Hair. Big Hair.

BibliOdyssey has up a boggling array of satirical giant hair illustrations from the 1770s. Apparently, there was a reactionary wave of mockery in English and French presses to the ever-growing size of women’s hair styles at the time:





These are so otherworldly. I feel like there’s a “Hair-onymus Bosch” joke in here someplace.

This illustration presents the typical man and typical woman of the time spliced together to accentuate the ridiculousness of women’s fashion:


Head on over to BibliOdyssey for more images and source list.

Sports before radio

I was just talking about this with a friend, so I was happy to randomly come across photos of it via It’s somewhat in the same vein as the Harris 20th Century Railroad Attachment in the sense of My god, I can’t believe this was commonplace one hundred years ago.

Prior to the advent of radio broadcasts, people would actually mass in the streets to stare intently at this really mechanical “baseball game reproducer” that looks like a pinball machine. Updates would be phoned in or delivered via telegram and then be put up on the board to – one assumes – thunderous reaction. Amazing how the standards of what passes for entertainment change over time. I can’t imagine announcing to my wife, “OK, I’m off to stare at the baseball game reproducer. See you in three hours!”


Pneumatic tube update

In response to the Pneumatically Prague post, readers TK and DS sent along this link with more info on the system, including this impossibly-cool photo of the control system…


… and this description of what sounds like a really fun technological show-down between pneumatic tube, messenger and telex system:

There was an experiment in about 1970 in which they tried to deliver 50 telegram forms (it is the maximum capacity of the capsule) from the Prague main post office to the Prague castle post office by the messenger, by telex system (with the fastest operator – winner of the typewriter competitions), and by the pneumatic tube system. The tube system was the absolute winner, taking 8 minutes to deliver the package.

If you could apply advertising trends from 30 years later to promote the tube, it would have been fun to print t-shirts that read Got Pneu?

Halfway goats and Malick Sidibé

Friday’s goats in trees post brought to my mind the fact that several acquaintances of mine who have travelled in central African countries have mentioned spotting goats that are half white and half black– not speckled, but divided neatly down the middle.

Here, via Flickr user Maody, is one example:


I also noticed another such goat in a book of photographs by Malick Sidibé:


(Although, to be honest, I think that this animal is actually a sheep).

While surely the half-and-half coloring of these animals serves some Darwinian purpose, it’s hard not to see it as a result of indecision on the part of their maker. More than anything else, they remind me of those mixed boxes of ice cream one gets at the supermarket that are equal parts vanilla and chocolate, presumably for conflicted eaters and/or divided families. I’m also reminded of a great tongue-in-cheek Minor Threat-style hardcore song my friend wrote when we were 13 years old called “Halfway Man”, whose lyrics excoriate the man who eats half a sandwich and then folds the rest up in his pocket for later (‘Eat it now or eat it later HAAAAALFWAYYY MANNN!‘). With that it mind, I hereby christen these creatures Halfway Goats (or Sheep).

While we’re here, I might as well blog a bit on Sidibé, one of my favorite photographers. One thing that’s cool about Sidibe is that he has worked more or less as a commercial portrait photographer his whole life, rather than aspiring to art-for-arts-sake. Another cool thing is the fact that prosperous citizens of Mali would come into his studio with objects they considered to be status symbols, which were generally: hip clothes, bicycles, radios, guitars and motorbikes. These happen to be some of my favorite visual items and make for great portrait photography. So much cooler than if, say, nowadays people went into his studio with Bugaboo baby strollers and really fresh arugula and whatever else currently constitutes an upper-middle class status symbol.

Some of his photos:







Harris 20th Century Railroad Attachment

One of my favorite possessions is a replica Sears Roebuck catalog from exactly 100 years ago. For a great many rural Americans at the time, the Sears catalog was the only access to goods outside of their local general store and, as a result, the catalog – sometimes called ‘The Consumer’s Bible’- contains basically every commercial product under the sun and thereby provides an inventory of everything that the average American of the time could have possibly thought of to own. You can buy a violin. You can buy a gun. You can buy a cure for baldness. You can buy records with racist ‘humor’ songs on them. For several hundred dollars, you can buy an unassembled two-storey house– as in, Sears delivers all the materials and some plans, and you put the thing together.


You can also buy this baffling Harris 20th Century Railroad Attachment that promises to make ‘a regular railroad velocipede out of an ordinary bicycle’. I like how the product is meticulously described – all the features, portability, popular with men and women, handsome black enamel – except for the key detail of what you are supposed to do when a train comes barreling down on you from behind, which is left totally unexplained.

Another nice thing about the catalog in general is that it predates the era of product photography. I don’t know whether it was too expensive to shoot all the products, or if the halftone screen wasn’t far enough along to allow for mass printing of photos in 1909, but in any case, the book contains thousands upon thousands of etchings of household items. One can only imagine the army of commercial etchers who must have been scratching away morning, noon and night to produce all this imagery.

