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Posts Tagged ‘Poe

“It’s just a job”*…

 

Liverpool Port Sanitary Authority rat-catchers dressed in protective clothing with traps and equipment, Liverpool, England. Photograph, 1900/1920. via Wellcome Library

Peculiar Jobs– Catching Rats

Rat-catchers, pest control operatives or pest technicians. People with this occupation caught rats for a living, mainly as a form of pest control. Keeping the rat population under control prevented the spread of disease to man, most notoriously the Black Plague, and also prevented damage to food supplies.

Some reports show that rat-catchers would raise the rat population rather that catching them. Why? To increase their eventual payment from the town or city they were employed by. These rat-catchers were active in Liverpool – they caught the rats, then dipped them in buckets of petrol to kill the fleas and hoped to control the plague this way…

Liverpool Port Sanitary Authority rat-catchers dipping rats in buckets of petrol to kill fleas for plague control. Liverpool, England. Photograph, 1900/1920. via Wellcome Library

More “Peculiar Jobs” at Europeana.

* “It’s just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.”  – Muhammad Ali

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As we whistle while we work, we might recall that it was on this date in 1843 that Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Black Cat” first appeared (in The Saturday Evening Post, then known as United States Saturday Post). One of Poe’s two great studies of the psychology of guilt (with “The Tell-Tale Heart”) , its full text is available here.

One of Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for “The Black Cat”

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Written by LW

August 19, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague”*…

 

In order to see the appeal of the forthcoming Morbid Anatomy Museum, you have to understand the death-centric collection—think skeletons, taxidermy, medical oddities— as neither kitschy nor creepy.

“I like to think about how our attitudes about things have changed; and in particular our attitudes about death, because I think that is the most fertile thing to examine,” says Joanna Ebenstein, the founder of the Morbid Anatomy Library, which is the basis of the museum. “The way we think about death now, these images seem completely inappropriate. It seems voyeuristic and wrong and horrible. But I would argue, in some ways, that they were dealing with grief in ways that we don’t really have a capability with any longer because we think it’s so inappropriate.”…

“It really speaks to how much we’ve changed as people that this could become exotic and other. It never was before; there was never a period in history where death was so other than now.” Confronting that chasm is, in part, the purpose of the museum…

The Morbid Anatomy Museum opens in Brooklyn next month, when it will feature its permanent collection (sampled in the photo above), a 2500-volume library, a lecture series, classes (e.g., taxidermy), and special exhibits (like Water Potter’s “Kitten Wedding,” from the 1890s, pictured below).

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Read more at “Coming Soon to Brooklyn: The Morbid Anatomy Museum.”

* Edgar Allan Poe

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As we memento mori, we might we might send rebellious birthday greetings to Jean Vigo; he was born on this date in 1905.  The son of Catalan anarchists, Vigo migrated to Paris and became a film maker.  A founder (with Jean Renoir) of “poetic realism” in film, Vigo is best remembered for two films, both hugely impactful on French and world cinema: Zéro de conduite (1933) and L’Atalante (1934).  The former– a tale of rebellious school boys– was the inspiration for Lindsay Anderson’s marvelous If…; the latter– the story of a marriage falling apart, then healing– was chosen as the 10th-greatest film of all time in Sight & Sound’s 1962 poll, and as the 6th-best in its 1992 poll.  He’s widely considered the “grandfather” of the French New Wave, on whom he had an enormous influence.

Writing of Vigo’s death in The New York Times, film critic Andrew Johnston judged: “The ranks of the great film directors are short on Keatses and Shelleys, young artists cut off in their prime, leaving behind a handful of great works that suggest what might have been. But one who qualifies is Jean Vigo, the French director who died of tuberculosis at age 29 in 1934.”

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Written by LW

April 26, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Crime is terribly revealing”*…

 

Victim’s feet hanging on bed, 1934 © LAPD

An estimated one million images taken by Los Angeles Police Department officers and criminologists since the 1920s sit in storage at the City Records Center in downtown L.A. Later this month, 50 of these photographs will be on exhibit inside a fake police station at Paramount Studios.

The second annual Paris Photo Los Angeles has put together Unedited! The LAPD Photo Archive as part of its massive photo fair at Paramount Studios from April 25 through 27. The shots, most uncredited and taken between 1930 and 1960, show black-and-white crime reenactments, forensic scenes, even robbery notes…

Bank robbery note, 1965. © LAPD

Read more at “A Look Through the LAPD’s Stunning Photo Archives.”

* “Crime is terribly revealing. Try and vary your methods as you will, your tastes, your habits, your attitude of mind, and your soul is revealed by your actions.”  – Agatha Christie

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As we stick ’em up, we might offer a tip of the birthday topper to Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin, remembering that on this date in 1841, Edgar Allen Poe’s story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”– the first detective story in English– was published in  Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine.  Its protagonist’s extraordinary “analytical power” was surely the mold for subsequent detectives, from Sgt. Cuff in The Moonstone (Wilkie Collins’ second hit, and the first detective novel in English) through Conan Doyle’s remarkable Sherlock to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot and his “little grey cells”…

Facsimile of Poe’s manuscript for “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”

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Written by LW

April 20, 2014 at 1:01 am

It’s a Bard! it’s a plain (Jane)! It’s…

Literary Action Figures!  Shakespeare, Ms. Austen, plus Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, and Charles Dickens

Order now, and as a special bonus receive:

(TotH to Brainpickings)

As we save up our allowance, we might recall that it was on this date in 1881 that Charles Darwin published The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms-– the work he considered a more important accomplishment than The Origin of Species (1859).

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