Blue Box of Death, 2011
This masterwork of smartaleckery comes courtesy of Styron Lundberg, a Parisian designer. More work here, all smart, but this one here’s a homer…
Etaoin Shrdlu – pronounced “eh-tay-oh-in shird-loo” – is a sounding out of the twelve most common letters in English, in order of frequency of use. The expression goes back to the days of linotype typesetting machines. (As an aside, if your unfamiliar with the details of this fantastic gizmo, spare a moment for the wiki entry… the thing’s an engineering marvel, and the lingo that sprouted out around it’s operation is wonderfully quirky) According to the internets “Were one to run a finger down the first and then second left-hand vertical banks of six keys on a linotype machine, it would produce the words etaoin shrdlu. Linotype machines were sometimes tested in this manner. Once in a while, a careless linotype machine operator would fail to throw his test lines away, and that phrase would mysteriously show up in published material. The full sequence is etaoin shrdlu cmfgyp wbvkxj qz.” Now you know, in case it comes up.
The death of art critic and New Criterion founder Hilton Kramer is sad news down ‘ere… Kramer was among my favorite conservative cultural critics… his passion and rigor were always bracing and worthwhile as either an affirmation or a provocation. His early collection of essays – The Age of the Avant order vicodin online india Garde – has been indispensable, and, frankly, I always find something spot on, or at least worth considering, in every edition of the New Criterion. (Oh, one other thing – the Criterion’s serial cover design scheme is aces…)
Found after a visit to the Strand book store, nested under a dust jacket flap… Best part? – other than the perfectly deployed heaviness of the design… It slid out while I when I was asked for my ticket by the conductor on a Philly buy canadian vicodin bound Amtrak train…
A text book, literally, of 70’s glamour and style, with every stylistic permutation extensively covered and visually documented. It features in-depth case studies on Twiggy, Françoise Hardy, Jean Shrimpton, Verushka, etc. The book itself is a gem – in fact, one its chief pleasures is the contrast between the impeccably elegant design and the exuberance of the looks http://laparkan.com/buy-vardenafil/ themselves. The supporting diagrams (including detailed schematics of every single iconic 70’s hairstyle) are worthy of their own post and will be featured later. Oh, and the authors name, Bronwen Meredith, is as peerless an embodiment of the era as you could hope for – a perfect blend of the earth-toned and the tony.
Flipping through a dense stack of auction catalogs I came across this oddity – an unassuming, glossy softcover book with a cheap, haphazardly typeset title, The Adventures of Mr and Mrs Jim and Ron. It’s a 1970 collaboration between poet Ron Padgett and pop expressionist artist Jim Dine.
The poems are just fantastic – prime specimens of a sort I’m a helpless sucker for. They’re short dreamy little narratives, shot through with strange shifts, breaks and fissures amongst the phrases. Odd juxtapositions emerge, only to be smoothed together by easy grammatical connections. It’s like a slow pan across a radio dial tuned to the psychic landscape of America – pocket buy vicodin reviews dramas, aspirations, product instructions, laconic observations, snippets of philosophy, fragment of bracing truths. They evoke, at times, Lydia Davis’ flash fiction, Ann Magnuson and Laurie Anderson’s brainy free associative monologues, Eve Babitz’s LA stories. Silver Jew David Berman’s poems too, here and there. Based on this book, this Padgett cat should be a joy to explore.
Jim Dine’s artwork is ok. I like Dine fine, and some of it’s sharp and smart (like the excerpts above), but the bulk of it is a too doodle-y and dashed off compared to the well turned poems they accompany. Still, the whole book is well worth tracking down.
For your pleasure, an oddly charming, earnest, hippy-dippy photo recreation of Manet’s The Luncheon on the Grass from an old 1970 photography annual.
A moment’s rest at the Rochester Institute of Technology, between two immense murals by Joseph Albers meant to evoke the equally brilliant Kodak logo. Aces.
Fashions, Bill Blass… Trimline® phone, your Bell Telephone business office – reads the tweaked out copy on this gem of an advertisement http://www.cheapambienpriceonline.com obviously composed during a brief moment when the entire country was on an epic cocaine bender…
This age needs [artists] who are filled with the strength of their cultures and do not transcend the limits of their age, but, working within the times, bring what is peculiar to the moment to glory. We need great artists who are willing to accept restrictions, and who love their environments with such vitality that they can produce an epic out of the Protestant ethic. — John Updike, 1951
We just wanted to build the best thing we could build. When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.
– Steve Jobs, Playboy Interview, 1985
Delightfully designed opening credits for the 1971 film Mrs. Pollifax – Spy. They were done by Don Record, who also did titles for flicks like Downhill Racer, Flareup, and the magnificent Cleopatra Jones. Among his oeuvre is a personal favorite – Smile, the 1970 California beauty pageant mockumentary featured in a post in the first few weeks of the blog – here.
Mrs. Pollifax is a oddball spy spoof how to buy vicodin on the internet about the recently widowed Mrs. Emily Pollifax of New Jersey. Restless and idle, she shows up at CIA headquarters looking to volunteer for spy duty. Technicolor, wood-paneled, skinny-tied hilarity ensues…
The classic paperback “bodice-ripper” is an undeniably hot mess – the very things that make it disreputable – the tawdry, formulaic, overheated melodrama rendered in prose so purple it might as well be written in marmalade – are exactly what makes it awesome.
The modern era of the romance novel begins in 1972, with the publication of Katheleen Woodiwiss’ “The Flame and the Flower” Two things about it had seismic implications on the genre. It was one of the first romance novels to be published initially as a paperback, to be distributed promiscuously and cheaply in 5 and dimes and department stores. And, pertaining to the amorous coupling detailed within, it got down to some frisky, frisky business. In detail.
Along with giving succor and stimulation to it’s devoted readership, the modern romance novel preformed an additional cultural service. The liberated sensibilities inside the books called for equally brazen cover art. This need provided a welcome haven to a recently dispossessed cadre – the pulp and movie poster artists. In the mid sixties photography began to supplant illustration. Pressed out of the genres that made their careers, and in some cases fortunes, some illustrators retired to fine art, some to advertising. Others, in the case of Robert McGinnis and Robert Maguire – two of the absolute best – migrated to romance covers.
Robert McGinnis is one of the deans of American illustration. His reputation rests on the more 1000 pulps that literally define the genre, as well as the iconic movie posters he did for Barbarella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Odd Couple. Running through all his work is a superb level of craft and technique. He painted the indelible James Bond posters for Thunderball, Never Say Never Again, and Diamonds are Forever. However his masterpiece may be a serial one. McGinnis did scores of covers for the long running Carter Brown crime series. Each is a lovingly painted lusty variation on a simple theme – a fetching seductress, a come hither pose, a hint of danger, and a hastily sketched background.
When you think of the classic image of the crime noir femme fatale, with her ruby lips, china white skin, mane of technicolor hair, you are thinking of the work of Robert A. Maguire. His was a rougher technique than McGinnisis’, but no less controlled. What he sacrificed in finesse he gained in melodramatic effect. He preferred slashing bands of over-saturated colors, calligraphic and sketchy brushwork, and high can you buy vicodin legally in mexico contrast, nearly electric highlights. Prolific even given the absurdly demanding standards of the day, from the 50s to the late 60’s he painted thousands of covers. Maguire did masterful work in just about every category of pulp – men’s magazines, crime novels, sexploitaiton, and lascivious historical romps.
What makes both McGinnis’s and Maguire’s romance cover paintings so compelling are the the techniques and sensibilities that they brought over from the pulps. Their penchant for eggshell hues, alabaster skin tones, muted colors and gestural brushstrokes gave the paintings a real allure. Also, they conjured powerful atmospherics – an epic historical sweep, a genuine sexiness, more than a touch of danger, and a sense of swashbuckling adventure.
Both Maguire’s and McGinnis’s paintings lift the covers from from usual ham-handed, frosted glop to the status of real melodramatic art – which requires, along with an overheated imagination, more than a fair share of skill and technique.