Futurism and the Musee Mecanique

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Futurist Manifesto, when F.T. Marinetti (the self-proclaimed ‘most modern man in Europe’ at the time) introduced his cult of dynamism to the world through a combination of incendiary rhetoric, genius publicity stunts and Fascist agitating. The Futurists were fascinated by speed, technology, war, Moussellini, masculinity, action and loud noise; they were contemptuous of civility, history, culture, women, and everything else they associated with polite society and the existing status quo. The only avant-garde art movement I’m aware of with a strong right-wing orientation, Futurism remains weirdly alluring and seriously off-putting.

As Futurists were obsessed with the dynamics of the early machine age, I had the idea many years ago to illustrate their manifesto with photos taken from San Francisco’s Musee Mecanique, a highly-enjoyable collection of antique arcade machines. The common link is that both the Manifesto and the MM collection show the imaginative possibilities of the early machine age, and both produce results that are both appealing and monstrous. I printed a few copies of this as accordion-folds.

Front and back cover:



(Note how much the giant doll on the cover looks like Moussellini- a happy coincidence!)

Inside spreads:







Enjoy Mock Duck


I found this vintage promotional Holiday Inn postcard in my step-mother’s house and it instantly became one of my prized images, earning the strongest magnet on my refrigerator door and loosely inspiring – with its garish, ghoulish Stepford-leisure-suit vibe – the whole ‘Enjoy Mock Duck’ concept.

As with the White Album or Carl Lewis’ disastrous rendition of the National Anthem, it’s hard to pick just one favorite part. But one minor detail I enjoy is where the father’s hand is lying on his daughter’s shoulder in the Swimming Pool Scene: note the strange turquoise shape that’s hovering over her shoulder. Is it a snorkel? A discolored candy cane? A sea horse? No, it’s a ribbon in her hair that’s somehow as perfectly stiff and lifeless as everything else in this little set. Marvelous.

Frontier-style justice with Mayor Schmitz

killprocWith the recent talk of martial law in Tehran, my thoughts have been wandering back to the 1909 San Francisco earthquake and its insane aftermath, when the city’s mayor issued a blanket proclamation warning that any and all looters found in the streets would be shot dead on the spot. And, apparently, over 500 civilians were shot, many of whom were not in fact looting but instead trying to protect their belongings from advancing fires.

With earthquake, fire and out-of-control firing squads already accounted for, its a wonder that tornado, tidal wave and killer beers weren’t inflicted on the citizenry just to complete the natural suite of terrors. It feels like it must have been a hundred million years ago that firing squads roamed San Francisco, given that nowadays you can’t step on a bug without people drafting a ballot measure in protest. It’s a vivid reminder of the old, weird Wild West past that the city emphatically grew out of.


The alleged actual proclamation is posted above (although it clearly seems to have been photoshopped up a bit). Apocalyptic post-earthquake photos here. Many years ago, I made a weird little installation page using two of these photos on the old, defunct Mock Duck Project site.  Photo: fallen zoologist Louis Agassiz outside Stanford University.

On the Old Apartment Rule

I wholly support the Old Apartment Rule, partly because I’ve had the good fortune to experience it.  For about half of the decade that I lived in New York City, I made my home in a tiny sixth floor tenement walk-up on Houston Street.  I first lived there for four years from ’95 – ’99, and in ’97 I got a roommate named Slink from Chicago.  I got him on the lease after I moved out, and he has stayed there ever since, although he now uses it for only a few nights a week when he commutes in from a home in upstate New York.  (It’s behind the two top left windows in the building on the right below.) The Pad

Thanks to Slink, I have continued to return to this apartment on periodic trips to New York, including a year-long stint living there again in my final year in NYC (during this year we formed a band called The Pad whose entire repertoire was songs about the apartment), and I’ve seen it go through a remarkable number of manifestations: as an art gallery, a fashion designer’s studio, a recording studio, a go-go dancer’s lair, etc.  (Just your typical Lower East Side progression — remember that we’re talking about 400 square feet here at best.)  I am always extremely grateful at the opportunity to return, and particularly to get onto the roof and see Manhattan through 20-something eyes again.

More on flying lounges

Compare this photo with the swinging social atmosphere shown in Purephazed’s Pan Am post directly below.


I’ll take the Pan Am party, thank you very much. The above photo is, of course, the grueling Amtrak lounge, a sort of airborne version of the bar scene in Star Wars.

What’s interesting nowadays about Amtrak from a self-parodic perspective is that their spokesman and key lobbyist is none other than Michael Dukakis.


There’s something poetic about two failed, lefty, Northeast institutions that are held in wide contempt by most of the country coming together like this.