The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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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)

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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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The Local Circles of Sorcerers and Wizards Were Pleasant Enough

October 27th, 2014 · 3 Comments

For Halloween, an appropriate illustration by Frank C. Papé.  It’s taken from the 1929 edition of Something About Eve, by James Branch Cabell.  Please click on it to savor the details.


(Posted by Doug Skinner)

→ 3 CommentsTags: Books

Happy Allais Day

October 20th, 2014 · No Comments


Today is Alphonse Allais’s birthday: if he were alive today, he would be 160, which sounds unlikely.  To mark the occasion, here’s a photo of UK poet Edith Doove enjoying the now rare first volume of my translation of Allais’s Captain Cap.  The collected Cap, as well as my recently released translation of Allais’s plays, is available from Black Scat Books.  Happy birthday, Alphonse!

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

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More Happy Readers

October 10th, 2014 · 1 Comment

The book blog “Wuthering Expectations” has published a nice review of the Selected Plays of Alphonse Allais.  You can read it here.

And you can purchase the volume here.

Norman Conquest, of Black Scat Books, has also passed along more photos of happy readers.



(Posted by Doug Skinner)

→ 1 CommentTags: Alphonse Allais · Books

Divination by the Book of Proverbs

October 6th, 2014 · 3 Comments

One of my insomnia books recently has been The Queer, the Quaint, and the Quizzical: A Cabinet for the Curious, by Frank H. Stauffer.  It’s a compendium of odd facts, superstitions, linguistic curiosities, and folklore, published by David McKay in 1882.  Stauffer, according to what I could find, was a journalist and children’s author; with this book, he promised “Strange customs, cranks and freaks, With philosophy in streaks.”

Among its revelations was the following method of divination from the Book of Proverbs:


I’d heard of other methods of bibliomancy, but this was new to me.  I turned to my Bible and found the 31st chapter of Proverbs.  I was born on January 7th, so I read the 7th verse: “Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.”  That doesn’t sound very promising.  Maybe yours will be better.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

→ 3 CommentsTags: Books · Education