Tag Archives: death

Dear Diary Episode Three: Touch Me I’m Sick

25 Jul

And now, for your voyeuristic pleasure, I present to you, dear reader, another fascinating and sensational episode of Dear Diary, featuring the writings of two young women, one circa 1970s, the other circa 2000s, straight from their respective diaries, treasures which I have found through years of thrifting and garbage digging.

Our first entry, courtesy of a young girl named Valerie is extremely unusual when compared to the rest of the entries.  Most days, recorded in a five year diary spanning the years 1969 through 1974, reveal a very perfectionist and repetitious existence, often with very little change from day to day.  For example, take these two entries, written on consecutive days:

Day one, February 4th, 1969

“Went to school, to choir, watched TV, did homework, did dishes, got clothes ready, bed.”

Day Two, February 5th, 1969

“Went to school, watched TV, did homework, got clothes ready, went to bed.”

Not much is revealed about her inner life.

Valerie’s time is passed by cycling through the same mundane chores and tasks, much like the rest of us.

But in the later years of the diary, as she transforms from pre-adolescent to adolescent, she starts to spend more time with friends, and boys, and she attends parties and drive-ins and such.  But the following entry is a marked departure from her usual, innocent and responsible behavior, and she dutifully records the inevitable consequence.  This entry also marks the last time she would write in her diary, as her experience that night seems to delineate the place where she completely crosses over into the fraught world of the teenage girl, a place where a five year diary offering only four ruled lines per day is no longer enough to explain what has occurred.

July 8th, 1971

“Went dancing, got drunk, went swimming, kissed Bob, Barry, Jack, Rich, Mike, was sick.”

The rest of the seventies is left to our imagination.

Valerie’s five year Diary

Old diary entries always have a dreamy quality, I guess because memories seem pale and somewhat indistinct the way dreams do.  This entry, from the second diary, recorded by an unnamed author, details a dream that in its melancholy beauty evokes the kind of longing and loss that typifies reminiscence.

April 1st, 2003

“Last night my dream hurt me.  It started out at the Big Bop downtown. (The big Bop was an infamous, but now defunct punk venue that was in downtown Toronto.–Miss Lady Heart)  I was with a bunch of girls from my school and all these girl bands were playing L7 and 7 Year Bitch songs and stuff.  We left and went to a bar at one point.  And I think Devin was there.  (This seems to be the author’s boyfriend.  See Dear Diary Episodes One and Two for more on him.–Miss Lady Heart)  Something happened with Devin, but I cant remember.  I can see us standing in a snowy back ally, that’s all.  The part I mostly remember was walking around with these kids that were real hurt inside.  We didn’t say much, but I could tell they were sad.  I remember us going to this house and the guys just sat down in this room, but us girls 3 altogether, climbed out the window, and there was a beach outside.  These dolphins swam up to us, and they were bleeding, and they seemed like they wanted us to kill them, and that’s why they came.  I didn’t want to, but the other girls started throwing things at them and hurting them, and the water got bloodier and bloodier.  I was so sad, but they liked it.  The dolphins were beautiful before.  After they died, the girls sang this gorgeous song.  I almost knew it, but not quite, it was like dying and heaven.  I wish I could remember it.  After that all I can remember is me and these girls visiting a sick boy in a house down the street from mine.  He wanted me to hold him so badly and when I did he almost melted in my arms.  He was sleeping in my Strawberry Shortcake bed sheets.”

Each girl writes of  a totally different subject, yet they both evoke the same sad, romantic, dizzy feeling, a feeling of being emotionally overwhelmed,a sense of the power and mystery of water, the sometimes fleeting nature of love, and the music that’s in the background.

the second diary

Advertisements

Vintage Books: Health Knowledge and Reader’s Digest

25 Apr

I love to check the vintage book section at Value Village as they often have wonderful old books with beautiful lithographed illustrations.  The colours achieved with this type of printing are far superior to anything you see nowadays in books, even when a limited  colour pallet is used.  These illustrations are a great resource of inspiration for unusual colour combinations, drawing composition, and illustration styles.  Some are suitable for framing just as they are, I think, or maybe they could be turned into decals, stickers or t-shirts.  Perhaps I’ve said too much!  Don’t steal my idea to steal other’s work and turn it into unauthorized merchandise.