Maguire’s covers, while painted with vigor, hew a little closer to the conventions of the form and seldom transcend them. However, he remained a master at conjuring iconic women, and the romance paperback has seldom seen heroines as genuinely riveting and seductive.
McGinnis’s work is simply exquisite. Also the fact that he was rendering complete backgrounds in-line with the conventions of the genre gave his work and unprecedented lushness. As a painter he was in his prime, with a deftness suggestive of the the Andrew Wyeth-esqe fine art he was making concurrently.
Again, he distinguished himself over the course of a series. In this case it was the first 13 books by author Johanna Lindsey. In addition to the quality of the artwork, design-wise, they are seriously great. The typesetting is perfect in its own way and the compositions unusually dynamic and well ordered. As a exercise in serial design they are superlative, issuing forth in double-barrelled salvos of modes – color blocked, on-white, and full lurid bleeds. Aesthetically, these are the heaving peaks of the genre, simply the best romance paperback covers ever made.
(The McGinnis books are taken from my personal collection. More on his work can be found in The Paperback Covers of Robert McGinnis by Art Scott, and Tapestry: The Paintings of Robert McGinnis by Arnie & Cathy Fenner. The Maguire images are from Jim Silke’s fabulous survey Dames, Dolls & Gun Molls. Also, to anyone inclined to this stuff, I also heartily recommend the blog “Get Yer Bodices Ripped Here”)
Aren’t these the bees knees? These crêpe folding diagrams were excerpted from a cookbook that accompanied a used crepe maker I bought the other week. Printed in 1973, the thing is a compact buy vicodin no membership testament to the enduring charms of simple, sturdy design – bold Akzidenz-Grotesk font, thick outlines, and a well chosen single pop color. Fin.
My survey of vintage cereal box designs is out now in Uppercase Magazine’s ninth issue. Some excerpts follow. Enjoy, and if your issue isn’t forthcoming, then for goodness sake, subscribe… (Uppercase? Once again, with lapel-grabbing enthusiasm, here, and here.)
Before we survey the riotous parade of cereal box art, some context is in order. You would be right in thinking breakfast cereal has been an essential staple since the time of the ancients. Well, no. It’s roots are surprisingly recent, and deeply, deeply strange.
Dry breakfast cereal emerged in the late 1800’s as part an effort by Seventh Day Adventists to create a new food to meet the strict confines of their vegetarian diet and moral codes. There is no escaping the wonderful irony that the goofy, sugary, cravenly commercial landscape we associate with breakfast cereals sprung from an attempt to create the blandest food possible. On purpose.
Aesthetically, there is a lot to admire amidst the unruly bramble of ten decades of box design. Pep – the Solar Cereal, is a case study in mid-century sci-fi, with overt nods to Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon and Wally Wood’s EC Comics work. Kix is pure Brillo Pad pop art.
Post Raisin Bran, while less popular than its Kellogg’s doppelganger, steps out in far better outfits. Sugar Jets is a lovely artifact of New Frontier-era space mania with science textbook-like illustrations, diagrams and booklets about man-made Satellites. Super Sugar Crisp sports some sweet type.
And, in case you were wondering, Trix Rabbit did manage to score some cereal, twice, in 1976 and 1990.
A sampling of covers from about 1910-1930 from the original Life Magazine. They’re riveting, one after the other – a cavalcade of striking illustrations and successive iterations of exquisitely typeset mastheads. More from the complete run, here. Some history courtesy of David E. Sloane, author of American Humor Magazines and Comic Periodicals –
Life Magazine was designed as an American Punch; more properly, it was an outgrowth of the Harvard Lampoon, which itself was a copy of Punch. Life stood as a challenge to the recently successful Puck and Judge, both of which were full of raucous humor. Life, on the other hand, was self-consciously genteel. It ultimately succeeded so well that it became the most influential cartoon and literary humor magazine of its time, and—a fact forgotten today—itself served as the model for another humor magazine, The New Yorker.