Sunday, June 10, 2012

Book Autopsy by Brian Dettmer

Book Autopsy by Brian Dettmer

You, Me and Archie McPhee

Nifty! The toy and novelty company Archie McPhee just posted about the incredible glass works of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka on their Tumblr site, Endless Geyser of Awesomeness. The real nifty part of the article they reference was written by little ol me for Dark Roasted Blend ... AND it appears in my brand new collection of such cool articles: Welcome to Weirdsville.

Believe it or not, this awesome octopus isn’t a living creature. It’s an astonishingly beautiful object made entirely of glass by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, 19th century German glass artists renown for the production of biological models such as their Glass Flowers
From Dark Roasted Blend
Harvard Professor George Lincoln Goodale wanted examples to help teach botany, but the problem was plants have a tendency to … well, die. Sure, you could preserve some specimens but lots of species just don’t look the same after being dried – the plant version of stuffed and mounted. Yes, you could try using paintings or even photography but plants are – and here’s a surprise — three dimensional. So what Professor Goodale did was ask the Blaschkas to create detailed glass plants to help him teach his students about real ones. 
What the Blaschkas did, was more than just recreate plants: they created astounding works of not only scientific accuracy but pure, brilliant, art. Even the simplest of their efforts is deceptively unencumbered… a sign of their genius as their reproductions don’t resemble the botanical model – they look EXACTLY like them, created by hand, in fickle and fragile glass, and all in the period 1887 to 1936. 
This octopus deserves to stand on its own, but we recommend you visit Dark Roasted Blend to view more of Leopold and Rudolf’s exquisite glass specimens. Talk about awesome, we’ve never seen anything quite like them.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Welcome to Weirdsville: The Benevolent Sea-Devil

Here's an rollicking sample article from my new collection of what Avi Abrams of Dark Roasted Blend called "A wonderful compendium of interesting subjects and fascinating topics:"  Welcome to Weirdsville

Peek under the rugs, open more than a few drawers, peek in the back shelves and you'll find that ... well, Lord Byron himself said it best: "Truth is always strange, stranger than fiction." Lakes that explode, parasites that can literally change your mind, The New Motor, a noble Word War 1 German pirate, the odd nature of ducks, the War Magician, the City of Fire, men and their too big guns, a few misplaced nuclear weapons, an iceberg aircraft carrier, the sad death of Big Mary, the all-consuming hunger of the Bucklands, the giggling genius of Brian G. Hughes, the Kashasha laughter epidemic.... Ponder that in a world that holds things like kudzu, ophiocordyceps unilateralis, The Antikythera Device, The Yellow Kid, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, Alfred Jarry, Joseph Pujol, and suicide-bombing ants ... who knows what other kinds of wonders as well as horrors may be out there?

