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The Replacements incite a riot: An exclusive excerpt from the great new biography ‘Trouble Boys’
09:08 am



Trouble Boys

Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements, the highly anticipated biography of the legendary Minneapolis group, is out this week. Author Bob Mehr has done nothing less than pen the definitive ‘Mats bio, and Dangerous Minds has an exclusive excerpt.

The Replacements had a reputation for rowdy, drunken performances, and our excerpt from Trouble Boys details a show in Houston that just might be their wildest gig ever. It takes place in the fall of 1985, during the early stages of the Tim tour. Bassist Tommy Stinson had recently been arrested for public intoxication prior to a show in Norman, Oklahoma, spending the night in jail.

The rising action of the tour reached its climax a few nights later in Houston, where the ’Mats played the Lawndale Art Annex.

It was an unusual venue for the band—a couple of miles from the University of Houston campus, it was basically an old warehouse the school used for more highbrow art events. The gig’s promoter, Tom Bunch, had been booking hardcore and punk shows in the city for several years, working with Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys (he would go on to manage the Butthole Surfers) without any problems.

The Replacements had sold some 600 tickets in advance to a mix of punk scenesters and college kids. The latter demographic was making up a more noticeable chunk of the band’s audience. “Hey, Greeks! If you like Springsteen, R.E.M. or U2, you’ll love the Replacements!” ran a show ad in one student newspaper that autumn.

There was also an increasingly large contingent of rubberneckers. “The audience no longer exclusively consisted of people who ‘got it,’” said Replacements’ soundman Monty Lee Wilkes. “I could see it looking around every night. There were the people that had come solely to see the car crash. You’d overhear them in the can: ‘I hope they’re not too drunk tonight.’ ‘Oh man, that’s the only way to see them.’ These were the kind of people who would’ve tried to beat up the band at a party two years earlier.”

The Lawndale Annex gig also reunited the Replacements with Alex Chilton, who’d come up from New Orleans to play a couple of shows with the band. Perhaps Chilton’s presence played a part—singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg was always looking to impress him—but that night Paul almost singlehandedly started a riot. “For years I claimed Alex had spiked my drink backstage and put some sort of hallucinogen in it,” said Westerberg, “because my behavior was so off the map.”

From the start, manager Peter Jesperson sensed it was going to be one of those shows. Early on the Tim tour, he’d tried harder to dole out the booze in increments, and not too far in advance. “I’d have to lie to them all the time about that: ‘We can only get a twelve-pack now.’ I was trying to ration it out as best I could.”

In Houston, Chilton asked Jesperson for a lift back to his hotel and to wait while he got ready, then took his time shaving and getting dressed. Meanwhile, the band got its hands on the rest of the liquor: “A bottle of whiskey, a bottle of vodka, two cases of Bud, one of Heineken, and one bottle of red wine,” recalled Bunch. When he went in to check on them a little later, “every bottle was empty. Completely bone dry. I thought, This is going to be interesting.” When Jesperson finally returned, he walked into the dressing room to find the band had “actually embedded bottles of Heineken into the drywall. Not only was the liquor gone, but I was required to get them more.”

Paul and Bob
More after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
‘The Unlimited Dream Company’: Essential video portrait for J.G. Ballard fans
12:41 pm



In 1983 a director named Sam Scoggins made a 23-minute movie with the title The Unlimited Dream Company; the film gestured at being an adaptation of J.G. Ballard‘s 1979 novel of the same name but is actually something far more compelling, an experimental profile of Ballard himself with some of the most fascinating footage ever taken of the writer.

You couldn’t ask for a more thorough examination of Ballard’s themes, work, and bio in 23 minutes. The movie alternates between footage of Ballard himself speaking and strange clips accompanied by clinical extracts from The Atrocity Exhibition read by Julian Gartside. Sometimes Ballard’s comments also receive a filmic accompaniment. In his own comments, Ballard discusses his childhood in Shanghai and describes in some detail a car crash he experienced, an event that occurred, curiously, after Ballard had written Crash.

