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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nurse on the Run

This sketch for the letter N (incorporating a bird hunter from Nigeria, two images of Niagara Falls, Mike's Newsstand, and a Nurse on the run) reminds me an oft-quoted remark from a Sri Lankan monk who now lives in West Virginia:

"Somewhere in this process you will come face-to-face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy. Your mind is a shrieking gibbering madhouse on wheels barreling pell-mell down the hill utterly out of control and hopeless. No problem. You are not crazier than you were yesterday. It has always been this way and you just never noticed. "
-Henepola Gunaratana 

A nice thing to remember in this heat wave...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Nurse Nancy Beats the Heat, plus Nigeria and Niagara

I am afraid I've been enjoying summer too much to make may posts lately, and  now have a backlog of material from the letter N.

So, without further ado, I'm going to upload a few scans from the picture collection's wonderful treasure trove of images of nurses, starting with a historical potpourri:
13th Century Nursing Sister
16th Century nurse, pictured in a 1959-60 Abbott Labs publication

1910 graduating class of African American nurses

Gibson girl nurse from the  early 1900s
1950s nursing uniforms

1960s nursing uniforms
1981 nurse on strike

Some of my favorite images of nurses are from the covers of romance novels:

 You can tell by the size that I'm partial to Hootenanny Nurse. But not all nurses were looking for romance...
Thinking that perhaps the guy above needs to be rolled over Niagara Falls, I looked at images of that quintessential American landmark next.

As usual, I'm a sucker for the 19th Century images. In the heat wave oppressing most of the U.S., a dip in the falls sounds pretty appealing.

Once I started traveling, I wanted to go further afield, and a few images from Nigeria caught my eye.

Despite the objectifying gaze of this 1938 photo, the strength and beauty of its subject are palpable.
1938 image of bird hunter
The Oni of Ife, 1959

1996 celebration of Kwaghir by the Tiv in Gboko
2007 Photo by Pieter Hugo of A Hyena Master

These photos made me want to find out more about  Calabar, a city in South-Eastern Nigeria, which has been a center for trade since at least the 16th century. I also wanted to learn more about the Tiv, who celebrate Kwaghir with traditional puppet shows and storytelling in their capital, Gboko, which is in North Central Nigeria.  A long time ago, my dad had mentioned The Oni of Ife to me, he is the spiritual leader of Nigeria's Yoruba people and the current Oni, who prefers the spelling Ooni, has his own site.

How will Nurses, Nigeria, Niagara, Newstands and Noise come together? Tune in soon for a few ideas.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Noise Annoys (and Delights)

Maybe it's because it's the dog days of summer, but I'm wading slowly through the letter N. I've found a bevy of nurses and other N images to add to last week's NEWSSTANDS, but I've been slow in scanning them.

But the folder I wasn't expecting to find is the folder for NOISE. It's not really something you can SEE, is it?

My father's birthday is coming up soon, and he was a guy who loved noise. In fact, I still have a few mix tapes he gave me. There was a little box to check on some tapes that said "noise reduction." On one tape, my dad scrawled in "HELL NO!!!!!" next to that box. He liked it loud, and you can read about it in a collection of his work, Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer, which comes out in paperback in September. So in honor of my dad's birthday, I'm going to just load up a few pictures of NOISE, transcendent and annoying here.

Strangely enough, I found an image in this file made by my father's friend David Katzenstein in this folder. It even, inexplicably, had a stamp on it from Tangier, a city they visited together:

This is one of a large group of images about the experience of noises that might make you plug your ears:

There are also a couple of images paired with text about Moms who can't hear themselves think or get their babes to sleep. As a person who's experienced both ends of this, I couldn't resist them:

Cue the Buzzcocks singing," Pretty girls! Pretty boys! have you ever heard your mommy say, 'Noise annoys.'"

There are couple of images about things that block or prevent noise:

But I really love the methods and machines for measuring noise:
labeled as "Noise Analyzer"

This last one is one of my favorites, especially since I've been feeling recently that my mission in life is to make remedial music films for visual people (a.k.a.sonically challenged people like myself).I AM a Synthane Noisometer.


Hopefully I'll get the professional help I need at this year's Flaherty Seminar, appropriately titled "Sonic Truth."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

N is for Newstands: Young Women Going Places & Keeping up with the Times

I've begun looking for images in the letter N, and the first folder I looked at was Newsstands. This young woman was really going places in the 1950s... of course. Nearly twenty years later, the New Yorker ran a cartoon that implied she might have added Ms. Magazine to her newsstand wish list.

Somehow the idea of newsstands takes me back to Alexander Mackendrick's brilliant New York newsworld noir, The Sweet Smell of Success. The film stars Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster (as J.J. Hunsecker, a gossip columnist cookie full of arsenic)."The cat's in the bag," Curtis' character says, "and the bag's in the river." It's all shot in the most beautiful black and white, as if it had been drenched in the newspaper ink that fills J.J. Hunsecker's veins.

