Happy New Year!

This decade left me very exhausted. I hope next year will finally be my annus mirabilis because I’m tired of making the anus joke. Happy New Year and Happy New Decade, everyone.

You can see the old New Year’s cards are here.

100 Years of Fashion Illustration

A visual feast of 400 dazzling images, this is a comprehensive survey of the genre over the last century. The book also offers an overview of the development of fashion, as seen through the eyes of the greatest illustrators of the day. Early in the century fashion illustration reflected new, liberating currents in art and culture, such as the exoticism of the Ballets Russes, while the postwar period saw inspiration from the great Parisian couturiers. After the dominance of the celebrity fashion photographer in the ’60s, a new generation of illustrators emerged, embracing the medium of the computer, while many returned to more traditional techniques.

Weegee’s New York: Photographs, 1935-1960

Weegee’s New York: Photographs 1935–1960

Weegee’s legendary camera recorded an unmatched pictorial chronicle of a legendary time. Weegee’s New York is the New York of the thirties and forties, a city marked by the Great Depression, by unemployment and poverty, by mob violence and prostitution. He was the first news photographer allowed a police radio in his car. Racing through Manhattan’s streets after midnight, he often beat the cops to the scene of the crime to shoot the pictures which would scream from the pages of the Daily News and the Daily Mirror next morning. They still jump from the page with a restless immediacy and intense nervousness that has never been surpassed. The 335 photographs collected in this new softcover reprint tell the astonishing story of New York during one of its most violent and exciting periods. The introductory essay is by the former editor of Art Forum, John Coplans.

Essay by Weegee

Weegee (1899-1968),was born Arthur Fellig in what is now a part of Poland and arrived in New York at the age of ten. During his ten years at Manhattan’s police headquarters he published 5,000 photos that made him the most famous of a new breed of hardboiled news photographers. His book Naked City (later made into a film) was published in 1945, followed in 1953 by Naked Hollywood.

John Coplans, born in 1920 in England, immigrated to the US in 1960. In 1962 he founded the periodical Artforum serving as its editor until 1980. He was director of the Art Gallery of University of California at Irvine; senior curator at the Pasadena Art Museum; and director of the Akron Art Museum, Ohio. At age sixty he took up photography full-time.

335 duotone plates.

The Nutcracker Season

This holiday season finds me once again working in the Rockefeller Center. This time I am in the building with the funny neon sign.

Most of the lesser Rockefeller Center buildings put up gaudy X-mas decorations up front: a giant present box, a huge mound of ornaments, and a scary animatronic jack-in-the-box riding a train. My building has giant nutcracker statues.

While giant copies of their CO stand outside, in the lobby a trio of toy soldiers sing carols and gesticulate. They seem to be enjoying themselves, well, as much as three costumed men in makeup can enjoy singing carols to an endless procession of salarymen, suits, techies, administrative assistants and other denizens of corporate America.

I, for one, is very thankful for a pleasant and interesting new gig and many exciting opportunities, but my thoughts are with those in terrible jobs. Those of you who aren’t happy – there’s always the Internets with wonderful sites like the Joel on Software job board.

Still, those of you who think that you are unhappy, I’d like to leave you with a haiku that I made by lightly editing a very real lament of a Burger King worker that I found on Livejournal’s bkstories community. I count BK as one syllable, not two which is probably wrong.

Holiday season.
I work at BK near Walmart.
Shoot me in the face.

Blast From the Past

Boing Boing, with it’s love of red and anti-red comics made me remember Herluf Bidstrup. You see, for some reason in the Soviet Union multiframe format comics were seen as a western influence, despite their usefulness as a propaganda tool. Single and two-frame caricatures were common though. One glaring exception to the rule were comics of a Danish illustrator Herluf Bidstrup, who worked for a Danish communist newspaper. His work was published in a 5-volume set of coffee table books.

The fifth volume was all political, and thus particularly interesting to the Soviet reader. But the other 4 were full of amazingly drawn multi-frame comics that showcased Bidstrup’s eye for little things in life and his crisp, flowing line. I spent hours upon hours looking at his cartoons. Unfortunately we left the books behind, but I will absolutely replace them (I’ve seen them for sale in a Russian bookstore, but balked at the price).

Here you can find some political editorial cartoons and everyday sketches, probably from the last volume at pretty good resolution. These include sketches from his visit to the Soviet Union.

This site, on the other hand has a lot of the good stuff from the first four volumes, alas at a terrible resolution that absolutely destroys Bidstrup’s elegant line. Here’s a similar site.

Bidstrup was pretty much anti-US. Here’s Denmark scared by the Soviet menace joins the Nato. These are just few frames out of a longer sequence.

I absolutely love Bidstrup’s take on the generational conflict and his other cartoons about families. This is another favorite of mine.

Sometimes he just could not help himself and drew pinup girls, and the editors of his books were forced to add politically motivated copy: this cartoon’s title said something about how “this Bulgarian Eve is safe in the Garden of Socialism” or some such nonsense. I think it’s just that Bidstrup liked exotic women in bikinis (forgetting to thank Uncle Sam for the bikini, of course).

I bet that if he were born in the US Bidstrup would have become one of the finest pulp illustrators. I wonder if he illustrated any sci-fi at all…

Oh, and another thing. To this day I prefer cigars that taper on ends because they were prominently featured in Bidstrup’s cartoons. These are collectively called “figurados” and are rather uncommon in the American market. The type that tapers on both ends is called “perfecto” and the one that tapers on one end is called “torpedo”. These are hard to roll, so usually only experienced rollers venture to make them.

Kajillion Words You Can’t Say On A Scrolling Cubicle Marquee

Remember my geek toy, right? It’s out of commission for a little while, even though even my boss’ boss told me that I am probably being too cautious. Well, I checked the search terms in the logs for obvious signs of profanity and didn’t find any. But of course people search for some anatomical terminology that would probably not be a good idea to have scrolling above my cubicle. Also my merry co-workers will go to great lengths to stuff searches with embarrassing stuff. And then there’s that person who keeps searching for “bunghole” (and not finding anything).

So the question is this – do you know any industrial strength open source profanity filter list that will be restrictive enough to filter out anything above and beyond George Carlin’s Famous Seven?

The Ugliest Building In Brooklyn

Inspired by Howard Kunstler’s Eyesore of the Month, which currently features Frank Gehry’s Museum of Tolerance  that looks like robot’s puke ,  I decided to start my own section on architectural monstrosities.

Behold – The Six of Diamonds Building.

Just the first look at it puzzled me immediatly. Is this a residential or a commercial building? How many floors are there in the structure? What is the function of the small square windows on the facade?  Is there a windowless torture chamber on the top floor beautified with the green diamonds? It seems like pepto-bismol would have been a better choice of color, but then that’s probably what it was before fading out.

Italian Bullion

This here person wrote an essay on statues that get rubbed for good luck. He mentioned Dolly Parton’s statue , but forgot to mention the Wall Street Bull :

I always thought that there’s supposed to be a statue of a bear, but apparently it’s not so. I also thought that the bull was made much earlier than 1989. And I did not know that it was basically a Italian-born sculptor Arturo Di Modica’s equivalent of grafitti. Apparently the bull was involved in a traffic incident once. I would really like to see that dude’s insurance form.

Also not mentioned there The Statue of Three Lies.