Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Journey Round His Skull

Will Schofield's astounding art blog 50 Watts will eat up all your spare time. You have been warned.

[Selection from the gallery "Children's Books in Poland: The 1960s." The '70s collection is every bit as good.]

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Three Words: Black Death Pit

Just in case the news item didn't make it across your desk -- and really, if you're coming to The Typing Monkey for news, we're sorry -- an excavation crew working on a Crossrail project in Londond, unearthed a mass grave believed to date back to the early days of the Black Death plauge.

The BBC has all the details. It's another incredible find in an area that's seen a fair amount of archaelogical surprises in recent years. Read about it at the BBC site. Then register your Bandcamp, Facebook and domain name "Black Death Pit" right now and get started on that doom-metal band you've been fantasizing about starting.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Typing Monkey Exclusive: Pontiff Prefers Primate

An anonymous source has given The Typing Monkey exclusive access to a leaked memo from the desk of pope emeritus Benedict XVI. The document is dated March 27, 2013 -- just one day before Benedict stepped down from his seat at the Vatican.

Based on the content of the memo, the pope attempted to name his own successor and his shocking cryptozoological association may surprise you.

See a scan of the original document here:

Or read the text transcribed:

TO: College of Cardinals
FROM: The Pope
RE: Papal Election

My fellow Roman Catholic patriarchs, as we discussed after last week’s bible study, you now know my reasons for resigning. Those of you who missed the coffee & biscotti klatch, or had to leave early, I typed up minutes and left them in your mailboxes behind the receptionist’s desk. (Minutes dated 20.2.03)

All cardinals not on probation will soon meet for the conclave. You will listen to old Motown 45s, drink Champagne cocktails, and enjoy the “Barney Miller” marathon I curated for you on my DVR. And eventually you will pick my successor.

Cardinal Lowenstein, I know you’ve been campaigning for the job, but I fear the world is not ready for you. Please allow me to submit another candidate: Sasquatch.

You may know of his works under his other title, Bigfoot, and still others wonder why I don’t just suggest Dracula or Judas Iscariot for the job. I tell you, Dracula isn’t interested and Judas will stay locked in the Vatican basement until [REDACTED].

After my meeting with Sasquatch in 2008, I realized that he is perhaps best equipped to lead our congregation of 1.2 million. He has, after all, literally spent his entire life isolated and content in the forests of North America.

Also, giving Mr. Sasquatch this position will force people to stop using that stupid line about the Pope [REDACTED] in the woods.

Give Sasquatch fumata bianca and let’s make this sedes vacan’t a sedes vacans.

Good night you kings of theology! Good night you princes of the church!
The Pope


We've had the document analyzed by a team of independent forensic memologists and believe it to be legitimate. The Typing Monkey has not reached out to The Vatican for comment because we totally want them to make Bigfoot the new pope.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Monkey Didn't Read: I Hated You, I Loved You Too

Editor's note: A couple Novembers ago, former Typing Monkey publisher S.L. Kreighton decided we should review Wuthering Heights for the "Monkey Reads" series. But not one of us dared to open the thing until this past January when we convinced TMI custodian Kris Kendall to read Emily Bronte's sole published novel. He finished some time ago, and after much cajoling, turned in the following review.

I Was Promised Ghosts
by Kris Kendall

Reading Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights felt like homework sometimes.

The biggest hurdle to getting to the good parts of the novel is the first third of the novel, in which it seems nobody really likes anybody else, yet they all live together in a setting so cold and dreary, the stink of wet wool and misery wafts off every page. Who, as a reader, are we supposed to root for in this world of grumps, dog-kickers and unaddressed scorn?

But perseverance and a strong desire to get to the “ghost story” angle of the book, kept the momentum going, slow as it was.

Wuthering’s central figure, Catherine Earnshaw, seems like a spoiled brat until the reader is able to step back from her constant mood swings and awful treatment of everyone around her, to realize that she has no female authority figure on which to model her behavior.

