a disclaimer first, do not try to attempt this. like they say in car adverts, such a feat is for professionals only and should not be tried at home…
a trip to france and britain by its objects. cdotb 2013.
my six day trip to london and angers can be summed up in the following e.e. cummings-esque sentence: plane, train, lost, lost again, train, cows, train, plane. you may wonder how the cows got in that mix, but be patient dear reader and all mysteries will become clear. the alleged purpose of the trip was to deliver a paper at a colloquium presented by the institute of english studies, based at senate house in london. being ambitious (a fault in all great leaders), i decided to tack on a quick trip to france and to attempt to get to london via CDG and the eurostar instead of the shopping mall cum disaster zone that is heathrow. (for those of you who are looking to waste 10 minutes, check out my paper here)
insert a quick trip to the V&A (i think i broke the record for longest time getting there, at a stunning 4 hours), getting lost multiple times on the tube and a stop by the oldest music hall in london (yay wilton’s), and I was on the train 3 days later for a day long trip to angers. throw in some cows, seen on my afternoon ramble through the french countryside near cholet (french cows look no different than those i remember in good old cremona, alberta; still covered in poo, still really dumb) and i found myself right back were i started in montreal, except with 15cm of snow just as a treat. phew.
in a flurry of pre-france packing i had to wash a bunch of hitherto un-washed delicates in my sink. harder than one might suppose when one does not have a drain plug, but i managed. that got me thinking of good old pears soap, my childhood bath soap, and how it used to come in these really fun metal tins. (yes, it was sunday afternoon and my brain had clearly already left for la belle france.)
pears was one of the original products to get on the large-groovy-posters train of the late 19th century and according to lovely wikipedia (my favourite source of course) was also the first translucent soap. what fun! additionally, it was also the first brand to sign on a famous spokesperson, one lillie langtry who owed her amazing complexion to what else but pears!
looking at posters, pears employed two motifs, one being the naughty child being washed with soap (and presumably a better person for it) and the other women like langtry who were marvelously pale yet glowing also thanks to the miracle of pears. hopefully the next bit of pears i come across will work similar miracles….
in between quietly losing my mind with my thesis (why is there so much cat hair in my apartment and why can’t i manage to clean it up) and watching the pile of books grow on my floor (for someone trained to organize stuff i have a terrible home system), i forgot all about this lovely little something.
[camel miniature], artist unknown. rajasthan. 9 1/2 x 10cm. acrylic on cloth. cdotb 2013.
after her trip to india, my friend brought me the best present for a paper lover, more paper! her travels around the country brought her to jaipur, the capital of rajasthan
, and instead of packing me up a camel (very inconvenient, with all the spitting and such) she chose this miniature. the artisans in the city specialise in the islamic miniature painting tradition, of which i know almost nothing.
according to wikipedia (god of all random information requests) miniatures are traditionally a persian thing, usually kept in albums. when the mughals conquered large parts of india, like any really good conquerer, they brought their painting tradition with them (surely better than some conquering legacies?? k-pop comes to mind…) unlike strict isalmic work, mughal miniatures feature portraits and figures, normally forbidden by the koran. if my camel has tickeled your fancy, i would recommend a trip to the metropolitan museum‘s seriously groovy islamic art collection, which was newly renovated last year.
when life gives you lemons you’re supposed to make lemonade right??? what about when you are deluged with 50 (!!!) great war medal sets? what then?? (insert quite sob here) in my position as chief cook and cataloguing bottlewasher i get to break up my days of books with days of other stuff. like machine guns. or maybe bayonets.
1914-15 Star, British War Medal. Pte. Henry E. Perkin, KIA 2nd Battle of Ypres.
but when you’re confronted with a pile of medals what exactly do you do with them? the great minds of world war one were considerate enough to stamp every medal with the name and regimental number of the recipient. that number (barring acts of clerking inaccuracy) followed a soldier through the war and, if they were lucky, out the other side. it is also attached to the reams of paper found in archives canada that you can request at your leisure to find out if your particular soldier received field punishment, medals or had one of the many medical issues arising from damp trenches and bad food.
when i receive medals my first stop is on the side, where the information is engraved, then on to archives canada to request documentation. from there, i can create a pretty good idea of the life the soldier lead during the war. medals for the british army have the same identification system, but trying to find the information via the national archives is pretty hard. most of the service records got burned in the battle of britain so for the brits you’re pretty much up a certain creek.
i’ve written about gorey before (see here for a shameless plug), but since it’s almost hallowe’en and everyone else is doing it, i figured why not jump on the old bandwagon. gorey is, after all, the master of the understatedly gruesome. after a slow week-end spent mistakenly watching bad hollywood versions of the brothers grimm (avoid the new hansel & gretel if you can, seriously), i am in need of some quality gore.
gorey, edward. gashlycrumb tinies. image courtesy images.google.com
so without further adieu, on to the gorey alphabet. given that i have my own personal page in the ghashlycrumb tinies (check it out above) i am of course very biased. i also have the gilded bat, a look at ballet which makes aronofsky’s black swan seem positively pedestrian. gorey books are graphically interesting and (for the most part) not that expensive for those of us having make decisions between buying books and buying cat food. you can also see his work in early issues of the new yorker and in the opening credits of presentations by the mystery channel. as an aside, i am going as the gilded bat for hallowe’en, though as with my brilliant (but unappreciated) coke badger costume, i assume that i will be routinely mis-identified. a lesson for those of you trying to avoid the sexy nurse costume; don’t bother.
burroughs, william. THE NAKED LUNCH. 1st ed. Paris: Olympia Press. dust wrapper by brion gysin.
yes you read correctly, lysol. this is not actually a long lost mystery ingredient from his book the naked lunch but a grocery list now up for auction at PBA auctions. burroughs’ needs for the week include saltines, milk and lysol.
the beat themed auction also includes a methadone bottle from his medical cabinet (empty) and a cheque by jack kerouac written to the IRS. gotta love the beats and all their odd stuff. maybe one day someone will auction my grocery lists (when i win my nobel prize for lit. of course…)
as a now chronic receiver of sinus infections (nasty montréal moisture on my alberta sinus cavity) i have the pleasure of the cold + sinus infection curse. unless it turns into bacterial soup i am stuck with some kleenex and salt water in a cup. lovely.
however, if i was lucky enough to have a liver disorder or perhaps ‘all cases of derangement of that organ’ (yes, you can have a deranged liver apparently) i could instead resort to that time honoured medical treat, SCHENCKE’S MANDRAKE PILLS. marketed for ‘all bilious complaints’, the pills supposedly worked in the place of mercury and (lucky you!) didn’t poison the patient.
J.H. Schenck & Son ran a successful business for almost 30 years selling these lovely nuggets of wellness and another ‘pulmonic syrup’ for heart complaints. their very agressive advertising campaign (take that social media) included postal stamps, and trading cards, of which i proudly have one. after schenck sr.’s death, schenck junior decided that stamps weren’t quite so groovy anymore and discontinued them, however the trading cards still lurked around until roughly 1900.
Schenck’s mandrake pills | for all bilious complaints. [no date] Trading card. Some discolouration to rear, image otherwise sharp and clear. Near fine.