Friday, November 30, 2007

Our Favorite comics: Gilbert Shelton's Advanced motoring tips.

While most fans of Gilbert Shelton's brilliant work are aware more of his well known comix creations such as the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, Wonder Wart-Hog and Fat Freddy's Cat we remember his one page series of Advanced Motoring tips. An obvious motorhead (with an deep and perhaps obscene love of the Citroen 2CV) Shelton's superb illustrations captured my young soon-to-be-roadworthy heart and changed the way I saw cars. driving, and thinking....(if indeed for the better will be determined by my local traffic courts at a yet to be released date)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Welcome to Weirdsville: Getting A Handle On Yourself

For some, the answer is immediate - just about as obvious as the nose on ... well, your face. Get naked, reach down, cup hands inwards and - carefully, for some of us - feel, and then fill in the gender blank. But for others it isn’t as easy as that. For various reasons, from nature to nurture, copping your own feel doesn’t bring about something so absolute. For these people, the Jewish proclamation could extend from “Today I am a Man --” to “-- but tomorrow I might be a --”

Some suggest that uncertainty in gender is more common than not, and point to those who are more prominent as being simply the tip of the iceberg. Viewpoints aside, the fact that many to this day are arbitrarily given one gender over the other shortly after birth - doctors instigating selective surgery often without consulting the parents, and certainly not the little maybe-boy, maybe-girl, is a given. Still others, the great Kate Borstein inclusive, suggest a third gender: that those who feel ... literally, that they are not on the outside what they are on the inside becoming a combination of the two.

But this column isn’t necessarily about the current state of gender issues - rather this is a little trip down history lane to visit two of my favorite people who took their issues around gender to glorious - and sometimes surreal - extremes. It’s easy to forget in these (sarcastic) accepting times, that gender wasn’t the movable feast it is today. Back only a few decades ago only women wore earrings, only men wore pants, only women had long hair, only men had short hair. Roles were carved in cultural stone and heaven help anyone who tried to chip their own niche.

But then we had the Chevalier d’Eon Beaumont. Born in Burgundy in 1728, the Chevalier started life out as a bouncing baby ... well, suffice to say that this unusual person bounced quite a bit, even starting out life as being baptized as both Charles as well as Genevieve. In a time when women were women and men were men (both wore wigs), the Chevalier was extraordinary from the get-go.

Even more so because the Chevalier was a spy. In 1755 this surreal agent of the French was sent to St. Petersberg where the Chevalier was thoroughly integrated into the court of the Empress of Russia - as a woman. Remaining there for many years while shuttling secrets to the French government, the Chevalier eventually traveled to England - as a woman, but this time without a choice in the matter as the French found it uncomfortable that their agent could switch back and forth between genders so easily.

While in England, the Chevalier made some great friends - many, in fact of the notorious Amorous Knights of Wycomb (sometimes erroneously called the Hellfile Club). There a wager was drawn up to decide - more for the Brothers of the club than the Chevalier - to decide once and for all: Charles or Genevieve? Examined by a gaggle of high-born ladies, the verdict took some time - way too long in fact (a time frame that begs for a wild, wild smut story) - but eventually these curious women came back with the finding of ... ‘doubtful.’

Not one to let sleeping genders lie, six years later a second examination was held - over a lawsuit of all things (a court case that must have been something else to witness) - and the verdict was female, and so ‘Genevieve’ had to remain in skirts and corsets.

You’d think that the law would have ultimate say in the case of the Chevalier - but it’s a delightful conclusion to this extremely flexible life, that after he’d passed away in 1810 he was buried in St. Pancras ... as a male. The doctor, in fact, who made the examination proclaiming: “ - without a doubt a male person.”

If these learned people couldn't make up their minds, how could the Chevalier be expected to?

My other favorite gender-player is one who while more certain (at least by those who examined him after his passing) in the area of genitalia still managed to affect a brilliant transformation. For most of those who knew the legendary jazz musician Billy Tipton the question of what was between his legs seemed never to be in question - but was nevertheless a complete surprise after he'd passed away at 74.