A lengthy treatment of The Unlimited Dream Company appeared in RE/Search #8/9: J.G. Ballard, which you can read here. What follows is just a portion:

There are two main types of material intercut in the film:

1) A big close-up of Ballard’s face. He talks, looking straight at the camera,

2) Ballard’s alter ego wearing a ragged flying suit wanders through “Ballardian” landscapes and in each makes a portrait of Ballard from things around him.

The landscapes are:

a) The jungle (past). He makes a portrait from feathers.

b) Motorway/Scrapyard (present). He makes a portrait from crashed cars.

c) The Beach (future). He draws a huge spiral in the sand.

These sections were shot in black and white, then printed each in a different monochrome, i.e. a green, b) red, c) blue.

The enthralling core of the movie is unmistakably “(v)”, which is described thus: “A 6 min. duration very slow zoom in from a head and shoulders shot of Ballard to a very large close-up of his right eyeball. Off camera a voice asks the 90 questions from the Eyckman Personality Quotient, each of which Ballard answers Yes or No.”

This section in some quarters bears the title “Answers Given By Patient J.G.B. To The Eyckman Personality Quotient Test.” (A commenter points out, its actual name is the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire.) It’s reminiscent of the Voigt-Kampff test from Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, adapted in 1982 by Ridley Scott as Blade Runner. It’s a six-minute shot in which the camera slowly zooms in on Ballard’s left eye (the above synopsis has the eye wrong) during which the writer gives candid answers to questions such as these:

Are you an irritable person? No
Have you ever blamed someone for doing something you knew was really your fault? No
Do you enjoy meeting new people? Yes
Do you believe insurance schemes are a good idea? Yes
Are your feelings easily hurt? No
Are all your habits good and desirable ones? No
Do you tend to keep in the background on social occasions? Yes

Keep reading, after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Cop a feel: Porn for blind people
04:06 pm



Man in Arctic Mask

In the 1992 techno-thriller Sneakers starring Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier, the viewer is treated to a quick shot of a braille issue of Playboy magazine, a possession of the film’s sole blind character, “Whistler,” played by David Strathairn. The shot is played for laughs, but braille editions of Playboy are a real thing; on eBay they are rather pricey, fetching prices of $30, $40, $50 and beyond—one optimistic seller is asking $400 for a single copy of the April 1992 edition.

It’s not known whether Lisa J. Murphy was inspired by the braille Playboy, but she came up with quite a different solution to the question of providing blind people with sexual gratification via printed matter. A resident of Canada, Murphy has produced a book called Tactile Mind: A Book of Nude Photographs for the Blind/Vision Impaired, which is “a handmade thermoform book consisting of 17, 3-D tactile photographs on white thermoform plastic pages with the visual image and descriptive Braille accompaniment.”

After publishing the main book, she followed it up with a smaller set of images she calls Tactile Atelier Bookmark. Referring to her picture of a woman’s posterior with panties on, which you can see below, Murphy said, “The butt was really hard to sculpt. I wanted to get it nice and even and give it a feminine softness so it would actually feel like a woman’s butt. It took me days to sculpt all the curves right, but I’m told it does feel like a woman’s butt in a G-string.”

Incidentally, Murphy does not use the word pornography to describe her work. We’re a blog, what can I say?

Each book costs $255 Canadian (about $180 U.S.) and can be ordered directly from Murphy’s website.


Naked Pink Elephant
More tactile erotica for the visually impaired after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Classic albums represented as vintage Penguin paperbacks
12:26 pm



David Bowie, Aladdin Sane. Those red and blue spines seem artfully placed, hm?.......

I’ve collected Penguin paperbacks for years; I’ve always been drawn to the groovy mid-century aesthetic of the covers from the pre-1980 era (actually pre-1970 for the really good stuff), with the stately and ineffably British typesetting and the promise of erudite treasures within.

So something in me totally lit up when I saw the StandardDesigns shop at Etsy. Clearly whoever is doing this store is a kindred spirit. You see, their main stock in trade is making posters where each of the songs of certain classic albums (there’s an emphasis on Bowie and British postpunk and Britpop, but not to worry, it’s not like VU and Springsteen and the Pixies and Tom Waits aren’t also in the mix) are represented by a single book from the midcentury Penguins. Once you do all of the songs of Doolittle or OK Computer or Substance, say, you’ve got a tidy little shelf of dog-eared paperbacks, each with a title in the often-teeny Penguin spine lettering.

