Thursday, September 03, 2009


"Hi! Uncle Eddie here! Labor Day's coming up and I thought I'd post again about the best way to make a burger. The best burger I know of is John K's "Manly Cartoonist Burger." I put up the recipe way back in August of 2007.

Rather than print that all over again, I thought I'd discuss it side by side with Kenny Shopsin's burger theories. Shopsin wrote a cookbook that I'm perusing called "Eat Me," which features recipes from his famous New york restaurant. I thought you might find the contrast interesting."

"Um...a word of warning: burger theorists are feisty people. If John hears what he considers burger heresy, there's half a chance that he'll trash the place while I'm shooting."

"Okay, let's start! Well, to begin with, both cooks agree that you want ground beef that's 20-25% fat. Don't worry about the high fat content, it cooks away. John puts islands of chopped sirloin around the paddy so you get different flavor sensations with every bite, but the restaurant guy uses one type of meat overall.

John says add an egg (1 egg for 4 people), but don't compress the meat much when you put it in and never squeeze it, because that makes the cooking more difficult. It's good to have some air inside. A little pepper, chopped green onions, garlic, and chilli pepper, but never salt. Salt dries out the meat. If you want salt, add it after the burger's cooked."

"It's important to let the burger cook for five minutes undisturbed, except to turn it over at the midway point. You don't want to poke it more than necessary because that lets the juices escape."

"Uh-oh! Aaargh! This brings us to our first major disagreement."

Gulp! Gulp!

"Well, John passionately insists that burgers have to be cooked on hot charcoal, with a lid on half the time . The restaurant guy says has to be on a really hot, pre-heated iron frying pan with a lid. Charcoal and frying pan: that difference defines the two types of people that exist in the universe. I hope these guys never meet because they'd probably kill each other."

"Anyway, after 5 minutes the restaurant guy relies sticks a meat thermometer right in the middle of the burger. 120 - 125 degrees for rare, 140 - 145 degrees for medium."

"Okay, that leaves one more subject...the bun!"

"John says you need a fresh pastry shop bun, something with sesame or poppy seeds. The book recommends Martin's Potato Buns, which you can probably get at the supermarket.

Mmmm, I gotta give it to John on this one. You can't beat a nice, fresh Kaiser roll. Besides, the restaurant guy owns a business and he's gotta be tempted to cut corners."

"You put a little butter on the roll to help it toast better, and something on top of it to press it down on the pan. You only toast it lightly so it's soft on the inside and crispy on the outside."

"Now the burger is assembled and spatulaed onto a plate. You take it over to stove where mushrooms have been cooking in bacon grease. Ladle some mushrooms and bacon on, then move to the condiment table, which contains Romaine lettuce, pickles, raw radishes, celery and fresh onions."

"Here we go with the controversy again. John prefers his onions raw and juicy. He says that's because you need to feel a little pain with your pleasure. He slices the onion only when it's ready for use.

The restaurant guy likes his thin sliced and fried in peanut oil til they're a gnarly brown/black that don't even look like onions anymore.

"And that's it. As I said, John's Manly Cartoonist burger is the best I've ever had. It even looks good! Even so, I'll try Shopsin's burger next time I'm in New york. All this reminds me that a good burger is a thing of beauty. It's not given to man to lay his eyes on a better Labor Day meal!'


P.S. At the supermarket where I usually score my Kaiser rolls, they tell me that Poppy seeds have been discontinued on rolls. Kali's Dad speculates that even though the seeds can't get you high, they can put something in your system that responds positively to drug tests.

P.P.S. Vincent Waller ate at Shopsin's and describes it in a comment.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Thanks to Steve Worth and ASIFA-Hollywood we now have a first-rate book on Zim, one of the greatest cartoonists of all time. As a matter of fact, the book is BY Zim: "ZIM'S Correspondence School of Cartooning, Comic Art & Cartooning." It's a compendium of the shorter books Zim made for his mail-order art course. It comes in two thick volumes, which I've seen, and which left me much impressed.

