Tuesday, December 1

Wednesday, May 24

Gratuitous sex day. You might not have guessed it, after the general retreat from the wild abandon that was the 1920's, but people were still absolutely obsessed with sex in 1933. As they have been each and every year, ever- proving conclusively that time is both a wave AND a particle. But there are all different kinds of obsession. To begin, Max Earnst, the surrealist, the prankster. He was making a lot of art at this time, and it was wide-ranging in form. This work demonstrates just how ugly art it could get in 1933. Strangely fascinating though, innit? Next, a sweet little bronze (I think?) by Jean Arp, who was also very productive in '33. On this two-part sculpture, the "head" is balanced on a spike coming out of the "shell". This was a favorite plaything of Mrs. Vanderbilt,...

Tuesday, May 23

During a Congressional hearing, it is revealed that J. P. Morgan legally paid no taxes in 1931 and 1932. This caused a great public outcry, the result being that the scene in the hearing room was chaotic. "We are having a circus," complained Sen. Carter Glass, D-Va., "and the only things lacking now are peanuts and colored lemonade." Not sure what he meant by "colored" in this case, but at any rate, a savvy P.R. man for Barnum and Baily showed up with diminutive Lya Graf, a performer for the concern, and dropped her in Morgan's lap one morning. Seems like everyone enjoyed the joke. The photo made all the papers. The only thing missing was T.V. coverage, but this is well on its way, as you can see from the RCA test screen. Yes, it's a little warped, but completely recognizable- the ...

Monday, May 22

Leading off with a classic poster. The more I see of '33, the more I see that this particular graphic is a throwback to the nineteen twenties. It's good, but from the Italians I expect something more. From America, another Time cover boosting one of the "right" people. Dawes had famous brothers, was from a family who proudly traced themselves back to a Revolutionary War general or something, and after making a lot of dough in the late teens and early twenties he and his wife devoted themselves to civil service- not the kind that bureaucrats do, but the kind that gets your picture on the cover of Time magazine. This is to be expected. Then there is this interesting collage of "candid" photos of John Dillinger, found on an F.B.I. website. It represent the muscle the media could displ...

Sunday, May 21

Noted intellectual Langston Hughes called him an entertaining huckster. Harlem's Rev George Wilson Becton encouraged his flock to contribute a dime a day to his church, and he lived well on the income, telling people that "God ain't poor". Tapping into the limited income of these folks may be why he ran afoul of the policy racket, aka "the numbers". It's a mystery who did the job or why, but he was gunned down in Philly on this day.Searching for a color for the Reverend's background, I recalled artist Reginald Marsh, and found that he was indeed active in 1933- in fact, his art plays wonderfully at the edge of ugly that predominated in '33 artwork, and I think it's due largely to the vibrancy of his palette. He steers clear of murkiness. And then there's an ad for lost shoes- wouldn...

Saturday, May 20

The state of Pennsylvania voted to relax it's "Blue Laws" a bit come November, so the smart money (as it turns out) bought an NFL franchise, because games would be allowed on Sundays. The Pittsburgh Pirates. The saga of Engelbert Dollfuss continues. Austria's ruler was a right-winger, but he wasn't batshit crazy like Hitler, nor an egomaniac like Mussolini. Seems to me he was doing his level best to unite his country in an effort to resist a German takeover. On this day he founded the Fatherland Front, making it the single legal political party in Austria, by combining the forces of the Catholic church, the military, and industry. He sort of aped the Nazi uniform (with the addition of old-time piping) and flag (modifying the swastika into a cross) and even wore a stupid mustache lik...

Friday, May 19

Today, a bombing at a crowded railway station in Tientsin, China killed more than 100 people. So far I haven't learned anything more about this incident, but I have discovered that the city had a large and well-established foreign business "presence". Portions of the city had been conceded to Britain, Germany, France, Russia, Italy and Japan, and they had been made to resemble their home countries. Working there was a pretty sweet gig for the foreigners. Not sure how the USA missed out on the deal. Was the bombing a random act of terror? There were Japanese troops nearby in Manchuria, and the Japanese had been sending planes over major Chinese cities with impunity, dropping- not bombs- but loads of pamphlets telling the people "these could be bombs if we wanted them to be" and "res...

Thursday, May 18

The Tennessee Valley Association, the TVA, was always somewhere in the background of my awareness growing up- sort of like Bob Hope. I mean, it was something that people thought was a big deal, whenever the subject came up, but as a kid, well, I sure didn't know why. I never thought Bob Hope's jokes were funny, and I assumed that everybody always had electricity. What's the big deal? Both of these things were brands, and I didn't know about brands when I was a kid. Well, I did, I was surrounded by them, but I didn't know that they had to be carefully created and nurtured, like exotic flowers or something. The TVA was probably oversold a bit, but maybe not. From anything I've seen from 1933, from the Golden Gate Bridge, to Boulder (now Hoover) Dam, to the White Sea- Baltic canal in ...

Wednesday, May 17

This is a big find- the radio program One Man's Family hit America's eardrums today and wormed its way into the nation's image of itself for the next couple of decades. Be sure to have a listen to the girl talk I've sampled- did anyone actually believe this drivel? What kept this program on the air for so long? I suppose it expressed ideas that radio listeners wanted to believe about themselves. Fantasyland. The same goes for Norway's Quisling, whose name, like Dr. Mudd, has become shorthand for a certain type of underhanded behavior. Quisling, like Dollfuss in Austria, thought that he could set himself up as dictator. But while Dollfuss actually had the position and the smarts to make a creditable attempt, Quisling had nothing but the uniform, flags and emblems, and the crappy bel...

Tuesday, May 16

More photos taken in Havana by Walker Evans. Did I mention that he was hanging out with Ernest Hemingway at the time? There had to have been drinking involved.Things were not going well for President Machado- who Time labeled "dictator". Machado had been democratically elected, but had run for a second term (against his earlier promise not to, surprise!) of 6 years. The political unity he had brought to Cuba was disintegrating, despite (or maybe because of) the dollars he brought into the country from tourists attracted to the drinking, gambling, and prostitution he encouraged. (spoiler alert- he doesn't make it to '34)He had a visitor in May- one tall, distinguished looking American statesman by the name of Sumner Welles. Sumner Welles was an interesting character throughout the fi...

Monday, May 15

Took a little trip along the trolleys of Maine this morning. They were still running there up through the late 30's at least, maybe later. I would not have thought that trolley lines (that is, inter-urban lines) were still a thing then, but a look at a schedule shows that it was a pretty cheap way to travel if you didn't have a car (and if you didn't mind a 40 mile trip taking 2 1/2 hours!)Anyhoo, Adventure! I like that there were maybe a dozen of these pulps out there in 1933. I enjoy looking at the covers and imagining the storylines they illustrate- the thief in the Arabian Bazaar, the Canadian Mountie after his man, or the old, old favorite, the Highwayman.We love stories of highwaymen, mainly because we like those who flout the law (as long as they're only robbing from the rich, ...