t shirt friday 30.4.2010

It’s the last day of the month so it must be t shirt friday. Anyone else joining in?

Here’s Synchy and Sledpress

Hooray for healingmagichands

and Malach has also joined in

Published in: on April 30, 2010 at 8:42 am  Comments (42)  

Simmo on the run

Back in 1959, one man had the attention of most Australians.

A marathon manhunt was underway for daring Long Bay Gaol escapees Kevin John Simmonds and Leslie Alan Newcombe. Newcombe was soon recaptured, but Simmonds, aged 24, remained on the run for five weeks before being found near Kurri Kurri.

Kurri Kurri

By that time, the grimy, shoeless, starving and exhausted young criminal had achieved folk hero status as a will o’ the wisp, eluding the most costly pursuit in the state’s history by hiding out in swamps and leech and tick-infested country.

Simmo had a penchant for fast cars and a reputation as a sharp dresser, crocodile skin shoes and black satin shirts were a big part of his pre prison wardrobe, plus he had a ‘lethal haircut’,  guaranteed to make women weak at the knees.


He and Newcombe escaped through a chapel ventilator shaft, scaled a wall and hot wired a car parked outside Prince Henry Hospital. They spent their first free night crouched in a freshly dug grave at Botany Cemetery then hid for a week in the pig pavilion at the Sydney Showground.

Cemetery at Prince Henry Hospital

An anti-establishment group known as the Libertarians printed a poster of the odds facing Simmonds “One man versus 500 fearless coppers and 300 righteous civilians armed with submachine guns, pistols and teargas.”


Schoolgirls confessed he had replaced Elvis as the subject of their teenage dreams, housewives left bottles of milk on their doorsteps after it was reported to be his favourite drink. Sydney eccentric Bea Miles claimed to be arranging a passport for him.

Bea Miles

When he was finally captured, fans bearing gifts and chocolates mobbed the courthouse at Wyong chanting “We Want Kevin”. The judge was unimpressed and convicted him of the manslaughter of a prison guard who had been killed during the escape. Thousands of cards and letters were sent to his parents after his sentencing, several of these included offers of marriage.

Sadly, Simmo did not fare well in prison and hung himself in 1966. His sister Jan wrote a book about him and 14 years later, in a strange coincidence, married Darcy Ezekiel Dugan, Sydney’s most notorious prison escape artist who spent more than 40 years behind bars.

On 4 March 1946, Darcy Dugan escaped from a prison tram which was transporting him between Darlinghurst Courthouse and Long Bay Gaol. As the tram passed the Sydney Cricket Ground, Dugan used a kitchen knife to saw a hole through the roof, through which he escaped. The tram is still kept today at the Sydney Tramway Museum.

Darcy Dugan

Published in: on April 29, 2010 at 8:37 am  Comments (47)  
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a claque of youths


***Nero did not fiddle as Rome burned, the fiddle had not yet been invented. But he did consider himself an accomplished lyre player and singer and when in his twenties, gave a public recital. He worked hard at rehearsals and was prepared to suffer for his art. To reduce his weight and improve the quality of his voice, he underwent enemas and severe diets. Some days he ate only chives preserved in oil, and never consumed apples as he felt they harmed his vocal chords.

The concert took place in Naples in a large amphitheatre. The programme was very lengthy and the performance dragged on and on. No one dared show any sign of boredom or dissatisfaction as his spies were everywhere observing faces for a lack of enthusiasm. Nero had packed the amphitheatre with a claque of 5,000 youths to make sure he had a good reception. He was reportedly so pleased by the rhythmic clapping of the Alexandrian sailors that he sent across to Egypt for reinforcements.


No one was allowed to leave before the end and several babies were born during the performance. People tried desperately to escape. Some climbed the wall at the back and risked the long drop to the ground. Others collapsed in a heap and feigned death, hoping to be carted off for burial.


Nero, thrilled by the tumultuous acclaim, embarked on a series of repeat performances over several days. The concerts were finally brought to a close by a small earthquake that destroyed the theatre.


*** from Classical Music’s Strangest Concerts by Brian Levison & Frances Farrer

Published in: on April 28, 2010 at 8:06 am  Comments (50)  
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ah Jack, we hardly knew ye

Before the invention of the rotisserie, a large roast required someone to sit by a fire, engulfed in smoke and heat, to keep the animal turning. So naturally, people devised ways to do this automatically

image of Jack Ruby found here

The least complex and most inexpensive way to turn a roast required little investment, depended on string alone, and involved a semi-manual method. The roast was suspended at the end of a long string attached by its other end above, perhaps from a wrought-iron dangle spit; hanging free it required only the flick of the cook’s hand to set it spinning.