The book is loaded with drawings. You could get a whole art education just by looking at the pictures! Steve told me I'd see a lot of my own drawing theories in there, and sure enough, I did. The dentist in the drawing above is a perfect example of techniques that I've been using for years.

Zim was a true cartoonist. In his time, in the later 19th century, caricatures were reserved for the famous. Zim was the guy who figured out that the common man was worth caricaturing.

I have no idea where Zim's broad, old, newspaper strip kind of body exaggeration (above) came from. My guess is that German cartoonist Wilhelm Busch invented it, but you see it in some old Punch drawings from the the mid-1800s, so I'm not sure. Anyway, artists like Zim took it and ran with it, making it a staple of American newspaper and magazine art.

Steve wrote some terrific biographical material for the collection. Reading about Zim's ups and downs in the magazine industry of his day reminded me of the animation industry today. There's no security in the art business because tastes change and even talented people will be shown the door when their protectors in management are dismissed or bought out. No use complaining, it's just the way of things. All you can do is make a big splash when the opportunity arises, and hope that with hard work you can write your name in history.

I like Zim's practice of occasionally drawing alternative poses.

Zim was an illustrator rather than a comic strip artist, so the dawn of newspaper comics carried no benefit for him. I can see why. He liked to make his point with caricature rather than story. Steve says he used to sketch in bars and in crowds of all kinds.

Ethnic humor was one of Zim's specialties. He lived at the height of immigration from Europe when the streets were full of new arrivals who couldn't speak English, and who thought that everybody else looked stupid.

Hmmmm, I'll have to remember that open-mouthed pose on the guy above. It's deliciously ignorant!

Here's (above) how he handled my ethnicity, the Irish. Other artists like Thomas Nast made us look like apes, but Zim had a kind nature and was content to make us seem merely barbarous. Did we ever really look like that? I guess we did, but if we didn't it's still okay. It's funny.

Here's a Jewish caricature (above). The caption below it said something about Jews loving to gesture almost as much as they love to pinch pennies. Geez! Zim said stuff like that about everybody! It's amazing that he was able to walk down the street without getting whacked in the nose.

Actually the taste for immigrant humor diminished even in Zim's lifetime. It's astonishing how quickly most people adapted to the way of life here. The era of free-wheeling ethnic gags didn't last long, but it had a long-lasting energizing effect on American entertainment and literature.

The price for the two volumes is something like 250 bucks for both. It's a limited print run so there was no way to print it cheap. Plans exist for a paperback edition which will go for less, but suppose Steve gets hit by a meteor before then? I won't rest easy til my own copy of the present edition is securely sequestered under my bed, with an armed guard to protect it.

To order the book go to ASIFA-Hollywood's archive site. The link is on my sidebar.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Here's two love scenes excerpted from one of my favorite anthologies, "101 Best Scenes Ever Written."

That's Flaubert above, and the first scene is from his "Madame Bovary." I can't say that I like the story...Madame Bovary has to be one of the least appealing characters in all of fiction...but the famous sex scene is first rate. Nothing explicit, yet it succeeds in being really steamy. See what you think.

In this scene the clerk has convinced Madame Bovary to join him in a horse-driven cab with the blinds down. Bovary is married but she's flirted with the clerk for a long time, not fully realizing where it would lead. Now the moment of truth has arrived and she goes along with it because she doesn't know what else to do. The cab driver is instructed to drive anywhere he chooses.

The second scene is from James M. Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice," in my opinion one of the best novels written in America. That's a scene from the movie above.

What I have here (below) is the scene where Cora hints to Frank that she wants him to kill her husband, who everybody calls the Greek. Frank likes the Greek, who generously gave him a job and a place to stay. He can't imagine doing anything so drastic, but Cora convinces him that they're both good people, and whatever good people do can't be wrong. It's an horrific but interesting argument, and a terrific love scene. When they kiss at the end, you get the feeling that a breach has been made in the shield that protects us from evil, and enormous cosmic forces are being unleashed.

