The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Memorable Magazines (6): Grump

August 24th, 2016 · No Comments

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Roger Price led a curious career in the ’50s and ’60s. He contributed humor pieces to such magazines as Playboy and Mad, and put out several books of Droodles, simple sketches with droll titles. In 1958, he and Leonard Stern invented Mad Libs (actually a twist on such old amusements as Peter Coddle or Dr. Quack), and formed Price Stern Sloan (with Larry Sloan) to sell them.

In 1965, he published his own magazine, Grump, subtitled “For people who are against all the DUMB THINGS going on.” It was a tabloid on thick paper, 16 pages in two colors, with no advertising. Price contributed his own material, like an article on pet clams, a parody of bullfighting (which involved kicking dogs), or a piece on “skull diving” (a new sport in which players jumped out of windows with springs on their heads). He also included Droodles and Mad Libs, and readers sent in “Grumps” (pet peeves) and “Nagonnas” (“I’m NAGONNA spend 30c on bus fare in order to lug all my old magazines downtown in a big carton and sell them to a second hand bookstore for 30c.”). There were many short articles and cartoons, mostly more satirical than Price, mostly from a decidedly Greenwich Village perspective.

One of the hallmarks of Grump was the number of women who contributed. Among the regulars were Susan Sands (later active in NOW), Judith Rascoe (later a screenwriter, here a cartoonist), and Jeanne Sakol (who later founded the anti-feminist Pussycat League).

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Grump lasted 12 issues, I think, and later attracted writers like Jean Shepherd, Henry Morgan, and Don Adams. I think it also eventually switched to a magazine format.

I bought a couple of issues when I was 11, probably attracted by the Droodles. My parents disapproved; I think they found articles like “The Inept Seducer” or “The Secret Service Orgy Guide” too dirty for my impressionable mind. I still have those copies, and now find Grump an entertaining ’60s mix of Price silliness, sharper satire, and Village attitude, mixed in with more serious squibs (like Jacques Barzun criticizing the surfeit of art).

An excerpt from Susan Sands:

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From a strip by Don Silverstein:

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And one of Price’s “Allegories for the Alienated”:

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(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Children’s Card Games (226)

August 14th, 2016 · No Comments

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The “Home History Game for Boys and Girls” was issued by Milton Bradley in 1909. It contains 105 cards, printed with events from history. Players try to collect cards from the same day of the week.

The choice of historical incidents is idiosyncratic, as the above card shows. Most are from the 19th century, and most from the US. Deaths and battles predominate. Here are a few more from Wednesday.

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The box is a fine example of 1909 design, with a detailed illustration, and hand lettering outlined in gold (please click to enlarge). My copy is remarkably pristine, so perhaps the kids didn’t think it was much fun.

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(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Memorable Magazines (5): Fillers

August 1st, 2016 · 2 Comments

Fillers was a small (3 1/2″ x 5″) magazine, edited by Emanuel Haldeman-Julius. It had a cover story, usually of prurient interest, and pages of filler: jokes, quotations, brief articles on current events. Most of the fillers reflected Haldeman-Julius’s own brands of atheism and socialism.

Issues of Fillers were also Little Blue Books, and were numbered accordingly. The October, 1947 issue, for example, is Vol. 1, No. 10, and also LBB 1853. I don’t know if this odd double system helped sales. It apparently debuted in 1947, and changed its title to The Critic and Guide the next year. I don’t know how long it lasted.

Below are three covers, and two sample spreads. Please click on the spreads to read them.

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(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Children’s Card Games (225)

July 19th, 2016 · 1 Comment

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This card comes from a small “Matching Pairs” game, sold as a party favor by Unique Industries in Philadelphia. The paired cards show simple objects and animals, drawn in this clear and colorful style. Instructions are included in both English and French.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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My Mother on the Comics Page

June 28th, 2016 · 2 Comments

Before my mother married, she spent some time in NYC as an artist and model. I was familiar with her paintings growing up, but she never talked much about her modeling. After she died, I found a scrapbook containing photos and clippings from her college years. I was surprised by one clipping from an unidentified Oklahoma paper, which mentioned she was working for the Harry Conover Agency in NYC. Beneath it, she’d pasted a “Li’l Abner” strip (10/25/47) in which Mammy Yokum visits the Harry Conover Agency. Mammy Yokum was drawn, but Conover and the models were photographed. (Please click on it to see it larger.)

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Fortunately, “Li’l Abner” has been reprinted, so I can take a look at a larger and clearer copy. It’s still hard to tell, given the dot matrix, but I think my mother is the one on the right, behind Mammy Yokum. She would have been 20. Typically, she never mentioned this.