Appreciating these posters is assisted by knowing some of the basics of the Penguin paperback world. One great thing about midcentury Penguins was the wonderful rules they set down in order to communicate things. For instance, the Pelican imprint specialized in nonfiction subjects and used blue as the indicating color, while murder mysteries almost always used green.

The early (and quite famous) phase of Penguin paperbacks were dominated by Jan Tschichold’s 1940s-era design with author and title information set in Gill Sans, flanked by huge orange stripes on the top and bottom. In 1962 Romek Marber came up with a standardized layout for Penguin titles that came to be known as the Marber Grid, which did a great deal to clarify what a Penguin cover was supposed to look like. Opinions may differ but most of my favorite covers use the Marber Grid.

The Marber Grid
The posters go in for a lot of little in-jokes or otherwise apt use of the Penguin spines. The “shelves” for Nebraska, Velvet Underground and Nico, Aladdin Sane, Velvet Underground and Nico, Unknown Pleasures and a couple others strongly mimic the album covers they’re recapitulating, while in most of the other cases there’s just a vague color resemblance. For Velvet Underground and Nico they’ve worked in the name “Andy Warhol” as the “editor” of the volume Heroin. The one for Led Zeppelin’s “Zoso” album doesn’t mention the band’s name anywhere—just like the real cover—and also uses exclusively titles from the Penguin Poets series from the late 1950s, while OK Computer, quite aptly, is made up entirely of those blue nonfiction Pelicans. My favorite detail actually comes from the poster for The Queen Is Dead, where “Bigmouth Strikes Again” is the only spine that’s one of those green mystery covers, which is somehow totally appropriate.

Each poster costs $26.54 but there are bundle deals if you want more than one. If you want to learn more about the history of Penguin design, I can’t recommend Phil Baines’ book Penguin By Design strongly enough, and Seven Hundred Penguins is also a fantastic treat.

Click on any of the posters for a larger view.

Velvet Underground and Nico

Pulp, Different Class
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Download PDFs of the mysterious Voynich Manuscript and the Codex Seraphinianus for free
10:57 am



Codex Seraphinianus
A few years ago we ran a post on one of the most mind-bogglingly awesome books ever written or conceived by mortal humankind—I refer to Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus, republished by Rizzoli in 2013. To this day it remains one of the most popular posts we’ve ever done, the degree of interest in this peculiar, fantastical volume of fanciful schematics, all in an invented language and alphabet, was quite stunning.

Similarly, The Voynich Manuscript, which dates from the early 15th century, is also written in an alphabet that nobody can decipher. The Codex Seraphinianus was written in the 20th century by a writer who is still among us, but the Voynich Manuscript isn’t like that. For centuries a great many people have tried to crack its elusive code, but nobody has been able to. So you get a very similar effect, marvelous illustrations of botanical fantasies, tagged with captions we can’t comprehend.

The Voynich Manuscript
Both of these are awesome coffee table books or just books to peruse idly and get your creative juices flowing.

A friend recently called my attention to this 2011 post by the Holy Books blog, which offers readers a chance to download the two books on PDF. It’s obviously been around for a while.

Codex Seraphinianus

The 2011 doc ‘The Book That Can’t Be Read’
After the jump, a fascinating Terence McKenna talk about the mysterious Voynich Manuscript; Rudolf II, the “mad king” of Bohemia; The Winter King and Queen; Doctor John Dee; Edward Kelley; Roger Bacon; and the book’s possible ties to alchemy and the Rosicrucian Enlightenment…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Charles Dickens & The Train of Death: The rail crash behind the classic ghost story ‘The Signal-Man’
10:33 am



In his later years, Charles Dickens often suffered from siderodromophobia—a fear of train travel—caused by his involvement in a railway crash in 1865. If you suffer from say, a fear of flying, then you will appreciate the dread Dickens sometimes endured when he traveled by train thereafter—panic, foreboding, white knuckle terror. His son later claimed that Dickens never fully recovered from the experience and he died exactly five years to the day of the accident.

