The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Bulletin (35)

November 16th, 2015 · No Comments

The thirteenth issue of Black Scat Review is now available! It is, fittingly, devoted to the subject of superstition. It contains my short story, “Find a Penny,” which is also fittingly devoted to the same subject. I’m one of thirteen contributors: the other twelve are: Paulo Brito, Eckhard Gerdes, Harold Jaffe, Soren James, Rick Krieger, Terri Lloyd, Monika Mori, Alice Pulaski, Frank Pulaski, Mylene Viger, Dominic Ward, and Carla M. Wilson. It’s edited by Norman Conquest, and Alice Pulaski designed the cover. You can find a copy at Black Scat Books.

There’s a nice notice of my translation of Alphonse Allais’s novel The Blaireau Affair, over at the book blog Wuthering Expectations. And the novel itself is also available from Black Scat.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Children’s Card Games (221)

November 9th, 2015 · 1 Comment


George Eliot appears in this old (and unusually large) version of “Authors.” The set I found seems to be complete, but came with no box, so there’s no information on date or publisher. In addition to Eliot, the pantheon here consists of Tennyson, Thackeray, Emerson, Scott, Dickens, Irving, Longfellow, Cooper, Hawthorne, Whittier, Holmes, Shakespeare, and a few that seldom show up in these decks: Harriet Beecher Stowe, Robert Burns, Oliver Goldsmith, William Cullens Bryant, and Thomas Babington Macaulay.

The backs are worth a look:


(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Bulletin (34)

November 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

I will be teaching two special four-week ukulele classes at Brooklyn’s Jalopy Theater this fall. The first, Uke 1.5, is a bit more advanced than Uke 1, and may help pave the way to those greater heights. The other, Uke 3, is for those who want to go further than Uke 2. Both will focus on strumming patterns, alternate chords, chord solos, and other delicious techniques. Both will be offered on Tuesdays, from Nov. 24 to Dec. 15; Uke 1.5 is at 7 pm, Uke 3 at 8.

My translation of Pierre-Corneille Blessebois’s historic and smutty book The Zombie of Great Peru, published by Black Scat Books, is now available in the bookstore at the Morbid Anatomy Museum. This is ideal for those of you who would rather skip Amazon and enjoy instant gratification. Signed copies! Snap ’em up!

Further books in the works include Sleepytime Cemetery (a collection of short stories), Gibberish (a collection of literary talks, articles, and parodies), How I Became an Idiot (an expanded edition of my translation of Alphonse Allais’s remarkable ridicule of the critic Francisque Sarcey), and Double Over (a translation of Alphonse Allais’s first collection). Will any of these make it to print? Watch this space.

After thirty years in Manhattan, I will soon be moving elsewhere. The city has changed, and so have I. Details will follow.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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An Interview About “The Zombie of Great Peru”

October 26th, 2015 · No Comments

Bill Ectric has interviewed me about my translation of The Zombie of Great Peru, by Pierre-Corneille Blessebois, published earlier this year by Black Scat Books. It’s over at a site called Red Fez.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Children’s Card Games (220)

October 19th, 2015 · No Comments


We have another version of “Authors,” from Fairchild. There’s no date, but I would guess that it’s from the ’40s. Joel Chandler Harris, popular at one time for his black dialect stories, much less popular now, makes a rare appearance in the literary pantheon. His fellow writers are: Cornelia Meigs, Francis William Rolt-Wheeler, Louisa May Alcott, Elsie Singmaster, Charles Dickens, Joseph Alexander Altsheler, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Limerickshaw: Haiku for the John

October 12th, 2015 · No Comments


Black Scat Books has just released its eighth broadside, “Limerickshaw: Haiku for the John.” I’ve selected sixteen classic dirty limericks, and rewritten them as haiku. Cleansed of rhyme, each haiku reveals the laconic narrative at the core. Norman Conquest’s design incorporates an equally classic erotic Japanese print, showing a heteronormative couple generating children. It’s suitable for the boudoir or bath, although perhaps not other places in your home. The image above shows only a portion of this lovely and explicit poster.

12 x 18 inches; printed on prime 80# UV-coated, acid-free stock.
Only $10 from Black Scat Books.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Ionel Talpazan

October 5th, 2015 · 1 Comment


I was saddened to hear of the death of Ionel Talpazan, who died on September 21 of a stroke, complicated by diabetes. When he was a boy in Romania, Talpazan had an encounter with a blue light, which left him with a lifelong fascination with UFOs. He painted and sculpted them obsessively, often intending them as working diagrams for NASA. He sold his paintings on the street, which was a hard way to make a living. Eventually, his work found its way into major museums and galleries, but he still often took to the street, to his galleries’ dismay. He was never happy with the cut the galleries took, but had no luck selling his work at gallery prices from a card table on the street.

Anthony Matt and I once visited him in his apartment in Harlem. It was almost empty, except for his artwork and a shrine to a beloved pet dove that had recently died. He indicated his obvious poverty, and told us, “I suffer for my art.”

I last saw him at a UFO conference in lower Manhattan a couple of years ago; he was frustrated that none of the UFO buffs were buying his work.

He did have an audience for his work, though. He received obituaries from NPR and the New York Times, among others. According to the Times, not long before he died, he became an American citizen and changed his name to Adrian DaVinci. He was only 60; he had more to do.