That's James M. Cain above. His best stories seem to say, "There is such a thing as evil, even in the New World, and we have a special vulnerability to it, because we don't seem to acknowledge its existence."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I'm always curious to know the favorite media of well-known people, what they watch or read for their own pleasure when they're off the time clock. I know Stalin was partial to John Wayne films, and Maria Callas liked to read Archie comics. Ayn Rand read detective stories. What, I wondered, did Hitler prefer when he was sitting around in his pajamas, just passing the time? Well, I don't know what he read, but thanks to a recent article in Arts and Letters Daily I do know what art he hung in his private rooms.

According to the article, Hitler's favorite artist was a Swiss landscape painter named Arnold Bocklin. Hitler owned Bocklin's most famous picture, "The Isle of the Dead" (above).

Actually Bocklin did several versions of the same picture, all capturing the scene in different light. The one Hitler owned has been lost.

Here's (above) the Bocklin displayed in a place of honor, next to Hitler's fireplace.

Bocklin was interested in the legendary goings-on of the Aryans in old Germany. He was a friend of the Mitford family, who organized expeditions to search for artifacts of old German history, and who had a special interest in the real-life site that inspired the Isle of the Dead painting. That's Hitler sitting next to Unity Mitford above.

Bocklin was a pantheist who believed the forest possessed a kind of vital energy which we, as creatures of the forest, need to connect with to discover our true natures. In the painting above I assume that's Pan in the bushes.

Bocklin's mystical beliefs certainly gave him an edge. If I were looking for something to draw in the outback, I might have passed by this scrub (above) without taking notice. After all, scrub is usually regarded by artists as nothing more than background for really romantic subjects like cliffs and tall oak trees. Bocklin correctly realized that scrub is the heart and soul of the forest, and probably gives as much shelter to animals as trees do.

Bocklin was also fond of the philosopher's landscape (above) where thinking man and nature co-exist in harmony.

Here (above) Bocklin imagines Germanic druids expressing their devotion to the forest gods.

Another favorite was Carl Spitzweg (above). I like Spitzweg too, but I have to admit that he's the kind of artist you like when you're young and still struggling to learn the fundamentals. Hitler's art career was cut off early when that struggle was still with him, and pictures like this might have had sentimental value for him because they reminded him of his youth.

He may also have been fond of Spitzweg because both had the same taste for old, unpretentious urban architecture. If Hitler had remained a painter his style might have taken a direction somewhat like this. This would have caused endless frustration for him as modernism took hold. My guess is that he eventually would have attempted an awkward synthesis of the traditional and modern and come to grief with it.

Spitzweg had another side, which might also have appealed to Hitler. He was a painter of lush, romantic landscapes like the one above.

If posters of the above two Spitzwegs were for sale in retail stores today, my guess is that they'd sell pretty well. They depict the world the way we'd like it to be, and express deep yearning for a calm and rational utopia. It's borderline kitsch, but very appealing at the same time.

Franz Von Stuck (above) is sometimes cited as a favorite of the young Hitler. Over time Von Stuck tried to incorporate modern Deco technique into his canvases (the orange and blue canvas above), which is one of the reasons I thought Hitler might eventually have tried the same synthesis.

Hitler's taste in art did evolve over time. His famous plan for the new Berlin (above, re-named Germania) showed that in his maturity he'd definitely been influenced by Art Deco.

Here's (above) a video commissioned by The History Channel, showing what it would have been like to be a motorist, driving down the main boulevard of Germania. I find this modernist vision to be ugly in the extreme, and not at all consistent with the gentle romanticism favored by Spitzweg.

I agree with Lester who said in a comment that Hitler's heart remained with the Spitzweg style, but there's a lot of evidence that his mature mind was seduced by Deco. A lot of the Nazi propaganda posters were done in that style, and it's difficult to believe that they could have been printed without his approval. .

The mature Hitler is also said to have liked Deco artist Anselm Feuerbach (above), who painted classically-posed contemplative women. A bit cold for my taste. In the 30s and 40s a lot of Germans painted this way, maybe because it was a government approved style. I doubt that Boklin or Spitzweg would have approved.

This Cranach painting (above) hung in one of Hitler's public offices. The painting was a gift and my guess is that Hitler admired it only in a formal way.