For those of you who don't know, American Girl is a brand of doll that has insidiously worked its way into
the hearts and minds of little girls across the nation. Neither as ugly as Cabbage Patch dolls, or as curvaceous as Barbie, these seemingly harmless, All-American childlike dolls thrive as parents recognize that someday they'll be able to enter into the preserved rooms of their children's past and pretend for a moment that everything is as they wish it to be. There, the dolls and their accessories (and, boy, are there accessories; they could open another store next door just to sell the accessories) will provide a Norman Rockwell twinge of nostalgia for happier (ie. younger, less medicated) days.
As many of you know, WFMU thrives due to the dedication and support of many people: DJs, listeners, volunteers, the staff. But there is also a somewhat neglected group: the artists and designers who have kindly provided us with the visuals for our many geegaws and gimcracks. Listed below are the websites of many of the artists whose imagery has adorned our t-shirts. Click on their names to go to their website.
Jim Flora: Popular designer of record covers of the 1950's and influence on many current artists. He is our first posthumous designer, responsible for this popular shirt and hoodie (with a little help from our very own Dave Cunningham).
Rodney Allen Greenblatt: Rodney gave us this shirt that proves once and for all that you can teach an old dog new tricks, or a new dog old tricks, or something like that. (Image to the right is by Rodney Allen Greenblatt.)
Renee French: Not only do we have a crying rodent, but also a flying rodent. Actually a floating rodent, courtesy of Ms. French in both his and her styles. (Image at top left of this post by Renee French.)
Unfortunately, several of the artists who have designed t-shirts or sweatshirts for us do not have websites dedicated to their fine efforts. These include:
Drew Friedman: The man responsible for our beloved icon. I cannot fathom why there is not a Drew Friedman webpage.
Marco Almera: There was a www.marcoalmera.com. That's how we found out about him. Several webpages have links to it but it currently does not exist.
Here are a batch of links to WFMU T-shirts by the following artists:
And for all you longtime listeners to the station, there were indeed shirts designed by Kaz, Mark Newgarden and Joost Swarte. However, since their shirts are no longer available and their designs grace other WFMU product, we will deal with them in another post.
Han Hoogerbrugge is one of the finest artists on the internet. His world is the one I sometimes find myself in when I am sitting in an office without windows, the lovely color-neutralizing glare of fluorescent light making it almost impossible to see the computer screen after several hours of mind numbing excitement leading to nowhere but a paycheck.
Nina Paley is a cartoonist who did some decent work for Dark Horse a few years back. I'd kind of forgotten about her until I found out about her latest project through grow-a-brain: Sita Sings The Blues. Sita is a series of cartoons telling the story of The Ramayana with soundtracks from the 1920s. These are charming, and charming is a word that is rarely uttered by these cold, harsh lips. Warning: these will take a little while to download.
"A Humument", last published in 1997, is a difficult-to-find, work-in-progress where the artist Tom Phillips creates his own version of W.H. Mallock's "A Human Document." The artist has now made the last published version available here. I first read about this book in the first or second issue of Wax Poetics where the author of the piece saw it as an early example of sampling and finally saw a copy when I visited the home of fellow DJ Bryce. It is a one-of-a-kind book that speaks to the various voices floating around your skull. I found out about its availability on the internet through wood s lot.
Every time I get on the PATH train, I am greeted by this fine piece of anonymous poetry.
Train tracks are dangerous.
If the train stops between stations
Stay inside. Do not get out.
Follow instructions of
train crew or police.
Next to it the Spanish original
La via del tran es peligrosa.
Si el tren para entre la estaciones
quedese adentro. No salga afuera.
Siga las instrucciones de los
operadores del tren o la policia.
Thanks to DJ Tamar for pointing this out.
On Sunday, the wife and I went to Central Park to view "The Gates," Christo and Jean-Claude's installation that Mike Lupica posted about a few days ago. While I am impressed by the fact that they paid for everything including the volunteers who helped install the piece, I was slightly underwhelmed by the experience feeling that it was similar to arriving at a party and finding that the only drink available was Budweiser. The kind of party where you keep eyeing the exit though you stay longer than you plan to. I wasn't expecting much, but I had walked through the park the Friday before they lowered the curtains and had seen the poles, bare of fabric, waiting for their moment. I couldn't help but think how great it would be if Burt Lancaster and his little mute friend, Nick Cravat, were to leap back and forth among the pylons for the twenty three miles measured out in naked orange steel?
After being amazed by the number of people who were out to look at large orange pieces of fabric, I spent a few moments wondering if shower curtains, beaded curtains, or blinds would attract similar crowds. My favorite part of the day, however, was when we went down to the boathouse and, though posted very clearly that the ice was too thin to support anybody, a little old man stepped over the fence and began to test the ice. While I can't stand rubbernecking on the highway and would never shout "jump" to a potential suicide, when presented with the chance to watch an act of pure folly I will gaze like the rest of the sheep. Alas, I was dragged away by the wife, who does not share my interest in such matters.