Cross-dressing is extraordinarily common, in a variety of degrees, and history is rife with those who have played one gender or another - sometimes towards criminal ends (like the 'woman' who defrauded a kind-hearted Mormon man into marrying him) but more often simply out of a deep-seated need to feel closer to their preferred gender. But makes Billy so unique though isn't just the fact that he had female anatomy, but that he'd managed to keep this a secret from so many friends - and wives.

Not even several of these wives (Billy had five) ever thought of him in any way except as a very masculine, adoring husband and even (through adoption) a father. In fact, his children, too, were similarly shocked to discover their father's unusual secret.

Much has been made of the fact that all five of his wives never suspected a thing: were they so accepting, so clueless, or did they know the secret as well and kept it for the sake of Billy's self-image? Yet the fact when the great jazz-man passed away he left not just a few stunned friends, wives, children and admirers - for Billy was born a woman.

What we know of Billy, in hindsight, definitely lends towards thinking "how could you NOT be suspect?" Billy carefully guarded his privacy, never bathed or disrobed (or so we are told) in front of anyone, and even in bed kept himself partially clothed - more than likely making his use of a penile prosthesis. In his very early years, Billy was more open about being a cross-dresser, but as time went on he developed more and more of his male persona - eventually submerging his female self so deep that only he knew about it.

In later years Billy in fact turned away from what could have been a very successful gig to become a lowly booking agent - a decision that many have pondered as being safer than being in the spotlight and being discovered. About this time, Billy's fears of discovery and his seeming need to model himself into what could be called an 'ideal' male image appear to have pushed him into a model of domesticity. His fifth wife and he lived a suburban dream life void of sex - and thus keeping Billy's secret just that. Adopting three boys, they tried to make this idyllic life work - but, alas, their marriage couldn't stand the strain and Billy and boys left to live in near-poverty conditions. Eventually the boys left as well, and Billy - in a sad end to what must have been a frustrating life - died rather than seeing a doctor who could have revealed his secret. It was only after he did pass away - at 74 - that the world, as well as Billy's friends, wives, and children learned of the secret that he'd kept for so many years.

If there's a point to these two extremes, it could be that if you have the ability to touch yourself and say, "I am a (fill in the blank)" then you might be able to call yourself fortunate - or, in the case of these two extraordinary individuals - you might call yourself limited ... 'just' what your holding in your hand, when you could also be something much, much more than that.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Revenge of Vera Gemini: Blue Oyster Cultish Comics

Since we're already touched on The Elf With a Gun and The Headmen it doesn't seem fair not to also mention the run of Marvel's Defenders written
by David Anthony Kraft with titles, characters and themes inspired by Blue Oyster Cult:

For info on other Blue Oyster Cult comic appearances click here. For fantastic info on everything Marvel go to The Appendix of the Marvel Universe.

Friday, November 23, 2007

We're widely read And often quoted...

From the fifties web:

Way back in 1925 young Allan Odell pitched this great sales idea to his father, Clinton. Use small, wooden roadside signs to pitch their product, Burma-Shave, a brushless shaving cream. Dad wasn't wild about the idea but eventually gave Allan $200 to give it a try.

Didn't take long for sales to soar. Soon Allan and his brother Leonard were putting up signs all over the dang place. At first the signs were pure sales pitch but as the years passed they found their sense of humor extending to safety tips and pure fun. And some good old-fashioned down home wisdom.

At their height of popularity there were 7,000 Burma-Shave signs stretching across America. The familiar white on red signs, grouped by four, fives and sixes, were as much a part of a family trip as irritating your kid brother in the back seat of the car. You'd read first one, then another, anticpating the punch line on number five and the familiar Burma-Shave on the sixth.

The signs cheered us during the Depression and the dark days of World War II. But things began to change in the late Fifties. Cars got faster and superhighways got built to accomodate them. The fun little signs were being replaced by huge, unsightly billboards.

1963 was the last year for new Burma Shave signs. No more red and white nuggets of roadside wisdom to ease the journey.
We're widely read And often quoted But it's shaves Not signs For which we're noted Burma-Shave

Is it too late to say goodbye to LJK Setright?

