R.I.P.: Tomi Ungerer

I think I was a bit too old for his kid books, but I’ll never forget that in a used bookstore (in Bozeman, MT?) I ran across a collection of his erotic drawings from a French publisher. I thought “Humph! Yeah, sure.” But when I checked it out –YOWSAH! They were vivid, inventive wildies with a heavy S&M component. I remember I had to hide it away in my bedroom in my parents’ house, but boy, was it a find, a revelation. I was saddened, but not surprised, that it almost ruined his career when the kid-book publishers found out about his porny works. Deserves a major revaluation.

Fine profile from Paris Review.

 

Bats: Cuties or Creepies?

We checked out the Empresses exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum today (yeah, I’m sorry we didn’t get out earlier so I could plug it before its final week) and aside from the most wondrous silk stitching I’ve seen in my life, I was stuck with a couple zoological-perspective revelations.

First, the symbol of the Emperor is the five-clawed dragon, the symbol of the Empress is the Phoenix. I noticed that to bolster the real-world actuality of the imaginary birds, they were always painted (and stitched, and carved) the same way (long neck with crested head, long legs, some peacock aspects to the plumage) and often in a natural setting — a bird among birds.

Second, it blew our brains how a different cultural attitude toward an animal can change its representation in art. I knew bats were considered good luck symbols (because of no more than a weird word coincidence), but did not realize how much a different connotation, even perception, of an animal could alter its representation in art. There were lots of bats with beautiful curly wings and cute, whiskery faces. And then some utterly wild ones that had white wings, pink heads and blue bodies (more like butterflies, really). Concluded that these were understood to not be realism in any way, but their own sort of ideogram.

[Single most astonishing object: the head-on-both-ends dragon seal of the final Emperor. It was not melted down like all previous ones because he was the last Emperor. Weighs 40 pounds. Incredibly detailed, utterly ferocious monster.]

Dragon seal.jpg

The Chaotic Creation of the Digital Newsroom

I’ll probably need a second life to read this book, but I wish that were more possible. This is a crucial tale and the selected examples are perfect. Abramson was of course correct about how to keep the professional ethics intact, but in retrospect that was not gonna happen under any circumstances. Must note that the one myth believed by too many otherwise smart people was that “local news” was going to be the fiscal salvation of modern journalism: that readers would pay more for hacked-out stories set in their neighborhoods than the most brilliant presentation and explanation of world-sized stories. I thought it mostly reflected contempt for the audience.

Fred W. McDarrah: “New York Scenes”

A superb hardcover presentation I am proud to own.

In sunny moments, I remember how seeing many of these for the first time on microfilm at Montana State University Library thrilled and excited me — this was how this world hidden by my isolated Montana culture looked!

In dreary afternoons like today’s, it can suggest not only a vanished world but a broken, or at least unfulfilled, promise: American bohemia would last forever; there was always going to be places, more and more maybe, where you could run wild and break the rules if you did it with grace and style. But true mass bohemia ruins the phenomenon. And the decline and fall of the Establishment made the rebellions empty.

In calm evenings like this, I can settle on being grateful that I met Beat writer stars Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsburg and found the latter to be especially funny, entertaining, wonderful in a rowdy Montana bar and even a wise, guru-type person. He conveyed a lasting impression of the freedom Beat and Hippie granted youth.

Oh, and the book includes a marvelous photo I had not seen of Leonard Cohen right before his first NY performance.

R.I.P.: Neil Simon

Shaped my TV-teen years as much as anyone.  Plus, Barefoot in the Park is one of the supreme on-screen chemistry couples. And Felix, in whatever incarnation, got me used to the idea of a lot less rough-edged male character than I had known. And, sure, funny to die for — but with that little burr of sadness buried down there. (I did not know the aptly-surreal incident where the audience member died laughing at the premier.)*

*Ok — this is down to allegedly now. But it was a event reported in the New Yorker back when they had serious fact checkers.