Now I Understand


So, three years ago, thanks to Jay Cornell, I saw this illustration by J.C. Leyendecker which appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post of June 3, 1905. But I had no idea what was going on. From the magazine’s cover, it appeared to be illustrating a short story entitled “A State of Mind” by Robert W. Chambers, but I couldn’t find that story in any collection of Chambers’  work. (And a copy of the magazine I found on eBay was $25, which was too steep just to satisfy my curiosity.)

But yesterday, another eminent scholar, Bruce Townley, mentioned Chambers and I was inspired to search again, and by gosh there it was, “A State of Mind,” Chapter 14 in a book by Chambers called The Adventures of a Modest Man (1911). However, the answer wasn’t in Chapter 14. It was in Chapter 15, “Flotsam and Jetsam.”

Two men, Ellis and Jones, have made camp on a ridge after a day of fishing. Earlier in the day, they had been fishing upstream on property belonging to Vassar College, where young women were staging a tableaux from Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin, in full costume with a boat drawn by swans, on a lake dammed especially for such outdoor theatricals.

Back at the campsite, the men observe that a distant storm is swelling the streams on either side and their ridge becomes an island surrounded by torrents. Up at Vassar’s summer camp, the dam bursts, and…

“…Ellis caught sight of something in midstream bearing down on them in a smother of foam – an enormous lizard-like creature floundering throat-deep in the flood… the scaled claws churned the shallows; a spasm shook the head; the jaws gaped. ‘Help!’ said a very sweet and frightened voice.”

The creature is Fafnir the Dragon in papiermâché, and inside is Miss Molly Sandys of Vassar. A moment later, the swan boat also appears in the torrent, carrying one Rhine-maiden (Professor Rawson), one of the two swans, and Lohengrin, actually a young woman named Helen clad in armor; they are brought to safety on dry land as well.

Ellis, who is actually James Lowell Ellis, a famous young artist, falls instantly in love with Molly in the dragon costume, reassures her that all will be well, and there you have the moment captured by the illustration.

Not Quite Royal Wedding


The creator of this stamp sheet bids us imagine the German post office was doing business as usual even as the Russian army was overrunning Berlin, and had the time and wherewithal to design and print a commemorative celebrating the Führer’s wedding to Eva Braun, which was sold to philatelists brave enough to stand in line under a storm of incoming artillery rounds.

In the real world, Hitler and Eva Braun were indeed married on April 29, 1945, in the Führerbunker, and took their own lives the following day. And I have no idea who created this faux postage.


“Why use postcards? The popular context. I like to use an existing popular structure and examine it in a creative way. To extend what is already there and assimilated by society rather than try to impose alien ideas on them. Souvenir postcards, brief messages and visions sent through an open system to friends to say that they are in your thoughts and special. As a person who makes collages and art, I want them (my friends) to know the same so I make my postcards special, but in a basic, simple way. No high technique, just scissors, glue and photos. I want to be sure that at least theoretically, anyone could do it, a similar thing.”

— From a written statement given by Genesis P-Orridge to his solicitor before his trial on the charge of posting indecent postcards, documented in G.P.O. v G. P-O:  A Chronicle of Mail Art on Trial (1976)



“For as the action proceeds, interest tightens and pace increases. In the first part, the public sets the pace, moving slowly toward the wickets of the Post Office to use all its services one by one — and incidentally to show a young reader precisely how to use them. But once back of these windows this reader is caught up in an ever-heightening speed rising to a breathless climax.”

— May Lamberton Becker in her introduction to Here Comes the Mail (1939) by Robert Disraeli


“David didn’t know if he was smart. He liked to think he wasn’t dumb, even sort of liked learning new things, provided it didn’t come at the expense of doing something he really wanted to do. He didn’t believe in street smarts, since that meant you were a failure in some other part of your life but somehow were cagey enough to make shit work out among the uneducated trolls who lived under the bridge.”

— From Gangsterland (2014) by Tod Goldberg