Crate of Curios part 35 – Siblings special

For the first time, in the beginning of May I actually planned a whole months of Crates ahead and decided that as I had rather enjoyed composing the Isolation special edition, I’ll do another thematic Crate this month… and this time the theme is going to be siblings in the widest sense of the word. So, after a greyish somewhat rainy afternoon and evening, let’s proceed to opening this special Crate without further ado.

  1. Surely you have heard more than enough about Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo who used to be the only one who bought his paintings. However, Vincent and Theo also had three rather remarkable sisters – Willemien, Elisabeth and Anna.

2. As the theme embraces the concept of ‘sibling’ in the widest possible sense, what else is an association, but a brother-or sisterhood based on shared principles rather than shared bloodline? The 14 rebellious students who left the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg in 1863, ended up forming The Society for Travelling Art Exhibitions, more widely known as The Peredvizhniki or The Wanderers in 1870. During their over 50 years of existence, they arranged 48 mobile exhibitions and although by far the most of the ‘common people’ their art was aimed at could not afford to attend the exhibitions, the widespread reproduction of the Peredvizhniki paintings as postcards and illustrations in magazines made them well-known throughout Russia. The art of the Wanderers was no renewal of style, but a renewal of subject matter that successfully managed to turn landscape painting into a tool of Russian nation-building.

3. The question whether birth order affects one’s personality has been around for a long time. The answer is… it’s complicated.

4. Sibling rivalry has been a familiar concept throughout history, meriting a thorough examination by Sigmund Freud who was deeply fascinated by it and epitomized by the relationship between Hollywood actresses and sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine.

5. Occasionally, however, instead of rivals, siblings can end up as friends and co-inventors like the Wright Brothers. Entrepreneurs, rather than scientists they actually worked together on a range of different projects before embarking on aviation.

6. A surefire way of building lasting bonds is team sports – exemplified by Sisterhood FC, the first women’s Muslim football club in the UK.

7. The 1960’s California cult The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, however, wished to establish the bonds between fellow humans through the influence of magic mushrooms and LSD.

8. Is it possible to produce genius siblings? In 1965, Hungarian psychologist Laszlo Polgar set forth to find out. He courted his to-be-wife Klara with descriptions of the pedagogical experiments he had planned for their progeny and somehow it worked. They got married and and their first daughter Susan was born in 1969. They went on to have two more girls – Sofia and Judit. All of the three sisters went on to be professional chess players and Judit – the world champion.

9. Brothers are not only created by sharing blood and genes – in Arab as well as Ancient Roman culture, the real brothers were created by sharing the same mother’s milk.

10. While talking about associations, we should definitely not forget the remarkable salon of Fanny Boscawen in 18th century England that became known as The Bluestocking Society – a gathering of a number of the most cultured and educated ladies (and a few gentlemen) of the day. The unusual name supposedly originated from the blue worsted stockings a popular participant, botanist and writer Benjamin Stillingfleet used to wear. By the mid-19th century though, Victorian attitudes towards women’s position had become widespread and the term ‘bluestocking’ gained a derogatory air.

11. And to finish off on a light note – let’s enjoy the hungover cattiness of Jane Austen’s letter to her sister Cassandra.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


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Crate of Curios part 34

Summer is here, cafes are full to the brim with people who after months and months of lockdown find even the word ‘home’ unutterable. An undefinable laziness is creeping in, a desire for total holidays, complete relaxation, the ideal summer that… does not exist for most. However, while we are still dreaming about the innocent slow days at the blue sea, let’s open this week’s Crate without further ado.

  1. Before the entrance of Count Dracula to the silver screen, ‘vampire’ or ‘vamp’ has a somewhat different meaning – namely it designated an independent city woman, a pre-flapper, who lived as she liked and burned bright in the city nightlife. One of the first ‘vamps’ was Valeska Suratt, a silent movie actress and vaudeville star of 1910’s.

2. Continuing on the topic of darkness, let’s jump to one of the places of Earth with the most polluted air – that dubious honour belongs to the Nigerian city Onitsha. State capital Lagos (photo from the slum of Ebute Metta) and oil city Port Harcourt are not faring much better.

3. Don’t know if you’re sufficiently hydrated? Check your pee with this handy Pantone chart.

4. In order to remember just how remarkable forms nature is able and willing to create, I’d suggest spending some time on the wonderful site of Australian SeaGems.

5. What can we expect from the post-pandemic life? Are we ready for new Roaring Twenties? Ted Gioia thinks that there is a fair case to be made for it.

6. And to finish off for this week, another little gem from my beloved Incidental Comics by Grant Snider. Every time I’m planning to post something else, he comes up with something totally poignant – like this little chart of poets’ day jobs.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.
The Crate is now also available on Medium.

