Man Farts at Cat, from the He-Gassen Scrolls (Edo Period, 1603-1868)

Man Farts at Cat

If a picture conveys obliterates a thousand words, then all commentary must surely be superfluous. But He-Gassen? The title alone makes conversation blossom. Westerners vacillate between translations: scholars prefer “Fart Competition,” while laymen know it better as “Fart Battle.” Tomayto, tomahto. Slapstick has nothing to do with conduits—of transcription. And bathroom humor is anything but a modern-day development. Indeed/indubes, this funny business requires a timeless kind of sensibility. Take, for example, the exemplar artifact informally known as “Man Farts at Cat.” Force of image communicates punch line with immediacy, save only perhaps the brief delay of a flatulent sonic boom. Note, too, the absurdist’s craft in that effective use of negative space: those salient, linear flourishes of gaseous superpower rendered as dark spokes of malodorous shadow-light. Oh, how colorfully and deftly detailed this rather minimalist scene is executed. Wiki historians explain with scaffolds of context that the time of the Tokugawa was “characterized by economic growth, strict social order, isolationist foreign policies, [and] popular enjoyment of arts and culture.” Visual gag, Japanese political cartoon with xenophobic edge, or undisputed masterwork—what eternal truths can “Man Farts at Cat” impart? Maybe none more than this: here lies in a paradox of preserved ephemera the still-lingering vitality of some anonymous artist who once laughed and passed his time away, thinking fondly of life in the Edo Period as nothing less than a real gas.

Baseball Book Review: John Klima’s The Game Must Go On: Hank Greenberg, Pete Gray and the Great Days of Baseball on the Home Front in WWII

If you are a Hank Greenberg admirer or simply a lover of baseball history, then you may want to check out my review of John Klima’s new book, The Game Must Go On: Hank Greenberg, Pete Gray and the Great Days of Baseball on the Home Front in WWII, now up on The Hardball Times: http://www.hardballtimes.com/a-look-at-the-game-must-go-on/.

Here’s an excerpt:

In his introduction, Klima cautions that The Game Must Go On: Hank Greenberg, Pete Gray and the Great Days of Baseball on the Home Front in WWII—published by Thomas Dunne Books earlier this year—is conceptualized with a “cohesive, narrative style” and thus is “not a textbook or a reference book” (ix, xii). However, Klima’s work is nothing short of exhaustively researched, as he draws from interviews, personal letters, and newspaper archives to breathe life into an intimately detailed tapestry rich with colorful, poignant exploits.

In as much, Klima’s sports journalism experiences (as well as his earlier books) lend a palpable authority to this history of wartime baseball and the heavy tolls that World War II wrought upon players, fans, the game, and the country. Despite what might otherwise be an almost overwhelming wealth of information, The Game manages to dexterously weave through the wartime sprawl of historical events and figures with apparent ease, as the reader follows three distinctive central characters whose lives are forever changed by war: Hank Greenberg, Billy Southworth Jr., and Pete Gray. . . .

Read the rest of the review here.

Flash (Card) Histories–Mr. Cub, et al.

Many thanks, again, to The Hardball Times for running this week’s Friday feature: http://www.hardballtimes.com/condensed-card-histories/. Ever hear about Ernie and the fortune-teller? Check this out for some entertaining baseball card histories on Ernie Banks, Curt Flood, and Harry Simpson.

Ernie Banks, Mr. Cub

Japanese Baseball Cards—Fun with Menko!

Japanese Menko Card, 1949 JRM, Makoto Kozuru

Japanese Menko Card, 1949 JRM, Makoto Kozuru

I don’t know much about Japanese baseball. I don’t know much about Japanese baseball cards. I *really* don’t know much Japanese.

Apparently, Japanese baseball is relatively similar to American baseball. Of course there are some differences, especially cultural ones where crowds and players are concerned. But they share all of the basics: bats & balls, pitchers, bases on a field, etc. By most accounts, baseball was introduced to Japan in the 1870s, roughly twenty to twenty-five years after Americans started to professionally organize the game. . . .

Old Japanese Baseball Card of Catcher

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Really, though, that’s about all I know—or all I can recall—about that. Other folks like Dr. Fitts or Robert Whiting (coincidentally both named Robert) know quite a bit more about Japanese baseball.

Japanese Menko Card, Tetsuharu Kawakami

Japanese Menko Card, Tetsuharu Kawakami

Old Japanese Baseball Card of Hitter

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

When it comes to Japanese baseball cards, my knowledge is equally limited. Some Japanese baseball cards were made for a popular game called menko. (While menko cards do not account for all Japanese baseball cards, they do appear to be the earliest.) In this game, players throw their cards down upon a flat playing surface in an attempt to flip the other cards belonging to opponents. Yeah, it’s like pogs. Unlike baseball, though, Japan’s menko came well before the American pogs of the 1990s.

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Masayasu Kaneda

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Masayasu Kaneda

Again, there are others with plenty of more expertise in this realm. For example: Dr. Fitts (once more), who runs an additional site just for blogging about Japanese baseball cards; Gary Engel, co-author of Sayonara Home Run!: The Art of the Japanese Baseball Card; and, of course, the Japanese Baseball Cards blog.

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Hideo Fujimoto

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Hideo Fujimoto

As for Japanese, the language—well, I got nothin’. But I found these Japanese baseball cards that sure do look pretty cool.

Old Japanese Baseball Card of Pitcher 4

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Old Japanese Baseball Card of Pitcher 2

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Old Japanese Baseball Card of Pitcher 2, back

Japanese Menko Card (back), player name?

Oh, there’s more alright. . . .

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card (back), player name?

Japanese Menko Card (back), player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card (back), player name?

Japanese Menko Card (back), player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card (back), player name?

Japanese Menko Card (back), player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Tokuji Iida

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Tokuji Iida

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Tokuji Iida (back)

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Tokuji Iida (back)

Japanese Menko Card, 1960 Takagi

Japanese Menko Card, 1960 Takagi

Japanese Menko Card, 1948-1949, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1948-1949, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1948-1949, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1948-1949, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1948-1949, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1948-1949, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1947 JCM, Ted Williams back, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1947 JCM, Ted Williams back, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1947 JCM, Ted Williams back (back), player name

Japanese Menko Card, 1947 JCM, Ted Williams back (back), player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, player name?

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Hideo Fujimoto

Japanese Menko Card, 1948 Hideo Fujimoto

Japanese Menko Card, circa 1960s Sadaharu Oh

Japanese Menko Card, circa 1960s Sadaharu Oh

Japanese Menko Card, circa 1960s Sadaharu Oh (back)

Japanese Menko Card, circa 1960s Sadaharu Oh (back)

And last but not least. . . .

Japanese Menko Card, 1950 Babe Ruth

Japanese Menko Card, 1950 Babe Ruth

Eddie at Bat

Embed from Getty Images

 

That’s one tough strike zone!

*Eddie Gaedel: wiki page and “career” stats.

The Strangest Baseball Card Blog—Ever.

Simply put: this is the strangest baseball card blog—ever. If anyone finds one that surpasses its utter weirdness, then please do let me know. . . . Actually, it’s almost poetic (in an American cardboard psycho kind of way). The blog is officially called I Post Baseball Cards. As you can see, though, that’s not even the half of it.