The Staplehurst rail crash occurred at a viaduct on the South Eastern Railway linking London to the coastal town of Folkestone, at 3:13pm on June 9th, 1865. A section of rail track had been removed. The foreman in charge of replacing the track misread the train timetable—believing his crew had sufficient time to finish the job before the arrival of the next train. His mistake had tragic consequences.
Illustration of the Staplehurst train wreck.
Apart from the trauma, the accident had serious implications for Dickens as he was accompanying his mistress Ellen Ternan and her mother to Folkestone where they were to catch a boat back to France.

Long before the 50-Mile Rule—which suggests one should never an affair with someone within a 50 mile radius of home—Dickens had been careful to keep the 27-year-old Ellen out of the public eye in France to avoid any possibility of discovery by his wife or by a prying press. The three were sitting in the first carriage when the train jumped the tracks and crashed over the side of a viaduct. Ten passengers were killed, 40 more were injured.
Photograph of the accident.
Ensuring Ellen and her mother were safe, Dickens busied himself aiding the injured and the dying. He described the accident in a letter to his old schoolfriend Thomas Mitton on June 13th, 1865:

My dear Mitton,

I should have written to you yesterday or the day before, if I had been quite up to writing. I am a little shaken, not by the beating and dragging of the carriage in which I was, but by the hard work afterwards in getting out the dying and dead, which was most horrible.

I was in the only carriage that did not go over into the stream. It was caught upon the turn by some of the ruin of the bridge, and hung suspended and balanced in an apparently impossible manner. Two ladies were my fellow passengers; an old one, and a young one. This is exactly what passed: you may judge from it the precise length of the suspense. Suddenly we were off the rail and beating the ground as the car of a half emptied balloon might. The old lady cried out “My God!” and the young one screamed.

I caught hold of them both (the old lady sat opposite, and the young one on my left) and said: “We can’t help ourselves, but we can be quiet and composed. Pray don’t cry out.” The old lady immediately answered, “Thank you. Rely upon me. Upon my soul, I will be quiet.” The young lady said in a frantic way, “Let us join hands and die friends.” We were then all tilted down together in a corner of the carriage, and stopped. I said to them thereupon: “You may be sure nothing worse can happen. Our danger must be over. Will you remain here without stirring, while I get out of the window?” They both answered quite collectedly, “Yes,” and I got out without the least notion of what had happened.

Fortunately, I got out with great caution and stood upon the step. Looking down, I saw the bridge gone and nothing below me but the line of the rail. Some people in the two other compartments were madly trying to plunge out of the window, and had no idea there was an open swampy field 15 feet down below them and nothing else! The two guards (one with his face cut) were running up and down on the down side of the bridge (which was not torn up) quite wildly. I called out to them “Look at me. Do stop an instant and look at me, and tell me whether you don’t know me.” One of them answered, “We know you very well, Mr Dickens.” “Then,” I said, “my good fellow for God’s sake give me your key, and send one of those labourers here, and I’ll empty this carriage.”

We did it quite safely, by means of a plank or two and when it was done I saw all the rest of the train except the two baggage cars down in the stream. I got into the carriage again for my brandy flask, took off my travelling hat for a basin, climbed down the brickwork, and filled my hat with water. Suddenly I came upon a staggering man covered with blood (I think he must have been flung clean out of his carriage) with such a frightful cut across the skull that I couldn’t bear to look at him. I poured some water over his face, and gave him some to drink, and gave him some brandy, and laid him down on the grass, and he said, “I am gone”, and died afterwards.

Then I stumbled over a lady lying on her back against a little pollard tree, with the blood streaming over her face (which was lead colour) in a number of distinct little streams from the head. I asked her if she could swallow a little brandy, and she just nodded, and I gave her some and left her for somebody else. The next time I passed her, she was dead.

Front cover of ‘London Illustrated’ showing Dickens tending to the injured.
The accident caused Dickens to lose his voice for two weeks, and he was often visibly panicked on train journeys after that—on one occasion hurling himself to the floor of the carriage convinced another crash was about to take place. However, he was not a man to waste his own experience—no matter how painful—and he used the events in his ghost story The Signal-Man—one of literature’s most famous supernatural tales.

