Sunday, June 29, 2008


Title of the Week

From 1930, it's...

Amazingly, it's not a Harry Stephen Keeler title.


Endless Entertainment!

An odd little find on eBay -- an 1825 magazine ripoff of Frankenstein ... and set once again in "Germany, that native country of every thing non-natural." (!)

This got me poking around a little bit in Frankenstein adaptations, where I was stunned to find that there was in fact a long-lost 1910 film of Frankenstein by Edison:

That's actor Charles Ogle, and you almost have to wonder if the director had been watching kabuki before coming up with his monster.

After apparently landing on AFI's "Top Ten Culturally and Historically Significant Lost Films" in 1980, there arose... from the dead... a forgotten print!

It's aliiiive!

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I Got Your Gum, Right Here!

Among the finds made while buying groceries in Bologna last week -- oh, the Kinder Riegel bars! -- the best had to be this:

(via Brownstoner)

According to the company's site, Brooklyn Gum goes back to 1948, when it was actually the first in Italy: "[Ambrogio and Egidio] Perfetti decided to introduce a product which had already become a sort of legend but was as yet absent from the Italian market: chewing-gum. And so Brooklyn, "the bridge gum", entered the Italian scene and immediately became a synonym for 'American gum'."

Mmm... Put the taste of the Brooklyn Bridge in your mouth!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


; )

I've been on the road the last couple of weeks -- first at the Biografilm Festival in Bologna and then researching in London -- but came back yesterday to find my new piece on the rise and fall of the semicolon up at Slate.

My favorite find -- aside from discovering an Anti-Comma League in 1930s France -- was "this extraordinary passage from Samuel Salter's Sermon Before the Sons of the Clergy (1755)":

It is evident then; that, if Atossa was the first inventress of the Epistles; these, that carry the name of Phalaris, who was so much older than her, must needs be an imposture.—But, if it be otherwise; that he does not describe me under those general reproaches; a small satisfaction shall content you; which I leave you to be the judge of. ... Pray, let me hear from you; as soon as you can.

One eye-opener for me was just how much early grammars relied on oratory for explaining punctuation -- they are explained here in 1737's Bibliotheca Technologica in terms of pausing and counting. ("The comma (,) which stops the voice while you tell [count] one. The Semicolon (;) pauseth while you tell two. ")

A lovely variation on this notion got lost in my edits -- namely, that later 18th century grammarians likened these pauses to musical note values:

The Period is a pause in quantity or duration double of the Colon; the Colon is double of the Semicolon; and the Semicolon is double of the Comma. So they are in the same proportion to one another, as the Semibrev, the Minim, the Crotchet, and the Quaver, in music.... the same composition may be rehearsed in a faster or slower time: but in Music the proportions between the Notes remains ever the same; and in Discourse, if the doctrine of punctuation were exact, the proportion between Pauses would be ever invariable.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


A metaphor. And a china shop.

Portland's finest Surrealism, courtesy of the editorial page of yesterday's Oregonian:

Never changing is Leonard's hearty embrace of the role than larger-than-life character. And two constants inhabit the attendant imagery.

A bull.

And a china shop.

Shoehorn this much personality into the heart of our city's most potent civic debate, -- whether to allow dibs on sidewalk space at the Grand Floral Parade -- and there's only one possible outcome.


So, to summarize: A man becomes a head of cattle, enters a crockery emporium, uses a haberdasher's tool to enter a ventricle, and then catches fire.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


Smile When You Stab That

Noted in the Telegraph blog from Stephen Potter's droll 1950 classic Lifemanship, a footnote on the art of friendly bad reviews:

"Friendly attacks," he notes, "should begin with faint praise, but be careful not to use adjectives or phrases of which the publisher can make use in advertisements. Safe faint praise adjectives are catholic - i.e. too wide in treatment to be anything but superficial; well-produced - i.e. badly written. Alternatively - 'The illustrations, of course, are excellent.' Painstaking - i.e. dull. Useful words for friendly attacks are awareness, interesting, tasteful, observant."...

Other "effective methods of attack"[:]...

(i) To quote from a book no one else has read but you.

(ii) To imply that you are in some college or institution where the subject under review is daily discussed, so, of course, you know better but think this author quite good for one who has not had your opportunities of acquiring more knowledge.

(iii) To begin 'Serious students will be puzzled...'

(iv) To say 'In case there should be a Second Edition...' Then note as many trivial misprints as you can find.

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