We bring you the chic and unique, the best and most bizarre shopping offers both online and offline. We offer you tips on where to buy, and some of the less mainstream and crazy, individual and offbeat items on the internet. Anything that can be bought and sold can be featured here. And we love showcasing the best and worst art and design.
PEPPA Pig was in the news again this week, and once again the news wasn’t good. Following previous complaints about her disrespectful and naughty behaviour, there are now claims that one of the characters in her DVD used the f-word, and that this has caused a young Welsh child to use the same foul curse.
In the event, it turned out that the actual word in question was ‘rocking’, but the pronunciation left enough ambiguity to cause mischief. Judge for yourself…
FLASHBACK to 1982, and the go-ahead new ZX Spectrum is making waves in the Jackie magazine classroom:
AH, those were the Krays, those halcyon days when a villain was proper villain, a man with a plan who knew people in high places and how to extort money from local trades people with a few weapons wrapped round a good old fashioned “please, “thank you” and “how’s your mum?”.
Now you can own a slice of the Kray twins’ story by snapping up the famous Bible owned by Ronnie while he and his brother were serving out life sentences for murdering people in black and white. The Bible includes Reggie’s three bookmarks picking out “chapters on judgement and damnation”.
Keen eyes will note that the Bible is stamped “HMP Wayland, Griston, Norfolk”.
Did it ever belong to Kray, or was he only “borrowing it for a bit”?
Also, there’s the panting the violent and celebrated career prisoner Charles Bronson sent Reggie in jail. It portrays Reggie as a muppet.
Jonathan Humbert, of auction house JP Humbert’s in Northamptonshire, is flogging off someone else’s items for a small percentage. It’s what Reggie and Ronnie would have wanted. He says:
“So you have on one hand an infamous criminal who thought nothing of using violence to mete out his own punishments, but who here has a copy of the Bible and has apparently picked out these passages on judgement and damnation. It is in some ways the opposite of what you might expect these guys to have in their possession.”
No. It’s precisely the kind of terrifying thing you’d expect to be owned by the brothers who sought to instil the fear of God in their victims. A shock would be if they collected copies of Blue Jeans magazine with annotations in the margins pointing out where Ronnie thought the writer of the photo story romance had gone wrong.
For those of you not keen to read the book, you can watch the 1980s TV dramatisation below.
* Robert Blair was about to knock off from a slow day at his law firm when the phone rang. It was Marion Sharpe on the line, a local woman of quiet disposition who lived with her mother at their decrepit country house, The Franchise. It appeared that she was in some serious trouble: Miss Sharpe and her mother were accused of brutally kidnapping a demure young woman named Betty Kane. Miss Kane’s claims seemed highly unlikely, even to Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, until she described her prison — the attic room with its cracked window, the kitchen, and the old trunks — which sounded remarkably like The Franchise. Yet Marion Sharpe claimed the Kane girl had never been there, let alone been held captive for an entire month! Not believing Betty Kane’s story, Solicitor Blair takes up the case and, in a dazzling feat of amateur detective work, solves the unbelievable mystery that stumped even Inspector Grant
Spotter: Kenneth in the 212
CAN you see this work from Alyson Shotz?
SWISS artist Sipho Mabona has created a life-sized elephant by folding a single sheet of paper measuring 15m square. The paper elephant is 10 feet tall. It took 12 people a week to create.
It sounds like a specious activity. But as anyone who has tried to fold paper into anything more than a hat or plane knows, it’s not easy. Mabana is very good at it.
Next time you need to distract children for a few moments, you can wonder how useful it would be to fold that napkin into an elephant.
WE’VE heard enough about The Avengers, it’s time for another group of superheroes to get some recognition. The Legion of Regrettable Comic Book Superheroes is a motley group consisting of the lamest and oddest heroes ever put to print. You can keep your Iron Man and Captain America; I like my heroes with a touch of stupidity. So, bring on Aqua Melvin, Matter Eater Lad, and the rest of the gang – The Legion of Regrettable Comic Book Superheroes has come to save the day! (or embarrass themselves trying.)
Origin: Adventure Comics #242 – Nov. 1957
Aquaman responds to a distress call from a ship and discovers an unconscious Vaudeville clown onboard. If that wasn’t strange enough, the only way to save him is for Aquaman to give him a blood transfusion. Naturally, this imbues him with Aquaman’s powers for 24 hours and insanity ensues.
EVER read Little Nemo, the comic strip about the lad’s fabulous dreams?
The strip ran from October 15, 1905 to April 23, 1911 in the New York Herald.
