Monday, May 08, 2017


If ever space aliens invade the Earth they'll almost certainly start with easy targets like children and animals.

Some believe the invasion has already started. 

How else to explain cow tipping?

Intellectuals assure us that there's nothing to worry about.

 Well, they must know what they're talking about.  After all, they study stuff like this.

Even so....

Then again, everyday life on the street is still so placid, so normal, so delightfully uneventful.

Well, mostly uneventful.

Did you read about the latest goings on up there on the moon? 

Being an astronaut is getting to be hazardous to your health.

But what do I know? I'm busy with the latest cleavage controversy. 

Thank goodness we have intellectuals to explain everything to us.


Copyrights belong to the copyright holders.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017


I want to talk about George Hurrell the photographer who more than anyone else was responsible for inventing the Hollywood glamour portrait. 

Here's (above) a sample of Hurrell's disastrous first photo shoot with Joan Crawford. It was shot with orthochromatic film which Hurrell urged the studio to buy but then quickly grew to abhor.  

The session turned out horrible but Crawford had a good eye for talent and she could see what Hurrell was struggling to achieve. Although she bullied him in that first session she afterward located him in the studio cafeteria and...on bent knee...begged his forgiveness.

 Good for her! What the two would achieve together would be historic.

Hurrell also did good work with Jean Harlow. That was a real challenge because she wasn't naturally photogenic.  Despite her reputation, in real life she was quiet and even rather wholesome, which is not at all the image the studio wanted to project. 

Here she is after Hurrell got hold of her.

What a difference the right photographer makes.

I think we can say that the studio got its money's worth that day.

I love to read about the technical problems Hurrell surmounted. I find it interesting that Hurrell's retoucher actually darkened the busy chair pattern (above) to the left of Crawford's face. I'd have lightened it in order to make the face pop out... and I'd have been wrong.

Hurrell rightly chose the more dramatic alternative where the heroine seems to have a mission...where she bravely confronts the darkness.

There's lots more to say about this, but I'll have to save it for another time.

Friday, April 28, 2017


 I came across a fascinating book in the library called "The Sartorialist." It consists of casual photos of fashion minded people, all encountered on the streets by wandering photographer Scott Schuman.

That's Schuman above. He used to work in fashion but left to record how ordinary consumers interpret what's offered in the stores. He sees it as the street talking back to the industry. Wow! What an interesting idea!

 This (above) is my favorite of all the pictures in the book because it emphasizes the timeless appeal of shape and cut above color and graphic design. The color's great though, no doubt about it.

 Vests are still in style for men.

Geez, the problem with all these designs is that they're meant for trim people with good physiques.

 It's their reward for all the time spent walking to nowhere on treadmills and eating tasteless salads.

Schuman also devotes time to what he calls "curvy" people, but many of the pictures fail to excite. Let's be honest. Fashion is a thin person's sport.

It does have one unexpected asset, though. It can look almost as good on old people as the young.

Who'da thunk that nature would take pity on you at an age when you're watching endless re-runs of "Murder, She Wrote?"

This woman isn't old but she has white hair which is taken to be a sign of age, but which can look great.

I like the colors she's wearing: green, purple and yellow with blue and white stripes used as a neutral to set it off. It's a color scheme discovered by David Hockney.

I used to think of neutrals as grey and brown but really, they're anything that most other colors look good on top of.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


 Chicago's called "The Windy City" and I'm sure the name is justified. I wonder what it would be like to live there? Theory Corner investigates.

Well, I guess you'd have to keep the window shut.

It sounds like a great place for girl watching. 

Some men prefer flappable skirts... prefer billowing.

But let us not underestimate flappable. Flappable even looks good on men. 

No doubt every generation had its own version.

Probably Chicagoans learn to walk against the wind from the time they're kids.

Even when they go to live in other places the walk stays with them.

Maybe the taste for flappable stays too. How could it not?

Here's (above) how Chicagoans mail a letter.

'Makes you want to go to Chicago, doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


I don't believe in's obviously bad for you...but I do believe in being honest about whatever benefits it does bestow.

Maybe I should say "used to bestow," because those benefits have largely disappeared now. I don't think new cigarettes are the same as the ones our grandparents smoked.

The new cigarettes produce a vague haze. Their smoke has no shape or character.

Older cigarettes, on the other hand,  produced a clinging anaconda capable of wrapping around the smoker's head.

The smoke was stringy and artistic. The cigarette produced evolving pictures all by itself,  even when the smoker wasn't trying.

I'm guessing that filters are the problem. In filtering out some of the tars and nicotine you filter out the giraffes and porpoises the tobacco wants to sculpt.

Losing the nicotine and keeping the strings must have been a daunting technical challenge for the cigarette industry. And how do you keep the flow of filtered smoke aggressive and energetic, the way smokers like?  How do you get the billowing that some smokers like?

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe filters are innocent and it's the tobacco itself that's been tampered with. After all, that industry took a hard hit for producing second hand smoke. Maybe new strains were developed that deliberately produced diffuse smoke.

I don't know.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Who are these immaculately dressed women, and why are they dressed differently than everyone else? I think you'll find the answer interesting. Do you want to hear more? 

Well, fashion has been with us a long time but it only kicked into high gear and became a whole industry in fairly modern times, beginning maybe in France in the 1860s.  Before then dressmakers and fabric people would be invited to houses of the rich and plied their wares there. 

 Somewhere in the 1860s a dressmaker got the idea that the practice of waiting for the rich to call was fraught with uncertainty and a little advertising might help. 

Since direct advertising was considered low class the clothiers would pay models to wear the new fashions to status events like the races (as in the photo at the very top) and trans-Atlantic travel. The models would be discreet, taking care to speak only when spoken to and to refer questions to their sponsors.

Okay, now here's the interesting part. Over time the clothiers  realized that some models got a lot more attention than others so they began choosing their models carefully.  Employers started to select for charisma.  Not only that but they-tailor made the clothes and hairstyles to fit the model exactly.  I refer not only to accurate linear measurements but to something much more.

To maximize the model's impact the dress she wore was made specifically for her and no other.  Her skin and hair color, the unique way she liked to walk and sit, even her height, psychology, mannerisms and regional biases were taken into account. 

The effect when the model appeared in public was devastating. Viewers were awe-stricken. The girl appeared like a goddess. She was perfection itself. Not even the rich were used to such careful attention by a battery of experts.  Of course clients could expect to get only approximations of what the models wore but the powerful first impression had its effect.

Well, the fashion industry grew and grew and influenced art, theater, publishing, product design, retailing and the whole modernist enterprise. People who regard fashion as frivolous should consider what a boost it's been to the world economy and culture. 

Anyway, the industry no doubt inspired a great deal of idealism. Remember, this was the era of French Impressionism and of the gift of the Statue of Liberty to America. What silent screen star Gloria Swanson said about the early film industry no doubt applied to fashion as well. Early film people believed that cinema could change the world and usher in a new golden age. They believed the new emphasis on aesthetics and culture would end war and so, I believe, did the fashion people.

When World War One broke out one Parisian fashion house bundled up its dresses and smuggled their live models to America. The models were as important as the dresses because theirs was the art of the killer first impression.  Many of them braved the U-boats because they believed they were saving civilization. 

Well, fashion isn't my subject so I'll have to move on. What will stay with me though, is the idea of a new medium based on the impact of a powerful first impression. What an interesting thought!