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Posts Tagged ‘humor

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?”*…

 

From the Grimms and Mother Goose to Edward Gorey, children’s literature can be… well, pretty chilling.  But for pure shock value, it’s possible that Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy—about Satanic ritual abuse—is the scariest children’s book ever written.   The book’s description explains…

The words of the text and the objects and situations illustrated are based on months of intensive research into the nature and practice of satanic ritual abuse. Any child who has been ritually abused will recognize the validity of this story.

The book was apparently marketed to school counselors, mental health professionals and support groups, as well as to concerned parent, to help identify signs of Satanic Ritual Abuse (or “SRA”).

Amazon reviewers weighed in with reactions including these:

- One HELL of a good read. Devilishly funny. My son, Damian, thought it was the funniest book he’s ever read. An all around great book to read around the sulfur pit with the family. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but honestly, LOOK AT IT.

- 4 year old saw this book and she is begging parents to send her to this school, where on earth are we going find a satanist school for the brat.

- You have to be a detective to follow the “story.” The book forces you to deduce the storyline from the progression of settings, because the book never tells you what is happening or why, or even who is talking. The child in the “story” just materializes in new contexts without explanation. The reader’s reactions are constantly along the lines of, “Where is she now? What is happening? Who is this person? Who is talking?” Each page introduces a new disjointed scenario and a new unattributed quotation, and it’s up to the reader to try to figure out what’s going on.

Via the ever-illuminating Dangerous Minds.

* Fern, to her mother, as they were setting the table for breakfast. –E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

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As we make the sign of the cross, we might wish a grateful Happy Birthday to the greatest poet and playwright in the English canon, William Shakespeare; he was born (tradition holds, and reason suggests) on this date in 1564.  In fact, there is no way to know with certainty the Bard’s birth date.  But his baptism was recorded at Stratford-on-Avon on April 26, 1564; and three days was the then-customary wait before baptism.

In any case, we do know with some certainty that Shakespeare died on this date in 1616.

The Chandos Portrait

source

“I see that the fashion wears out more apparel than the man”*…

 

From a delightful piece called the “Future Dictates of Fashion” by W. Cade Gall and published in the January 1893 issue of The Strand magazine. On the premise that a book from a hundred years in the future (published in 1993) called The Past Dictates of Fashion has been inexplicably found in a library, the article proceeds to divulge this book’s contents – namely, a look back at the last century of fashion, which, of course, for the reader in 1893, would be looking forward across the next hundred years into the future. In this imagined future, fashion has become a much respected science (studied in University from the 1950s onwards) and is seen to be “governed by immutable laws”.

The designs themselves have a somewhat unaccountable leaning toward the medieval, or as John Ptak astutely notes, “a weird alien/Buck Rogers/Dr. Seuss/Wizard of Oz quality” to them. If indeed this was a genuine attempt by the author Gall to imagine what the future of fashion might look like, it’s fascinating to see how far off the mark he was, proving yet again how difficult it is to predict future aesthetics. It is also fascinating to see how Gall envisaged the progression of fashions across the decades – considering that, from our perspective now, his vision of 1970 doesn’t much look much different to 1920 – and to see which aspects of his present he wasn’t even able to consider losing to the march of time (e.g. the long length of women’s skirts and the seemingly ubiquitous frill). As is often the case when we come into contact with historic attempts to predict a future which for us is now past, it is like glimpsing into another possible world, a parallel universe that could have been (or which, perhaps, did indeed play out “somewhere”)…

Read more (and see more) at “Fashions of the Future as Imagined in 1893.”  Then read a full transcript of Gall’s piece at Forgotten Futures or in its original context on Internet Archive.

* Shakespeare: Conrade, Much Ado About Nothing, Act 3, Scene 3

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As we worry through our wardrobes, we might send slightly subversive birthday greetings to Henry Fielding; he was born on this date in 1707.  Fielding began his literary career as a dramatist, writing plays savagely satirical of the government of Sir Robert Walpole– so critical, in fact, that they led to the imposition of the Theatrical Licensing Act of 1737– which effectively outlawed satire on stage, and ended Fielding’s career in the theater.

Fielding became a barrister, but continued to pen satires of current politics and culture, first “printed plays” (published, but unperformed) like The Tragedy of Tragedies (for which Hogarth designed the frontispiece), then prose.  He wrote for Tory publications; then, in anger at the success of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, Fielding took to writing novels in 1741 and had his first major success– Shamela, an anonymous parody of Richardson’s melodramatic novel.  He followed up with Joesph Andrews.  But his greatest work was Tom Jones, the meticulously-constructed picaresque that tells the convoluted and hilarious tale of a foundling finding his fortune.