YOU’RE looking at an illustration from a 1530s manual on warfare. The advice is to “set fire to a castle or city which you can’t get at otherwise”.
One way of achieving this is with a flaming rocket cat. You can also surprise the enemy by using doves as instruments of death.
THE mid-century palette was vastly different than it is today. Much of what we find advertised in vintage cookbooks and magazines seems nauseating by today’s standards. I’m sure the same will be true of our current tastes when viewed fifty years from now. This gastronomic sea change certainly makes for an interesting browse through recipes and food adverts from yesteryear. Here are a few exceptionally foul examples.
MEALS IN A MOLD
As a general rule of thumb, I prefer my meats not to be suspended in a freakish mold of gelatin and psuedo-mayonnaise. But I’m funny that way. However, I will say the pimiento used for the fish eye is a stroke of brilliance.
MAD Magazine is an American institution. It’s been going since 1952 and is still funny, but it’s given the world more than just gags…
THE FREEDOM TO TAKE THE PISS
In 1961, a group of composers including Irving Berlin (writer of White Christmas) tried to sue MAD following a series of parody songs they’d published, to be sung to the tunes of the originals. The case ended up in the Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in MAD’s favour – they basically ruled that it was clear these songs were jokes, that they weren’t intended to be mistaken for the originals, and that they weren’t damaging. This was seen as a landmark case in terms of making parodies legit, and is still regularly cited in courts.
ULTRAVIOLENCE WITH A SUBTEXT
Antonio Prohias’s Spy Vs Spy strip was a wordless ongoing saga of a black-clad spy and a white-clad spy trapping, bombing, shooting and blowing each other up in contrived-but-amazing ways using good old-fashioned big round bombs with “BOMB” written on them. As well as needless violence, though, it’s an allegory of the Cold War, the thirty-year period of general global tenseness that led to the revolution in Prohias’s native Cuba. So it’s well clever, innit, with its explosions. Prohias died in 1998, but the strip continues in airbrush-and-stencil form by Peter Kuper, still bearing the credit “By Prohias” in spy-esque Morse Code every time.
A GAP-TOOTHED CHAMPION
The grinning, gap-toothed idiot on nearly every cover of MAD, Alfred E Neuman has become a beloved American icon despite rarely if ever showing up in the magazine itself – his appearances are limited to the cover and a quote on the contents page. On the covers, though, he’s been everyone from King Kong to Justin Bieber to Jabba The Hutt to the baby from the Nevermind album. He and his catchphrase (“What, me worry?”) have still become enormous – Jimi Hendrix introduced his Woodstock set with “What, me worry?”. Barack Obama, arguably the most powerful individual in the world, once described himself as having “the politics of [former Presidential candidate] Alfred E Smith and the ears of Alfred E Neuman”.
NEW FERSCHLUGGINER WORDS
You know that impossible-to-colour-in optical illusion of a trident that might be a bident? MAD named it – it’s called a poiuyt (which is a very satisfying word to type). They also enjoyed popularising obscure German or Yiddish words, like potrzebie, veeblefetzer and furshlugginer, which became ingrained enough in American culture to recently pop up in Boardwalk Empire.
One of the trademark features of any issue of MAD is Al Jaffee’s Fold-In, an image on the inside back cover that starts off as one thing and, by folding a section of the page into another, reveals a hidden message – like the one Marge’s cellmate has tattooed on her back when she goes to prison in The Simpsons. They’re ridiculously clever, and the now 91-year-old Jaffee does them with no help from Photoshop or computers at all, preferring to paint on a stiff wooden board and only seeing the folded-in image when he’s sent the magazine. Try making one. You can’t. It’s just too HARD.
MARGINS BETTER THAN WHAT THEY SURROUNDED
Most magazines feature loads of dead space in the margins. At MAD they decided to make them a bit more interesting, by getting Sergio Aragones (owner of a badass moustache and known as the fastest cartoonist in the world) to doodle in them. He’s been doing this since 1963, only missing one issue when the Post Office lost his mail.
THE BEST PUBLISHER EVER
MAD founder Bill Gaines was the son of Max Gaines, who had been instrumental in the success of Action Comics in the 1930s before setting up his own company, Educational Comics (EC). After Max’s death, Bill took over and started publishing first romance, then horror comics. These comics – including Tales From The Crypt and Weird Science – were really successful but led to the Comics Code Authority, essentially a censorship board. Gaines responded by transforming the two-year-old MAD from a comic into a magazine. When MAD became successful, Gaines became known for his eccentricities and simultaneous cheapness and generosity. Every year he would take the whole staff on an overseas trip – one year, he found out MAD had one subscriber in Haiti, whose subscription was about to run out, so he took the whole staff to visit him and persuade him to renew it. He also once paid twice the market value of really low-grade paper because he felt MAD shouldn’t be printed on nice stock. Until his death in 1992, he was greeted by staff members with a cheery “Fuck you, Bill”.
