Archive for April, 2010

GRIFFITH AND TWISTER

April 30, 2010

After making his fortune directing Hollywood’s first “racist blockbusters”, D.W. Griffith squandered much of his money attempting to cash in on the Jazz Age craze for boardgames.

The majority of Griffith’s designs were failures, most notably his “Knuckleduster Calamity”, which led to a succession of highly damaging lawsuits.

The closest that Griffith came to success was with an early form of what would later become known as “Twister”. Griffith’s version was called “Contortion!”, and was based on a complicated set of rules involving a 12 sided die and various invocations to zodiac deities.

Although too arcane to attract a wide audience, “Contortion!” did gain something of a cult following in Hollywood.  Many of Griffith’s stars held exclusive “Contortion!” parties, open only to the most fashionable and limber of the A-list.  According to Hollywood lore, it was during one such soirée that Douglas Fairbanks and Anna Beth Sully inadvertently conceived their first child, Douglas Jnr.

Who includes knuckledusters as part of a boardgame?  What a woeful lunatic.

Griffith peruses the list of plaintiffs in the "Knuckleduster Calamity" lawsuit

Advertisements

MARLOWE AND PLUMS

April 27, 2010

Christopher Marlowe’s legendary love of plums has been a source of interest to scholars ever since his (almost certainly plum-related) murder in 1593.

The celebrated dramatist and espionage agent was vociferous in his love of the tart fruit, once writing that:

“The Mereste Smack of a Primy Plumb’s Deep-Sweete Nectar doth but at once reduceth me to the moste Fool-Begged of Want-Wits.”

Marlowe’s plum love is theorised to have stemmed from his time as a spy for Sir Francis Walsingham, who was renowned for his extensive and high quality plum fields throughout much of modern day Wigtwizzle and Flagg.

Although scholars believe that Walsingham originally paid Marlowe in plums for his services, it would appear that in time Marlowe’s love of the stone fruit outstripped his earning capabilities, resulting in disastrous debts and his eventual murder.

No mere historical curio, Marlowe’s addiction has provided powerful evidence for the “Marlovian” school, who argue that the works traditionally attributed to William Shakespeare were in fact written by Marlowe.  Proponents of the theory have pointed to the many plum references throughout the Shakespearean oeuvre (Guildenstern taking “Plumb and Crabbe-Apple Jam” with him during the trip to England, Lear ranting about “Plumb-Coloured Ducats (coins)”, etc.) as proof of their claims.

Marlowe was often seen in public with plum juice smeared across his lips and cheeks

DEAKIN AND MALE MODELING

April 20, 2010

In addition to his role as the “Father of Federation”, Alfred Deakin pursued a trailblazing career as Australia’s most successful turn of the century male model.

Deakin first found fame in his native Victoria, where local social commentators waxed lyrical about his “virile moustached face” and “brawnsome physique”.  Deakin used the opportunities of Federation to expand his modeling career into New South Wales, where he became known as the face of “Mr. and Mrs. Wittersleigh’s Electro-Vitaminical Rubbing Ointment Emporium”, and Queensland, where he found fame as the spokesperson for “Amalgamated Ham Corp”.

“Affable Alfred” was a proponent of innovative modeling techniques, most notably the “Reversed Chair” pose, which he discovered during a study tour in France. The pose was highly controversial at the time, and was notably opposed by Edmund Barton, who argued that it represented “nothing less than the ascendant dandyfication of the white Australian Briton.”

Deakin’s work is today memorialised by the Alfred Deakin  Centre for Development of the Posed Arts, at Deakin University.

Deakin demonstrating his "Reversed Chair" pose alongside early opponent Edmund Barton

WASHINGTON AND MAPLE TAFFY

April 19, 2010

Prior to his much storied political career, a 23 year-old George Washington suffered a major financial setback when he attempted to establish rural Virginia’s first dedicated Maple Taffy store.  Washington developed a fondness for the sugary treat during his youthful travels in New England, where it was long established as an after-dinner delicacy.  His business venture failed, with Washington bitterly noting in his personal diaries that:

“The Virginian’s coarser Palate does not lend itselfe to cultivation of such Delicate Pleasures.”

Washington himself would retain a great affection for the taffy, an affection which would cost him dearly in terms of dental hygiene and political credibility.  After being forced to take up his famous wooden dentures, political foes would often mock Washington with the derisive nickname, “Old Taffy Lips”.

Old Taffy Lips

'Old Taffy Lips' Washington would rue the business failure “'til (his) sweete dieing moment.”

VERNE AND TIDDLYWINKS

April 19, 2010

Jules Verne is widely revered as the “Father of Science Fiction”.  However, few remember his tenure as the All-France Amateur Tiddlywinks champion from 1897-1902.

Verne was fiercely proud of his title, and was reputedly “catatonic” with grief after he lost it to Gilles Veilleux, a plucky 18 year-old science student from Montdidier.  The trauma of the loss is widely considered a contributing factor to Verne’s death shortly thereafter.

Ironically, Veilleux would go on to defect to Germany during WWII, and was one of the principal architects of the V2 Rocket project, the technology from which would help realise Verne’s great dream of space travel.

Verne, pictured shortly after his humiliating defeat

LENIN AND POTATOES

April 19, 2010

Vladimir Illyich Lenin was known by his comrades to have an unnatural love for the smell of freshly boiled potatoes.

As low level apparatchik Dimitri Zubkov would recall in his autobiography, “Deeds Done”,

“(After the fall of St. Petersburg to the Bolsheviks) there was much carousing and rejoicing by all of us in the inner circle. We stayed up for days in the Winter Palace, enjoying all manner of fine liqueurs and cordials.

I recall after one particularly boisterous evening, rousing myself and shambling into the (formerly) Royal Kitchen. There I found a most confounding sight: None other than Comrade Lenin, standing over a saucepan of boiling potatoes and clutching at himself furiously!

‘Comrade Lenin!’ I cried, ‘What in heaven’s name!’

Lenin quickly turned around, and pausing only to compose himself briefly, chastised me for having invoked a religious curse.

‘One swears solely by the Deities of Proletarian Struggle now,’ he warned me.”

Lenin.  The Man.  The Potato Fiend.  The Pastry.

Post-Mortem, Lenin miraculously transmogrified into a delicious pastry, replicas of which are enjoyed every year on the anniversary of his death.