The Signal-Man tells the story of an encounter with a signalman who tells the unnamed narrator of his haunting by ghostly premonitions prior to a series of train accidents. The story formed part of Dickens’ Mugby Junction series of stories. It is a subtle and beautifully told tale, and was adapted by the BBC in 1976 for Ghost Story, starring Denholm Elliott and Bernard Lloyd. Elliott is perfect as the man haunted by a ghostly visitor, whose message he tries to understand.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Sven Hassel and the strange obsession with Nazi fiction
12:46 pm



The Second World War claimed over 60 million lives and flattened most of Europe. Seventy-one years after it ended, the Second World War is still the got-to global conflict for hundreds, nay, thousands, of books, movies, TV series, comics, and gung-ho trigger happy violent computer games. The Second World War is the war that just keeps on giving.

One old soldier who made a small fortune from writing about his exploits fighting with the Nazis during the war was Sven Hassel. His fourteen semi-autobiographical books have sold 53 million copies worldwide, with a staggering 15 million sold in the UK alone.

Hassel’s books were “pulp fiction staples in the 1960s and ’70s to a male cohort that may have its equivalent today in those who sustain a billion-dollar industry in war-themed video games.” His tales of the band of renegade German soldiers, deserters and prisoners—a Nazi “Dirty Dozen”—who fought on the Russian front were supposedly based on the author’s own experiences. This band of brothers hated Hitler, hated war, killed their superior officers and indulged in “steamy sex with consenting local women.” It all sounds rather fantastical—and led one Danish newspaper to denounce Hassel as a fraud, claiming he never fought with the Germans but saw out the war at home and based his best-selling novels on secondhand stories and movies.

These claims can still be found on Hassel’s Wikipedia page—despite Hassel presenting documentary evidence in the form of his Heeresstammkarte (Hassel’s official military record—issued by the German army), photographs, medals and scars to prove he had indeed fought with the Wehrmacht. This led to a retraction from the newspaper that published the allegations.
Author and soldier Sven Hassel.
Hassel was born Sven Pedersen in Fredensborg, Denmark, on April 19, 1917. He did military service with the merchant navy, before leaving Denmark to look for work in Germany. Hassel later claimed:

Germany was obviously not the right country to move to, but then again, you must remember that those times were chaotic and at that point there was still no war.

There may have been no war, but the persecution of the Jews was well under way and the Germans had been involved in horrific bombings of civilians during the Spanish Civil War—so, it does seem (shall we say) rather unbelievably strange why he chose to move to Nazi Germany rather than France or Belgium or even the United Kingdom.

Hassel signed up for the Wehrmacht in 1938—after falsely claiming his father was an Austrian—enrolling in the “2nd Panzerregiment and later in the 11th and 27th Panzerregiment (both in the 6th Panzer Division).”

We were trained to become the world’s best soldiers through the use of Prussian methods that surpassed any evil and terror you can imagine.

Maybe that was why Hassel attempted to desert. He was caught and sent to the penal battalion of the 27th. Here he met many of the characters who later appeared in his novels. He was wounded eight times, and “transferred to the Abwehr (espionage) in Denmark for a few months (from December 1944 to January 1945).” Denmark was occupied by Germany throughout the war—4,000 Danish volunteers died fighting alongside the Germans on the Eastern Front.
Photograph of two German soldiers purportedly “Tiny” and Portas who featured in Hassel’s books.
After the war, Hassel was a P.O.W. in various prison camps, before he was returned to Denmark where his citizenship was canceled and was again sent to jail. It was during his time in prison that Hassel started writing The Legion of the Damned. Since its publication in 1953, The Legion of the Damned has never been out of print—making it the only “Danish novel that has been sold consecutively for more than six decades since its first edition.”

Hassel’s novels are but one part of the bizarre enduring fascination the West has with the Second World War, in particular the Nazis, those scum-sucking evil psychopaths who perpetrated genocide on the Jewish people and slaughtered anyone else who disagreed with their policies or didn’t quite fit the desired profile.

