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"Never wise up a chump."
W.C. Fields

TRIPTYCH: FIRE STARTERS

Gasoline

“When the wick was lit, a gallon jug filled with gasoline didn’t ignite as one might suspect. Gasoline itself doesn’t burn—its vapors do. The narrow opening at the top of a jug allowed only so many vapors to escape at a time. The gasoline itself acted as a coolant, letting the device burn as slow and steady as a kerosene lamp. It could be 21 minutes before the jug’s plastic melted, allowing the gasoline and its accompanying vapors to spread across the porch. Once it did, the fire would reach the wood or aluminum siding.”

Letters From An Arsonist

[1] Gasoline | Tom Pfannerstil
Items from Tom Pfannerstil‘s “From the Street” collection are “carefully crafted, carved and painted, trompe l’oeil depictions of everyday common objects” that he discovers along his travels. Are you getting that? That battered gasoline can is actually a finely carved and expertly painted piece of basswood. It’s faux trash to hang on your walls.

[2] Letters From An Arsonist
The Washington City Paper’s expose on Thomas A. Sweatt, a convicted serial arsonist who, over a twenty year period, set hundreds of fires in and around Washington, D.C..

[3] Fire performed by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (1968).
The godfather of shock rock Arthur Brown with his signature burning crown always seemed to be on the verge of lighting not only himself but the entire stage on fire. His fiery theatrics were too much for Jimi Hendricks, who kicked Brown off his tour and one of the few times in his career when Brown accidentally did ignite himself, he had to be rescued by audience members who extinguished the flames with their beers.

BIG CITY BRIGHT LIGHTS

Taking a page straight out of Jay McInerney’s famous drug novelPeriods.Films humorous short Big City Bright Lights takes us on cocaine fueled tour through New York City, 1983.

FUNNY MONEY: THE GREAT CANADIAN PAPER CAPER

After serving a year inside for a busted grow op, Canadian career criminal Frank Bourassa knew there had to be an easier way to make money. After a lifetime of chasing the big score, in and out of jail, it finally hit him – if he was willing to take such large chances in order to line his pockets with some goddamn cash then why not just print his own.

Never one to do anything half-assed, Frank spent the next three years researching and setting up his new endeavor, only to learn that if he was going to do this thing right, he would need the proper paper:

“On five wooden pallets sat the future of Frank’s criminal enterprise. It was paper of a special kind, made with the same rare cotton-and-linen recipe used for printing American currency. It also bore watermarked images of Andrew Jackson’s face and security strips reading usa twenty in minuscule type.

The paper was the essential ingredient for fabricating high-grade counterfeit bills that the Canadian police would later describe as “basically undetectable” from the real thing. As soon as the security sweep pronounced the shipment clean, Frank welled up with optimism. “There was no way to stop me from there. I knew I was rich,” Frank recalled. “It was the best day of my life.” Frank now had what he needed to print hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of fake U.S. currency—and to soon become the most prolific counterfeiter in the history of the trade.”

The Great Paper Caper

The astounding thing about this story isn’t that Frank got nabbed with $200 million dollars worth of nearly flawless American twenties sitting in his garage but that he walked away from the whole ordeal practically scot-free. He served a month and a half in jail and paid a paltry fine of $1,350.

The work of a mastermind? Hardly. By all accounts, he got extremely lucky. But that’s not the way Frank Bourassa plays it –

Now a free man, living a life of luxury, Frank wants to help you achieve your own impossible dream.

From car thief to counterfeiter to self help guru.

What’s next, Frank? Reality TV?

[Top Image: Uncut sheets of partially finished phony $20 bills. Photo Frank Bourassa.]

WHO’S AFRAID OF MACHIAVELLI?

Five hundred years after the publication of The Prince, the informative BBC documentary “Imagine… Who’s Afraid Of Machiavelli” asks how relevant is The Prince today, and who are the 21st century Machiavellians? [Via]

"If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared."
NICCOLÒ MACHIAVELLI | THE PRINCE

DEATH BY WHEEL

BONES OF MAN KILLED ON THE WHEEL FOUND IN GERMANY»

Last October, archaeologists surveying the site of planned road work on federal highway 189 in Groß Pankow, Brandenburg, Germany, unearthed human remains. […] Further examination revealed the deceased was a man in his mid to late 30s who had been executed on the wheel. His bones are in more than a thousand pieces. This is the first time a skeleton of someone broken on the wheel has been found in Germany, even though judicial execution by wheel was employed in the Holy Roman Empire from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.

