The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Etiquette in 18th Century London

February 9th, 2015 · 2 Comments

Casanova gives us a glimpse into etiquette in 18th century London, as only he can. Here it is, in my translation, from Volume 9, Chapter 10 of his memoirs.

Going toward Buckingham House, I see in the bushes, some twelve or fifteen steps to my left, an indecency which surprises me. Four or five men at different distances doing their necessities, and showing their behinds to all who pass.

“This is indelicate,” I say to Martinelli. “It would be better if those swine turned toward us.”

“Not at all, for then they would be recognized, and probably watched, whereas when they show us their ass, they oblige us, unless we are unusually curious about that part, not to look.”

“That is well reasoned, my friend, but it is new to a foreigner, so please excuse me.”

“You may have noticed that when an Englishman is walking in the street, and needs to make water, he does not do as in our countries, and piss on someone’s door, or alley, or courtyard.”

“I have noticed that. They turn to the middle of the street, and piss there. But those who ride by in coaches see them, and that is not good, in my opinion.”

“Who says that those who ride by in coaches have to look?”

“That is also true.”

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

→ 2 CommentsTags: Belief Systems · Books

Bulletin (31)

February 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

A postcard taken from my book Horoscrapes can be found in the upcoming issue of Cabinet (#55). You can buy a copy, remove the postcard, and mail it, using our postal system.

My translation of Alphonse Allais’s 1893 collection, The Squadron’s Umbrella (Le parapluie de l’escouade), is due out this month from Black Scat Books. This is the master in his prime, with stories, playlets, parodies, poems, topical humor, and more, including some of his best. This is its first translation into English.

Slated for later this year is my translation of The Zombie of Great Peru (Le Zombi du Grand-Pérou) by Pierre-Corneille de Blessebois. This 1697 tale of sex, slapstick, betrayal, and occult shenanigans marks the first recorded use of the word “zombie.” It will come with an introduction by Guillaume Apollinaire, also translated for the first time.

I will be doing a series of musical talks at Brooklyn’s Morbid Anatomy Museum in the spring. The general title is “Anomalous Music”; on March 25 is “Music from Ultraterrestrials” (music ascribed to fairies and aliens), on April 1 is “Music from Occultists, Secret Societies, and Fraternal Orders,” and on April 8 is “Musical Curiosities” (agricultural plainchant, Solrésol, music by Rameau’s nephew, and more). Details will follow.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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On the Pleasures of Reading

January 26th, 2015 · 2 Comments

This ad, taken from the back matter in a 1920 edition of The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, proclaims that reading is “the greatest pleasure in life.” The reason, we are told, is because reading lets us escape our awful lives without having to get any exercise. Sounds good.


→ 2 CommentsTags: Books

A Fortean Footnote

January 19th, 2015 · No Comments

The Fortean Society was founded by writer Tiffany Thayer in 1931, to promote the work of Charles Fort. By sheerest coincidence, two of its founding members, Ben Hecht and Alexander Woollcott, contributed to the same anthology, Nonsenseorship, back in 1922. They both wrote essays decrying censorship, and were duly caricatured by Ralph Barton. Here, then, are these two rare caricatures, from the troubled and talented Barton.



(Posted by Doug Skinner)

→ No CommentsTags: Books · Cartoons · Forteana

Bulletin (30)

January 1st, 2015 · 3 Comments

Happy New Year!

I’m turning 60, and will mark the occasion with a program of my songs and instrumental music at the magnificent Jalopy Theater. I will be on uke, keyboard, and vocals; I will be joined by Doug Roesch on guitar and Ralph Hamperian on tuba. Come hear selections from my long and unusual career! Come hear the music I wrote when I was six! It’s at 315 Columbia Street, Brooklyn, Saturday Jan. 10, 9 pm, $10.

A postcard taken from my book Horoscrapes will be included in the upcoming issue of Cabinet magazine. Watch for it!

My next translation of the inimitable French humorist Alphonse Allais (known to the ‘Pataphysical College as the ‘Patacessor, and to Oulipo as an Anticipatory Plagiarist) will be out in February from Black Scat Books. It’s called The Squadron’s Umbrella, and includes 39 stories taken from Le Chat Noir and Le Journal.

I will be doing more lectures at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn; more details to follow.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

→ 3 CommentsTags: Bulletins

Cooking with Radishes

December 22nd, 2014 · 4 Comments

Let us sing the simple radish,
Always chic but never faddish,
Sing its praise and not its kaddish,
Let us sing the simple radish.