If you were a wealthy soul living over 300 years ago, you had some kind of mechanical utensil to turn a large roast on a spit on the hearth of a large cooking fireplace. Perhaps the oldest and most impressive of these was the clock jack installed on the wall either above the lintel or off to one side-a devise that turned the spit through a system of belts or pulleys.

Clock Jack

The early English word jack referred to the name of a common man who did menial work, or to a contrivance that saved human labor. The jacks (like clocks) incorporated a series of gears and springs to do the work. They were activated by either a key and spring system or by hanging weights. The speed of the spit was regulated by the “governor,” a small weight or a series of fan blades on the jack that slowed the winding down; the weight of the meat on the spit worked the same way.

Governor found here

The source of power for these labor-savers is also interesting. While elaborate mechanical gadgetry had obvious advantages, people of more limited means or needs managed to get by with systems that were at least partially manual. Thus one learns of early dog jacks where the animal itself, running in place on a wide moving belt, set the pulley-gear assembly in motion.

dog power

An Italian version (1827) that turned “130 different roasts at once, and plays twenty-four tunes, and whatever it plays, corresponds to a certain degree of cooking, which is perfectly understood by the cook. Thus, a leg of mutton a la anglaise, will be excellent at the 12th air; a fowl a la Flamande, will be juicy at the 18th, and so on.” Needless to say, only the most opulent, wealthy, or ambitious of kitchens would need one of these.

Jack has long been a popular name for boys. Its meaning is given as “God is Gracious” which might explain what Jack Nicholson is aspiring to in this photograph of his First Communion found here

Published in: on April 26, 2010 at 9:04 am  Comments (43)  
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one star per head

The Kenyah head hunters of Borneo didn’t like to have more than 30 heads hanging in their homes at any one time. When they moved house they took advantage of the upheaval to get rid of any surplus ones. These were placed in a specially built hut not far from the old house, but in case the spirits who surrounded those heads thought they were being abandoned, a fire of smouldering logs was kept burning.

Different tribes had different tattoo markings indicating their achievements.

Muruts – Men who have fought, or who have gone on risky expeditions (headhunting I presume) are tattooed from the shoulders to the pit of the stomach, and all down the arms three-parallel stripes to the waist.


Rundum Muruts – stars on the front of the shoulder, above the breast, are often seen… each star denoted a head having been taken. When the third had been taken, another star was placed on the throat; then the forearms and thighs were tattooed, but with no special design.


Kayans – A man is supposed to tattoo one finger only, if he has been present when an enemy has been killed, but tattoos hands and fingers if he has taken an enemy’s head.

For the Dayak of southern and western Borneo, tattoos and death were inextricably bound. When the soul left its human host, it journeyed through the murky depths of the afterlife in search of heaven. Dayak souls encountered many obstacles on their supernatural flight: The River of Death the most formidable. According to tradition, only the souls of tattooed women who provided generously for their families and headhunters who possessed hand tattoos – a token of their success – were able to cross the log bridge that spanned these dangerous waters.


Here is a description of the women’s tattoos written by William Henry Furness who travelled to Borneo early last century

“I was utterly amazed at their costume and rubbed my eyes to make sure I was not dreaming. The women who were descending to the river’s edge wore on their thighs and legs beautiful blue silk tricots or tights of an elaborate openwork pattern, and on their hands and arms delicate black silk mitts; I was not prepared for an elegant toilette in the jungle and my bewildered amazement continued until, on nearer inspection, I found that all the tracery I had mistaken for silken tights was tattooing.”

image by Mark Madden

Published in: on April 25, 2010 at 7:38 am  Comments (38)  
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corset friday 23.4.2010

Published in: on April 23, 2010 at 9:28 am  Comments (41)  
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twelve inches at the bottom

In the 1940s a strange fashion for men really  took off – the zoot suit.

In his autobiography, Malcolm X (then Malcolm Little) recalled the excitement of purchasing his first zoot suit at the age of fifteen. His description emphasises the importance of ‘striking the pose’:

image (not Malcolm X)

‘I was measured, and the young salesman picked off a rack a zoot suit that was just wild: sky-blue pants thirty inches in the knee and angle narrowed down to twelve inches at the bottom, and a long coat that pinched my waist and flared out below my knees. As a gift, the salesman said, the store would give me a narrow leather belt with my initial ‘L’ on it. Then he said I ought to also buy a hat, and I did – blue, with a feather in the four-inch brim. Then the store gave me another present: a long, thick-lined, gold plated chain that swung down lower than my coat hem. I was sold forever on credit. … I took three of those twenty-five cent sepia-toned, while-you wait pictures of myself, posed the way ‘hipsters’ wearing their zoots would ‘cool it’ – hat angled, knees drawn close together, feet wide apart, both index fingers jabbed toward the floor. The long coat and swinging chain and the Punjab pants were much more dramatic if you stood that way.’