Naturally, I found a few older images that evoked that newsprint world, though neither was from New York.
Paris, 1951

Texas, 1920s

And then were a few that surprised me. A beautiful pink newsstand from Ireland, a color newsstand from Fortune Magazine 1948 that looks shockingly contemporary, a  San Francisco Chinatown stand, and Mike's of Harlem - a piece of folk art where you can buy candy or news.

But the image that surprised me the most was another woman at a newsstand, a woman minding her own stall on the street.

This, in turn, reminded me of Hilary Mantel's beautiful 1992 novel about the French Revolution, A Place of Greater Safety. It was the first book which made the characters of Danton, Robespierre, and the fascinating Camille Desmoulins. Both Mantel's book and this image are reminders of how long our world has been defined by media. Harking back to the first image in this entry, this "marchande de journaux" seems to be both definitively "going somewhere" and simultaneously "keeping up with the times." Both of these images of women - as news consumer and news purveyor remind me of a snatch of a poem from the collection Ghost in a Red Hat by Rosanna Warren; a poem that I read earlier this week:

...the mystery was,
not that she walked there, ten
years after her death,

but that she vanished,and let 
twilight take her place  --

I love to see these women emerge "walking" or sitting - in some cases centuries after their deaths - from folders in the Picture Collection. 

Warren wrote the poem for her mother, and one image of an ancient mother has been haunting me. 
She's not as old as the goddess from Chauvet Cave that Werner Herzog captures in The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, but she is described as 5,000 year old tomb statue in the 1960 Columbia Record Distributors booklet her image comes from, which somehow found its way to the MUSIC - ANCIENT EGYPTIAN  folder, part of the amazing archive of the letter M....

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Zodiac in the Night Sky and Diogenes' Lantern

These Lights
Inside water, a waterwheel turns,
A star circulates with the moon.

We live in the night ocean wondering,
what are these lights?

Reading Rumi's poem  above made me want to revisit the images I'd culled from the letter Z, because I'd wanted to combine images of ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS with a turning ferris wheel in the night sky created from ZODIACs.

I started with the zoo from Barrackpore and a renaissance Zodiac:

But then remembered that I'd wanted a night sky and planned to include the ruins of Great Zimbabwe, so I revised it a bit:

(You can see more of the source material for the letter Z in this earlier post.)

Thinking about images of light, I was reminded of  Diogenes, the Cynic philosopher who was famous for going around with a lantern in his hand in broad daylight, looking for an honest man.
An engraving of Diogenes included in  a book on the history of hairstyles. (source code 15,218)
Undated image

1865 illustration

1946 William Gropper image.

1907 Harper's Magazine Illustration

My friend Sohrab Sadaat Ladjevardi, a great sax player who has a band called the Tehran Dakar Brothers, mentioned Diogenes to me recently, and that's why I went looking for his image. I found it in a folder marked PERSONALITIES: DIO. The PERSONALITIES folders are one of the largest categories in the Picture Collection and line most of one wall. Arranged alphabetically, like most everything else in the collection, the famous people in PERSONALITIES: DIO ran the gamut of trades and historical eras.  A few of the folks sharing that folder with Diogenes include:
Christian Dior NYT, 1953
The Dionne Quints from a 1979 NYT Magazine cover
And all grown up in Life Magazine, 1952
Dioscorides, a Greek physician at the court of Nero pictured here in a 13th century Arab manuscript.

Ronny James Dio was inexplicably absent. Diogenes, however, took up the lion's share of the folder. His insistence on living in a tub (essentially a trash bin), his rigorous rejection of material possessions, and his playful cynicism have inspired artists for thousand  of years. There are myriad representations of him from varied sources and eras. A few of my favorites include:

1979  Ad for insurance, which insists you can still be wise, even if you don't choose to live like Diogenes...  


There are also quite a few images of the story my friend Sohrab had reminded me of. It seems Diogenes was a celebrities celebrity, and one of his "fans" was Alexander the Great, who stopped by Diogenes' tub one day. Alexander purportedly asked if there was anything he could do for Diogenes. "Yes," the crusty cynic replied sardonically, "You can get out of my light. You are blocking the sun."

1799 Atelier LeGrand

1895 London Illustrated News

15th Century French manuscript

1923 magazine illustration

National Geographic illustration, 1949
I love the shifting historical representations of Alexander, Diogenes, and the tub, and the way their characteristics change, especially Diogenes, who sometimes appears as an irascible crank and other times as appears as a respected sage.

I'm not sure how or whether I will use these images in the film. Perhaps, it occurred to me, I could place a series of  "PERSONALITIES"  in a playground?

I went to look at the PLAYGROUNDS folders, and the first thing I found was a strangely misfiled image from PUNISHMENTS. I decided it was time to call it a day, but I leave you  with that image, which depicts a very adult playground...

(Thanks to Chris Arnold for German translation help.)