Saturday, December 27, 2014

Casa de Mañana Redux

My mother's retirement home in the 1920s.  It was a Social Register-type hotel then.  Famous guests: Amelia Earhart, J. Edgar Hoover.  Or so they say.   Today: institutional cookery and lots of laundry to do.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

North Pole Greetings....

....from San Francisco.

Embossing, century-old glitter blackening with age.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Pink Posada

I confess, I fiddled some color into this one.  Pink meant to indicate blood-thirstiness, yet also domestic setting of the somewhat dire events here.  I'm in Mexico for the fourth time this year: Posada, like Daumier, always relevant. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Barber With Clippers

Detail from an (authentic?) West African barbershop sign I purchased a few years ago in the Mission.  At around that time, or a bit earlier, such signs, usually painted on masonite, had began showing up in trendy "shelter magazines," like Elle Decor---as part of a kind of cosmopolitan or "bohemian" Paul Bowles-in-Tangier interior decoration.  (Benito Cereno was never mentioned.)  I saw this one around then and jumped on the barber-shears bandwagon.   Now such signs seem to be "over"--or have at least receded into the background.

Interesting to know how these "3rd World" artifacts or "traditional" pieces of signage, cloth, costume, furnishings, etc. suddenly become First-World design tropes, then disappear almost as soon as they've arrived.  A similar bafflement: how it was that "Kantha-stitched" bedspreads, throws, pillows, etc suddenly appeared one day everywhere in upscale "lifestyle" catalogues like the Sundance Catalog.  Who started this particular import/export fad?  Mysterious East, etc.  These Kantha textiles are often very beautiful.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Real and Unreal People in Threes

"Three women" post of a few days ago got me thinking about threesomes--possibly the minimum number of actors needed to get a good narrative going?  Family unit?  Oedipus Complex?  Love triangle?  Mediated desire?   Graces?  Fates?

Tripods like to pretend they are stable, but they really aren't.

Cat Who Ate Canary in back.

Three Pierrots.

Three inhabitants of comet trail....

Sunday, November 2, 2014

San Diego Auto Court

When will my native place ever become picturesque?   Maybe it will start with something like this 1940s-50s motel.  Colors--really nice.  Little white rock borders--somewhat nice.  Postal stamp marks--freebie of dubious value.  But a Part of History.

Like the way how on the side of the first unit on the left the differently- sized windows look a bit like eyes with droopy orange eyelids.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

From the Zone of the Unreal

A chalk drawing I bought at the New York Outsider Art Fair earlier this year.  The artist's name is (I think) Jack Flich, or Jack Flitch.

A moment of high tension, obviously.  Three women--as in the Robert Altman film of the same name--always an uncanny grouping, bound for a realm of dream and disturbance. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Danielle Darrieux

Darrieux the star of one of the greatest films of all time: Max Ophuls'  The Earrings of Madame D----.  Now that Lauren Bacall is dead, Darrieux is one of a tiny handful of actresses still alive from the Golden Age of Cinema.  She is 97.  In 2002 she gave an extraordinary performance in the French director François Ozon's 8 Femmes.

Here's a YouTube link to some gorgeous pix of her when young, set to her recording of "Petite Fleur," which I believe she wrote herself.  

I adore her.   OK, a little bit wonky during Vichy period--and married at one time to legendary--and fairly unsavory--Porfirio Rubirosa--but we won't hold that against her, at least for a few minutes.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fun Dog Day

Now here's a RPPC curio.  I bought this postcard, as I recall, for the intelligent and friendly smile of the dog, not for any visual quirkiness (other than that the image was a good enough example of the very trendy vernacular-photo-collecting category--"cast shadow of photographer unintentionally visible."

Looking at the image now I see it's a bit more complex: a double exposure of some sort.  The woman (?) here is standing on a porch with her back to a rather sparse-looking landscape.  One might surmise that the light-source, the sun, is coming from behind her, casting her in darkness.  Yet the dog, who seems to  be in front of her, is fully illuminated by the sunlight. 

How the silhouette plus secondary outline of the woman came to pass is beyond me.  Dog seems to be having fun, though.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Bowler Man

....slightly tinted.  (I must have done something to this scanned version, but I can't quite tell what.)  It's a larger-size tintype, hand colored, and I've used bits and pieces of it in various art works.