Here in Australia, zoot suits were tailored by Andy Ellis. Fledgling rock artists brought in sketches or album covers featuring the new style and paid big money for Ellis to create suits in gold lame, leopard skin or polka dots. One of his most intriguing outfits was featured in an August 1957 edition of the Weekend newspaper.

“A full page was devoted to the wondrous outfit made for Sydney rocker Bruce Hart by the Dior of the Drape Shape, as Ellis was dubbed.

Hart, a 22 year old milko from Lakemba, wanted to update his image after his girlfriend called him a square.


Ellis assisted by stitching up an apricot and blue jacket with Miro inspired lining and the words “Dig the Rock” embroidered on the pocket. The jacket was teamed with black polka dot pants with mandatory knife edge pleats. A chrome yellow shirt and red and white striped tie completed the look.”


Published in: on April 22, 2010 at 8:10 am  Comments (42)  
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Lennon in her living room

Rosemary Brown was a widow with two children, struggling to make ends meet when John Lennon appeared in her living room in 1984.


John  was not the first famous musician to contact Rosemary, Liszt had been doing so since she was seven. He often accompanied her shopping and was knowledgeable about cheap bananas.


Rosemary Brown, a Medium from Wimbledon, London, claims that John first arrived in spirit form in her living room in 1984. Since then he has dictated over two dozen songs to her. She says, “He is taller than I always imagined him in this life. I seem to see him as he looked at the height of the Beatles early success – he looks to be in his late 20s or so, he is clean shaven, fresh-faced, doesn’t wear glasses.”


Mrs. Brown also observes, “What has most surprised John is that there is a continuing process of learning and evolving on the other side He told me that the afterlife is very much a continuation of this life. You pick up where you left off. You don’t suddenly change or know everything.” He also told her that he still loves Cynthia, his first wife; that he wants his son Julian to record the songs he has dictates to Rosemary and that he is now against the use of drugs.

image by Ronald Traeger found here

Rosemary is not the only medium to commune with John in the afterlife. Bill Tenuto of San Diego had this to report

It also seems that parties are held on ‘the other side’. John held a party in which a number of late personalities appeared, including Clark Gable and Carol Lombard. John’s spirit said, “… Carol Lombard was there, and I took to her. I want to tell you, I really took to her. We are capable of having sex over here…we do the same thing that you do except without the body. We love sex as much as anybody who’s got a body. The sensations are a bit different, with an interplay of energies that take place when we have sex. We don’t concern ourselves with Planned Parenthood since spirits can’t propagate a baby spirit.


Published in: on April 21, 2010 at 8:28 am  Comments (38)  
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pick up those chestnuts!

Pope Alexander VI was quite the party animal and a grave embarrassment to the Church.


“He has a unique record among the popes for the public prominence of his illegitimate children and the blatancy of his amours in the “Sacred Palace”. With his 12 bastard children, including Cesare, Juan, Lucrezia and Jofre, and his numerous mistresses, the “Vatican was a brothel” with a debauched papal court. Alexander VI was a sexual pervert, and lurid stories were bandied about by the intellectual underworld of Rome.


“Once he became Pope Alexander VI, Vatican parties, already wild, grew wilder. They were costly, but he could afford the lifestyle of a Renaissance prince; as vice chancellor of the Roman Church, he had amassed enormous wealth. As guests approached the papal palace, they were excited by the spectacle of living statues: naked, gilded young men and women in erotic poses. Flags bore the Borgia arms, which, appropriately, portrayed a red bull rampant on a field of gold. Every fete had a theme. One, known to Romans as the Ballet of the Chestnuts, was held on October 30, 1501. The indefatigable Burchard describes it in his Diarium. After the banquet dishes had been cleared away, the city’s fifty most beautiful whores danced with the guests, “first clothed, then naked.” The dancing over, the “ballet” began, with the Pope and two of his children in the best seats.


Candelabra were set up on the floor, scattered among them were chestnuts, “which”, Burchard writes, “the courtesans had to pick up, crawling between the candles.” Then the serious sex started. Guests stripped and ran out onto the floor, where they mounted, or were mounted by, the prostitutes. “The coupling took place,” according to Burchard, “in front of everyone present.” Servants kept score of each man’s orgasms, for the Pope greatly admired virility, and measured a man’s machismo by his ejaculative capacity. After eveyone was exhausted, His Holiness distributed prizes- cloaks, boots, caps, and fine silken tunics. “The winners”, the diarist wrote, “were those who made love with the courtesans the greatest number of times.”

image by Franz von Bayros

His death was not such a grand and exciting affair. Johann Burchard was the man who dressed and prepared the Pope’s body for burial.

