1906 Was Fucked-Up

I finally finished moseying through Luc Sante's new(ish) translation of Félix Fénéon's Novel in Three Lines. First, a little background: Fénón (1861-1944) lived his life in the background. He edited the work of Rimbaud, reviewed books and art (helping to discover Seurat), went on trial for his involvement in anarchist circles, edited newspapers, published Proust and Apollinaire, translated Northanger Abbey and the letters of Edgar Allen Poe, and later sold paintings and ran his own publishing house.

In 1906 the news was filled with reports of the threat of anarchists, newly popular automobiles and the accidents they caused, suicides, derelict soldiers, drownings, the forced separation of school and church, and violence violence violence. It was in this atmosphere that Fénéon spent six months composing little unsigned, three lined "fillers" for a mass circulation paper. This involved culling items from wire dispatches from all over France and its colonies and rewriting them in a wry style more poetry or haiku than newspaper copy. As I understand it this was exactly Fénéon's style, quietly, invisibly, pushing subversive, verging on surreal items on the public without ever expecting nor wanting any recognition. In my mind this makes him a patron saint for all the bedroom artists quietly making work for their own satisfaction without any mind for a larger audience.

On a side note, I would love to give these to schoolchildren as a prompt for a creative writing exercise (as Van Allsburg's book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is used). The other book this reminds me of is the anonymously published 1883 volume The Pretty Women of Paris that is nothing less than a catalog of every prostitute in Paris at the time, her specialties and history. Long after everyone mentioned in the book is gone, it is still notable for inadvertently recording the biographies of hundreds of poor, urban women for posterity at a time when most history seemed only to involve battlefields. Both these books in just a few words paint a picture of an age not always captured in great histories while also drawing individual people out of the fog of time and into sudden, recognizable focus. I love that.

Here are some of my favorites (out of the 1,220 in the book):
Bones have been discovered in a villa on Île Verte, near Grenoble, those—she admits it—of the clandestine offspring of Mme P.

Scheid, of Dunkirk, fired three times at his wife. Since he missed every shot, he decided to aim at his mother-in-law, and connected.

Bonnaut, a locksmith in Montreuil, was chatting on his doorstep when the gangster called Shoe Face struck him twice with a knife.

A hnaged man, there two months, has been found in the Estérel mountains. Fierce birds had completely disfigured him with their beaks.

Napoléon Gallieni, a stonecutter, broke his neck falling down the stairs. He may have been pushed. In any case he was taken to the morgue.

The parish priest of La Compôte, Savoie, was walking through the hills alone. He lay down, naked, under a beech tree, and died of an aneurysm.

Widowed customs agent Ackermann, of Fort-Philippe, Nord, was to have been married today, but was found hanged over the tomb of his wife.

In the vicinity of Noisy-sur-École, M. Louis Delillieau, 70, dropped dead of sunstroke. Quickly his dog Fido ate his head.

A man of 30-some years committed suicide in a hotel in Mâcon. "Do not attempt to find out my name," he had written.

A virgin of Djiajelli, 13, subject to lewd advances by a 10-year-old, killed him with three thrusts of her knife.

Atop a train station in Enghien a painter was electrocuted. His jaws could be heard clacking, then he fell on the glass roof.

Twirling a lasso and yahooing, Kieffer, of Montreuil, committed thrice in two years, galloped away. He vanished. He went on to hang himself.

What?! Children perched on his wall?! With eight rounds M. Olive, property owner in Toulon, forced them to scramble down all bloodied.

Sailor Renaud carried out a suicide pact with his mistress, in Toulon. Their last request: a coffin for two, or at least a double grave.

Harold Bauer and Casals will give a concert today in San Sebastian. Besides that, they may fight a duel.

On Bécu, 28, who arrived at Beaujon hospital with a gunshot wound, they counted 28 scars. His nickname in the underworld: The Target.

M. Dickson, of Choisy-le-Roi was wandering around on his roof. A thief! Three policemen climbed up and the sleepwalker fell off.

At the Trianon Palace, a visitor disrobed and climbed into the imperial bed. It is disputed whether he is, as he claims, Napoleon IV.

Accountant Auguste Bailly, of Boulogne, fractured his skull when he fell from the flying trapeze.

Frogs, sucked up from Belgian ponds by the storm, rained down upon the streets of the red-light district of Dunkirk.

There is no longer a God even for drunkards. Kersilie, of Saint-Germain, who had mistaken the window for for the door, is dead.

"To die like Joan of Arc!" cried Terbaud from the top of a pyre made of his firniture. The firemen of Saint-Ouen stifled his ambition.

Martin, a fairly mysterious character, with a star tattooed on his forehead, was fished out of the dam in Meulan.

"Let me die quietly; I won't say anything," said Devinder, 19, knifed at five in the morning on Place Carnot in Saint-Denis, to the police.

To ensure his place in heaven, Desjeunes of Plainfang, Vosges, had covered with holy pictures the bed where he killed himself with rum.

On the left shoulder of a newborn, whose corpse was found near the 22nd Artillery barracks, a tattoo: a cannon.