From the Telegraph U.K.

LJK Setright, who died on September 7 aged 74, was Britain's best-known and most eloquent motoring journalist and author, famous in an era before car experts could win easy notoriety on TV; he was "discovered" by a loyal readership within a year or two of taking up writing as a career in the mid-1960s, and maintained his reputation for erudition, mixed with an air of mystery, until he died.

Setright's fame stemmed primarily from his deep love for automobiles and engineering, about which he wrote most consistently and for longest in the monthly magazine Car. He was mostly self-taught on engineering subjects, but his erudition allowed him to meet the motor industry's best engineers on equal terms. It also enabled him to explain complicated concepts to his readers with a rare clarity. The same insights gave him the confidence to be a trenchant commentator who loved voicing provocative (but always elaborately argued) opinions - though nothing he ever wrote put his innate love for cars, motorcycles and their engineering in the slightest doubt.

Most of all, Setright was well-known for his lyrical, ornate and sometimes high-flown writing style, which bore no similarity to anything else written on such subjects. Readers loved or hated Setright's writing, but were rarely unmoved by it. Publishers became used to the fact that it was he who generated the most correspondence. Setright's editors generally loved his contributions, which were always delivered free of any kind of blemish, and written exactly to length. Much of the time, he even wrote copy in the measure of the publication for which it was intended, so that it arrived line-perfect as well.

Though fearless about voicing his frequently controversial opinions, at the core Setright was a private man who rarely volunteered much detail about his own life and activities. And although he greatly enjoyed communicating with readers en masse, he offered no one the slightest hope of individual contact. "It cannot be too widely known," he used to say, "that Setright does not indulge in correspondence." He was pleased to know that his opinions would be discussed, but was content that the discussion should proceed without him.

Leonard John Kensell Setright (friends called him Leonard, but he was always 'LJKS' in print) was born in London on August 10 1931, to Australian parents who had settled there. His father was an inventor and engineer, who eventually founded a family light engineering business that produced, among other things, the Setright ticket dispensing machine, famously used by British bus conductors until well into the 1970s.

Leonard went to grammar school at Palmer's Green, but lost his father at 11, perhaps one reason why he did not train in engineering, but read Law at London University instead.

He enjoyed his studies but hated practising law; so, after doing his national service in the RAF (when poor eyesight prevented his becoming a pilot, he became an air traffic controller instead), Setright turned to writing for a living. His first articles were on general engineering subjects and he was instantly successful, but his national notoriety began when he became a star writer at Car in the mid-1960s, and it never waned. Those who worked with Setright became used to answering the same question from readers: "What's LJK Setright really like?"

Setright's interests ranged far wider than automotive subjects and engineering. Having studied music as a child, he became expert on the clarinet as a band member in the RAF, and played it all his life. Fellow journalists remember him producing his instrument at the launch of a BMW model in France in the 1970s, and striking up with a jazz band. He was a fine singer, and a founder member of the Philharmonia Chorus (one treasured memory was a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, under Otto Klemperer).

He was a dedicated student of the Jewish religion, which he followed all his life. His wide residual knowledge of everything that moved - aeroplanes, locomotives, motorcycles - was used to produce several dozen books, all on technical subjects but packed with intriguing narrative and challenging opinion.

Those who knew Setright well enjoyed his eccentricities, such as his life-long love of Bristol cars, a rare and idiosyncratic marque which has its roots in the long-defunct British aircraft industry. He detested speed limits and drove notoriously fast, frightening his passengers, but seldom had accidents. He hated diesel trucks and cars, not least for the "filth" they dropped on the roads, endangering motorcyclists, and he also disliked environmental fads.

He enjoyed dressing well, and had a particular penchant for being photographed for some new column or feature. He was vocal on the advantages of old age and shamelessly enjoyed smoking, always Sobranie Black Russian cigarettes, taking a fatalistic stance about any effect they might have on his health.

He particularly loved the high engineering values of Honda, and drove a venerable Prelude Coupe until he died. He liked most motorcycles, too, going about on a large, six-cylinder Honda until severely injured in an accident (which was not his fault).

He peppered his writing with classical allusions, or quotations in Latin or Greek. He once wrote in blank verse about a Citroen. And when, quite recently, the editor of one of Britain's best-known magazines suggested he "tone down" these flights of fancy to suit a more modern audience, his response was to submit a column entirely in Latin (before offering a translation a day later). Blessed with a brilliant memory, Setright never needed to take notes.

LJK Setright's first marriage, which ended in the mid-1970s, produced two daughters. He is survived by his children and by Helen, his second wife, whom he married late in life.

Hop on your bike -

- any bike and head over to s.a.'s new site:
Cafe Racer Society has been huge fun theses past few years - with over 240 hopefully informative (or at least interesting) posts. But with the impending sale of my vintage Cafe Racer after four years of fun I feel its time for something new...

The New Cafe Racer Society will focus more on the motorcycle in art, design, culture, film and the future,...and less an attempt to be all things cafe racer and the nuts and bolts of bikes.

I have transferd some of my favorite postings onto the new site and will for a while and at the end of November when I will delete the blog after that.

Monday, November 19, 2007

When Is A Bathtub Not A Bathtub?

Fillmore, shown not soaking

When it's a hoax.

From Wikipedia:

The bathtub hoax was a famous hoax or practical joke perpetrated by the American journalist H. L. Mencken, involving the publication of a fictitious history of the bathtub.

On December 28, 1917, a parodical article titled “A Neglected Anniversary” by H. L. Mencken was published in the New York Evening Mail. It claimed that the bathtub had been introduced into the United States as recently as 1842 and in England as late as 1828. The article went on to describe how the introduction of the bathtub initially was greatly discussed and opposed, until President Millard Fillmore had a bathtub installed in the White House in 1850, making the invention more broadly acceptable.

The whole article was entirely false, but was widely quoted as fact years later, even until the present day. In 1949 Mencken wrote:

The success of this idle hoax, done in time of war, when more serious writing was impossible, vastly astonished me. It was taken gravely by a great many other newspapers, and presently made its way into medical literature and into standard reference books. It had, of course, no truth in it whatsoever, and I more than once confessed publicly that it was only a jocosity... Scarcely a month goes by that I do not find the substance of it reprinted, not as foolishness but as fact, and not only in newspapers but in official documents and other works of the highest pretensions.

Menken, shown after soaking (the public)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's a Painful Job - So We're Glad Someone Else Did It

Justin O. Schmidt, not stung (yet)

From Wikipedia:

The Schmidt Sting Pain Index or The Justin O. Schmidt Pain Index is a pain scale rating the relative pain caused by different Hymenopteran stings. It is mainly the work of Justin O. Schmidt, an entomologist at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center. Schmidt has published a number of papers on the subject and claims to have been stung by the majority of stinging Hymenoptera.

His original paper in 1984 was an attempt to systematise and compare the hemolytic properties of insect venoms. The index contained in the paper started from 0 for stings that are completely ineffective against humans, progressed through 2, a familiar pain such as a common bee or wasp sting, and finished at 4 for the most painful stings. In the conclusion, some descriptions of the most painful examples were given, e.g.: "Paraponera clavata stings induced immediate, excruciating pain and numbness to pencil-point pressure, as well as trembling in the form of a totally uncontrollable urge to shake the affected part."

Subsequently, Schmidt has refined his scale, culminating in a paper published in 1990 which classifies the stings of 78 species and 41 genera of Hymenoptera. Notably, Schmidt described some of the experiences in vivid and colorful detail:

Pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch rusty nail in your heel.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Some of Our Favorite Heroes: The Graffiti Research Lab

From Wikipedia:
Graffiti Research Lab, founded by Evan Roth and James Powderly the Eyebeam OpenLab, is an art group dedicated to outfitting graffiti writers, artists and protesters with open source technologies for urban communication. The members of the group experiment in a lab and in the field to develop and test a range of experimental technologies. They document those efforts with video documentation and DIY instructions for each project and make it available for everybody.
(which doesn't really say anything about their wit, imagination, and style. To get a rough idea, watch the movies below. Bravo guys!)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Just were the hell are we located?

The official organization chart of heaven (source unknown)

The future ain't what it used to be....

I found these paper gems in a Brussels street market over 20 years ago. Theses views of the life a future Belgium in the soon to be late forties were originally meant to be included in biscuit (cookie) packages. On the back in Flemish is a brief explanation of the world where children could hope to live in after the war.

Welcome to Weirdsville: The Turk

A wise man once said (I think it was me) that machines are like the chrome that frequently ornament their forms: a funhouse mirror reflecting us, their creators.

Machines, it’s safe to say, have certainly taken on some very bizarre forms, reflecting god-knows-what about their creators. After all, what does it say about man when he creates such wonders as the heated bra (to prevent embarrassing nipple excitement), electric nose hair trimmers, a machine gun designed to shoot around corners, dial-a-prayer, barbed vaginal inserts to wound rapists, vibrating shoes to keep feet from falling asleep, and a myriad of other gizmos, doohickey’s, thingamajigs, and whatchamalcallits that have sprung from the collective minds of man like a clockwork goddess ... or a demented jack-in-the-box.

Frankly, as a species we’ve had far too much practice creating completely twisted - and even possibly functional - gadgets for me to wax sarcastic about even a small fraction of them. From the KGB’s poison-pellet shooting brolly, to selling your soul on the internet, from the hinged ship designed to twist over waves, to wind-up erotica, warped technology is a long and very noble tradition for us homo saps. We are, remember, the same bunch of genes and cells that has evolved over millions of years to where we now have the means to utterly destroy ourselves with the greatest of ease by just pressing one button.

Picking the first one to start off with was a bit of a challenge. Until, that is, I remembered the tale of the miracle chess playing machine: a gadget that turned out to be possibly more human that it's creator.

When it first showed up on the scene, displayed with theatrical bravado by it’s creator, Wolfgang van Kempelen, it wowed and amazed those who are rather tough to wow, let alone amaze. Now, in these years of internet porn and microwaveable chili fries, we might look at dear old Wolfgang’s mechanism with a certain degree of scorn. Yet remember that it was just this year that a machine, a certain little gizmo called Big Blue, actually beat a grandmaster at chess. So don’t treat poor old Wolfgang with too much contempt, because while not perfect he did make his machine quite adept at this ancient game: in 1770.

To say that this machine amazed all who saw it would be a technical (ouch) exaggeration: it was a big hit. People from all over Europe flocked to see Wolfgang’s marvelous chess-playing machine. Paris, Vienna, and even Russia were treated to performances of the gizmo. In Paris, matter o’ fact the great American gadgeteer Benjamin Franklin was said to have examined the device, though if he lost or won is unknown.

In the rollicking year of 1805, Wolfgang sold his ingenious mechanism to Johann Maelzel who took it on another whirlwind tour, even bringing it to Napoleon, who played a game ... again whether he won or lost is not known. But if Johann was any kind of bright-boy it would be safe to say that the Little Corporal had a victory on that battlefield as well.

Over the following years, the wooden-boxed marvel of engineering passed through a variety of hands, eventually making its way to America in 1834 and to an exhibition viewed by one very astute (and more than a little twisted) writer. Watching the machine in action, seeing how only one door in the device was opened at any time, showing a hideously complex puzzle of gears, levers, springs, coils, and pulleys, this writer revealed the shocking mystery of the chess-playing machine in the pages of The Southern Literary Messenger.

What Edgar Allen Poe reported was that Wolfgang’s great machine had but one real moving part ... and his name was Schlumberger, Monsieur Schlumberger - a diminutive French chess master. Before you ask, the answer is non: Mssr. Schlumberger wasn’t part of the original warranty. During Wolfgang’s time, it was said, the machine was secretly operated by a Polish amputee named Worowski.

I have but one thing to add to this surreal tale of the man behind the machine, the bogus chess automaton: anyone take a real good look inside Big Blue?

I mean a real GOOD look?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

You Are A Fluke Of The Universe ...

A glorious parody of the Saccharin Desiderata, compliments of the National Lampoon Radio Hour (1972)

Sorry for the cheesy video, it was the only one I could find

Go placidly amidst the noise and waste, and remember what comfort there may be in owning a piece thereof. Avoid quiet and passive persons, unless you are in need of sleep. Rotate your tires. Speak glowingly of those greater than yourself; and heed well their advice, even though they be turkeys. Know what to kiss - and when. Consider that two wrongs never make a right, but that three do. Wherever possible, put people on hold. Be comforted, that in the face of all irridity and disillusionment, and despite the changing fortunes of time, there is always a big future in computer maintenance.

(You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
Whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back.)

Remember the Pueblo. Strive at all times to bend, fold, spindle, and mutilate. Know yourself. If you need help, call the FBI. Exercise caution in your daily affairs, especially with those persons closest to you... That lemon on your left, for instance. Be assured that a walk through the seas of most souls would scarcely get your feet wet. Fall not in love, therefore, it will stick to your face. Gracefully surrender the things of youth: the birds, clean air, tuna, Taiwan - and let not the sands of time get in your lunch. Hire people with hooks. For a good time, call 606-4311, ask for Ken. Take heart in the deepening gloom that your dog is finally getting enough cheese. And reflect that whatever misfortune may be your lot, it could only be worse in Milwaukee.

(You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
Whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back.)

Therefore, make peace with your god, whatever you perceive him to be: hairy thunderer or cosmic muffin. With all its hopes, dreams, promises, and urban renewal, the world continues to deteriorate.


(You are a fluke of the universe.
You have no right to be here.
Whether you can hear it or not,
The universe is laughing behind your back.)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Welcome to Weirdsville: A Night At The Theater

The world, Paris in particular, was shocked: eyeballs gouged out, rape, self mutilations, nudity, throats slashed, orgies, and more - much, much more - and all on-stage. The world, and especially Paris, were definitely outraged - but they also flocked to the Grand Guignol in droves.

No one had ever seen anything like it, and no one, it seemed, could turn away. With a fascination usually reserved for railway accidents and public executions, the high and low 1897 Paris 1897 clawed and scrambled for tickets to the little theater at 20 rue Chaptal. No one really knew what to expect of the performers, but they knew one thing: they would be shocked.

Oscar Méténier

Founded by Oscar Méténier - a student of the Theatre Libre and its founder, Andre Antoine - the Grand Guignol was the logical extension of the Libre’s experiments with ‘natural’ plays: stories about real people, often from the Paris underworld, with sets made from real furniture - a direct departure from the popular theater of grand farces, musical comedy, and the tired, old classics. Realizing that the most popular Libre performances were the ones that featured the true classic themes of sex and violence, Méténier set out to give the audience that it craved: blood and nude women.

A typical Grand Guignol night’s performance was a series of very short set pieces, often as many as seven a night. In 1897 Méténier already understood the typical human’s short attention - if you didn’t like what you saw all you had to do was sit back and wait for the next. Méténier’s typical line up went something like this: slapstick, light drama, comedy, horror, and - finishing up - a farce. Thought their titles and descriptions - such as “Mademoiselle Fifi: a ‘shocker’ about a prostitute who stabs a German officer” or “The Seductress: a farce about a woman who believes all men are trying to seduce her” - seemed tame on the surface, the actual performance was anything but.

Using state of the art make-up techniques, some clever slight of hand, copious amounts of fake blood, and some cow or sheep eyeballs, the Grand Guignol took outrage to new levels. The theater itself helped lend to the hysteria, as it was a tiny space: with only a 20 by 20 foot stage the place still managed to pack in 285 people a night. One critic observed that the place was so crowed that “audience members could shake hands with the actors on stage” and often got sprayed by their fake blood as well.