A BUNCH OF SHORT-LIVED IMITATORS
A lot of pretenders to MAD’s throne stepped up over the years, of varying degrees of quality. Cracked (which survives as the genuinely excellent Cracked.com) was an unabashed poor-man’s version of it that nonetheless lasted forty years, while Crazy, Sick, Flip, Whack, Nuts (not that one), Wild, Riot, Bughouse, Eh, Unsane, Get Lost and Panic all bit the dust pretty quick.
THE WORST MOVIE EVER
After the success of the amazing 1978 film Animal House, produced in association with the magazine National Lampoon, MAD became attached to a similar college-set film called Up The Academy, starring former Bond girl (and later wife of Ringo Starr) Barbara Bach. It was by all accounts a complete dog-egg, leading MAD to disown it, and Bill Gaines to pay $30,000 to remove MAD’s name from it and offer handwritten apologies and refunds to anyone who’d sat through it.
THE USUAL GANG OF IDIOTS
Before the switch to magazine format, founding editor Harvey Kurtzman created the majority of the magazine, but after the switch, freelancers known as “the usual gang of idiots” came in and made the magazine their own. Regular readers of MAD learned to look out for certain names on features – if Dick DeBartolo had written a Mort Drucker-illustrated film spoof, you knew it was going to be good. One of their strangest but best-loved contributors was Don Martin, known for his incredibly unusual way of drawing feet and ridiculous sound effects – like Wonder Woman undoing her bra being soundtracked with “Snap ploobadoof”. Both loved and hated was Dave Berg’s The Lighter Side Of…, a long-running, severely inoffensive feature which featured probably the worst-dressed characters ever drawn.
BIG, BIG ART NAMES
As well as influencing a ton of big names (there’d be no Daniel Clowes without MAD, Robert Crumb cites it as a huge influence, and Alan Moore has claimed that MAD’s Superduperman spoof was a direct influence on Watchmen) some properly big deals have passed through the doors of MAD. Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman, of Maus fame, was a regular contributor, Drew Struzan and Frank Frazetta both did covers, and one issue a few years ago contained contributions from no less than ten Pulitzer-winning cartoonists. Plus “Weird Al” Yankovic once wrote for them.
A BETTER VIZ
Viz editor Graham Dury, creator of the Fat Slags, tells us “MAD magazine had a massive influence on me when I was little. The two blokes on earth I would most like to get stuck in a lift with are Don Martin and Sergio Aragones, so long as they had a big stack of paper and some pens with them. I loved the way everybody Martin drew had that fantastic self-confident strut and shoes that flopped over at the end. And Aragones’s scribblings were probably the best bit of the magazine. They showed that the editors really cared about it and wanted to just pack it with stuff. But I doubt I’ll end up in a lift with either of them. Well certainly not Don Martin anyway, as he’s dead. If any of your readers see Sergio Aragones getting into a dodgy looking lift, could they let me know?”
Much in the same way that Nirvana only really felt like they’d made it when they got a call from “Weird Al” Yankovic, being spoofed in MAD is kind of like a badge of honour. MAD’s letters page regularly features notes from celebrities proudly holding up magazines taking the piss out of them. When asked about big moments in his career, Slash from Guns N’Roses said “The magazine cover that has meant the most to me was probably when I appeared in MAD magazine, as a caricature of Alfred E. Neuman. That was when I felt I’d arrived.”
AMERICA IN A NUTSHELL
If there was an alien race out there that had only ever been exposed to MAD, they’d have a pretty decent grasp of modern American history. You can trace wars, leaders, politics and technology through it, as well as the history of entertainment, from issue #4’s Superduperman to last issue’s Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus cover. MAD’s first cover after 9/11 nearly didn’t happen – the initial cover story was on the New York Marathon, and showed corpse-laden NY streets. They wisely decided to pull it, and replaced it with an image that was simultaneously funny, respectful, patriotic and… excuse us, there must be dust in here.
Comics in the 50s didn’t encourage people to question anything – everything was more about being pleasant and not rocking the boat. MAD came along and started picking holes in the American Dream, suggesting the products Americans were buying were crap, their leaders were clueless and that the people were being treated like dicks. These days everyone’s a cynical bastard, but MAD invented it.