“With the help of three others, I took hold of the bier and moved it so that the pope’s head was close to the altar. There we shut the bier in behind the choir. The Bishop of Sessa, however, wondered if the ordinary people might not climb up to the body there, which would cause a great scandal and perhaps allow somebody who had been wronged by the pope to get his revenge. He therefore had the bier moved into the chapel entrance between the steps, with the pope’s feet so close to the iron door that they could be touched through the grill. There the body remained through the day, with the iron door firmly closed.

At four o’clock on that afternoon when I saw the corpse again, its face had changed to the color of mulberry or the blackest cloth and it was covered in blue-black spots. The nose was swollen, the mouth distended where the tongue was doubled over, and the lips seemed to fill everything. The appearance of the face then was far more horrifying than anything that had ever been seen or reported before.

Later after five o’clock, the body was carried to the Chapel of Santa Maria della Febbre and placed in its coffin next to the wall in a corner by the altar. Six laborers or porters, making blasphemous jokes in contempt of his corpse, together with two master carpenters, performed this task.

Chapel Santa Maria

The carpenters had made the coffin too narrow and short, and so they placed the pope’s miter at his side, rolled him up in an old carpet, and pummeled and pushed it into the coffin with their fists. No wax tapers or lights were used, and no priests or any other persons attended to his body.

Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 9:31 am  Comments (37)  
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flirting with secular perversions

Don Carlo Gesualdo was a 16th century nobleman and composer of madrigals. At the time his music was considered almost heretical and obscene which brought him to the attention of some pesky clergymen.


The Vatican issued an edict that Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, “although divinely talented and of regal family lineage was apparently flirting with secular perversions and a lurid internal conflict setting decency and morality at the feet of carnal desires.”


Nowadays Gesualdo’s vocal compositions have faded from musical memory. What did not fade however were the notorious scandals, the incestuous affairs, the fits of rage, the orgies and the suggestion that young Gesualdo would routinely murder those who sought to depose him or, who in some way, failed to meet with his satisfaction.


In 1586, Carlo and his cousin Donna Maria were married. This marriage was her third and his first, and apparently prospered initially with the newly-weds living more like lovers than a wedded couple. They were sexual exhibitionists and their loud, often flamboyant sexing became the topic of numerous rumors and local folklore.

oops.. wrong Donn(y) Mari(e)

However, although a fun recreational hobby, Gesualdo’s first love was not of women nor of sex, but rather of music; regardless of his highly debatable talent, or lack thereof. Eventually, it became evident to Donna Maria that her husband was simply too interested in composing and she sought romantic compensation from others.


Upon hearing of her duplicity, Gesualdo decided to personally end her affair with Fabrizio, the Duke of Andria. He and his men surprised the couple in bed together and stabbed the Duke 27 times, once for each month that had been the approximate length of the affair. Lady Donna Maria’s fatal wounds were confined “almost exclusively to those parts of her body which she ought to have kept honest.”

Fabio NOT Fabrizio

The local governor was so fearful of Gesualdo’s potential for murderous rage and psychotic mania that he declared a jurisdictional ‘misstep’ in the circumstances surrounding the Gesualdo affair and immediately cleared Don Carlo of all charges. Much to everybody’s surprise, the prince then married again in 1595.

Almost immediately, upon returning from an extended honeymoon with his new bride, his life erupted in salacious and unsettling rumors. There were accusations that Gesualdo had taken a male lover in Ferrara, that he routinely beat his wife Lenora, and, most notably, that amidst all of this turmoil and violence, Lenora and her brother were engaged in a constant incestuous love affair.

From this time on until his death, Gesualdo’s behaviour became increasingly bizarre. He resorted to flagellation, employing teams of young men to beat him three times a day, ‘during which he was wont to smile joyfully’. He even made it into medical textbooks: ‘The prince was unable to go to stool without having been previously flogged by a valet kept expressly for this purpose‘.

Towards the end of his life, Gesualdo became more and more restless. He spoke often of his past murderous tendencies to anyone who would listen, or who was brave enough to be alone with him in closed quarters. On September 8th, 1613, Don Carlo Gesualdo, who had been living in a self-imposed exile was found dead. When questioned about the circumstances by which his wife  found her husband, Lenora responded only with what was recorded as being “maniacal laughter.”

Lenora Claire NOT Laughing Lenora

Published in: on April 19, 2010 at 8:02 am  Comments (36)  
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