Ma Earnshaw dies early on, when Cathy is quite young. Also, Cathy’s growing up in a farmhouse in Northern England in the late 1700s – not an era of great freedom for women.

Not that her circumstances excuse her conduct. And she’s certainly not the only character a reader might quickly put in the “what a jerk!” column. You see, they’re all jerks: Hindley, Heathcliff, that little shit Linton. Just about every major player in the story, save for Lockwood and Nelly Dean, are truly awful people.

Here are the rules governing the universe of Wuthering Heights: When it matters most, characters rarely say what they’re thinking, open hostility is the norm, and all seem incapable of simply leaving.*

Even after reaching the Greek theater-style happy ending of Heights, nagging questions about the set-up that puts the book into motion remain.

For this reader, the most important question is this: Are we to infer that Cathy and Heathcliff are half-siblings? A casual search of the Web confirmed that this isn’t a new idea. Surely that had to be somewhere in Emily Bronte’s mind as she wrote about an era (in an era) when marrying first cousins was accepted.

If that taboo was in Bronte’s notes as she wrote, her ability to bury the suggestion so deep into the text that it barely registers may be the most amazing feat of fiction writing in the 19th century.

Now, about those ghosts – there aren’t any. Wuthering Heights is haunted, for sure, but not in a cozy Victorian horror style. The one “supernatural” scene early in the book reads more like an hallucination than a spectral sighting.

There are hints of ghostly things much later. But this is a horror story with romance and revenge, not a ghost story. That horror? It’s other people and the misery they feel compelled to share.

*SPOILER: One character does manage to get some sense and leave the wretched moor, but again, in the Greek drama style, she is punished with illness and death.

Reference material: Now that the book's been conquered, it whets the appetite for Juliet Barker's biography of the Bronte family, Wild Genius on the Moors and to see the 2011 film adaptation of the novel, directed by Andrea Arnold.

[Cartoon excerpt from Hark! A Vagrant]

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Notable Illusionists of History [No. 6]

Enjoy this final installment of our award-winning series.

Dell O'Dell aka Nell Odella Newton
(Oct 2, 1897 - Feb 5, 1962)
Birthplace:  Lemonweir, Wisconsin
Profession-changing contribution:  Dell O'Dell was one of the first female stage magicians. She was certainly the first to reach her level of fame. At the height of her career, during the 1940s, she travelled North America in an RV and caravan of various animals, playing as many as 300 shows a year. Her stage show was a crowd-pleasing combination of illusions, animal tricks and comedy.
Fun fact: O'Dell had the first televised magic show, when Los Angeles station KTLA broadcast "The Dell O'Dell Show" in 1951, beating Mark Wilson's TV debut by four years.
Bonus fun fact:  It's alleged that O'Dell could work a nightclub full of horny sailors as easily as she could play to a room full of kids at a children's hospital. Her gift? The woman could swear like a demon, and wasn't afraid to work blue.

Editor's note:  O'Dell's story really is incredible -- one of those "does it all" tales of early 20th century entertainment. The website that bears her name has a two-page, exhaustive (and kind of exhausting, design-wise, but that's a trifle) history of O'Dell's inspiring career. And if you make it to the end of her story, halfway down page two is a great gallery of other women of magic.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Huh? What?

We had one goal for February, and that was to complete the Notable Illusionists of History series. Did we meet that goal? No. No good reader we did not. We'll have to end with a wimper sometime during this month of equinox.

Please accept as a consolation prize these two videos that we had nothing to do with. Like, we didn't even post them to YouTube. We just found them and embeded them here. That's what it's come to.

[courtesy of FourDices]

[courtesy of Gatorrock87]

If you don't know of the talented banjo player, showman, and star of the Grand Ole Opry, David "Stringbean" Akeman, do read about his life -- he lived well but it ended in senseless tragedy.