THIS photo is from an actual Irish school textbook in the 70s. Readers are invited to identify God’s pecking order:
Draw a circle around the one God loves most
God can’t draw his own circle because he’s using his right hand as a clue and the left hand only does the Devil’s work.
Spotter: Rubber Bandits @Rubberbandits
CAN Kermit makes New York muppets more British? Isn’t that what Lipton’s – makers of a really sweet, horrible tea – mean by making American “more tea? They mean more courteous, polite, civic minded, chivalrous and chilled.
That’s the British, right. Just no-one tell Lipton’s and the Yanks that the modern Briton lives by the motto Dipso, Fatso, Tesco, Asbo.
Dink the tea and turn from Animal (raw charisma, humour and rock music talent) to Kermit (company man, pig-seducer and signer of dirges). Or maybe drink tea and turn itno Sir Thomas Lipton, the uber-rich tea magnet, pictured here on one of his yachts in 1910.
Tea – it’ll make you rich. Now that’s how to seduce the the New Yorkers to the brew…
AN addition to our list of Bad Souvenirs “Canned Radiation” from Three Mile Island produced by Brenster Enterprises of Etters Pennsylvania.
Six suggested uses indicated on the label were:
1. Remove label and tell your enemy its laughing gas.
2. Energy free night light (illuminates in darkness).
3. Mix with cold cream for that radiant beauty.
4. Instant male sterilization (sniff twice daily).
5. Use as a room air freshener.
6. Toothpaste recipe: mix 3 to 1 ratio with baking soda, for ever glowing smile.
ORGANIC food and whole foods are a big marketing con for the gullible who think they know better than the rest of them. Right? Michael Schulson muses on those right-on liberals who “get riled up about creationists and climate-change deniers, but lap up the quasi-religious snake oil at Whole Foods”. Modern science is not a path on the old truths:
At times, the Whole Foods selection slips from the pseudoscientific into the quasi-religious. It’s not just the Ezekiel 4:9 bread (its recipe drawn from the eponymous Bible verse), or Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, or Vitamineral Earth’s “Sacred Healing Food.” It’s also, at least for Jewish shoppers, the taboos thathave grown up around the company’s Organic Integrity effort, all of which sound eerily like kosher law. There’s a sign in the Durham store suggesting that shoppers bag their organic and conventional fruit separately – lest one rub off on the other – and grind their organic coffees at home – because the Whole Foods grinders process conventional coffee, too, and so might transfer some non-organic dust. “This slicer used for cutting both CONVENTIONAL and ORGANIC breads” warns a sign above the Durham location’s bread slicer. Synagogue kitchens are the only other places in which I’ve seen signs implying that level of food-separation purity.
Look, if homeopathic remedies make you feel better, take them. If the Paleo diet helps you eat fewer TV dinners, that’s great – even if the Paleo diet is probably premised more on The Flintstones than it is on any actual evidence about human evolutionary history. If non-organic crumbs bother you, avoid them. And there’s much to praise in Whole Foods’ commitment to sustainability and healthful foods. Still: a significant portion of what Whole Foods sells is based on simple pseudoscience. And sometimes that can spill over into outright anti-science (think What Doctors Don’t Tell You, or Whole Foods’ overblown GMO campaign, which could merit its own article).
Why are so many whole food believers picky eaters..?
HOW real is Barbie? Do you know a grown, adult woman with a 36-18-33 figure? That question to you, people who don’t live in Florida or TV’s version of Essex? Pennsylvania’s Nickolay Lamm has created Barbie doll who looks more like a ‘Real Barbie’, or Barbara.
HIGHLIGHTS from Striking For Soccer, Jimmy Hill’s 1963 book on his part in the end of the maximum wage. In 1961, Hill, the then Professional Football Association chairman, led footballers to victor in the abolition of the maximum wage with the threat of a players’ strike. The top wage a player could legally earn was…£20 a week. Hill’s Fulham teammate Johnny Haynes soon became the first £100-a-week player.
The book was published by The Sportmans Book Club, a members-only, mail-order publisher based in London and Letchworth Garden City.
THE decision by eBay to discontinue its trade in Holocaust memorabilia brought to an end a particularly offensive and peculiar episode in the annals of collections and souvenir-hunting.
And while it is undoubtedly one of the most despicable examples, there is no shortage of tasteless, gauche and tacky souvenirs out there, if you know here to look…
(Warning: one picture below portrays a lynching. It is shocking.)
