy chique, very stout persons, and gentlemen who so far forget what is elegant as to smoke in the street from George Routledge’s Manual of Etiquette, circa mid-to-late 1860s judging by the complaint about crinolines, which had gone out of fashion in favour of bustles by the 1870s.
Some of the advice is actually still completely relevant; Mr Routledge’s glove fixation, not so much. “Worsted or cotton gloves are unutterably vulgar,” apparently. You’ve been told.
It is always better to let your friends regret than desire your withdrawal…
If you are yourself the performer, bear in mind that in music, as in speech, “brevity is the soul of wit.” … If your audience desire more they will ask for more; and it is infinitely more flattering to be encored than to receive the thanks of your hearers, not so much…
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Hello Cat-headed Person from Suburbs of London
Over the past few days many bloggers and even newspapers have gushed that Hello Kitty is apparently a “girl” and not a cat, although for no adequately explained reason she has a cat head. Maybe I’m sheltered, but I don’t know any girls who love to bake and have cat heads. She’s officially and canonically got no mouth, so why or perhaps more cogently how is she so enthusiastic about baked goods anyway?
What none of them have done is behave like a real journalist and really look into Hello Kitty’s background. And while we’re on the subject, newspapers and so-called professional journalists, WTF? This blog here is explicitly dedicated to silly stuff, and I don’t get paid for doing it. Hello Kitty possibly not being a cat isn’t current affairs or headline news by any stretch of the most overcaffeinated imagination. Nor is the Great British Bake Off. Stop…
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“Drugs and psychological brain-washing”
Just two more images I scanned from the old British boys’ magazine/comic Eagle, posted here very belatedly purely because I just found them on an old HD and I don’t know why they never got published.
Coincidentally, the “colour-reflex conditioning” to which Mike is being subjected (above) looks very much like the Zoom ice lolly being advertised below. It’s like he’s being frontally aggravated by the business end of a massive Zoom lolly, which can happen when you’re tripping your tits off like young Michael here. Mike Lane = Migraine?
Perhaps some of those special sugar cubes on the coffee table made their way into the Lyons Maid factory. It might explain where they got the idea that being Commander in Chief of the Galaxy Patrol would be fab. Only Zoom fans are in it, baby. Fab was (and I think it still is, in Britain) another…
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What to do if it happens
Advising the Householder on Protection against Nuclear Attack. Ninepence!
Scans from a nuclear war information booklet issued by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office in 1963. People of Britain, gather your Vaseline, paper handkerchiefs, teaspoons and aspirin so we can get on with a proper British apocalypse. I’m more into the mod design than the details of people being killed instantly. “HEAT”, “BLAST” and “FALL-OUT” each have exciting logos. Which is nice.
“There still remains some risk of nuclear attack”
“Seek safer and more comfortable surroundings before the fall-out comes down.”
I haven’t scanned them, but some of the other pages mention living in a hole in your back garden with a dustbin lid as a hatch, or building a “fall-out room” made of doors and sandbags inside your house. It’s grim. The booklet’s main achievement is making it seem lucky if you’re one of the people vapourised or incinerated during the…
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Scarlett Johansson’s murder van
… and how she was punished for it.
It’s been out a while, but I only just got around to Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, the enigmatic, glacial barely-horror film in which an alien (Scarlett Johansson) drives around in a white Transit van and preys upon lone men in Scotland. I’ve not read the novel by Michel Faber, upon which the film was based, so this discussion is purely about the latter. There’ll be spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the film and you’re one of those big babies there’s plenty of other things to read on this blog.
You know some bad news is coming, because I’ll start with the good. The film captures the bleak beauty and grey light of Scotland perfectly. It looks like the most grimly lush Radiohead video ever, if Radiohead singles were ever nearly two hours long. The score by Mica Levi puts…
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What a shocking bad hat
I have no idea what’s going on in this picture. Quoz!
From Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds (1852), in a chapter called Popular Follies of Great Cities:
“And, first of all, walk where we will, we cannot help hearing from every side a phrase repeated with delight, and received with laughter, by men with hard hands and dirty faces, by saucy butcher-lads and errand-boys, by loose women, by hackney-coachmen, cabriolet-drivers, and idle fellows who loiter at the corners of streets. Not one utters this phrase without producing a laugh from all within hearing.
