The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Children’s Card Games (230)

April 16th, 2017 · No Comments

The “Fun in Flight Deck” was published by United Airlines, probably in the ’70s. It contains 24 cards containing games to keep children occupied on those long flights. One side of the cards has connect-the-dot pictures, which can also be used to play Rummy or Solitaire; the other side offers a variety of mazes, puzzles, and things to draw. I hope the kids appreciated it.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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I Am Sarcey

April 1st, 2017 · No Comments

I Am Sarcey is now available from Black Scat Books!

Francisque Sarcey was Paris’s most celebrated critic in the 1890s, and one of its most conservative. He famously panned Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi as “a filthy fraud that deserves nothing but the silence of contempt,” and praised light, commercial fare. Not surprisingly, he became an object of derision for young poets and artists. Nobody took the ridicule further than Alphonse Allais, who appropriated Sarcey’s byline for a series of articles in the Bohemian paper Le Chat Noir. Allais’s Sarcey was an obese buffoon who boasted about his appetite, complained about his constipation and impotence, and championed mediocrity in the arts: a memorable comic character who often overshadowed the original.

Doug Skinner has selected, translated, and annotated this famous journalistic prank. It’s now available from Black Scat Books or Amazon.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Children’s Card Games (229)

March 28th, 2017 · No Comments

The “Game of Wars” offered players a great deal of information about famous wars, on plain and sturdy cards. My copy came in an equally no-nonsense box, which asserted that the game was “instructive and entertaining,” but no instructions. Nor is there any indication of date or publisher. My guess is that it was played like “Authors,” by collecting four of a kind.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Francis G. Attwood: A Forgotten Cartoonist

February 22nd, 2017 · No Comments

From about 1887 to 1899, Francis Gilbert Attwood contributed a monthly page to the magazine Life. (This is, of course, the old humor magazine, not the later one.) He seems to be forgotten now, probably because he died so young, at 44 (1856-1900). According to the brief introduction to Attwood’s Pictures, published by the Life Publishing Company in 1900, he was born and died in Jamaica Plain, Mass, was in the 1878 class at Harvard, and had his work first published in the Harvard Lampoon. He contributed to other magazines, and illustrated a few books, but was mostly known for his work in Life.

Here’s a fine page from January 1888. Please click on it to see it better.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Memorable Magazines (7): Proceedings

January 8th, 2017 · 1 Comment

The Proceedings of the College of Universal Wisdom was edited and published by George Van Tassel, one of the livelier contactees of the 1950s. He and his wife Eva settled in Yucca Valley, near a large boulder called Giant Rock; there they held meetings for the Ministry of Universal Wisdom (originally the Brotherhood of Cosmic Christ), hosted UFO conventions, and ran a cafe. They also built the Integratron, a large white domed building intended as a rejuvenation chamber and time travel portal. Van Tassel claimed to be in communication with “space people,” who passed along prophecies and scientific information.

The Proceedings was the “official outlet” for his activities. This issue, from 1957, is 16 pages long; it contains a couple of UFO photos, a statement about the College’s purpose (among other things, to research “the memory span of atoms, the polarity interchange of vortices, and the generation of a ‘time field'”), season’s greetings, an article on the National Investigation Committee for Aerial Phenomena and its attitude toward contactees, an editorial urging less foreign aid and more money for science, an article on fallout, and praise of Van Tassel from one of his followers. The Proceedings, if I’m not mistaken, continued until Van Tassel’s death in 1978.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)


→ 1 CommentTags: Ephemera

Music Down Through the Ages

December 18th, 2016 · No Comments

From the pages of Life, July 9, 1925 (this is of course the old humorous Life, not the later news magazine), John Held Jr. illustrates the popularity of musical instruments among “college chaps.” The uke, mandolin, and guitar are still going strong, the others less so. (Please click to enlarge.)

