The Portland Office for Imaginary History re-opens for b-side Festival 2018, and I'm allowing myself an exclamation mark for it! Walking tours on the 8th, 9th, 15th and 16th September, bus tour 14th September, mobility scooter and wheelchair tour on the 16th. Top quality lies, direct to the public. Plan your festival visit here, there's … Continue reading The Portland Office for Imaginary History
I was inspired– negatively, so... unspired?– by the fuss about a recent Frida Kahlo Barbie doll, of which the doll itself was probably the least offensive thing. Yes, it somewhat cleaned and prettied up a woman rightly famous for being a feminist and a communist who was ahead of her time in foregrounding … Continue reading All real artists get turned into a doll
Alexander the Paphlagonian
“At about the same time with Apuleius (note: the Numidian writer in Latin, circa 124 – 170 AD) lived Alexander the Paphlagonian, of whom so extraordinary an account is transmitted to us by Lucian (note: also alive during the events he recorded, circa 125 – 180 AD). He was a native of an obscure town, called Abanotica, but was endowed with all that ingenuity and cunning which enables men most effectually to impose upon their fellow-creatures. He was tall of stature, of an impressive aspect, a fair complexion, eyes that sparkled with an awe-commanding fire as if informed by some divinity, and a voice to the last degree powerful and melodious. To these he added the graces of carriage and attire. Being born to none of…
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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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Some interesting stuff from Lives of the Necromancers (1834) by William Godwin, the proto-anarchist and father of Mary “Frankenstein” Shelley, nee Godwin. Well, interesting if you’re into necromancers anyway. And who isn’t interested in necromancers? Nobody I want to hang out with, is the answer.
William Godwin also wrote a novel called St. Leon (1799), about a man who artificially attains immortality. Without taking anything away from Mary– she was undoubtedly the most talented of the famous four who played at writing stories near Lake Geneva in 1816, not to mention being only eighteen years old at the time– it’s obvious that her super cool father with his love of fringe science and radical politics was a big influence on her. Godwin’s wife and Mary’s mother was the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, though Mary senior sadly died of septicaemia shortly after giving birth and so never knew her daughter…
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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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Otherwise known as the now traditional lazy retrospective listicle
We all know by now don’t we my little blackguards my pretty roadside fartflowers of the friggingfields my dearest filthy fuckbirds yes we know yes yes yes oh yes that the top pages on the site are invariably James Joyce’s paeans to using the tradesman’s entrance and the translation of Hokusai’s tentacle hentai. Tens of thousands of you, constantly, from all over the world, day and night. You must have massive right arms by now (if you’re right handed).
But there is so much more to explore, and some of it doesn’t even involve sexual fetishes. I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.
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Recently I was at the ethnographic Musée du quai Branly in Paris. A post about some of the museum’s permanent collection of lovely, demented and/or terrifying masks will follow shortly, but the museum also currently have an exhibition on (until the middle of October 2014) called Tatoueurs, Tatoués (Tattooers, Tattooed) which is worth seeing if only to be reminded that there can be more to tattoos than spelling error tramp stamps, nonsense kanji, the ubiquitous badly drawn pseudo-tribal sleeve, and permanent disfigurements that are just plain wrong.
The exhibition has modern examples and historical images from all over Asia, Europe and Oceania, but for some reason the image that stuck with me was the one shown above, of ‘Captain Costentenus’. Maybe it’s just my general prediliction for Victoriana. He was an attraction at the Folies-Bergère, the…
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Apart from my regulars and subscribers (hello, and thanks) most of this blog’s visitors in 2013 were a strange– and strangely consistent– rainbow of people from Reddit, Something Awful, Buzzfeed, Open Culture, Facebook and Twitter. It’s like the bridge of the Enterprise in here, or a Communist propaganda poster from the 1960s. I may cry.
As seen in the slideshow below, the top posts of the year were mainly to do with bumhole activities chez Joyce, Japanese women making arguably ill-advised forays into putting odd things in various orifices, weird old engravings, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, medieval moralising, gay animals, and squirrels on drugs. Just relax. All these things are normal, here. And if you ever meet me in real life, try not to be too scared. Honestly I don’t even know how somebody as incredibly square as I am ended up with a…
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“‘Bath and slept with Gladys,’ runs one entry in the diary. Such Gill family intimacies seem routine, a habit. A few weeks later there are more surprising entries; ‘Expt. [experiment] with dog in eve’ [the rest has been obliterated]. Then, five days later, ‘Bath. Continued experiment with dog after and discovered that a dog will … Continue reading Eric Gill, sans consentement
Etiquette: Rules and Usages of the Best Society was published in Australia in 1885 for the benefit of “the better sort” among our colonial cousins. Not the crims, in other words. Some of the advice is very wise, some of it is surreal, while some of it– such as the recommended homemade treatments for acne or grey hair– is liable to end with a trip to the accident and emergency room.
THE “CUT DIRECT”
The “cut direct,” which is given by a prolonged stare at a person, if justified at all, can only be in case of extraordinary and notoriously bad conduct on the part of the individual “cut,” and is very seldom called for. If any one wishes to avoid a bowing acquaintance with another, it can be done by looking aside or dropping the eyes. It is an invariable rule of good society that a gentleman cannot “cut”…
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