The Benevolent Sea-Devil

The year: 1917, the height of the War To End All Wars, sadly now referred to as World War 1.  The Place: The Atlantic Ocean.  You: the captain of an allied merchant ship carrying coal from Cardiff to Buenos Aires. 
Then, like a ghost from the distant past, a ship appears: a beautiful three mastered windjammer flying a Norwegian flag.  Staggered by this hauntingly lovely anachronism you think nothing of it coming alongside – it was common, after all, for friendly ships to want to synchronize their chronometers – until, that is, the ship's Norwegian flag is quickly replaced by the German eagle and the captain, in amazingly polite terms, backed up by guns that have mysteriously appeared in the windjammer's gunwales, explains that your ship is now his.
And so you have been captured by the Seeadler ("Sea Eagle" in German), captained by Felix von Luckner, or, as he was known by both enemies as all as allies, the Benevolent Sea-Devil.
Some people's lives are so broad, so wild, so amazing that they simply don't seem real.  The stuff of Saturday Matinees?  Sure.  But real, authentic, true?  Never!  But if even half of Felix von Luckner's life is true – and there's no reason to really doubt any of it – then he was truly a broad, wild, and utterly amazing fellow.
Born in 1881, in Dresden, Felix ran away from home at 13.  Stowing away on a Russian trawler, he fell overboard – rescued, so the story goes, by grabbing hold of an albatross, the bird's flapping wings acting as a signal to a rescue party. 
Making his way to Australia, Felix tried a number of – to put it politely – odd jobs: boxer, circus acrobat, bartender, fisherman, lighthouse keeper (until discovered with the daughter of a hotel owner), railway worker, kangaroo hunter, and even had a stint in the Mexican army.  During all this Felix also became a notable magician and a favorite entertainer to no less than Kaiser Wilhelm himself.
Making his way back to Germany he passed his navigation exams and served aboard a steamer before getting called to serve in the Navy on the SMS Panther. 
Which brings us to that War That Was Supposedly The End To All Wars.  Even though it was fought with steel and oil, the German's outfitted a number of older ships as raiders – hidden guns, more powerful engines and the like – and sent them out to harass allied shipping.  Most of them were, to put it politely, a failure.  But then there was the Seeadler, under the command of Felix von Luckner.
During the course of the war Felix sank or captured no less that 16 ships – a staggering amount.  What's even more staggering is how Felix did it, and that he did it with grace, honor, and even a certain kindness.  You see, while the Seeadler took out those ships it, during its entire campaign, did it at the cost of only single human life.  Most of the time the scenario went just as it did with your merchant ship carrying coal from Cardiff to Buenos Aries: the Seeadler would approach a target, raise its German eagle and that would be that: the crew and cargo would be captured and the ship scuttled.  Sometimes she'd fire a shot to two to get her pint across that she was serious, but it wasn't until the British ship, Horngarth, that anyone had actually been killed.  Tricked into thinking they were investigating a stricken ship – Felix had actually used a smoke generator – the captured Horngarth had refused to stop broadcasting a distress signal.  A single shot took out the radio but unfortunately killed the operator.  Felix von Luckner, though, gave the man a full military funeral at sea and even went as far as to write the poor man's family telling them that he had died with honor.
To give you even more evidence that Felix von Luckner more than deserved the "benevolent" in his "Benevolent Sea-Devil" nickname he treated everyone he captured with dignity and respect: captured sailors were paid for their time while on his ship and officers ate with him at his captain's table.  When the Seeadler got too packed with prisoners, by this time more than 300, Felix captured the Cambronne, a little French ship, cut down her masts and let all his prisoners go with the understanding that if they happened to get picked up before making land they wouldn't tell where the Seeadler was going.  Respecting Felix's honor they didn't.
Alas, the Seeadler's rule of the Atlantic had to end sometime – but even that just adds to the broad, wild, and utterly amazing life of Felix von Luckner.  With the British – and now the Americans – hot on her tail, Felix decided to take a quick barnacle-scraping break from piracy by putting the Seeadler into a bay on Mopelia, a tiny coral atoll.  Now stories here conflict a bit – Felix always claimed that a rogue tsunami was to blame – but I think the more-standard explanation that the crew and prisoners of the Sealer were simply having a picnic on the island when their windjammer drifted aground.
Taking a few of his men in some long boats, Felix sailed off towards Fiji intending to steal a ship and come back for the Seeadler.  Through a series of incredible adventures – including claiming to be Dutch-Americans crossing the Atlantic on a bet – the Sea-Devil was himself tricked into surrendering by the Fijian police who threatened, after becoming suspicious of one of Felix's stories, to sink his boat with an actually-unarmed ferry.  By the way, the remaining crew and prisoners of the Seeadler had their own adventures, leading eventually to the escape of the prisoners and the capturing of the Seeadler's crew.
But even a Chilean prison camp wasn't the end for Felix, or not quite the end.  Using the cover of putting on a Christmas play, he and several other prisoners managed to steal the warden's motorboat and then seize a merchant ship.  Alas, Felix's luck ran out when they were captured again and spent the rest of the war being moved from one camp to another.
But rest assured the story doesn't end there.  Far from it: after writing a book about his various adventures, Felix von Luckner toured the world entertaining audiences about the Seeadler – as well as demonstrating his strength by tearing phone books in half and bending coins between thumb and forefinger. 
While, with the rise of Hitler, some people thought of Felix as an apologist, the captain had no love for the Nazi's – especially since the German government had frozen his assets when he refused to renounce the honorary citizenships and honors he'd received during his travels.
But the story of Felix von Luckner still isn't over.  Retiring to the German town of Halle, he was asked by the mayor to negotiate the town's surrender to the Americans.  While he did this, earning not only the respect of the Americans and the gratitude of the citizens, his reward from the Nazi's was to be sentenced to death.  Luckily, Felix managed to flee to Sweden where he lived until passing away at the age of 84.
War is horror, war is pointless death, and war is needless suffering.  But because of men like Felix von Luckner, war can also show the good, noble side of man – and that some men can remarkably earn the respect of friend and enemy alike.