The first illustrations come from a 1953 Reader’s Digest condensed book that contains the stories “Black Widow”, “The Silent World”, “East of Eden”, “Karen” and “The Curve and the Tusk”.  I love how the illustrations are rendered with mostly blues and browns, an unusual combination that is never the less very satisfying.

The cover of the Reader's Digest book

An illustration from "Black Widow by Patrick Quintin

another "Black Widow" illustration.

My personal favorite of the "Black Widow" illustrations.

An Illustration from "Karen" by Marie Killilea

I have a few of these condensed RD books and the lovely  illustrations are uncredited for some reason.  They even feel nice, the ink is somewhat thick, and smoother than the paper.  These types of bright lithographs would make excellent solvent transfers.  This technique, in which you apply a light coating of solvent, such as gasoline onto the image before pressing it onto another surface, will unfortunately ruin the book though.

The second book I would like to share with you, dear reader is a beautiful thick medical atlas from around 1919.  Entitled, “Health Knowledge” this book, volume II of an unknown number of volumes was published by Medical Distributors Inc.  It boasts “34 Departments Scientifically Illustrated”.  I was lucky enough to find this beauty for only $6 at Value Village, a bargain for a book with as many lovely full colour plates and black and white illustrations in the text.

The cover of "Health Knowledge"

Diseases of the teeth

The above illustration of the jaw and teeth is my favorite in the book.  The colours are so beautiful.  Wouldn’t you just love some stickers or a t-shirt of this image?

A close-up of the jawline

Diseased teeth

Look at those colours!  These diseased teeth are stunning through the eyes of this medical illustrator.  These old medical illustrations are so different from the type of digitally rendered illustrations and plastic models you see today.  Modern medical textbook illustrations are very sterile, the frailty of life, the reality of death, and the experience of aging are filtered through a scientific perspective to achieve a comforting emotional  distance. The old illustrations speak to a different experience with death and disease, a more visceral, yet more romantic connection to the body and aging.  During the Victorian era and into the beginning of the 20th century the notion of death was seen as more poetic, medicine was more of an art.  My sculpture thesis was inspired by the fusion of death, medicine and science at that time.  Take for instance the wax medical models that were produced during that era:

a wax model of a baby born with syphillis

This is a lithograph of a photo of a wax model of a baby with syphilis.  Notice how it’s mounted on a piece of wood painted black surrounded by white fabric.  Other wax models of this type can be seen mounted on fine stained wood enveloped in silk.  It’s presented like a little jewel, like a little sleeping doll.  Many full body wax models of women were presented in white nightgowns on purple velvet pillows.  It speaks to the body as the original site of entertainment, theatre and show business, which is also evidenced by the development of traveling sideshows that presented preserved body parts and medical oddities, and the dissections done in front of live theatre audiences that were offered to the public at the time.

Check out this colourful illustration of different colours of urine and what ailments they indicate:

a scale of urine colours

Now wouldn’t you just love that image on a shirt?  Perfect for any occasion, am I right?

the joints

And here’s a happy looking fellow:

The black and white illustrations within the text were also nice, my favorites being this skull:

and these two dapper looking fellows in an odd, almost  homo-erotic embrace (not that there’s anything wrong with that)(actually, I think everything is homoerotic, I just love homoeroticism, don’t you, dear reader?):

"Dont look now Edmund, it appears we're being illustrated into a medical book"
"mmm.. yes, quite."

Two books I will treasure forever.

Both books found at Valure Village, 1319 Bloor St. W., Toronto