Interestingly– and perhaps ironically– Fielding also has an important place in the history of law-enforcement, having founded (with his half-brother John) what some have called London‘s first police force, the Bow Street Runners, using the authority he gained when he was appointed a magistrate.

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Written by LW

April 22, 2014 at 1:01 am

“That’s All Folks!”*…

 

If you drink two ounces of Windex glass cleaner within an hour you’ll be drunk. Fourteen ounces will shut down your nervous system. 

You can poison yourself with water: drink over a gallon in an hour and you’ll be irritable, drowsy, suffering from a headache, and behaving strangely. If you consume another three quarters of a gallon in that hour, your nervous system will shut down

From carrots and chewing gum to Pantene hairspray and Centrum vitamins– “How Not To Kill Yourself With Household Items.”

Epitaph of Mel Blanc, “The Man of a Thousand Voices.”

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As we practice the precautionary principle, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that Alfred “Alf” Dean, fishing in south Australian waters, used a rod and reel to land the largest great white shark recognized by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA).  Weighing 1,208 kilograms (2,664 lb), it was 16′ 10″ long.

Several larger great whites caught by anglers have since been verified, but were later disallowed from formal recognition by IGFA monitors for rules violations– the most common of which rule violation is using mammals as bait…  which Mr. Dean apparently also did (“I used kittens”).  But at the time of his catch this practice was not against IGFA rules, so his record stood.

Dean and his catch

 source

Written by LW

April 21, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”*…

 

The MIT Media Lab’s Pantheon Project aims to restore some of that knowledge…

You were not born with the ability to fly, cure disease or communicate at long distances, but you were born in a society that endows you with these capacities. These capacities are the result of information that has been generated by humans and that humans have been able to embed in tangible and digital objects.

This information is all around you. It is the way in which the atoms in an airplane are arranged or the way in which your cell-phone whispers dance instructions to electromagnetic waves.

Pantheon is a project celebrating the cultural information that endows our species with these fantastic capacities. To celebrate our global cultural heritage we are compiling, analyzing and visualizing datasets that can help us understand the process of global cultural development. Dive in, visualize, and enjoy…

Readers can lose themselves in Pantheon, exploring the relative cultural output of different regions in specific domains, like innovation:

… or the cultural output across all domains of a particular nation:

… even the overall rankings of individual contributors to culture over time:

There are, as Pantheon’s keepers freely acknowledge, biases built into the methodology; they continue to work to overcome them.  Still, it is a fascinating– and altogether absorbing– resource.  Check out the rankings engine here; the visualization engine here; and these videos, by way of background:

* T.S.Eliot

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As we consult the league tables, we might recall that it was on this date in 2010 that the overdue fines on two books checked out but never returned by George Washington from the New York Society Library (the city’s only lender of books at the time of Washington’s presidency) reached $300,000.

The library’s ledgers show that Washington took out the books on October 5, 1789, some five months into his presidency at a time when New York was still the capital. They were an essay on international affairs called Law of Nations and the twelfth volume of a 14-volume collection of debates from the English House of Commons.

“We’re not actively pursuing the overdue fines,” the head librarian Mark Bartlett said at the time. “But we would be very happy if we were able to get the books back.”

The Library’s ledger: the bottom-most entries, ascribed to “President,” show show the withdrawal date, but no return. A search of the holdings confirms that the volumes are still missing.

 source

Written by LW

April 17, 2014 at 1:01 am

“By blood a king, in heart a clown”*…

 

Readers will remember Arthur Drooker, photographer-extraordinaire of conventioneers.  His most recent foray will reassure those who’ve been worried at the prospect of a clown shortage, even as it horrifies those with coulrophobia…  Drooker’s most recent stop in his quest to capture the best and most spirited conventions nationwide for his forthcoming book Conventional Wisdom was the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Northbrook, Illinois, where he dove into the annual gathering of the World Clown Association (WCA).

Read all about it, and see more of Drooker’s photos, at “Conventional Wisdom: World Clown Association.”

* Alfred Lord Tennyson

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As we practice our pratfalls, we might recall that it was on this date in 1910 that President William Howard Taft inaugurated a long-standing tradition: he threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the baseball game that began the major league season.

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Written by LW

April 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

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