Sunday 12 November 2023

Struwwelpeter (shock-headed" Peter)

Finally managed to get a very old copy of Struwwelpeter (shock-headed" Peter)
this is a very dark and strange collection of childrens stories. Written in 1845 by Heinrich Hoffman. Hoffmann wrote the book in reaction to what he perceived as a lack of good books at the time for children.

In six short, illustrated stories, Hoffman, a physician from Frankfurt, told grisly moral tales: of a boy who wasted away after refusing his soup, another who lay writhing in pain after a mistreated dog exacted revenge, and yet another who had his thumb cut off after he sucked on it one too many times. Struwwelpeter’s sin was that he never cut his nails, bathed, or combed his hair; his punishment was distinct and cruel—he was unloved. Hoffman spared none of his fictional children. When they misbehaved, they were punished. Cruel Frederick, for instance, was nasty to all creatures, pulling wings off of flies, killing birds, and throwing kittens down the stairs. But when Frederick beat his dog without mercy, the dog turned on him. Frederick ends up in the bed, wounded and sick, and the dog is never punished. He gets to eat the boy’s dinner (at the table, no less). Text from Atlas Obscura The 19th Century Book of Horrors

In 1955 Writer/director Fritz Genschow adapted Hoffmann's book to the big screen. Previously he had made film adaptions of Hansel and Gretel and would go on to adapt Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty
and other family films. A stage production of Shockheaded Peter, by Philip Carr and Nigel Playfair, with music by Walter Rubens, premiered at the Garrick Theatre in London on 26 December 1900.

Sunday 22 October 2023

The Comb-Over, over?

 [post formerly at the old Found Objects but reconstituted in honor of Britain's greatest footballer, Sir Bobby Charlton, RIP- and a great comb-over owner]

One thing I've noticed on my visits back to England over the last few years--you will never see a comb over anymore.

They used to be the mark of male middle age.

Bus conductors, men in betting shops, famous footballers, TV quiz presenters.... half the teachers at my school.... they all had comb overs.

At some point sense prevailed and the balding started to shave down their side tufts to near invisible.

Much more dignified (did they really think they were fooling anybody, the comb over squad?)... no need for yucky hair cream to plaster thinning elongated strands across the pate... and unlike the comb over invulnerable to the elements or a football colliding off the bonce. 

However one side effect is that walking through a crowded public space in the U.K. today, it can feel like there's a lot of aging, getting-stout skinheads about.

Monday 2 October 2023

"Central heating for kids"

What passes for a chilly morning in Southern California (I've grown soft). So I made some porridge for breakfast.

Felt like there was a small bonfire in my belly for an hour or so later. 

Reminded me of these cosy-yet-eerie commercials for Ready Brek oatmeal from back in the day.

They were eerier still in my memory, because I pictured them in black-and-white (but I guess that's only because we had a black-and-white TV - as did the majority of the British population then, still)

This washed-out looking one resembles my memory version more closely.

Perhaps some of the "eerie" is the faint suggestion of radioactivity - like this one lucky breakfast-protected kid is also somehow the solitary victim of post-nuclear fallout. 

 Ah, they carried them on well into the 1980s, here adding some hip hop breakdancing / bodypopping / moonwalk-glide "hepness" to the mix.  Nicely juxtaposed with one of those gasometers.

I assume this 2020 refix is one of those retro-commercials where they bring back the fondly-remembered template for nostalgic reasons. Here the pitch has been expanded from "Central heating for kids" to "Central heating for everyone"

I should imagine part of the success of the original ad campaign - alongside its appeal to mums, the idea of protecting your child from the elements in your absence, like an invisible blanket of TLC,  or internal hug even - part of it must have been because central heating was a relatively recent thing, with many UK home getting it for the first time.  (An alternate pitch could have been Double Glazing for Kids, or Loft Insulation for Kids). 

We never got central heating - our new-built estate house may have been one of the last built in the 1960s that didn't routinely have it as a fixture. Instead, we had a coal fireplace, which in the dead of winter became something the entire family huddled around. (We also had a coal shed, which wasn't big enough, so the whole side bit of the house was covered in a giant mound of coal, delivered by the Coal Board. Increasingly, wood from fallen trees supplemented the fuel). 

We also had an electric bar that was stuck bizarrely quite high up on the wall of adjoining room, most of the heat from which shot straight to the ceiling uselessly. There was also a freestanding two-bar electric fire that could be moved around the house where needed - temporary possession of which was fought over jealously. It was around this orange-glowing device that I curled myself  -  after the trauma of dashing from the bathtub across a draughty landing to my bedroom - in an attempt to absorb as much of the warmth emitted as possible.

I don't remember ever having a hot breakfast - certainly nothing like porridge. 

We were shunted out into the world, walking to school no matter the weather - snow, fog, frost, bucketing rain. Clad in shorts all year round, until the age of 14! 