Crate of Curios part 33

Finally the jackets are off in the daytime, compulsory sms-sending is off, everyone is off (well, at least until Monday). The prefecture borders were finally opened on Friday and Athenians who had been waiting for months to visit their summer homes left the city in droves. The ones who stayed spent it in cafes and queuing in shop lines – as although the sms and click-in-shop are gone, the limitations concerning the number of people pr establishment square meter are still in place. Now, however, having returned home in anticipation for yet another workweek, let’s get to opening this week’s Crate of Curios without further ado.

  1. We all know that the internet belongs to cats. What you might not know, however, is that the success story of the felines started way earlier – namely with the Victorian illustrator Louis Wain whose at the same time fantastic and tragic life will be immortalized in a movie this very year. The incredibly prolific “Hogarth of Cat Life” spent the last 15 years of his life in a mental hospitals, after being a household name in Britain a few decades earlier.

2. Want to disappear off the grid? Welcome to the Earthship community. Apparently some of them even have Netflix.

3. The right to the pursuit of happiness is even written into the US constitution. However, which happiness do you want to pursue – the eudaimonic kind or the hedonistic kind?

4. Ever wondered what birds actually get up to in their nests? (I mean, who hasn’t?). Here’s your chance to peep into an owl’s nest. If owl’s don’t happen to be your cup of tea, there’ plenty of other wildlife livestreams to choose from.

5. Italian on the quest against pasta? That would be Filippo Marinetti, the spiritual father of the futurist movement, a supporter of Benito Mussolini and the author of “Futurist Cookbook” – one of the most eccentric cookbooks in existence. Against all common sense, the dishes have even been taste-tested.

6. And to finish off for this week – remember that you can always say no.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.
The Crate is now also available on Medium.

Crate of Curios part 32

T-shirt weather is finally here, the Sahara dust has subsided and we are enjoying the wonderful Mediterranean blue skies again. Next week just might herald the end of movement restrictions and I’ve had a coffee in my usual corner cafe again. According to any parameters, life is good. So, without any further ado, let’s get to opening this week’s Crate.

  1. We hear a lot about the ‘richest people of the world’, ‘the Fortune 100 list’, etc, so it can be easy to forget that incredible wealth is not something unique to our era. In fact, on the list of 10 wealthiest individuals of all time, the 20th century is represented by a single person – and that’s not Jeff Bezos. The richest person in history is in fact estimated to be a 14th century African ruler Mansa Musa who ruled over the empire of Mali.

2. Adding the word ‘forced’ to any other word normally makes it worse. Forced empathy, however, might make you a much better negotiator.

3. Ever wondered what the students actually do at the universities? In LOLmythesis, the graduates explain their thesis topics and results in a single (often hilarious) sentence.

4. We tend to connect the British Isles with a constant drizzle and grey gloom rather than with palm trees and laid-back lifestyle. The British Isles, however, are composed of a good number of isles, among them the Isles Of Scilly, just off the coast of Cornwall, that enjoy an almost subtropical climate due to the influence of the Gulf Stream. And just so you don’t think it’s an innocent little place – The Isles of Scilly ended their 335 Year War with the Netherlands only in 1986.

5. If you are not familiar with the cartoonist The Oatmeal, it’s high time you made the acquaintance. And what better way to do it than with the story imagining his dogs as a pair of middle-aged men instead.

6. And to finish off for this week, another wonderful little comic by Grant Snider.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.
The Crate is now also available on Medium.

Crate of Curios part 31

A hot Easter Sunday filled with Sahara dust has passed and today, Easter Monday, promises the opening of cafes and restaurants – albeit without music -as another step towards reclaiming our pre-pandemic life. If anything, the last six months has shown how much the little pleasures in life actually count. Hence, selfishly counting this newsletter among one of said little pleasures of life, let’s get to opening this week’s Crate without further ado.

  1. Naive art provided much of the inspiration behind modernism – one need only to name the quiet tax collector Henri Rousseau – but it does not only belong to the beginning of last century. One example of it would be a former Soviet factory worker Rosa Zharkikh, who after a near-death experience at the age of 46, started her path as an artist trying to map her visions with needle and thread into intricate embroideries.

2. No matter where, we are evaluated on our output. However, as Austin Kleon (who, by the way was the main inspiration behind this very newsletter) notes in his blog – our output depends on our input.

3. Women in Ancient Greek society have been thought to have been confined to the gynaeceum and busied themselves mostly with everyday household matters – and certainly not with anything that had to do with creation. Now, however, a shift in patterns on Greek amphoras during the Early Iron Age has called that view into question.

4. After having collectively lived through it, many of us are probably prone to classifying 2020 as the worst year ever. However, things could get much much worse – as they did in 536 A.D, supposedly the worst year in the whole European history.

5. Glass is something we mostly do not connect with sensuality, but after seeing Amber Cowan’s detail-rich works, we might just change our minds about that.

6. And to finish off for this week, a little comic from Safely Endangered.

And that’s it for this time. Happy reading and until next week!


If you want to receive the Crate to your mailbox, you can subscribe here at Substack.
The Crate is now also available on Medium.