At the cemetery in Essarts-le-Roi, M. Gauthier had buried his three daughters. He wanted to have them exhumed. One corpse was missing.

"Ouch!" cried the cunning oyster eater, "A pearl!" Someone at the next table bought it for 100 francs. It had cost 30 cents at the dime store.

The bones found on Île Verte in Grenoble comprised not two but four children's skeletons, minus to skulls.

In response to a proposal to publish his own collection of his work, Fénéon remarked, "Je n'aspire qu'au silence" (I aspire only to silence).

Max Pam - Indian Ocean Journals

Photograph by Peter Beard

There are so many beautiful art books out there that you and I will never be able to afford and even if one could afford them, how often would you really look at them? On top of that, the art world makes sure that images of artwork don't make it onto the web (or at least not anywhere I can find). The fact that you can't look at the complete works of an artist over 100 years old in this day and age is ludicrous. Maybe I'll start posting images I've found that I love but would never remember to look at again. While looking for images of Peter Beard's artwork I stumbled upon someone's blog who photographs spreads of their favorite art books so that more than just the dozen people who can afford them can see them. Here's a series of spreads from Max Pam's work Indian Ocean Journals:

Liam and Sasha's Post-Apocalyptic Tour of America

First, before I forget, a special Fuck You to the Mississippi Trooper who pulled us over and interrogated us separately for no reason other than to harass us. Having us both get out of the car only to make me get back in when you realized I was six inches taller than you was especially amusing. The supremely lame life you are and will be leading until you die is your own self-inflicted and fitting punishment. And with that out of the way we're off!

Our first stop was Centralia [Wikipedia] [Map], Pennsylvania coal country where a mine fire below the town has been burning for 46 years. The populace was evacuated in 1984 and all but a few of the buildings have burned down (those that survived fell victim to arson) leaving behind a grid of suburban streets where trees are more than taking over. Supposedly when it's raining the ground steams. Here are some before and after pictures:

Here Sasha surveys the post-apocalyptic landscape:

Here I am doing my best impression of an asshole. In my defense I thought I had to look as butch as possible so we wouldn't get lynched for looking weird when we stopped to get directions. Then I turned out to be an obnoxious New Yorker when everyone we talked to ended up being completely civil:

That night we arrived in Asheville, NC at a certain punk house that has a 300+ year old tree outside with a swing. You might not appreciate this video now but watch it again in February and you'll feel just a tiny bit less depressed:

The house was also the home of a Carolina Dog, a primitive form of dog that accompanied
the first humans crossing the Bering landbridge into North America from Asia. These dogs were a result of the domestication of southwest Asian wolves in the region of Iraq a few thousand years earlier. I have to add here that I recently read how the first Americans most likely came by sea (as opposed to by land as the way was blocked by a formidable glacier).

We also snuck in a little Lord of the Rings Risk:

Things get tense:

P. makes the classic mistake of panicking and putting on the one ring, inviting the wrath of the Nazgul:

On a side note, I didn't remember until it was too late that we could have visited places like Falling Water and Monticello if we had driven just a little bit more. That's when I decided to finally start keeping track of the places I want to or have previously visited on one map so I this would never happen again. Here it is (I've also put it in my sidebar):

On our next day driving we stop at Unclaimed Baggage in Alabama, a store that sells off all the unclaimed airline baggage in the country. I built it up to be a store that would have everything I ever wanted for almost free but it ended up being kind of a giant Goodwill instead. Check out some of the amazing things they've found though.

We arrive late night in New Orleans [AKA NOLA] where Lil' Waynia is in full effect. Every other song on the radio and the song blasting out of every other bar is Lil' Wayne and I did not mind at all.

Lil' Wayne - A Milli
[right-click to download]

After drinking cheap beer in the streets and getting harassed by Amazonian dancers we end up staying in an ancient hotel right off Bourbon St. that was probably all kinds of haunted but we were both too exhausted to notice.

The next day we cruise around the hardest hit neighborhoods of the city. I don't have any pictures because it was already fucked up enough driving by the remaining people sitting on their porches watching SUVs with North Dakota plates stopping to disgorge a bunch of obese white people taking photos. Instead I took a picture of this:

We arrive in Austin! Our first day there E. takes us to Hamilton Pool, a semi-covered grotto formed by thousands of years of erosion. A middle-aged couple who quickly informed us they were from Oklahoma and churchgoers started discussing the pools formation with us. When his wife turned to him to ask how old the pool was he figured it was a couple of hundred years old but definitely after the flood. I instinctively almost started telling my flood origins stories but suddenly realized what they were saying and quickly pretended I saw someone I knew and swam away.

I know it would be insanely toxic and bad but I would love to have some spray paint that could do this to concrete:

Later that night...

Did you know that in Spring and Summer Austin was home to the largest urban bat colony in North America with upwards of 1.5 million bats at its peak? No? Well this photo won't help convince you, it's all I could get:

Sasha and I cruise around some of Austin's extensive network of storm drains (note the person sleeping under the tent next to his tent):

H. demonstrates how to train a dog to understand sign language (Spoiler alert! Use beer):

Last night in the Lone Star State. Sasha is a train junkie: