Wednesday, June 30, 2010


"What led to the 60's?" you ask. Good question. Well, there's Vietnam, the pill, drugs, civil name it. These are the standard explanations, and they're all important, but we all know there's gotta be more than that. You don't go from Ozzie and Harriet to bare-breasted at Woodstock in just a few years unless you have a lot of history pushing at your back.

What that history is, I don't know. I thought I might free-associate a little here, just to see what other explanations I could come up with. I've tried this before and what I came up with was woefully inadequate, but maybe I'll do better this time. Here goes.......

Well, there was TV. In the 50s and early 60s adults hadn't become addicted to it yet, but kids watched a ton of it.  Most of the dramas were clear-cut, good guy vs. bad guy stuff. The situation comedies and H&B cartoons were mind-numbingly stupid. My guess is that TV kids of this era...the future hippies... grew up idealistic under the influence of the dramas, but filled with a revulsion for ordinary life the way it was portrayed on the sitcoms. 


Then there was the fact that lots of late 50s kids had allowances, something only rich kids had in the 19th Century. With money to spend they developed a youth culture built around the things they liked to buy, like records. 

Talking about the 19th century, let me digress for a minute to take note of the Romanticism of that era, with its emphasis on the mysterious workings of the inner mind. That idea spilled over into the 20th Century, carried there by people like Freud and Ibsen and the Surrealists.  Marxism was carried over too, only it was modified by the romantics who absorbed it and gave it a different flavor.

One result of the Marxist-Romantic synthesis was fascism.  For decades central Europeans lived under fascist or communist governments which which portrayed America in the worst light possible.  Amazingly, a lot of pre-hippies picked up on this view of ourselves and believed it. 

That's the young Paul Newman (above) at the Actors' Studio in New York.  Ibsen's theories, which emphasized character conflict and the need to bring the mysterious inner  life to the surface, ruled at that studio. 

Stories favored by this school were always about sensitive people who were damaged or made insane by the irrational demands of normal society. That seems like an odd theme to dwell on exclusively, but actors liked these stories because they were full of emotional fireworks, and seemed kind of edgy because normal society was always the villain.  

If you lived at that time, and were destined to be a hippie, you saw and read a LOT of stories where normal people were the bad guys. 

One of the most influential people of the early 60s was Alvin Toffler, who's almost forgotten now.  He wrote futurist books which predicted a right-around-the-corner society where machines made possible a twenty hour work week and an overabundance of cheap food and material possessions. Our only problem would be what to do with the spare time. 

Toffler's important because an awful, awful lot of people...including future hippies... believed what he said, and concluded that...Damn!...if unlimited wealth was right around the corner, then we should loose the work ethic, have a party, and redistribute everything. With so much to go around, it would be positively stingy to do anything else.

Toffler's book sold big in cheap paperbacks, which was the only kind of book most young people could afford to buy.  The innovative publishers who pioneered the paperback revolution were mostly left-inclined, so the books that young people read were usually limited to that point of view (Salinger isn't overtly left in this book, I just liked the picture).

Hmmmm.....anything else? No, I guess that's it. 

In spite of all I just said I don't think Romanticism, left-leaning records, paperbacks and movies, or any of the standard explanations really add up to what we saw in the 60s.  I told you I didn't understand where the 60s came from, and I don't.

Maybe there was something else, something more off the wall.  Maybe miniskirts (above) were to blame. I mean, they make a powerful visual argument for the rightness of something or other.

Maybe after the miniskirt there was no turning back. No matter how destructive the new sensibility might turn out to be, a return to the society that covered up legs was unthinkable.

No wonder the hippie philosophy spread so fast. Imagine that you were a  file clerk in an insurance company in 1964, and had an abusive boss. There he is behind you telling you what a good-for-nothing you are, and your eyes happen to wander over to the poster above, which is on the wall.  How inviting it would be to drop everything and follow the girl with the guitar!

Sunday, June 27, 2010


WARNING: Nothing obscene here, but this post is not office or school safe.
In the era of the dinosaurs (above), most young women ran around naked. That's okay. I'm sure nobody complained. In those days, even middle-aged women were probably pretty slim and athletic.

Not so for modern city women (above). They tend to put on weight pretty early in life. So do modern men, but this post isn't about them.

Most modern women will eventually develop a pear shape, like Rembrandt's wife in the drawing above.

Instead of developing a gut like middle-aged men do, they develop a thickening of the entire middle of the body.  Oddly, the upper torso remains relatively thin, at least for a while.

Why is this so interesting? Because this shape puts enormous emphasis on the the genital makes it the unmistakable center of interest. The whole body becomes a wide, diamond-shaped target with a huge patch of pubic hair in the center. When you consider that women reach their sexual peak at the same age they take this shape, then the only conclusion to draw is that nature desperately wants to advertise women's sexuality at this age. Why? I don't know. 

After a bit the upper torso expands as well, creating a sort of vertical barbell shape. This (above) is a pretty extreme example, but you know what I mean. The genital region is no longer the center of interest, though sex characteristics are still obvious until old age sets in.

I forgot to say that after the hips and thighs begin to expand, the abdomen begins to stretch out (above). Within reason that's sexy, at least I think so.  Boy, nature desperately wants women to stay sexy, even in the 30 - 45 year old range. Maybe older. Nothing subtle here. When the blush of youth wears off, nature rolls up its sleeves and resorts to the hard sell, hawking a woman's sex potential with a bullhorn and billboards. Interesting, huh?  

Aren't you glad you read Theory Corner? What other art site is so doggoned scientific? 

BTW: I'm aware that dinosaurs and humans never existed at the same time.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Like everybody else I get compliments occasionally, and like everybody else I take them with a grain of least I usually do.  For some reason, every once in a while,  a compliment gets past my guard and I regard it as a cosmic truth, a titanic affirmation that something about me is worthy of sitting in a jeweled box at the top of a golden tower studded with elephant tusks.  I have just received such a compliment. and I will now, with shameless immodesty, share it with you...... 

A couple of days ago John K remarked in a blog post on Jimmy Hatlo, that I was the last "man" cartoonist he could think of. That's "man," not "manly," which is probably a superior rank, but I'll take the compliment anyway. Imagine that. The last one. After me a whole species dies. Think of it.

Yes, according to John I'm The Last of the Mohicans (above).  I think the "man" reference has something to do with my life experience being in what I draw. Geez. He's obviously being much too generous, and everyone reading this will have a long list of much more qualified candidates, but I refuse to let truth get in the way.  I expect everybody who visits here to wipe their feet first, and wear a surgical mask lest germs reach the precious throat of this last of his species. 

I'm toying with the idea of doing a Sunday Comics page. Maybe something every other Sunday. I don't have any ideas, and I'm not sure that I know how to color and ink in Photoshop, so I might have to use crayons. Let me think about it. Whatever it is will probably look horrible, but I feel a responsibility to at least make an effort...I mean, being the last man cartoonist and all.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Illustrators and fine artists have been turning out tons of innovative architectural ideas for at least 120 years, but very little of it has been taken seriously by professional architects.  I believe that their neglect is about to turn around, and in thirty or forty years  a feeding frenzy will develop among architects for 20th Century art and illustration to crib from. 

The reason I place this frenzy 40 years in the future is that some of the technology that'll enable it isn't in place yet.  Take the Mary Blair painting above.  Right now nobody could make an elevated train and tracks with a black as rich and saturated as the one above.  Nobody knows how to make white light like the white in the train's windows...I mean white like the pigment, and not just sunlight. Nobody could do what Blair did and make the sky near a building black, even at night. Nobody could color a real building with the vibrant colors available from a tube of gouache. But they almost certainly will.

Have you seen the TV documentaries about the military research currently being done on bending light in order to render some colors nearly invisible? That's a neat trick, and it'll eventually pass into peace time civilian use. Depend on it, the same science that allows us to subdue color will enable us to enhance it. Expect to see Mary Blair's ideas made more real than any of us could have imagined.

BTW: Thanks to Amid for the picture above.

Here's (above) another Blair picture.  I
  I like the way Blair subdues the background buildings by making them shades of blue. It makes for nice contrast.  The day will come when distant buildings that appear blue from our vantage point will become colorful when approached,  and buildings that were previously colorful will become blue as they recede from us. I'm not talking about the misty blue brought about by aerial perspective, I mean saturated blue, like the pigment.  The people actually inside the building will see no color change at all.

What I'm saying is that the not-too-distant future may bring us subjective color, which is experienced differently by different observers standing in different places. Interesting, huh? 

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I'd intended to spend Friday and Saturday with the otters on the beaches near San Simeon, but the water was too cold for bathing so I and the family ended up spending a lot of time at the Hearst Castle instead.  Boy, am I glad I did! I've been to the castle before but I never took the all-important Tour #2, which concentrates on the architecture and the bedrooms.  What I saw may have changed my opinion of Hearst forever.  

I can't make an adequate argument for the man in just one post. I'll just say that what I saw and heard convinced me that he was dedicated to persuading Americans that they lived in the most interesting and stimulating country in the world, that they had deep roots in European culture, and had an historic mission to advance civilization to a new level. His publications promoted these ideas and so did the castle, which he built as much for you and I as for himself.  

 You get a sense of this when you see the working spaces provided in guest's rooms.  I couldn't find pictures to match what I saw, but here's one (above) that hints at it.  The desks were museum pieces but were also frequently large and comfortable to work at. 

Too much is made of the movie stars and celebrities he invited to the castle. An awful lot of the guests were writers, artists and photographers, and musicians, including creative people from his own publications.  Hearst wanted to be a catalyst for their work. He hoped he could inspire them with his vision of a Jazz Age dynamism informed by the highest achievements of Western civilization.

Here's (above) a frequently used room which served as Hearst's personal library, a conference room, and a study where he would work alone for long hours into the night.  Here he constantly admonished his editors and writers to try harder, to be more enthusiastic about the wonders of their time, to wake up the country to its enormous potential.

He had a smaller, more personal desk in a small room at the back, behind the large painting. I've noticed that people who live in large houses often have personal spaces which are surprisingly modest in size and content.

Hearst's many guests stayed in opulent rooms. He saw to it that they had every convenience.

He himself stayed in quarters which were more modest; more intimate and cozy. This (left) is his bedroom but the photograph doesn't do it justice.

The deep impression the real room makes depends on the visitors awareness of the powerfully sheltering medieval ceiling (detail above), the beautifully proportioned space of the room taken as a whole, and the understated but intelligent design of the opposite walls. The room tells you a lot about the man, and it's all favorable.

I'm a huge fan of Orson Welles, but in "Citizen Kane" my hunch is that he chose an interesting fiction about Hearst over infinitely more interesting facts. Hearst was a visionary hands-on publisher, whose magazines and newspapers were immensely successful. He was a money maker, not just a money spender. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I'm taking time off to go to the beach! I wonder if I can get my kid to come with me?

BTW: That's not me in the picture above.

Bye, bye wage slaves! Have fun in your cubicles! See ya Monday!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Nobody understood the future like Wally Wood.  He knew that our successors will have emotional conflicts just like we do, and that many a future spat will be settled with a laser blast. Here (above) two young space patrolers squabble under the ceiling of a futuristic bachelor pad owned by a nice old granny. The spaceman's wrinkly suit appears to be caught in his buttocks, but no one seems to notice.

I love the way Wood handles his backgrounds. All his characters, even villains, creatures and old ladies, take an obvious delight in cavorting around the 50s furniture. Wood would have loved Ikea, which is as close to a real-life Wood theme park as we're likely to see. 

Wood rightly assumed that future men will lust over beautiful babes the same way we do now.  He knew that women will spend a lot of time lounging around their pads in see-through clothing, and will therefore get lots of calls from guys on their video phones.

He foresaw that young men would live in spotlessly clean, high tech apartments in the tropical jungle. No bugs or mud, just friendly, beautiful neighbors.

Wood also knew that beautiful girls will have no need to take rocket ships to other worlds.  Every strange, loathsome beast in the galaxy will sooner or later come to them.

Last of all, Wood knew that tail fin cars would make a comeback, and that the future would be full of them. How did he know!? It's uncanny!