London is peculiarly fertile in this sort of phrases, which spring up suddenly, no one knows exactly in what spot, and pervade the whole population in a few hours. no one knows how. Many years ago the favourite phrase (for, though but a monosyllable, it was a phrase in itself)…
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“A shock-fest for your scare endurance”
“DEMON-PROWLER OF MOUNTAIN SHADOWS… DREADED MAN-BEAST OF TIBET… THE TERROR OF ALL THAT IS HUMAN!!
A great poster for the 1957 Hammer film production ‘The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas‘. I’ve not seen the film and I hadn’t heard of it before I found this poster, but look at the pedigree: directed by prolific Hammer hack Val Guest, written by Nigel Kneale of the Quatermass series, starring Peter Cushing. Apparently it was originally a BBC television play, which I should imagine was ineptly made for about £5 as was their wont.
It’s also fascinating how quaint warnings like “WE DARE YOU TO SEE IT ALONE!” are for things like this, half a century on. Most of these films wouldn’t frighten, shock or disturb anybody over the age of ten nowadays.
Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s AD 99
In 1973 archaeologists digging at Vindolanda– the former site of a Roman fort, about halfway along Hadrian’s Wall in the North of England– uncovered a store of letters and files on wooden tablets. Between about AD 85 and 122 the wall was being built to mark the farthest extent of the Roman empire. Boudicca and the Iceni had kicked off and destroyed several Roman cities only a few decades previously, and the tribal people of Britain were still far from pacified or assimilated, but Hadrian made the strategic decision to physically isolate the Picts who lived in what is now called Scotland because they were even more troublesome. Most of the tablets seem to date from roughly this frontier period. Ironically the documents may have been preserved because they were dumped out periodically with the rubbish, which led to them being buried instead of taken away or lost.
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The incalculable mischief of goats
Miscellaneous odd, interesting posters and signs from the aforementioned book The Public Notice. In a sign from 1854 at Dalkey, near Dublin, Laurence Waldron has a peculiarly specific complaint against his tenants:
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Imbecile ward keepers wanted
Some scans from The Public Notice (1973, out of print) by Maurice Rickard. It’s a gold mine. First of all, the following poster from late 1861. Despite the ambiguous grammar, they were requesting keepers for a ward of imbeciles, not ward keepers who were imbeciles. Although such terms are now used interchangeably as insults for somebody who’s acting in a way deemed stupid, until well into the 20th century “imbecile” was a respectable diagnosis meaning that a person was more functional than an idiot, but less functional than a moron. In this notice the “imbeciles” are alternatively referred to as “HARMLESS LUNATICS”, which is hardly better. Note also that these poor people (in every sense of the term) were incarcerated in a workhouse, specifically the workhouse of Bancroft Road, Stepney, in north-east London.
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Squirrels, stupefied by opium
“Very often those sold as tame, especially by men in the street, are simply stupefied by opium or some other drug.” Cassell’s Book of Sports and Pastimes (1896) on the buying of pet squirrels.
In a section regarding “Home Pets”, the writer (“LEWIS WRIGHT, AUTHOR OF THE ILLUSTRATED BOOK OF POULTRY”) sings the praises of squirrels as pets, and in passing makes the mind-blowing comment about casual trafficking in drugged squirrels; a comment that opens up a whole new vista of Victorian weirdness. There were men standing around on street corners, selling doped-up squirrels to passing boys? The mind boggles. In the next Victorian drama I see, in the street scenes I’d like there to be authentic shady sellers of totally monged squirrels. The squirrel pictured is of course a native British red squirrel; a century or so on from the publication of Cassell’s Book of Sports and Pastimes red…
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Control panel and plugboards of the British Colossus computer, 1944. It was not programmable, had 2500 vacuum tubes, and it had only one hardwired purpose and algorithm: to crack the encryption of Germany’s Enigma machines, processing up to 5000 characters per second. Based on the work of mathematicians and cryptographers such as Alan Turing at the top secret Bletchley Park facility, the ability to break German codes was one of the factors that eventually turned the Second World War in favour of the Allies.
Another notable thing about this photograph is the strangely timeless/time traveller style of the woman on the left. I think she could walk down the street anywhere in the developed world at any time between about 1930 and 2030 and look like she belongs there.
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