My favorite among many nice elements--the extraordinary design the shirt, stand-up collar, and necktie make.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

She-Devils Everywhere

Some street art stencils--a photo I took in Prague a while ago.   Just came across it again yesterday and thought the colors especially were rather nice. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

(.... In Keeping Up with My Postcard Posts)

I confess: Pinterest and Instagram have briefly drawn my attentions elsewhere---I need to get back to good old wholesome Fun With Postcards....   Here's a weirdee: the artist has made several of the gals here--2 central figures especially ---look as if their arms have, indeed, been put on *backwards.*

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

Maidstone Man

One of the British Neanderthals.  Something about him--I don't know what---makes me think he's not French.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Incommunicative Subaltern Department

A page from a feature a few years ago in World of Interiors--one's favorite magazine, after all--showing fashionable new textiles of the season.  The photos were taken in Mongolia with help (as one can see) of locals.  I believe these two are circus performers.  Have never been able to throw picture away.  Archaic animal hide booties have a certain allure.  Guy on the left: Mongolian pudge of the highest order.    

And World of Interiors: utterly blithe and undismayed, as always, on issues of global capitalism, exploitation of underclass, Orientalism, etc., etc.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bipolar Workwear of the 1950s

Mid century Modern at its finest.  This model's somewhat perverse energy reminds me of the inimitable Randy Newman song, "You Can Keep Your Hat On".                                       

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Grande Dame

That touchstone of solo portrait photography: has the sitter 'defeated' the camera, or has he or she been defeated by it?   Here one sees, in my view, a clear-cut example of the former.  The dress is fine and ferocious, and the quite luxuriant curls piled up likewise, but best of all, the wry/sly expression: one of watchful, yet utter, equanimity.   Victory.

An RPPC, of course, and one in charmingly good condition.  The woman's desire to connect with us emotionally is palpable across, what? 120 or 130 years?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Julie Ducamion

Game card from a late 19th-century French card game--depictions of various social "types"  Among sights we saw today on our way back from brunch in the Mission: a small group of people standing at top of "Gay Beach" in Dolores Park, all with little easels and painting plein air style. 

Unfortunately Julie seems to have a 5 o'clock shadow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nor Is Summer Over Yet

Calling all Amazons!  Still time left to practice those archer-huntress- moon goddess skills!  And so far beyond rad--those slouchy and elegant leather belts with the quivers attached!  (Love that word slung.)  They are really slung.

There were some smooth shooters here, to judge by the well-riddled target.  (The image here is a  newspaper archive photo from August 28, 1916.  By happenstance, the scene documented took  place almost exactly 98 years ago.)  "Altho' the ancient sport of Archery is regarded as almost extinct," the caption reads, "there is lively interest in the National Tournament held at Jersey City, N.J.  Keen eyed women made new records.  Contestants looking over the results of their shots."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Let's Go Very Far Away

One of my first cyanotypes.  Love the tissue-like paper it's printed on.  I also love the elegant turbaned man in the group on the right--the way his left heel is lifting off the ground.  The white tunic, also, falling open as he leans to the side....

News from around the world this week--just about as vile as it could be.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Loving Chimp

....or not.  ("Nature red in tooth and claw!")  Archival newspaper photo from the 1960s or 1970s.  Where are they now?

A phrase I thoroughly dislike: when somebody declares  that a person or creature (often a baby) has an "old soul."  Everyone adopts a simpery-sententious look while uttering the phrase, but the goal is an aggressive one: to transmit said "sensitive affect" to one's listeners, who are expected to simper likewise and nod their heads.  It's an irritating form of coercive New Age moral self-congratulation.  

I'm sure I don't have an "old soul"---more likely, it's a non-recyclable brand-new styrofoam one, or else one that's like a distorted xerox image--the kind of thing that eventuates when you accidently move whatever it is you're copying or drag your arm across the scan surface, etc etc etc.  Black and smeary, wot?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

From Mexico Till Now

A purchase from a nice used bookshop in Condesa in Mexico City.  After peering at it intently--so much pointless rubble to sift through!--one sees the weathered face, Sphinx-like, on which the lady rather awkwardly rests her left hand.