Death, dismemberment and gouts of blood weren’t the only attraction. Titillation also featured a great deal in the huge popularity of the Guignol. Sex and nudity were featured almost as much as the blood and shock. Again, Méténier realized that violence following sex doubled the terror of the audience - long before Jason chopped up teenagers. A story that peanut butter and chocolate’s perfectly, mixing sex and death, is The Orgy in the Lighthouse (by Leopold Marchand) where two wild sailors bring a pair of prostitutes to a remote lighthouse. When they accidentally extinguish the light during their wild debauch they realize that a ship with their mother on-board is in danger of ending up on the rocks. Unable to get the light back on, one of the sailors looses it and slits the throat of one of the girls and throws her down onto the rocks. The boat indeed crashes - and, in a hysterical fit - both brothers burn the last girl to death.

The story is also typical in that the darkness of the Guignol wasn’t just in violence, but the ‘point’ of the plays: these weren’t stories of virtue and kindness, where couples walked off into the sunset - rather these were plays were the criminals got away with it, nice people got their noses cut off, and innocence was eternally exploited. If the blood, or the sex didn’t get you, the utter bleakness of the stories did.

As observed in Mel Gordon’s great book, The Grand Guignol: Theatre of Fear and Terror, the calculated - and celebrated -- effect on the audience by Méténier and the performers was dramatic: "At one performance, six people passed out when an actress, whose eyeball was just gouged out, re-entered the stage, revealing a gooey, blood-encrusted hole in her skull. Backstage, the actors themselves calculated their success according to the evening's faintings. During one play that ended with a realistic blood transfusion, a record was set: fifteen playgoers had lost consciousness. Between sketches, the cobble-stoned alley outside the theater was frequented by hyperventilating couples and vomiting individuals."

But the problem with shock, with bare tit or gouts of blood, is what it wears off. Compared knock-off theaters - a new liberalism - created in part by the Guignol itself, and the first world war, the Grand Guignol was tame. Still, in various incarnations it lasted for sixty years - even enjoying a beatnik revival in 1950’s San Francisco - until it vanished into the mainstream.

Still, the next time you see blood on stage or on the screen, or various body parts being exposed - or lopped off - remember that little theater at 20 rue Chaptal where much of it started.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Problems? Complaints? Take Then Up With The Producer

Any true fan of Jay Ward and Bill Scott's work will know the name instantly: Ponsonby Britt O.B.E. was listed as the Producer of such shows as George of the Jungle, Fractured Flickers, The Bullwinkle Show, and Crusader Rabbit.

Totally befitting someone surrounding Jay and Bill, though, Sir Britt had a wacky side: he didn't exist.

From IMDB:
According to page 135 of Keith Scott's book, "The Moose That Roared," Ponsonby Britt is a non-existent person. In 1959, Jay Ward and Bill Scott invented the name "Ponsonby Britt, Limited" as the new title of their corporation. Britt eventually became an "O.B.E." and retained in the cartoon's closing credits as an in-joke. Bill Scott was quoted as saying, "We had no executive producer, so, we made one up." Britt eventually became the executive producer credited for all Jay Ward productions; even a fake official biography for Britt was even crafted for promotional press releases.
And here's Wikipedia's take on the famous, and nonexistent, Producer:

Ponsonby Britt was the credited—but fictional—executive producer of the television series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, Fractured Flickers, Hoppity Hooper, and George of the Jungle.

In 1959, Jay Ward and Bill Scott invented the name "Ponsonby Britt, Limited" as the new title of their corporation. Britt eventually became an OBE (Officer of the British Empire) and was retained in the cartoon's closing credits as an in-joke. Bill Scott was quoted as saying, "We had no executive producer, so we made one up." Britt even had an "official" biography used in press releases.

The name Ponsonby possibly came from Arthur Ponsonby, a prominent British politician.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

This Is Why We Are Here

Meine Kleine Fabrik is about the things we've found, the stuff we cherish, the wonders that might otherwise be forgotten that we want to share with the world.

One of the greatest treasures we've always adored since it first appeared a long time ago is the following, having just recently emerged on YouTube:

Created by Tony White (interview here), Hokusai: An Animated Sketchbook is one of those things that seems to constantly sit in the back of our minds, a beautiful haunting of art, passion, humility, and creation.