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

→ No CommentsTags: Cartoons · Ukulele

Political Playing Cards (2)

December 12th, 2016 · No Comments

This curious deck rejoices in the name of “Political Satire Playing Deck 1,” and was published in 1975 by the Spanish company Heraclio Fournier. The drawings are credited to Ortuño. The politicians are an international bunch; shown here is Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who served as Prime Minister of Ceylon and Sri Lanka. Besides playing the usual card games, you can also play “The Political Satire Game,” in which players compete using seven characteristics: Numerical Card Value, Name of the Person, Name of Country, Area in Square Miles, Population, Capital City, and Monetary Unit. The rules are complicated. You can also play “The United Nations International Party Game,” in which a card is pinned on each player’s back, and he or she has to guess who it is.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Children’s Card Games (228)

November 27th, 2016 · No Comments


We have another “Authors” deck, rather battered, as you can see. It’s incomplete, with no indication of date or publisher. The Winston Churchill pictured here is not the British one who became Prime Minister, but an American writer, who retired in 1919.

The deck has an unusual pantheon. In addition to Winston, we have William Dean Howells, Cyrus Townsend Brady, James Bryce, Mark Twain, Booth Tarkington, Ernest Thompson Seton, Sam Walter Foss, Henry Cabot Lodge, and Jack London.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Double Over: Blackcattish Stories

November 20th, 2016 · 2 Comments


Black Scat Books is proud to serve up the master absurdist’s inaugural collection,  containing his hand-picked favorites from the pages of Le Chat Noir, the bohemian journal that amused and scandalized Paris. Here you’ll find Allais in the first flush of his comic genius, spinning out elegant and hilarious gems of black humor on suicide, murder, obsession, and adultery. You will meet the philosophical cuckold, the young lady in love with a pig, the inventor of the Tumultoscope, and Ferdinand, the most resourceful duck in literature. Among the highlights is Allais’s most famous story, “A Thoroughly Parisian Drama,” a favorite of André Breton and Umberto Eco. This is the book’s first publication in English, and features seven additional stories from Le Chat Noir, as well as a sublime introduction, notes on the text, and drawings by Doug Skinner.

276 delicious pages!

Pick up a copy on Amazon! Visit Black Scat Books!

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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The First Parody of Shakespeare

November 16th, 2016 · No Comments

The three Parnassus plays – The Pilgrimage to Parnassus and the two parts of The Return from Parnassus – were written from 1598 to 1601, and performed at St. John’s College at Cambridge as, as the plays themselves say, “Christmas toys.” All three follow the adventures of two students, Philomusus and Studioso, as they face the economic realities of life after graduation. The author is unknown. The third play was printed in 1606, but the first two were only discovered in 1886, by a certain William Macray, who promptly published them.

The plays are not read much. They’re a lot of fun, though, riffing cynically on the eternal poverty of the scholarly life, as our two heroes struggle to find work: “The partiall heavens doe favoure eche rude boore, / Mackes droviers riche, and makes each scholler poore.” The plays are enlivened considerably by the character Ingenioso, a university wit who has turned to writing pamphlets and satires to make a living. He seems to be based on Thomas Nashe, a St. John’s alumnus, and has much of Nashe’s verbal extravagance and gift for invective.

When the Parnassus plays are mentioned at all, it’s because they contain many early references to Shakespeare. In the third play, the two scholars even audition for his company, only to be turned down by Richard Burbage and Will Kemp, who observe that university men have trouble walking and talking at the same time, and quote Ovid too much in their plays. Shakespeare is mocked repeatedly throughout the second and third plays, as a sentimental poet who appeals only to the uneducated.

And in the second play appears what must be the earliest surviving parody of Shakespeare. In a desperate attempt to earn money, Ingenioso agrees to write some love poetry for the fatuous blowhard Gullio. Gullio adores Shakespeare, to the point of putting a copy of Venus and Adonis under his pillow. Ingenioso offers verses in the style of Chaucer and Spenser, but it’s only the Shakespearean idiom that Gullio wants. So, Ingenioso provides the following lines, in “Mr. Shakspeare’s veyne”:

Faire Venus, queene of beutie and of love,
Thy red doth stayne the blushinge of the morne,
Thy snowie necke shameth the milkwhite dove,
Thy presence doth this naked world adorne;
Gazinge on thee all other nymphes I scorne.
When ere thou dyest slow shine that Satterday,
Beutie and grace must sleepe with thee for aye!

Gullio approves, prompting Ingenio, once his sucker is out of earshot, to dismiss him as “this post put into a sattin sute, this haberdasher of lyes, this bracchidochio, this ladyemunger, this meere rapier and dagger, this cringer, this foretopp.” The author, and, probably, his audience, obviously preferred the Nashean esthetic.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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