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(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Black Scat Review 15

May 31st, 2016 · No Comments

The fifteenth issue of The Black Scat Review is out! This one is subtitled “More Utter Nonsense,” and includes my poem “Pan and Kettle,” as well as my translations of two monologues by Charles Cros, “The Man with His Feet Turned Around” and “The Man Who Made a Discovery.” The other contributors are Edward Ahern, Paulo Brito, Giada Cattaneo, Norman Conquest, Falconhead, Farewell Debut, Jhaki M.S. Landgrebe, Michael Leigh, Jason E. Rolfe, Mercie Pedro e Silva, and Carla M. Wilson.

It’s available from Black Scat Books: $18 for a print copy and $5 for a digital.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Tillie the Toiler

May 9th, 2016 · 3 Comments

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“Tillie the Toiler” was once a popular comic strip, and held forth on newspaper comics pages from 1921 to 1959. It inspired books, movies, and pinbacks (as you can see above).

It was drawn by Russ Westover, who, like many cartoonists, had worked his way up to a daily strip through the sports page. Tillie was one of several strips that featured working women (“Winnie Winkle” being the most popular).

“Tillie the Toiler” has been mostly ignored by comics historians, and has not been reprinted. The only reason I bring it up is because I recently found a stack of dailies in an antique store. It contains 281 strips, covering all of 1930 except for October (and Sundays). I don’t know why October isn’t included. One week in September is obviously ghosted, so maybe October was ghosted too, and the original collector only wanted to save Westover.

Although I’d read that Tillie’s appeal was that she was an independent, working woman, that was not the case in 1930. The main premise of the strip is that Tillie is vain, superficial, irresponsible, and lazy, but that men adore her anyway. In the course of the year, she ruins her own business by excessive spending on clothes, and by neglecting the business to party with any “good-looking man” she meets. Her supposed boyfriend, Mac, puts up with her callous treatment, which includes destroying his car and breaking dates with him at the last moment. She often asks him to drive her to dates with other men, or to take calls from her boyfriends when she’s out dancing with another of them. But she’s supposed to be pretty, so I guess nobody cares that she’s such an asshole.

At any rate, Westover’s art is breezy and appealing. Here’s a sample, showing Tillie, her new boyfriend Ken, Mac, fellow stenographer Bubbles, and her boss, Mr. Simpkins. Then, as now, the ukulele was controversial.

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(Posted by Doug Skinner)

→ 3 CommentsTags: Cartoons · Ukulele

Avocado Seed Soup

May 1st, 2016 · 1 Comment

As an admirer of Slim Gaillard’s inimitable creation, The Avocado Seed Soup Symphony, I wondered if I could indeed make avocado seed soup. A search of the internet yielded the information that avocado pits are rich in magnesium, calcium, and potassium, and that they can be ground up and added to smoothies, but no recipes for a Gaillardesque soup.

So, I experimented, and can offer search engines a tasty Avocado Seed Soup.

It’s pretty simple. Add one or more avocado pits to boiling water. You don’t need to clean them; bits of avocado will only help the soup. Add salt, garlic, and onion. You can sautée minced garlic and onion, or use dried bits from a jar if you’re busy or lazy. Season to taste; the proportions will depend on how much water and avocadoes you’re using.

After the pits simmer for a while, the skin will boil off, and they’ll separate into two parts. The water will turn a rich reddish brown. The pits themselves are bitter, so remove them. The broth itself, though, is not, although stray flecks of pit add a bit of welcome flavor. You can, of course, use it as a broth, and add other vegetables, but I like it best as is. It’s Macvouty!

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

→ 1 CommentTags: The Ineffable

Children’s Card Games (224)

April 18th, 2016 · 1 Comment

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This version of “Authors” was published by Milton Bradley, sometime in the late 19th or early 20th century. It promises a “Revised Edition with Fine Portraits of Standard Writers.” I welcome the chance to admire Wilkie Collins, who doesn’t often make it into the canon. The others in this set are Shakespeare, Scott, Macaulay, Dickens, Thackeray, Tennyson, Longfellow, Lowell, Holmes, Burns, Hugo, Irving, and Goldsmith. Hugo’s appearance is also unusual: he’s the only French writer.

This edition also includes “Prize Cards” which earn you extra points. Rack up those Authors points!

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(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Sleepytime Cemetery

April 11th, 2016 · No Comments

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Sleepytime Cemetery is now available! In the words of Black Scat Books, “In this new collection of short stories by the author of The Doug Skinner Dossier, you’ll discover a world of ostensibly human specimens behaving in peculiar and unpredictable ways. However, they are often recognizable in a manner we dare not admit. Skinner’s dark humor is deceptively playful and childlike, and that makes our bursts of laughter all the more disturbing. These 40 tales are guaranteed to disconcert and astonish.”

Available from Black Scat Books, or from Amazon.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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