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May 27, 2014 / scherstuhl

Everything You Need to Know About Studies in Crap


That cat is my own dear, dopey Patterson, sometime in 2008, sniffing at a Jell-O dish I whipped up from a community cookbook I found in a Kansas City thrift store. The name of the cookbook: Recipes From Old Cape Girardeau. The name of the recipe: “Under the Sea Salad.” The name of the recipe’s author: Mrs. Rush H. Limbaugh, Sr. 

In 2008, while teaching and writing in Kansas City, I talked the good folks at K.C.’s Pitch newspaper into letting me write a series of blogposts where I make jokes about ridiculous old books scrounged up at estate sales and antique shops. Soon, The Village Voice started running the posts, starting with the impossibly ridiculous ’70s men’s adventure novel Killinger!. Since then, I’ve tricked two other newspapers into hosting the column, and I still get it together to post a new SiC to the Voice every couple of weeks.  

Here’s a greatest hits piece from 2010.

Here’s the full Voice Crap archives, which I still update every couple of weeks, time permitting.

Unique Studies in Crap columns also have turned up in print and online at LA Weekly and SF Weekly. (I freelanced at the former, and at the latter I served as managing editor, a job that left me little time to write anything.)

Here’s my favorite columns from SF Weekly:

‘College Girls – If They Could Only Cook’: Amazing ’50s Quick Magazine Covers

Mermaid Romance Novels Are About as Hilarious as You Might Expect

You Love These 80’s Canadian Animal Sweaters So Much You Want to Kiss Them

Hot Dating Advice From 1939: Visit a Factory to Keep “Adolescent Love-Making to a Minimum”

“We Have Become a Race of Sex Cripples,” Claims 1968’s Sexercises [Photos]

Thrift-Store Copy of Paris Hilton’s “Your Heiress Diary” Is History’s Second Saddest Journal

Coloring Books No Kid Could Ever Want, Including David Lynch’s “Dune”

“Jogging With Jesus” Author Teaches Wives the “Nutcracker Technique” of Husband Improving

From LA Weekly:

“I Told You to Stop Talking about Your Mom”: Wonderfully Strange Practice Conversations for ESL Students

The world’s saddest self-help book, discovered in Pasadena: How to Save Your Marriage Alone

Taste-testing Charlton Heston’s Tuna Cheese Puff. Plus: other delicacies from Dining With David Wade

Taking the dick out of “dictionary” with 1988’sThe Nonsexist Word Finder

“Little Jack Horner sat in a corner reading his Bible each day”: The joylessness of The Christian Mother Goose

From The Village Voice:

Here’s the 1950s Quiz That Proves You Are a Terrible Wife

“Are You Prejudiced?” Asked Faith ‘n Stuff Magazine in 1994. Take the Quiz and See!

Meet Captain Cornelius, the Terrible ’90s Superhero Who Taught Kids About Corn

Are Dungeons & Dragons Players in a Cult? These Hilarious Warning Signs From 1989 Prove It

Here’s the NSFW Sex-Ed Book That Teaches Elementary Schoolers to Masturbate on the Tetherball Pole

“Virgins Make Good Role Models for Their Children”: The Brilliant Raising Sexually Pure Kids

Does the Harlequin Romance Unicorn Vengeance Boast The Worst Sentence Ever Published in English? Mayhap!

Sexy Mermaid Jonah and other biblical coloring book disasters

’70s wives ask themselves, “When was the last time I expressed pleasure in our sex life?” and so much more

World’s Saddest Self-Help Book Teaches You How to Live in Your Car

You’re Nearly There, the Christian sex-ed book that advises you share wet dreams with your parents

Naked tween essayists and other terrible ideas from mid-90s nudist magazines

“There’s a great future for you”: Studies in Crap presents 1965’s Your Career in Journalism

Turn Off Your Mind, Relax, And This Book Still Sucks: Studies in Crap Meets John Lennon in Heaven

The pieces posted at The Pitch were the same as at the Voice, but formatting issues at that site have made the posts pretty much unreadable. Even at the Voice a lot of the oldest posts have broken photo links. I could promise to fix them someday, but we all know that would be a filthy lie.

Finally, here’s the one time Studies in Crap got truly personal: A post about the college newspaper who called the sheriff on me for making fun of them the pre-internet way — sending them crazy stuff through the mail, including a dozen or so photographs I had taken of the book depository where Oswald shot Kennedy. In fairness, their newspaper did misspell its own name on its masthead. (And, also in fairness, I misspelled “mis-spelled” in the headline.)

The college newspaper that mis-spelled its own name . . . and almost got your Crap Archivist arrested

It’s almost a Crap Archivist origin story.

I’m currently the film editor at the Voice, where I also write heaps of non-Crap stuff about arts and culture, all of which cuts into the old-fashioned craphunting I used to relish in my freelance days. But I’ve still got boxes of terrible books and magazines to post, and I look forward to sharing them.

(Here’s my Voice author page with everything I’ve been up to.)

Thanks for reading, everybody! 