This cultural obsession with these fuckers attracts some very strange bedfellows including hipster favorites like Lemmy—who liked collecting Nazi memorabilia; Bryan Ferry—who once admitted a passing regard to the stylishness of Nazi iconography; punk rockers who wore swastika armbands to allegedly shock the very people who had fought the Nazis back in the day; just as Brian Jones had once dressed up as a Nazi—with his then girlfriend Anita Pallenberg—to shock the flower power generation; and let’s be honest, even those damned hippies, gott in himmel, drove Volkswagon Beetles—which are nothing short of Hitler mobiles.
Sid in swastika T-short, Lemmy and his collection, Brian posing for the camera.
Not that any of these lovelies were or are Nazis—rather they are examples of a strange cultural phenomenon—an interest in Nazism—be it uniforms, iconography, medals or weaponry—that has lasted for over eight decades. It should also be pointed out that these musicians are all English—as the country has a very strange relationship with the Nazis and the Second World War.

In England or Britain as a whole, Der Fuhrer and his gang of merry Nazis are fodder for long-running sitcoms like Dad’s Army or ‘Allo ‘Allo! or failed sitcoms like Heil Honey I’m Home or skits by Monty Python and Spike Milligan.

And then there are the endless TV dramas of life during wartime like Colditz, Back to the Land, Secret Army, Danger UXB, Foyle’s War.

The Brits, you see, have this thing where they can go on and bloody on about past battles, victories, defeats and yon noble war heroes who sent people homeward to think again or died for King and Country. From Gordon of Khartoum, to Wilfred Owen, to Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and the Normandy landings. It’s in our national anthems. It’s in our street signs and place names. It’s deep within our national psyche.

It’s no accident the Brits produce TV series like Downton Abbey as we love to wallow in an idealized nostalgia of a fantasy past where people are reassured that things were better in the olden days when life was structured (or class-ridden) and everyone knew their place.

This cultural obsession with the past might also explain why the Brits, or in particular the English, have an obsession with the Nazis as they represent the uber bogeyman whose defeat (in two world wars and one World Cup) enhance the national self image as one of great strength, bravery and utter moral superiority.

Of course, none of this mattered a jot to Sven Hassel who just counted the royalty checks. Anyway, Hassel considered his books as anti-war:

My books are strictly antimilitary. They correspond to my personal view of what I experienced. I write to warn the youth of today against war. I am writing the story of the small soldiers, the men who neither plan nor cause wars but have to fight them. War is the last arm of bad politicians.

Hassel died a wealthy man at the grand old age of 95 in 2012. Not a bad innings.
More after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Apocalypse Then: Monsters, nightmares & portents from ‘Augsburg Book of Miraculous Signs’
10:56 am



When Oliver Sacks was starting out on his career in neurology, he noted that many of his colleagues never seemed to read or make reference to any scientific papers more than five years old. Sacks found this strange, for as a teenager in England he had devoured numerous books on the history of chemistry and biology and even botany. However, to his fellow neurologists Sacks’ interest in the “historical and human dimension” of science was considered “archaic.” Undeterred, Sacks was convinced the historical narrative offered a better understanding of scientific investigation.

This became evident with his diagnosis of a patient who suffered incessant jerking movements of the head and limbs. With his knowledge of previous scientific investigations, Sacks was able to correctly identify the cause of the patient’s illness while at the same time confirm a theory put forward by two German pathologists—Hallervorden and Spatz—in 1922, which had almost been forgotten. This only further convinced Sacks of the great insights to be gleaned from having some historical understanding of science.

Something similar is going on here in the phantasmagorical Augsburg Book of Miraculous Signs from 1552—which presents a continuous religious narrative from Biblical stories through historical events, and assumed portents and signs right up to the 16th century—the era when Protestantism became the dominant Christian religion in England, Scotland, Germany and Switzerland.

Privately commissioned in the German town of Augsburg, this “miracle” book was published in “123 folios with 23 inserts, each page fully illuminated, one astonishing, delicious, supersaturated picture follows another.” While church reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin denounced Catholicism for its superstitious and idolatrous beliefs, the Augsburg Book of Miraculous Signs served to remind its Protestant readers of the hand of God working thru various strange and ominous events—earthquakes, plagues of locusts, weird beasts, monstrous births and unusual solar activity. Like many of his fellow reformers, Luther believed such portents signified The End of Days and the coming Apocalypse—a trope that continues to this day. 