Radishes are tasty, inexpensive, crunchy, high in vitamins, and low in calories.  Naturally, this makes them unpopular in the US, where people prefer bland and fatty foods.  Radishes have played an important part in the Ullage Group kitchen lately; so, in this season of nasty heavy holiday food, here is some lighter fare.

I’ve never been a fan of radishes in salad; I don’t think they go well with lettuce.  One of my favorite ways to eat them is with salt, washed down with cold ale.

Radishes have traditionally been eaten for breakfast, with bread and butter.  This is nice enough, if you like bread and butter; the radishes add some flavor to the bland tartine.  The leaves, by the way, are quite tasty, and you can top bread and butter with them too, in a variation of the old-fashioned lettuce sandwich (as jazz buffs know, Johnny Hodges’s favorite snack).

Like all root vegetables, radishes can be cooked in different ways, although I suppose you lose some vitamins.  Radishes and baby red potatoes look a lot alike; you can boil them together, and enjoy them with salt and butter.

If you’d like to saute them, you can try this.  First, saute parsley and chopped garlic in olive oil until brown.  Then add sliced mushrooms and radishes, with water and salt.  When the water has cooked away, add a splash of white wine or marsala.  You can put this on pasta, if noodles beckon.

Samuel Pepys noted in his diary that he ate buttered radishes.  This has puzzled some commentators, who assumed he ate them raw.  I suspect, though, that he roasted them.  You can do that too, by simply wrapping them in foil, or dumping them in a casserole dish, with butter or olive oil, and letting them sit in an oven for a while.  I usually add garlic, sage, and other root vegetables: potatoes, yams, turnips, carrots, parsnips.  Black radishes, which are larger and woodier, are good this way too.

If the season makes you saddish,
Cheer up with the simple radish.

POSTSCRIPT:  I have just been informed that, coincidentally, December 23 is the Noche de Rabanos in Oaxaca, Mexico.  Large radishes are carved with faces, the way pumpkins are carved for Halloween in this country.  You could try that too.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

→ 4 CommentsTags: Dietary Mores

Children’s Card Games (209)

December 16th, 2014 · 2 Comments


“Snap Quiz Card Game: Telling Tommy” was published in 1934 by the Whitman Publishing Company.  It was based on the comic strip and book series “Telling Tommy,” by William Paul Pim (1885-1950).  Question cards were paired with answer cards, teaching useful facts along the way.  And here’s the back, showing Tommy and his informative father.


(Posted by Doug Skinner)

→ 2 CommentsTags: Card Games

Children’s Card Games (208)

November 26th, 2014 · No Comments


“Fractions” was published in 1902 by the Cincinnati Game Company.  It was billed as an “Educational Game,” but the instructions got lost somewhere in the past 112 years, so I can’t say how the education was accomplished.  The back of the card is handsome, showing fractions being enjoyed in the home.


(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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John Dee Through His Dreams

November 10th, 2014 · No Comments


John Dee, Part I: John Dee Through His Dreams

An Illustrated Lecture with Doug Skinner

Date: Tuesday, November 18
Time: 8pm
Admission: $12
Place: Morbid Anatomy Museum, 424 Third Avenue, Brooklyn.
This lecture is presented by Shannon Taggart, Programmer in Residence of the Morbid Anatomy Museum.

In the first of this two evening series, Doug Skinner discusses the life
and work of the extraordinary Elizabethan polymath John Dee: sorcerer,
astronomer, astrologer, alchemist, mathematician, antiquarian, imperial
apologist, bibliophile, historian, and adviser to the queen. Such a life
defies chronology, so his many interconnected activities are approached
through the dreams that he noted in his household diary. Each glimpse into Dee’s psyche reveals another facet of his unique career.

Part 2: Thursday, November 20: Sex and Spirits: The Dee / Kelley Plural
Marriage – An Illustrated Presentation with Don Jolly.

More info at Morbid Anatomy.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

→ No CommentsTags: Bulletins


November 3rd, 2014 · No Comments


Horoscrapes is now available!  Here is the publisher’s blurb:

Part Oulipian exercise, these meticulous scrapings reveal the future in all its sublime absurdity. The author approached the horoscope in his morning newspaper as if it were a puzzle, like the crossword or sudoku. By scraping out the middle part, and joining the beginning and end, he received a hidden message.

Reading outside the lines here one discovers an alternative fate more interesting than the fluff dispensed by run-of-the-mill soothsayers. Indeed, these predictions are pithy, profound, and astonishingly accurate.

In HOROSCRAPES, Doug Skinner offers up 366 clever twists of fate—something for every sign—guaranteed to alter forever how we view the universe.

Who knows what the future holds?

Doug Skinner knows.

Available from Black Scat Books.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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