The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Jumble Rhymes

January 28th, 2018 · No Comments

For anyone looking for new poetic forms, I offer the jumble, or anagram, rhyme. Instead of rhyming lines with words ending with the same phonemes, it uses anagrams. Here are four quadriliteral quatrains:

When Peter heard the church bell peal,
He shut his eyes, prepared to leap.
Priscilla, features drawn and pale,
Called out a final anguished plea.

This simple post
Is still the spot
Where Rover opts
To sniff and stop.

The farmer grimly spread his nets
Where he suspected rats would nest.
He didn’t like it when they sent
Their litters out in nines and tens.

The life of urban man is tame:
He earns his wage; he cheers his team;
He swigs his beer; he eats his meat;
He quarrels with his chosen mate.

And a duodeciliteral couplet:

Please spare us your enumerations
Of celebrated mountaineers.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Memorable Magazines (11): Perpetual Motion Journal

January 14th, 2018 · No Comments

Irvin R. Barrows published five issues of the Perpetual Motion Journal from 1967 to 1971. This issue contains “Will the 21st Century Repeal the Laws of Nature?” by Jay Mendell (reprinted from The Futurist), the fourth installment of a 1906 article from Cassier’s magazine, reproductions of patent applications from 1929 and 1931, and articles on magnets and patent applications by Gaston Burridge and R. G. LeTourneau.

Barrows apparently intended his magazine for inventors, and hoped one of his readers would finally come up with the impossible. The patents he includes are not really perpetual motion motors: Arthur Powell’s 1929 “Permanent Magnet Magnetic Motor” is powered by a battery, but is supposedly efficient and inexpensive; Georges Bougon’s 1931 “Magnetic Device” simply propels an iron ball along a line of horseshoe magnets.

It’s easy to dismiss these attempts to sidestep physics, but there are interesting ideas here, and a certain fascination to all those experiments with wheels and magnets. I’m tempted to build that Bourgon device, although I can’t imagine what I’d do with it after watching the ball roll down it a few times. (Please click on it for legibility.)

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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More Reference Works

December 25th, 2017 · 2 Comments

Have you bought your copy of Le Scat Noir Encyclopaedia yet? Here’s another ullage dozen of reference works from my library, to get you in the mood.

A dictionary of Enochian, the angelic language communicated to John Dee and Edward Kelley in a number of scrying sessions in the late 16th century. It remains popular among ceremonial magicians. “Gmicalzoma,” by the way, means “with a power understanding.”

The New Book of Prime Number Records offers the prime-number buff 541 pages about prime numbers, including Mersenne numbers, Lucas sequences, Fermat numbers, Carmichael numbers, repunits, and much more. 541, of course, is a prime.

Every slang dictionary has its own character. This one was compiled by one of my favorite writers, François Caradec, noted ‘Pataphysician and biographer of Alphonse Allais, Raymond Roussel, Alfred Jarry, and Le Pétomane. He begins with à, noting it often replaces de or chez in the spoken language, and winds up with zyeuter de la merde, to have poor eyesight.

A pictorial history of campaign buttons, compiled for collectors. Filled with graphic delights, unfortunately all in black and white.

A handbook of an early universal language, Volapük, devised in 1879 by Johann Martin Schleyer. It had a brief vogue, but was too clumsy and complicated to catch on. Nevertheless, it will benefit everyone to have read this book: Opöfüdos alime elilädön buki at.

The Benedictine monk Antoine-Joseph Pernéty compiled his Mytho-Hermetic Dictionary in 1758. It contains an impressive glossary (546 pages) of alchemical terms, from Abam (lead) to Zymar (verdigris).

A fine collection of Piedmontese proverbs. It doesn’t settle the argument whether Piedmontese is an Italian dialect or a separate language, but does offer such samples of folk wisdom as Arc an cel d’ matin a fa giré ‘l mùlin: A rainbow in the morning, and the mill will turn.

C. K. Ogden proposed a simple universal language: English limited to 850 words. His plan was endorsed by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, among others.

A dictionary of Italian food and wine, in four languages. Italian certainly has an extensive vocabulary on those subjects.

A flavorful glossary of criminal slang, from 1950. The editors begin by crediting their “Board of Underworld Advisers”: Bad Bill, Big Department, Bubbles, Butch, Chink, Chop Chop, Dippo, Duke, Hal the Rebel, Iggy, Jo Jo, Red Mack, Slim, Stubs, and The Colonel.

The authoritative work on magic squares, from 1917, with 754 examples.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Reference Works

December 12th, 2017 · 2 Comments

I particularly enjoyed contributing to the Black Scat Encyclopaedia (see last post) because I’m so fond of reference works. Here’s an ullage dozen from my library (click the images to enlarge):

This booklet contains all the eleven-letter words in the 1951 Merriam-Webster’s New International Unabridged Directory, from abacination to zymotically. Word lists like this were published to help with puzzle contests.

In any language, prepositions are stubbornly idiomatic and irrational. This little book concentrates on two pesky French ones, à and de.

410 pages of sigils, organized both alphabetically and by their number of lines and circles.

An invaluable guide to what schools served for lunch in 1962. Also useful if you want to make macaroni and cheese for 50.

Over 500 German folk songs.

A comprehensive bibliography of artificial international languages, up to 1929. Over 6000 entries, in Esperanto, as is only appropriate.

A dictionary of monsters, which I found in Rome several years ago. Unfortunately, I only have the fourth volume. I guess I’ll have to go back.

