(Roughly) Daily

“Disbelief in magic can force a poor soul into believing in government and business”*…


The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has recently digitized ten scrapbooks belonging to Harry Houdini. The books are divided into three groups: volumes compiled by other magicians about their careers; scrapbooks holding Houdini’s clippings on the practice of magic in general; and books that chart Houdini’s investigations of fakes, frauds, and conjurers. (Later in his life, Houdini became fascinated with the post-WWI fad for spiritualism—mediums, séances, and psychics—and took on a role as skeptical debunker of spiritualist performers.)…

Read more about Houdini’s scrapbooks at the always-illuminating Open Culture.  And read more about the broader scrapbooking craze of which they were a part at “Writing With Scissors.”

* Tom Robbins


As we reach for the paste, we might recall that it was on this date in 1957 that Chairman Mao delivered his speech, “On the Correct handling of Contradictions Among the People,” to the Eleventh Session (Enlarged) of the Supreme State Conference in China.  Calling for the free expression of criticisms of the Communist regime, Mao instigated what he called the “Hundred Flowers era” (as in “let a hundred flowers bloom…”).

It was a short-lived era.  Some historians suggest that the outpouring of criticism that resulted spooked the powers-that-be; others believe that Mao’s invitation was from the outset a calculated move to draw out critics. (Mao later said that he was trying to coax snakes out of their dens so he could chop off their heads…  but he may well have been saving face.) Either way, within months, the Hundred Flowers campaign had given way to the Anti-Rightest Campaign: 300-600,000 intellectuals were labeled as rightists, stripped of their jobs, and sent to labor camps, most on the evidence of their Hundred Flowers comments.

“Bring every positive factor into play, correctly handle contradictions among the people, 1958”: a poster for the Hundred Flowers campaign.



Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 27, 2014 at 1:01 am

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