WHY do we hoard things? David Wallis notes:
[S]ome of the same brain areas that are underactive under normal circumstances become hyperactive when hoarders are confronted with their possessions. David F. Tolin of the Yale University School of Medicine asked participants in a study to decide whether their old papers can be shredded, while monitoring their brain activity. He found that hoarders’ brains zoomed into overdrive like a seismograph measuring an earthquake—compared to healthy controls. (That didn’t happen when they watched someone else’s papers being ditched.) “The parts of the brain involved in helping you gauge that something is important are kicked into such overdrive that they are maxed out, so everything seems important,” Tolin explains.
Monika Eckfield, a professor of physiological nursing at California State University, San Francisco, concurs that many hoarding patients struggle with processing information. To avoid the anxiety of throwing something away, they simply put off the decision to do so. “This is common to all of us,” Eckfield says. Like the neuroscientists, she believes hoarding becomes abnormal as a result of “mis-wiring” in the brain’s executive functions. Chronic hoarders “have a much harder time following through,” she says. “They get distracted. They get disorganized. They end up adding to the pile, and the idea of sorting through those piles is very overwhelming.”
ANORAK’s history of controversial children’s books: sex, drugs, sambo’s gay lover and anti-authoritarianism in the classroom.
The Little Red Schoolbook
In 1971 the proprietor of Stage 1 publishers was found guilty of having in his possession obscene books for publication for gain. Richard Handyside was fined £25 on each summons and ordered to pay £110 costs.
The obscene publications were copies of The Little Red Schoolbook written by two Danish schoolteachers, Søren Hansen and Jesper Jensen – and then rewritten by a group of British adults and schoolchildren, including a young Hilary Benn. It urged young readers to question authority and challenge social conventions, and described adults as ‘paper tigers’. Pupils were encouraged to disrupt lessons that they found boring.
The book was widely regarded as an invitation to anarchy, and it was banned in Italy and France. An abridged version was eventually passed for publication in the UK, but it had by this time achieved considerable notoriety. Ironically, the main area of contention was not the political message, but the section giving basic sex education and advice – particularly concerning masturbation – most of which would be on the school curriculum these days. This was of course the convenient pretext chosen the DPP in order to suppress a book that they regarded as socially subversive.
An extraordinary documentary can be heard here.
Enid Blyton is by no means the only venerable authoress to find her books falling out of favour as popular opinion changes over the decades, as Richmal Crompton will have known only too well.
She remains the most high-profile example, however, thanks to her ‘Gollywog’ series, which related the adventures of Golly, Woggy and Nigger, who liked nothing better than to stride along, in Blyton’s own words, ‘arm-in-arm, singing merrily their favourite song – which, as you may guess, was “Ten Little Nigger Boys”.’ These books are not currently available in most children’s libraries
More famous are her Noddy books, in which they feature once again. In one particularly pointed incident, Noddy is attacked by golliwogs, who steal his car and leave him stranded.
Luckily the Toyland police were very efficient, and always at hand.
Not all gollies are bad, though. In Golly Town we find a Mr Golly, who is one of Noddy’s best friends. He owns Toyland’s garage, looks after Noddy’s car, and is an all-round bloody good bloke, as this picture proves…
The Tale of Little Black Sambo
Another former staple of junior school libraries that fell out of favour (though it remains popular in Japan). In 1996, Fred Marcellino produced a set of new pictures, renamed the characters, and republished it under the title The Story of Little Babaji.
One could be charitable and say that Hergé’s most controversial Tintin adventure merely represented the condescending views of Belgian (and British) society at the time.
Post-war, they seemed anachronistic and offensive, portraying as they did a nation of stupid, lazy, infantile savages in need of a clever white master. The book quickly fell out of favour (and out of print).
The Brave Cowboy
A similar trick was pulled with Joan Walsh Anglund’s charming best-seller, in which scary ‘Indians’ were removed and replaced by white bankrobbers and other ne’er-do-wells.
Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin
This otherwise unremarkable tale relates the everyday life of five-year-old Jenn, who lives with her dad and his boyfriend.
In 1986 it was reported that the book was in the library of a school run by the Labour-controlled Inner London Education Authority, and this was a major factor in the Tory government passing Section 28 of the Local Government Act, which prohibited the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality. The full, bizarre story can be found here…
And Tango Makes Three
This modern-day ‘Jenny’, based on a true story about two ‘gay’ penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo has the distinction of having had the most had the most ban requests in the USA in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010. In 2009 it came second.
‘It’s regrettable that some parents believe reading a true story about two male penguins hatching an egg will damage their children’s moral development,’ said co-author Justin Richardson. ‘They are entitled to express their beliefs, but not to inflict them on others.’