November 21, 2010 / scherstuhl

Thoughtful onstage food-orgy fun with Holland’s Wonderbaum

First came a nuanced and engaging discussion of public arts funding and the nature of provocative art. Then came the insertion of pickles into anuses and phalluses into haybales.

Twenty years after American artists like Karen Finley lost their NEA funding for “indecency,” troublemaking Danish theater ensemble Wunderbaum has brought principled sex-with-food to REDCAT, in the basement of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The trouble – and the performance, titled Looking for Paul – starts with a gnome wielding a sex-toy. Wunderbaumer Maartje Remmers, playing an idealized everyday Dane named Inez, explains over a slideshow how her apartment’s view of central Rotterdam has been corrupted by the installation of a notorious piece of public art:  Paul McCarthy’s Santa Claus, a twenty-foot sculpture of a gnome wielding a vast butt-plug. Read more…

November 14, 2010 / scherstuhl

John Huston’s Movie Lies A-Moldering on the Screen

A flop, a bomb, a misfired musket shot upwind on wet powder, John Huston’s 1950 adaptation of Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage boils down to about 70 minutes of grizzled extras tramping about the director’s San Fernando Valley ranch. Cannons fire and smoke machines billow. On occasion star Audie Murphy skulks through, dazed and raw-eyed, the contortions of face meant to indicate his character’s current point on an arc stretching from pants-wetting cowardliness to idiot heroism.

Murphy, the real-life World War II hero, plays a youth known as The Youth. He speaks a couple times and looks impressively scared and sweaty as narration cribbed from Crane drones on above him. Toward the end, the Youth finds gumption enough to charge from cover directly at the Rebel line.

This is not presented as foolish.

Still, for all its manifold failings, Huston’s Red Badge of Courage stands alongside Rope, Skiddoo or New York, New York as a fascinating failure from a great director. (Some un-fascinating failures from great directors: Jack, Hulk, Hook, The Arrangement, and Huston’s own Annie.)

It’s plotless, naturalistic, stripped of dialogue, and concerned only with the day-to-day grind of soldiering. Instead of the war-movie cliché of a family-like troop of likable fellas defined entirely by their ethnic and regional backgrounds, Huston’s soldiers are a scattered mob: individuals who come together under orders but then break apart under fire. Read more…

November 10, 2010 / scherstuhl

Patterson presents your weekly Crap round up!

My human companion has as always been wasting prime pet-giving time tickling away at the cold belly of his Mac Book! I ask you: can the internet purr? Can a computer nibble gently at your fingertips? On a brisk California evening can that Mac Book rest warmly in your lap?

Oh, really?

Well, I bet it can’t eat bees or pass a blissed-out afternoon following the sun across the floor.

Anyway, here are the thoughts he has been tickling out this week:

First, for Studies in Crap, he wrote about some old book that I hear is pretty much straight-up porno. Porno is, of course, a vulgarization of my two great interests: lying spreadeagled and indiscriminate licking.

Then, at the LA Weekly, there’s this look at  “The Christian Mother Goose,” which he seems to find funny because it’s a bad evangelical rewrite of old human nursery rhymes. Me, I’m more like, “Gooses! Where?”

Finally, here is yet another tale of humans acting silly on buses. Cats cannot take buses because cats have style.

[Alan adds: Be sure to visit Patterson’s page on Facebook. Honestly, Alan does not do the updates for it.]


November 8, 2010 / scherstuhl

Five cool & unsettling images from the Pinball Hall of Fame

All taken Friday, November 6, at the Pinball Hall of Fame, a strip-mall warehouse of flipper/bumper/TILTy glory a couple miles from the Las Vegas Strip. It’s by far my favorite place in Las Vegas . . .

. . .  with the possible exception of the Salvation Army on West Charleston, where I scored this signed Liberace program for just fifty cents.


At last, the mystery is solved! Liberace loved a woman named Kay!

Anyway, more crazy pinball shots below.

Read more…

October 28, 2010 / scherstuhl

Break on through with your weekly Crap round up!

Good morning, world!

This week we’re talking breakthroughs — those society-shifting changes that are realized only after generations of build-up but then somehow become the norm within a lifetime or two.  Living in an age of breakthroughs means we must change with the times, and this week’s well-intentioned yet often alarming SiC finds purport to help Americans do just that.

First up, in the Pitch and the Village Voice, it’s “A Paycheck of Your Own,” an early ’70s picturebook guide to the workplace for women. Wriggling in the boss’s lap is encouraged; smoking extensively throughout the job interview is not. There’s also a host of goofy ’70s pics and tips guaranteed to amuse and unsettle!

That combination of amusing/unsettling is pretty common when dealing with the cultural history of a recent historical breakthrough: the reason the women’s movement or the civil rights movement were *movements*, after all, is that they faced much opposition from average folks. So, the books aimed at helping average folks deal with societal changes can’t help but amuse/upset: these books must articulate the changes that we in the future take for granted to an uncertain — or even hostile or terrified — audience.

That brings us to this week’s LA Weekly SiC: 1966’s “The First Book of American Negroes.”

Finally, the bus rants are back, but this time with neither a bus nor racial tensions . . .  and with a cameo appearance from a rock star!