But for the modern secular reader, these beautiful water colors and gouaches describe meteorological events—floods, hailstones, storms; seismic activity—the Lisbon earthquake; solar activity; and the cyclical path of comets; all of which—as Oliver Sacks understood—can give science its human and historical dimension.

M’colleague, Martin Schneider previously posted on this wondrous book, stating he wished he was able to read the descriptions accompanying the images. Well, this where possible I have now done or have described the scene illustrated. For those who would like to own their own copy, a facsimile edition of the Augsburg Book of Miraculous Signs has been published by Taschen and is available here.
The great flood—in the center what maybe a representation of Noah’s ark.
The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Moses parts the Red Sea.
More ‘divine’ revelation, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The forgotten mole men of Vienna’s sewers
08:32 am

Class War


Long before Orson Welles (as Harry Lime) was chased thru Vienna’s subterranean sewers in The Third Man, the city’s labyrinth of tunnels, waterways and culverts offered a secret refuge to many of the homeless poor.

The story of those who lived amid the squalor and effluence may have been long lost had it not been for the work of journalist Emil Kläger and amateur photographer Hermann Drawe, who in 1904 started documenting this secret world. With a local criminal as their guide, Kläger and Drawe descended into the city’s lower depths. In case of attack, they carried knuckledusters and guns—police could offer no protection here.

Drawe photographed these men huddled together under staircases, piled like stones in culverts, or wandering across the dark waters of the River Wien—lost men who lived, slept, smoked, ate, fought each other and shared dreams of a better future. Sometimes with their help Drawe would reconstruct certain scenes—a robbery, a fight—based on testimonies collected by Kläger. They also visited and documented the lives of the homeless men, women and children who lived in the Christian hostels above ground.

Between 1905 and 1908, Kläger and Drawe presented their work in a series of lectures—the photographs shown as slides to Kläger’s commentary. The authorities tried to stop them. This was not how the they wanted Vienna to be seen—this jewel of the Hapsburg Empire, the city of Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, of waltzes, Art Nouveau, Kings, Queens, and Sachertorte.

The public disagreed. The men gave over 300 lectures. It led to the publication of a book of their work, Durch die Wiener Quartiere des Elends und Verbrechens (Journey through the Viennese quarters of crime and despair) in 1908. 
Residents of ‘The Fortress.’
Men sleep on piles of rubble.
Sleeping under a spiral staircase.
More of Drawe’s photographs, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Have a very scary Christmas with Vincent Price
09:23 am



Habits often start through the comfort they give. While the tree may be up, the decorations hung and the lights a-twinkling I never feel truly festive without rereading Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It’s a habit I started long ago, a ritual you might say, and each holiday I return to those opening lines:

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

It’s the mix of atmospheric ghost story with a deeply humanist moral that makes Dickens’ tale so irresistible. There were, of course, many other ghost stories before A Christmas Carol but none that so intrinsically linked the festive season with the supernatural.

The story of the ungrateful miser Ebenezer Scrooge finding personal redemption after a visit from three ghosts was inspired by the deleterious effects of the Industrial Revolution on the children of poor and working class families. Dickens was horrified at the conditions of the poor and originally considered writing a political pamphlet to highlight the issue—An Appeal to the People of England, on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child—but thought that such a pamphlet would have only a limited appeal to academics, charity workers, liberal politicians and philanthropists.

After addressing a political rally in Manchester in October 1843, where he encouraged workers and employers to join together to bring social change, Dickens decided that it would be far better to write a story that could carry his message to the greatest number of people. Thus he wrote A Christmas Carol. Since its publication in 1843, it has never been out of print and its humanistic themes—to learn from our mistakes, enjoy the moment and find value in human life not things—continue to inspire generation after generation.

While I enjoy reading Dickens’ tale, I can think of no greater delight than hearing it told by Vincent Price—one of the few voices that could read YouTube comments and make them sound interesting. On Christmas Day of 1949, the debonair Mr. Price hosted a holiday special where he read an edited version of A Christmas Carol....

After the jump, Vincent Price and “the oldest extant straight adaptation” for television of ‘A Christmas Carol.’

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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