Here are a couple of the paintings that I bought from him on the street. What a funny, sweet, driven man he was. I’m sorry I won’t get to see him again.




(Posted by Doug Skinner. Thanks to Mamie Caton for the photos.)

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Children’s Card Games (219)

September 28th, 2015 · 1 Comment


Fairchild came out with “Cities” in 1945. Each city formed a three card set, which players competed, no doubt hotly, to complete. The cities were all in the U.S., and each was worth a different number of points: New York City (12), Chicago (11), Philadelphia (10), Detroit (9), Los Angeles (8), Baltimore (7), Cleveland (6), St. Louis (5), Washington (4), Boston (3), San Francisco (2), and Pittsburgh (1). I have no idea how the ranking was established, but it must have upset those who lived in the lower ones. The box is particularly attractive (and you can click on it to enlarge it).


(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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W. O. Saunders and the Swan Publishing Co.

September 21st, 2015 · 1 Comment

I recently picked up a packet of bawdy ephemera in an antique store: flyers, pamphlets, booklets, and sheets of sexual and scatological jokes and verses, all apparently from the 1930s.

Eleven of them were published by the Swan Publishing Co., in Elizabeth City, N. C. An internet search turned up nothing about it. However, one of the pamphlets was by a certain W. O. Saunders, and credited to the newspaper The Independent. Another booklet in the lot was written by Saunders and published by The Independent.

William Oscar Saunders (1880-1940) founded and edited The Independent in Elizabeth City, N. C., in 1907. He used the paper to crusade against creationism, child labor, lynching, political corruption, and the death penalty. One his most memorable campaigns was against the evangelist Mordecai Ham (Billy Graham’s mentor). Ham’s sermons were viciously antisemitic; when he accused the President of Sears Roebuck, Julius Rosenwald, of running brothels where white women serviced black men, Saunders went after him. Saunders collected letters from businessmen and ministers defending Rosenwald and condemning Ham, and published them in a booklet called The Book of Ham. Ham was forced to leave North Carolina.

Although I found nothing online linking Saunders to the Swan Publishing Co., I suspect he was behind it. I don’t think it’s likely that there was another press in the small town of Elizabeth City, especially one reprinting material from The Independent.

Most of the Swan publications are scatological, and affirm the eternal American craving for outhouse humor.


“Uncle Sam Goes Specialist” is the largest and longest of them, a collection of outhouse jokes, verses, and cartoons inspired by the Civil Works Administration. The title, of course, is inspired by Chic Sales’s famous little book about an outhouse builder, The Specialist. It was published by The Independent in 1935, with an introduction by Saunders. Half of its 32 pages are devoted to mock ads for outhouse supplies (deodorants, laxatives, lighting, toilet paper, seats, etc.).


Benjamin Franklin’s “Advice to a Young Man in Love” praises older women; Mark Twain’s “1601” is a parody of Elizabethan literature, in which Queen Elizabeth and her court discuss farting. Both were frequently printed in private editions over the years.


Eugene Field’s “Little Willie” (appropriately water damaged) was another popular piece of privately circulated jokelore. Perhaps as a respite from the sentimental children’s poems that made him famous, Field enjoyed writing remarkably obscene verse. “Little Willie” is rather mild: a nostalgic evocation of a child’s bed-wetting. Saunders’s “The Corn Cob” is a defense of corn cobs against modern toilet paper.


“Prospectus of the Aromatic Muffled Bean Co., Ltd.” is a mock prospectus for beans that produce perfumed farts. “The Art of Making Saltpetre” contains two poems, purportedly from the Civil War, about using young women’s urine to make explosives.


“Do You Know Your Own Ass?” is an extended double entendre on the word “ass” (not too extended; it’s only two small pages). The Mayor’s wife has a beautiful ass, people enjoy patting it, etc. “One Dam Can of Paint” is a poem in French dialect, in which a man complains that his painted toilet won’t dry. It’s credited to G. K. Gilmore, about whom I know nothing.


These two are more sexual: “The Tale of a Persian Cat” is a poem about a pampered cat who runs off with a tomcat, and “Service” is a joke comparing horses mating to “what the Standard Oil Co. had been doing to the general public for the past thirty years.”


“Runt: The Tale of a Piddlin’ Pup” is credited to Dr. Cy Thompson. Its hero is a dog who can piddle more than all the others because he has diabetes.

Other publications are advertised in the back of some of these: “The Old Backhouse,” by James Whitcomb Riley (another popular outhouse poem), “The House Amongst the Lilacs,” “Alma Mater Song, University of Krapperville,” and “Heard on Main Street” (“being a collection of racy arguments on life, religion, politics, economics, sex, social and customs and whatnot as viewed by The Bank Clerk and The Soda Jerker”).

As I said, I suspect Saunders was responsible for Swan Publishing. If so, good for him.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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Children’s Card Games (218)

September 14th, 2015 · No Comments


“Frank Buck’s Bring ‘Em Back Alive Game” was published by Fairchild in 1937. Frank Buck had a long career as an animal collector, with ancillary forays into writing and acting. He collected animals for circuses and zoos, his motto being “bring ’em back alive.” This deck has striking illustrations of animals, to be collected in groups of three. (You can click the image for a larger leopard.)


Naturally, the backs of the cards show the dashing Buck, in his requisite pith helmet.


(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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