This is not a coincidence. The whole point of the wheel was to display the broken bodies until they rotted away entirely, leaving the bones for carrion birds to enjoy. The punishment was reserved for the worst criminals — serial killers, murderers who killed someone during the commission of another crime, killers of kin — and the destruction of the body in a slow, public fashion did double-duty as the most gruesome retribution and as a stern warning to the public.

Death by wheel was usually a two-stage process. First a large spoked wagon wheel would be slammed onto the large bones of the arms and legs, breaking them in two places each. Then the wheel would strike the spine, breaking it. With the body’s skeletal structure in pieces, the condemned was then tied to the wheel, his limbs woven in and out of the spokes. Finally the wheel was raised on a pike and planted into the ground. If the man wasn’t dead yet, and he usually wasn’t unless he was fortunate enough to have been deliberately struck with fatal blows to the chest and abdomen as an act of mercy, he would die in slow unspeakable agony over the course of hours, often days. [Via]

Breaking_Wheel

“This wood cut shows the ‘breaking wheel’ as it was used in Germany in the Middle Ages. […] The woodcut relates the crime and the punishment of Peter Stumpp and includes a depiction of the punishment of his daughter and mistress. Stumpp was accused of being a werewolf and in the top left hand corner of the woodcut we see a large wolf attacking a child. Above this scene a man with a sword is seen fighting off the wolf and in doing so, lops off the wolf’s left forepaw. In the centre left of the illustration we are shown the first punishment of Stumpp, namely the tearing of his flesh with red hot pincers while he is bound to a wheel. In the middle we see the executioner using the blunt side of an axe to break Stumpp’s arm and leg bones. On the righthand side of the illustration the executioner beheads Stumpp. In each of these three depictions we can see that Stumpp’s left hand is missing, presumably pointing to the fact that the werewolf had its left forepaw cut off. After his beheading, Stumpp’s body is dragged away to be burnt. In the top right hand corner of the wood cut we see the fire where Stumpp’s daughter and mistress, each tied to a stake, are burnt alive with Stumpp’s headless body tied to a stake between them. Also shown is a wheel, mounted on a pole, which carries Stumpp’s decapitated head together with a figure of a wolf.” [Via]

See also: Executed Today – Broken By The Wheel

"If you’re going to run an illegal business, you better be driving the best car, living in the biggest house, fucking the best looking people and spending every dollar you make because sooner or later you’re going to get caught."
HEIDI FLEISS

HOOKER’S DIVISION: A 1890s MAP OF VICE WITHIN SIGHT OF THE WHITE HOUSE

At the end of the Civil War “a vast hoard of enfranchised slaves, discharged soldiers and a cloud of riffraff, bummers and camp followers” descended onto the city of Washington D.C., doubling it’s size from 75,000 people to 150,000 and turning it into one of the most disorderly places in America. Crime was out of control and the very names of its neighborhoods (Bloodfield, Bloody Hill and Murder Bay) reflected that state of lawlessness.

WithinSightOfTheWhiteHouse.jpg.CROP.original-original

This map from the 1890’s (possibly created by the “Anti-Division Association for the Suppression of Vice in the District of Columbia”) details the whereabouts of 109 brothels and saloons located within the disreputable slum known as Murder Bay (aka Hooker’s Division) which rested all but a short walking distance from the White House.

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LU.CU.MA.: FROM PSYCHO KILLER TO PAINTER

“I have been a “Taita” in prison. Taita” means the prison’s lord, the wisest one, the toughest one, the biggest killer. If you’re “Taita” you master a bunch of thugs, because they respect you, you have a certain weight.”

Luis Cuevas Manchego

After spending 27 years in prison for multiple murders, Peruvian folk artist Luis Cuevas Manchego (aka Lu.Cu.Ma) has spent the last decade dedicating his to life to social change through art. In the documentary “From the Knife to the Brush” Vice Magazine examines Manchego’s criminal past, how he uses art as a way to repent and the message that even a stone cold killer can change.

"Be the strange you wish to see in the world."
TEJU COLE

POCKETS

Dazed TV‘s short film POCKETS opens with a mugging gone wrong then swiftly moves into the realm of the fantastic and ties up with an unexpectedly humorous twist. Short sharp fun.