J. Walker’s rhyming dictionary doesn’t organize words by rhymes, like most do; it alphabetizes them backwards, from baa to fuzz.

A dictionary of the abbreviations in medieval manuscripts.

A glossary of the slang used by CB operators in the ’70s. It’s good to know that someone in 1976 called the police “electric teeth.”

8000 Spanish proverbs, prefaced by a long collection of rhymed proverbs by the 16th century poet Alonso de Barros.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Le Scat Noir Encyclopaedia

December 4th, 2017 · No Comments

Le Scat Noir Encyclopædia offers “All human knowledge in a single volume.” It contains entries from Acrostic to Zwine, and features contributors from around the world—some of whom are distinguished professors at prestigious universities. Others are Nobel Prize winners, while a few have been arrested on felony charges. Discover rare factoids, flash fiction, nubile moon spew, mythological arcana, cabalistic pathogens, pataphysical detritus, scatological schemata, crypto-heuristic scripture, and radical homomorphism. Over 100 pages of profusely illustrated weirdness.

Featuring contributions by Mark Axelrod, Jeff Bagato, Jacques Bekaert, Doktor Bey, Paulo Brito, Adam Levon Brown, Theodore Carter, Brendan Connell, Norman Conquest, Sean Coolican, Catherine D’Avis, Farewell Debut, Edith Doove, Paul Forristal, Ryan A. Forsythe, Peter Gambaccini, Eckhard Gerdes, Amelia Gorman, Thomas Gresham, Charles Holdefer, James R. Hugunin, Harold Jaffe, Richard Kostelanetz, Rachel Kushner, Terri Lloyd, Harry McCullagh, David Macpherson, Opal Louis Nations, Andy O’Clancy, Peter Payack, Caleb Puckett, Jason E. Rolfe, Paul Rosheim, Stephen Silke, Mercie Pedro e Silva, Doug Skinner, Seth D. Slater, Yuriy Tarnawsky, Robert Wexelblatt, Tom Whalen, Gregg Williard, Carla M. Wilson, and D. Harlan Wilson. Edited by Norman Conquest.

My contributions include entries on asemic acrostics, iambic centameter, inflatable prosthetics, quadratic syllogisms, oxymoronic onomatopoeia, and other subjects. It’s published by Black Scat Books, and available on Amazon!

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Children’s Card Game (235)

November 28th, 2017 · No Comments

The “Nederlands Stedenkwartet” (Dutch Cities Quartet) was published in 1958 by Jumbo, in Amsterdam. As is usual in quartet games, players competed to collect four of a kind. In this case, they collected four views of a Dutch city. Eleven cities were represented: Groningen, Friesland, Drente, Overijsel, Gelderland, Limburg, Noord-Brabant, Zeeland, Utrecht, Zuid-Holland, and Noord-Holland. The deck came with a little pamphlet giving a few facts about each city.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Long Live Life!

November 20th, 2017 · No Comments

Long Live Life is now available! It’s my seventh translation of the peerless French humorist Alphonse Allais, a favorite of Surrealists, ‘Pataphysicians, and astute readers everywhere!

This is the first publication in English of the master’s 1892 collection, Vive la Vie! — stories culled from the pages of the legendary Bohemian paper Le Chat Noir, packed with madcap (and bawdy) tales of love, adultery, the supernatural, military life, and fake news. These texts are quintessentially Allaisian, spiked with absurd digressions, parenthetical asides, footnotes, puns, jokes, military jargon, Parisian slang, neologisms, dog Latin, literary quotations, and other unmentionable forms of wordplay. This special Black Scat edition features four additional short stories not included in the original French volume, as well as a lively introduction, illustrations, and fascinating notes on the text by Doug Skinner. Explosions of laughter guaranteed.

You can find it on Amazon, or from Black Scat Books.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Bulletin (38)

October 15th, 2017 · No Comments

I will be appearing on Bob Sikoryak’s long-running series “Carousel,” at Dixon Place, on Thursday, Oct. 19. Dixon Place is at 161A Chrystie St. (NYC), and the show is at 7:30. I’ll join other cartoonists in showing cartoons on the wall, and sing while Bob paints. There’s more info here.

My cartoon “Musical Instruments” continues to appear every month in Le Scat Noir. I also often contribute stories and translations.

You can also find three pages of my comics in the first issue of Dagger, available here.

I will do a set of my songs at the Red Room (NYC), on November 16, along with Doug Roesch and his band the Town Street Criers. The Red Room is at 85 E. 4th St., above the KGB Bar. The show starts at 8, and there’s no cover charge.

My next translation of Alphonse Allais, Long Live Life!, is nearing completion, and is slated to spring from Black Scat Books before the end of the year. A collection of my short stories is also in the works. Watch for both!

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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An Ad for “The Zombie of Great Peru”

October 8th, 2017 · 2 Comments

Norman Conquest of Black Scat Books sent me this spiffy ad for The Zombie of Great Peru, written by Pierre-Corneille Blessebois and translated by the undersigned. Read the ad! Buy the book!

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Children’s Card Games (234)

September 17th, 2017 · 1 Comment

“Famous Paintings,” published by the Cincinnati Game Company in 1897, offered a variation on the popular “Authors”: the players accumulated four paintings instead of authors. The paintings are reproduced in rather muddy brown, with a dark purple border, and show the artistic taste of the late 19th century. Here, for example, is a painting by Rosa Bonheur, who specialized in animals, and whose reputation has fluctuated over the years. Her painting “The Horse Fair” still attracts admirers at the Met.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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