Thanks for reading or whatever! Your clicks/comments/Tweets/Facebooks and the like have gotten me *this* close to solvency!

October 19, 2010 / scherstuhl

The Day the Music Lived: How the Dusty Thump of Waylon Jennings Saved Nashville

Someone buy this for me.

The Waylon beat, steady and insistent as highway markers whipping past a pick-up. It’s also a heartbeat.

On February 3, 1959, the country music “Outlaw”-to be was serving as the self-taught bassman in Buddy Holly’s band. Although it meant a long haul in a cold bus, Jennings gave up his seat on Holly’s charter plane to J.P. Richardson, the “Big Bopper.”

The rest, they say, is history.  The crash that took the lives of Holly, Richardson, and Richie Valens has been dubbed “The Day the Music Died,” but music is heartier than we are. Music beats on.

Jennings did, too.  In a career spanning four decades, he held to tradition but disdained rules. He accumulated the kind of numbers that halls of fame love to post: more than 80 hit singles, including 16 number ones; five CMA awards; 13 BMI songwriting awards; one gig narrating absurdist car-chase TV show The Dukes of Hazzard; and four platinum albums, including Wanted: The Outlaws, the1976 compilation/branding exercise that came to define a new country music.

But Jennings’ true influence extends well beyond the numbers.

Read more…

October 19, 2010 / scherstuhl

Porno Cat tempts you with your weekly Crap round up!

Porno Cat knows what you want.

Porno Cat is tired of all of the accusations.

Yes, he did pose for this photo. Yes, he did face tough times upon moving to Los Angeles. Yes, he did trust the wrong people. Yes, he does believe that feline sexuality is a beautiful thing that nobody should ever be ashamed of, ever.

But he denies in the strongest possible terms the allegation that he did it just to draw attention to his master’s blog posts. Porno Cat might make mistakes, but he isn’t Screech, people.

Porno Cat cries. As he does so, he asks that you honor his suffering with a visit to this week’s Studies in Crap posts:

First, at the Pitch and the Village Voice, a look at the rare SiC book that isn’t actually all that Crappy: a Canadian sex-ed comic book from the 1980s that features stories about mothers realizing that of course their hot young daughters should jaunt off to Winnipeg for hotel parties with dudes in bands. In this piece, Alan misspelled “Manitoba” and included at least one joke that, upon re-reading, makes no sense.

Meanwhile, the LA Weekly has a mid-century beaut packed with crazy sex-stuff but still much less explicit Porno Cat’s hawt pix. It’s 1950’s The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Sex, a book that will leave you wondering how previous generations got it together long enough to make you.

October 18, 2010 / scherstuhl

Something to Remember, Just Before You Die: Will Eno Meets Thom Pain, Charlie Brown, and Samuel Beckett

This is an illustration that accompanies a blog post.

In the hour or so that he demands of your life, Thom Pain — the wry, distractible and unfailingly sincere monologist whose existential crises shape Will Eno’s 2005 play Thom Pain: (based on nothing) – tells you two jokes, one dream, one lie, one moment from his childhood, and something of the edges of a failed romantic relationship.

He will crumple a handkerchief and marvel at its resemblance to a human brain folding grayly in on itself. He will attempt a magic trick. He will solicit a volunteer from the audience. He will be forever on the cusp of sharing the huge concerns that crowd inside him – huge concerns that he can’t ever quite find words for. He will show his heart and then make a joke to cover it up.

Read more…

October 12, 2010 / scherstuhl

Doe-eyed Highland Park Jesus Offers Peace, Understanding, and Your Weekly Crap Round Up


As with Drew Barrymore's in "Firestarter," strands of J.C.'s hair lick up around his temples when He's about to do something magic


As a giant-handed Jesus mural blessed with a peace-sign Blingee and an over-easy halo, I am of course omniscient. I see past, I see future, and I even see the people who joke that the thick line down my nose and my uncertain proportions make me look a bit like a Mad fold-in.

I’m not some square public-art Jesus like that blocky disaster Christ of the Ozarks, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. With his giant head, stumpy body, and overall appearance of cheap plasticity, that dude looks like a holy Pez Dispenser.

He’s omniscient, too, but seeing everything doesn’t mean He actually looks. Me, I got these big doe eyes of Mine from a decade or so of dedicated blogreading. Like the book about me says, millenia are just a twinkling in my eyes, but blogreading, man — that jacks up my peepers real Precious Moments style.

Anywho, this week My big doe-eyed Jesus blogroll buddy is Alan Scherstuhl (pictured.) He managed to write two whole Studies in Crap posts this week without once making fun of the folks who write insane stuff in My name, so he gets big props for that.

There’s this, at the Pitch and the Village Voice, about a terrible guide to terrible marriages, including photos that made these eyes of mine puddle up with laugh-tears, which is how we get fog.

And there’s this, at the LA Weekly, about a 1970’s guide to dating called “America’s Best Pick Up Spots!”

Also, the Weekly ran this thing about people acting the fool at the bus stop. The guy who was being hassled took my name in vain. At that I cried tear-tears, which is how we get death fog, like that purple stuff in The Ten Commandments.