Thursday, April 28, 2011



To those of you who are reading this on a widescreen desktop computer, I congratulate you. You wisely invested in a widescreen and now you're reaping the reward. Your splendid machine has revealed to you in detail the whole long, soothing, and tasteful room I have posted above.

Seen large like that, the room is rather inviting, isn't it?  Don't you feel like kicking off your shoes and walking around? Feel free to warm yourself by the fire in the fireplace, or maybe relax on the designer sofa. Why not read the newspaper a bit then dose off to the gentle sound of West Coast jazz on the stereo? Aaaaaahhh!  Life is good, is it not?

Oh....but gee...some of you are reading this on an iphone.  For you this blog is just, well...just a menu: a few paragraphs on a tiny screen. That's a pity. Well, maybe a friend can describe the room I'm talking about to you.

I know what you're thinking...your iphone can display graphics, too. Well, yes it can...such as they are. Out of consideration for readers who insist on viewing my blog on an iphone, here's (above) a graphic just for you. It's not wide or sexy, but it should work fine on your device...if you don't drop it.

Have a nice day!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


I just visited Allan Holtz's site, "Stripper's Guide," and discovered that comics historian Bill Blackbeard died on March 10th. Earlier this month someone told me about his death, but I was distracted and the news didn't register. When I read about it on Holtz's site I was shocked, as if hearing it for the first time. Blackbeard was the the author of "The Smithsonian Collection of Newspaper Comics," an indispensable book which almost single-handedly revived interest in old newspaper strips. Several years ago I spent an afternoon with Bill and was much, much impressed. The man will be sorely missed.

As usual Stripper's Guide was full of worthy strips that I never heard of before. What do you think of this one  (above) from 1948?  Does the style seem familiar?  Click to enlarge.

 If it seems familiar, that's because it is! The look is copied from Al Capp's "L'il Abner!" Is the artist, Baldy Benton, responsible or did the Post Syndicate tell him to do it? I don't know.

Here's "Fables and Puzzles" from 1903. It wasn't at all clear at the time that newspaper comics should take the form of serial drawings with word balloons. A number of artists tried this approach (above) with dense captions. 

Here (above) the same artist tries again, this time with serial drawings and reduced captions.

Here's (above) a beautifully drawn strip from 1903 called "The Interfering Idiot." The artist was Raymond Shellcope. I imagine that poor Shellcope couldn't come up with a regular character the public liked, so was consigned to the trash bin of history.

Here's (above) a postcard that Shellcope sent to a friend. The drawing is Shellcope's. How do you like the beautiful penmanship?

All the drawings on this post were stolen from Allan Holtz's excellent blog, "Stripper's Guide." 

Monday, April 25, 2011


I just started a book by Geoff Dyer called "The Ongoing Moment." It's a long, rambling essay about the nature of photography, and it's easily the best writing on the subject that I've ever come across. Dyer talks about how a few photographers starting in the 1920s redefined the artform by attempting to understand what photography does best, and how the personality and philosophy of the photographer could influence the result.

What does black and white photography do best? Well, it's pretty good at making things look shabby and pathetic. It's good for shooting old people with a lot of cracks and crevices in their faces.  It was the perfect medium to document the Depression and the squalid life of the early immigrants in New York City. Look how shabby Walker Evans' barber shop is above. The real shop was probably a fairly happy and social place, but the colorless photo makes it look like a compartment in Hell.

Black and white amateur photography was also pretty good at making people look old-fashioned.  People in B&W photos, even ones taken in the 1950s,  look like figures in a Mathew Brady picture. You feel sorry for them. The medium makes them look like automatons, pathetically playing out the roles history had given them to play. Even smiles in those old photos look like expressions of bravado in the face of a hopelessly primitive and gruesome existence.

Eventually cheap, color photography came around and we finally had a medium that could take pictures of happy, youthful subjects. The same smiles that photographed like forced bravado only a few years ago now looked completely sincere and joyfull.

In my opinion one of the several important reasons for the youth rebellion in the 60s was the proliferation of Kodachrome. The young generation looked so hip and cheerful in their pictures, and their parents looked so stolid and shabby in theirs. To teenagers thumbing through scrapbooks and magazines in that era, it must have appeared that a new and improved real world had come into existence in their time. You can see where that would lead to a generation gap.

Aaaargh! I meant to write about Dyer's ideas and I got sidetracked into talking about my own. I'll post more about this interesting book as I read farther into it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011



MATILDA (VO): "The muscle tone's nice and sweet now."

MATILDA: "Maybe it needs to be just a tad firmer in the deltoids."

EDWINA: "I don't know. A little more baby oil and the deltoids'll look fine. Hey, I wonder where Daisy is?"

EDNA: "Hey look! She just walked in!"

INGRID: "Hi Daisy! How's it goin'?"

DAISY: "Horrible! It's my little sister! She met a gigolo and he wined and dined her,  and now she's gonna meet him in the park in half an hour."

FLORENCE: "Well, that's not so bad. What could happen in the park?"

Daisy shows her friends a picture of the gigolo.

DAISY (VO): "A lot could happen! She's gonna give him her life savings! He says he needs the money to buy her a diamond ring so they can get married!  I've heard about this guy! When he gets the money she'll never see him again!"

IRIS: "WHAT!!! Aaaarghhh!!! That's the lowest thing I've ever heard!"

INGRID: "Grrrrr! Somebody ought to do something about it!"

GERTRUDE: "Yeah, somebody like us! That dude is cruisin' for a brusin! What are we waiting for, girls!? The park is only 20 minutes away!"


INGRID: "Hurry up, Daisy! We've got work to do!"

ETHEL: "Sister! Come join us! We're after a gigolo!"

MILDRED: "A GIGOLO!? One of those guys cheated my cousin! Count me in!"

NELLIE: "Need another!? Count me in, too!"

The group swells as more and more girls join in the hunt.

ESMERALDA: "Girls! We're gigolo bashing! Join us!"

PENNY: "Gigolos!? I'm with you!"

RODNEYETTA: "Count me in!"

STELLA: "Just let me get my running shoes!"

BERTHA: "Me too!"


The group swells further til it's a human tsunami.

It gets bigger and bigger....

...til every muscle girl in the city joins in. The group of runners is so big that they can be seen from outer space!




MILDRED: "Okay girls, we're here! He's bound to be around here somewhere!"

MARIGOLD: "Spread out! We'll find him!"

DAISY: "I'll hold back the train so we won't be interrupted!

FERN: "I'll look behind this planter! Nope, he's not here!"

 TULIP: "He's not up this pole!"

LILY: "He's not in this crack!"

ELVIRA: "He's not in this shed, either!

HYACINTH: "Well I don't see him anywhere. 'Looks like he gave us the slip!"

Skulking in the shadow of a's the gigolo! He just finishes putting on a girl disguise when one of the women sees him. 

VIOLET: "Wait a minute! Who are you!!??"

THE GIGOLO (IN FALSETTO): "Er...hi! Nobody here but us girls!"

GIGOLO: "I'm so glad you're here to protect poor, defenseless women like me from that horrible gigolo."

VIOLET: "Glad to help, m'am! Well, I guess we'll be heading home!"

GIGOLO: "Home, yes...definitely home!"

GIGOLO: "HAW! HAW! Those muscle girls haven't got two brain cells to rub together!"

INGRID: "Wait a minute! How did you know that we were looking for a gigolo!???"