Aztec ruin--or colonial?   I've just discovered the Florentine Codex.  You should too.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I Sat On the Mod Box

Believe this to be an anonymous Czech photo--1940s?  It interests me not only on account of the all-fuzz-all-the- time blue mohair outfit, but also because of the groovy studio prop: the modernistic cube on top of which the subject is posing.  I've got another studio portrait with similar post-Constructivist stylings, though can't lay my mitts on it at the moment.  Will post later when I come across it.

Note here also the curiously cruel (if fleeting) look on His Majesty the Baby's face.  One can see that when he grows up he will drive women crazy--with his refusal to commit, his brusque, away-facing sexual authority.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kittiwake Cogitating

Here: simply an altogether delightful example of 1930s graphic simplicity.  The lettering (to my eye) looks hand-drawn--especially the vertical words and "waterline length."

Monday, July 21, 2014

First Prize, Concours de Beauté

A 7-day holiday hiatus with no wireless or cell phone service, and numerous margueritas has left me with large-scale mental impairments.  I believe this to be an image of current Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, though others tell me it is not.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mrs Mealhouse in Your Wheelhouse

Caption says it all: Mrs Lurlyne Mealhouse, star of US Women's Basketball team at the Pan-American Games, 1955.  I was two.  "Her cool competence on the court led to a comparison with [Ben] Hogan, golfdom's "man with the ice in his veins."   Which would you rather have as your name---Mrs. Lurlyne Mealhouse or Mrs. Carmen Smotherman?   (On the fatal Mrs. S. see post from 10/11/13.)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Ladies With Pugil Sticks

Awfully sluggish lately about keeping up the posts---but it's a holiday!  Here's one to knock some sense into me.

Monday, June 30, 2014


Something strange here about the baby's expression--not quite as insipid as everything else....   A certain vehemence.

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Very strange French postcard from around 1900: comico-serious image of bourgeois lady in the throes of hysteria, being attended by (?) flummoxed husband.  The concept of hysteria was not a new one in the late 19th century, of course, but had really come into its own, medically speaking--and in the popular imagination--with the famous clinical studies by Charcot and others in the 1870s.  

In its own tacky way, the image makes explicit the idea advanced in Freud and Breuer's case study of "Anna O.":  that so-called hysterical symptoms originated in--indeed were a displaced representation of--unconscious sexual fantasies and desires. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

In the Garden With Lace to Kill

I haven't visited with Madame Delait lately, so here she is again.  Which is more magnificent--blouse or beard?  She has her own look, that's for sure.  I think of myself as open-minded but it's hard to imagine sleeping with Madame Delait.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Two Extraordinary Photographs

Two extraordinary photographs, indeed.  Lucky enough to snag them last month off Elysium Books, my favorite website for old gay-related antiquarian books and ephemera.  Both show the studio of Romaine Brooks in Nice in the late 1960s.  Paul Kehren was the photographer.

You can see Romaine (1874-1970) sitting jauntily enough in the top one, next to a breathtaking sample of her portraits--including her self-portrait in top hat, and in the background, her very comical image of Una Troubridge, lover of Radclyffe Hall.  (Troubridge shown with monocle and dachshunds.)

According to the biographies--Diana Souhami's book about her and her lifelong lover/companion, Natalie Clifford Barney is the best--Brooks was a fairly odious misery-guts.  The photographer here, however, seems to have caught her on a relatively good day. 

The images, while a little beaten up, have the most beautiful color-processing. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Term to Forget

Marvelous 1930s pictorial dust jacket.  And a scene all too apt for the moment.

Onward,  summer hols.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Gateshead Snow Plough

Does industrial design get any better than this?

Gateshead--angel of the north.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Where Is My Alice?

Moping away the days with flu and pesky sore throat, hence a pair of convalescent shots with nurses.  The first pic shows an array of tonic-style medicaments (brandy?) and a caretaker with both fan and a vague resemblance to Alice B. Toklas. 

I don't think I look quite as bad as the limp and somewhat spotty invalid in the first.  Prefer to compare myself to the young lady in the second, obscured as she is by coverlet and sheets.  She and the nurse regard the camera enigmatically --almost as if they were 'playing' at Nurse and Patient.  A tiny bit sly?