But "The Gates" did start me thinking about curtains and their place in popular culture. Not surprisingly curtains are minor players in this world unless we speak metaphorically or talk like a gangster. But there are four moments when curtains rise to the forefront becoming major players in the drama (or comedy) playing out before us.
4) Monty Python and the Holy Grail - "Someday son, all of this shall be yours!" "What, the curtains?"
3) Twin Peaks - The red curtains which signal the dream appearance of the backwards-speaking dwarf or the giant or Laura Palmer or Bob or whatever other strangeness is going on at the Black Lodge. Also, curtains billow about Julie Cruise in Industrial Symphony No. 1 and supposedly play roles in other films though I can't remember any at this moment.
2) The Cobweb - I think I saw five minutes of this film once when I was younger and melodrama held very little interest. The plot has always struck me as a great moment in salesmanship:
At an exclusive psychiatric clinic, the doctors and staff are about as crazy as the patients. The clinic head, Dr. Stewart McIver, thinks that it would be good therapy for his patients to design and make new drapes for the library. Mrs. Karen McIver, who is neglected by her hardworking husband (and a bit unbalanced herself), wants to make her mark on the clinic, so she orders new drapes. Miss Inch, the business manager, who has been with the clinic longer than anyone, sees this as an intrusion into her territory, and she too orders drapes. All this puts everyone in a dither, as they fight over drapes and clinic politics.
Imagine trying to sell that in thirty seconds.
1) Psycho - You know about this but did you know that you can remix the shower scene for your viewing pleasure and share it with others?
That's all I could come up with. I'm sure there are significant curtains somewhere in literature; there is important wallpaper after all. And I really didn't look for further examples of curtain art. "The Gates" ends this weekend and it is worth a look because there's something amazing about thousands of people walking around looking at similar pieces of fabric hanging from similar structures. Just be glad you didn't travel far to see it. It would be nice if New York actually had an event worth traveling to like a Feast of Fools, Carnival or a running of the bulls down Wall Street during rush hour.
After a long day of shrinking down photos of lawyers and removing the magenta tan that they have been granted by the photographer, there's nothing better than heading back to the PATH train with all the other happy people. Dressed in their black suits, black pants, black shoes, carrying their black umbrella on gray, sometimes black, days, there's a feeling of community, of belonging, to the great surging mass. You can see the numbing glory of their priceless lawns and the nagging itch for the cute administrative assistant visualized in their awkward, yet hurried, stumble upstream.
Once you've found your place on the train, you come to the realization that time stands still here. Morning or evening, the faces remain expressionless. These people are trapped and they know it but they don't understand how to escape. Perhaps "The Da Vinci Code" or "AM New York" will allow them the chance to avoid the numbing, compassionless faces of their fellow passenger for a few minutes until they arrive at Exchange Place, Grove Street, Journal Square; the destination not a home but a brief stopping point for further transit of some manner.
And then it happens: a man, who has been talking to two other passengers, begins to testify. He used to "smoke and drink and lie and cheat and..." is drowned out as the train picks up speed. His two companions are interesting. One is a woman, wider than tall, who stands there with a huge idiot grin on her face, similar to a clown's painted lips. The other is a younger man with eyes that look as if they have had intimate conversations with the plant world for many years and hair that looks as if it hasn't seen water during those same many years. They smile while everyone else looks away, embarassed by this man who has broken the compact that we all sign in order to ride the train. I want to join him. I want to speak of my god to everyone on the train. I wish to cause Dionysian revelry among my fellow passengers. I want to discuss quantum physics as we hurtle to the next stop or whisper mantras when we come to a standstill. I want to know why the 33rd street elevator is still not working. I want them to join me in a primal scream as we pull into the station. But I don't have a woman, wider than tall, with a huge idiot grin on her lips or a man with wild eyes and greasy hair agreeing with me because they believe the same thing. So I get off at the first stop and walk home.
But it doesn't end there. When I get to the corner of one of the main intersections of this city, Jersey City, land of nail parlors, 99¢ stores, corrupt politicians, I wait for the signal to tell me to walk. As I begin to do so a large bus comes barreling through the red light. The driver looks at me for a moment. She is toothless and cackling. I go home and put on an Angelo Badalementi soundtrack.
Why a WFMU blog? Is there anything we can offer that isn't already online? If I view my blog entries as just a continuation of my on air personality I should stop now.
Or I can continue, place a few words one after the other think of them as small segues, indeterminate in both origin and consequence. So, in the beginning we have the word and everyone knows that bird is the word...nah, we're not going to go there. We're going to go here instead.
There, wasn't that disturbing. Thirsty now aren't you? Here, perhaps this shall offer relief from this faint yet ridiculous voice that has violated the beautiful white of this space with its damned alphabet.
Well, it ain't gonna happen here cause it's like dead air and this a radio station after all. Who knows what will happen in the weeks to come? Perhaps some interesting liner notes; perhaps a look back at the failed attempts and forward to their eventual rehabilitation; maybe, all the important stuff that is quickly forgotten. After all, this is a test. If you get to the cheese, sorry!