Paper Or Digital -

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Ralph Steiner: Mechanical Principles (1930)


That's Us


YNOT: A Skin-Tight Interview with the Queen of Latex

As some of you might know - in addition to being the debonair, man-about-town, that I am - I'm also an Associate Editor for the adult entertainment site YNOT (who are wonderful folks, btw) - and here's a brand new one: an interview with Klawdya Rothschild, the latex queen of KLAWTEX:
A Skin-Tight Interview with the Queen of Latex 
When latex aficionados, couturiers and artists discuss fashion, one of the first names to come up always seems to be Klawdya Rothschild’s. As one of the world’s preeminent designers in the medium and founder of KLAWTEX, she is at the epicenter of latex, costuming and couture in New York City … and frankly, the rest of the world. 
Rothschild has worked with magazines includingWmagazine, Interview and Tush. Her company is the corporate sponsor for the New York Rubber Ball and Miss Rubber World. She has designed for celebrities including Sophia Larou and some singer named … what was it? Oh, yes: Madonna. 
Despite operating in what many might consider the rarified atmosphere of mainstream celebrity culture, Rothschild remains remarkably down-to-earth, personable, charming and downright likable. 
See for yourself. The most obvious question is “Why latex?” What drew you to the material? 
Klawdya Rothschild: I have a cheesy answer to this, and then a not-so-cheesy answer. As a child, I was definitely drawn to rubber things: Picture little Klaw in her pigtails and pleats chewing on Barbie legs. I think it’s definitely a texture thing, and to this day I still love chewy foods. 
Now for the non-cheesy answer: My first interaction with latex as a substrate was through theatrical effects. I started working pro-theatre on the tech side — backstage — when I was 14, doing wigs and make up for drag queens. Then I graduated to special effects and props. These things require a lot of latex casting and liquid effects, like prosthetics. 
Then I went to fashion school in London, and I then began making art with latex. My first large-scale latex piece was a walk-in vagina and uterus that was eight feet tall and made of high-density foam and latex. 
After this I was approached by a few different latex designers, including my dear friend Michael Slyx of Slyx Fashions, and it sort of went from there. In my 20s, as a fetish model and performer, it started to make even more sense to me, as my notions of latex as a literal second skin became infused with new sexual and aesthetic connotations. 

Friday, June 01, 2012

A Lovely Panoramic View Of The Catacombs of Paris

Catacombs of Paris in Paris

YNOT: Senate Credit Union Commits Breast Gaffe

As some of you might know - in addition to being the debonair, man-about-town, that I am - I'm also an Associate Editor for the adult entertainment site YNOT (who are wonderful folks, btw) - and here's a brand new one: a brief about a big boo-boo by the Senate Credit Union:

There are times when even the adult industry has to shake its collective head and wonder “What the hell were they thinking?” 
This week was one of those times: a credit union decided to test the boundaries of the old adage “sex sells” by employing suggestive imagery in an advertisement. 
And not just any credit union — the U.S. Senate Federal Credit Union.
History abounds with examples of how bad an idea using human body parts to shill certain products can be. Witness a 15-year-old Brooke Shields cooing “Want to know what gets between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” Or pick from a lengthy list of brouhahas that erupted over Abercrombie & Fitch’s ... well, everything. 
None of that stopped the Senate FCU from employing a female model’s notable assets as a come-on for loans. 
Kimberley Johnson at Addicting Info described the gaffe well: “The credit union recently sent out a mailer with a photo [PDF] of a woman’s torso with a special sparkle graphic directing your eyes to her buxom chest in case you were focusing on her white tank top or long, flowing blonde hair. On one side of the photo, it reads GOT BIG PLANS? Let us worry about the money … you’ve got a lot of living to do.” 
The flipside of the flyer urges members to “please borrow responsibly.”
Now don’t get us wrong: The flyer is attractive in a disembodied-boobs, impersonal sort of way. If it had been marketing Mel's Used Cars, a few eyebrows might have risen, but most folks would have given the mailer the attention it deserved (or didn’t). If the flyer had been distributed by a major national brand, millions of robotically created letters and phone calls of outrage no doubt would have followed.