For some reason, children were not given umbrellas in those days. Not something you saw - a kid holding an umbrella. (Some kids had garments with hoods, like a parka -not me though). Many a school morning, I can remember sitting, dripping, in my desk, vapour-ripples of steam rising off my drenched uniform.  

Central heating for this kid - fat chance.

Monday 4 September 2023

Wireless World Part 2

 Back in 2019 I posted a number of pages/ads from the 1962 publication Wireless world back then I had every intention of putting more pages from Wireless World on here, but somehow I got sidetracked. So after a few years delay, here are some more pages from the wonderful Wireless World.

Sunday 20 August 2023

The other Bono

You used to see this chap's books a lot in the 1970s  - Edward de Bono

Pioneer of what would be later called "thinking outside the box" but what he dubbed "lateral thinking".

This was the big one:

But he milked the idea over the course of God knows how many books - below is just a small sampling. 

He even branched out into illustrated children's books (at least that's what I think this is)

Actually, it's not quite a children's book as in a book written for children - it's a book created by children: 

"Children aged four to fourteen were asked to design.a dog exercising machine. This unique book is the result: a collection of extraordinary and wonderful designs incorporating every inconceivable device--from a special vibrating loop to exercise the tail to a twenty-foot electric bone." 

Damn, now I wish I'd picked up the copy of the above edition I saw in the Berkhamsted branch of Oxfam. 

This incarnation also attractive.

In fact de Bono wrote 85 books, translated into over forty languages - and he carried on doggedly churning them out into the 1980s and beyond, almost right up to his death in 2021. Not all of them about lateral thinking, but the majority in the vicinity of that idea. 

I vaguely associate de Bono with a genre of popular non-fiction that I'm rather wistfully fond of - the social malaise identifying paperback blockbuster  (The Organisation Man, The Hidden Persuaders, Future Shock et al). The middlebrow discussion point and bone of contention, thousands of copies which lurk yellowing and forgotten in middle class basements across the world, or go cheap in charity shops. Sometimes I think of taking in these orphaned best-sellers of yesteryears with their obsolete overviews and diagnostic prescriptions for reform. (There's an upper middlebrow left-leaning / progressive intelligentsia equivalent - Neither Jesus Nor Marx, the Marcuse books, Erich Fromm, The Female Eunuch, etc etc).

But probably this is a miscategorisation, as the lateral thinking books - while designed to work against sclerotic habits of mind and inertial procedures within institutions - should really be filed alongside self-help literature, motivational books, positive thinking etc. Or business world texts that facilitate problem solving, conflict management, negotiation, etc. 

 For all the technocratic sheen of the presentation (mind-as-mechanism, potentially superlubed and turbocharged) it's not far off those ads you used to see in the newspapers talking about how to boost your memory or techniques for speed-reading. The pitch is "here's One Thing, easily learned, that's going to totally transform your life, increase your productivity, make ambitions achievable".

The emphasis on non-linear thinking, and the polemic against rigidities of all kinds conceivably makes Bono-ism a bit like a managerialist, non-utopian counterpart to the flux and mutability anarcho-politics of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Sidestepping the step-by-step deductive thinking of what de Bono called "vertical logic" - that sounds akin to the D&G opposition of the rhizomatic versus the arborescent. 

Fun fact - de Bono was a famous Maltese-r

Monday 10 April 2023

Westminster Gold

No doubt everyone is familiar with this Zardozzy cover.

But I hadn't really clocked that there was a whole discography of releases from Westminster Gold with a similar visual look presumably pitched at the younger, "with it" generation. The work of a designer called Christopher Whorf

Lots of cheesecake imagery

That one made me think of PiL's Metal Box, of course.

Also visual puns and japes that are vaguely in the vicinity of what Hipgnosis would do, or the Island samplers like El Pea.  I'm not totally sure what the joke is with the one below

Most of the Westminster Goldcovers are not illustrations or designs but photographs of objects or assemblages.

Or it will be a photograph of a person or group of people posed in an absurd or quasi-erotic scantily clad posture or tableau. 

That one combines the cheesecake and the visual pun - "phwooar, take a look at her bust(s)"

Mostly the covers are notable for the brightly-lit clarity of the photograph, but some go in for a vaseline-on-the-lens blurriness that seems quite modish to the era.  This one looks like it could be from an advert for condoms, or perhaps an Emmanuelle-type softcore skinflick.

Even the labels are snazzy and un-classical.

Mostly the releases are middlebrow, well-known classical composers and works (I have no idea how well regarded these versions are by cognoscenti). But there's a few oddball and avant inclusions. e.g. 

This one below by Professor Emerson Myers of the Catholic University of America (!) was considered sufficiently avant to be Creel Poned. (The vinyl is the only Westminster Gold album I own, I think).

Below you will find an immense number of Westminster Gold sleeves, but falling a little short of the full set (on Discogs, often I'd click on the promising looking Christopher Whorf-style image only to end up with a different, more standard-classical sleeve. 




At other times in the imprint's history, they tried a different tack with these colorful abstract patterns