Monday, February 22, 2021

his pistol shot caused the weather vane to clang

Roy R. Behrens, Well-Healed. Digital montage, ©2021. 


Robert Conot (recalling an incident in the life of Thomas A. Edison), A Streak of Luck. New York: Seaview Books, 1979, p. 118—

It was a case of the famous ogling the famous. One evening after he [Edison] and Fox, who roomed together, had gone to bed, a thunderous knock on the door shook them upright. In strode "Texas Jack" [John Wilson Vermillion, aka "Shoot-Your-Eye-Out" Vermillion], the top of his head brushing the door frame, his eyes bloodshot, and his hands on his gunbelt. Which one, he wanted to know, was Edison? When Edison manfully identified himself in a quavering voice, Texas Jack said it was a pleasure: he himself was the boss pistol shot of the West, and he wanted to meet the great inventor of the phonograph. Whereupon he pulled out his six-shooter and, firing through the window, caused the weather vane across the street to clang into a dizzy spin.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

tabula rasa / the disjunctive effect of pandemics

Above Roy R. Behrens, Bus Boy. Digital montage, ©2021.


S. Howard Bartley, A Bit of Human Transparency. Bryn Mawr PA: Dorrance and Company, 1988, p. 89—

A huge catastrophe such as a war…or a peacetime one such as the Great Depression [or a pandemic, such as COVID-19], serves as a definite disjunctive force in history…

As the new generation after the catastrophe emerges, that generation seems largely and sometimes totally oblivious to what occurred prior to it. It is as though history is a sort of a blank. Although many of the material achievements might survive, they are not properly appreciated and are not seen in a perspective.…

Names that were outstanding or at least worth recognition get lost. Things start anew as if from scratch. This means that if someone were working before the catastrophe…and had produced something worthwhile but became a casualty, what he had done would likely go down to oblivion with him. But if such a person were fortunate enough to survive the catastrophe, he could go on. One of his tasks would be to review for those who would be working in the same general areas that he had been in before the catastrophe. In other words, he would be the connecting link between the past and the present. Otherwise the blankness would be there.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Harold Lloyd's walking wooden hobby horse

Above World Cinema poster depicting American film star Harold Lloyd (designer and date unknown).


S. Howard Bartley, A Bit of Human Transparency. Bryn Mawr PA: Dorrance and Company, 1988, p. 73—

[Hollywood film star Harold Lloyd designed a wooden] walking hobby horse large enough for adults to ride…[It] looked much like a regular hobby horse except it was not on rockers. As the rider would lean forward the horse would tilt forward, pivoting (or rocking) on its front legs. This would lift the rear end of the horse and lift the hind legs off the floor. They would swing forward to reach what would now be the perpendicular. As the rider would then lean back, the front end of the horse would lift off the ground and in tilting back the front legs would swing to a new position. The pivot for this second phase of action (tilt) would be the hind legs. So as the rider would alternately tilt forward and backward the animal would carry its rider across the floor. 

Harold Lloyd in Safety Last (1923)

Thursday, February 11, 2021

famous for an hour—his only sports achievement

Paul Pfurtscheller, c1910
Above Detail (restored and adapted) of anatomical wall chart by Austrian zoologist Paul Pfurtscheller (1855-1927), c1910.


Roger G. Barker (Iowa-born social scientist) in Gardner Lindzey, ed., A History of Psychology in Autobiography. Volume VIII. Stanford University Press, 1989—

On the first day of the boy’s [himself] attendance at the junior high school in Palo Alto there is a free-throw basketball contest. Boy reluctantly joins the line of contestants; he has never thrown a basketball. He comes to the throw line; he hefts the ball and is surprised by its great weight. He throws—a good one. Another good one. Still another basket. On and on, he can’t understand it. He is a machine,…13, 14,…24 hits out of 25. The boy is famous for an hour, his only sports-connected achievement.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

a modern art museum, telephone and a martini

Donald Barthelme
(in “Brain Damage” in City Life, 1976)—

The Wapituil are like us to an extraordinary degree. They have a kinship system which is very similar to our kinship system. They address each other as “Mister,” “Mistress,” and “Miss.” They wear clothes which look very much like our clothes. They have a Fifth Avenue which divides their territory into east and west. They have a Chock Full o’ Nuts and a Chevrolet, one of each. They have a Museum of Modern Art and a telephone and a martini, one of each. The martini and the telephone are kept in the Museum of Modern Art. In fact they have everything that we have, but only one of each thing... They can conceptualize but they don't follow through. For instance, their week has seven days—Monday, Monday, Monday, Monday, Monday, Monday, and Monday. They have one disease, mononucleosis. The sex life of a Wapituil consists of a single experience, which he thinks about for a long time.

Monday, February 1, 2021

turned, hopped up, and sharply rapped the door

Paul Pfurstscheller (c1910)

Detail (restored and adapted) of anatomical wall chart by Austrian zoologist Paul Pfurtscheller (1855-1927), c1910.


Linda Elegant, “The Chicken” in Paul Auster, ed., I Thought My Father Was God, and Other True Tales from NPR’s National Story Project. New York: Henry Holt, 2001—

As I was walking down Stanton Street early one Sunday morning, I saw a chicken a few yards ahead of me. I was walking faster than the chicken, so I gradually caught up. By the time we approached Eighteenth Avenue, I was close behind. The chicken turned south on Eighteenth. At the fourth house along, it turned in at the walk, hopped up the front steps, and rapped sharply on the metal storm door with its beak. After a moment, the door opened and the chicken went in.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

RIP / Iowa Poet Marvin Bell (1937-2020)

Marvin Bell
So let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky like a pigeon poised upon a nickel. Let us not get into a pickle. Or, finding ourselves already deep in the briny pickley flesh, let us find there the seeds of our poetry.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

artist Orr Fisher in process of painting his mural

In the previous post, we featured a delightful WPA post office mural, called The Corn Parade, by Iowa artist Orr Cleveland Fisher. At the time, we didn't realize that someone named Blake Schnormeier has put up a multi-page Sutori site on the same artist. It offers interesting snippets of text, news clippings, paintings, cartoons, and a selection of vintage photographs, including the one posted above, which shows Orr Fisher putting the finishing touches on his wall-sized masterpiece.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

favorite feather in the cap of Ringgold County

Above Detail of Orr Fisher's WPA mural, The Corn Parade (1941), in the US Post Office in Mount Ayr IA. 


Roy R. Behrens, THE CORN PARADE: Orr Fisher's wacky WPA mural, in The Iowa Source (Fairfield IA), Vol 38 No 1 (January 2021), pp. 10-11—

American astronaut Peggy Whitson was born in south central Iowa, in Riggold County, and attended high school in Mount Ayr, the county seat. She is that region's claim to fame, although it should also be noted that the parents of Abstract Expressionist artist Jackson Pollock also grew up in that county. My favorite feather in the cap of Ringgold County is a Depression-era WPA mural that hangs in the US Post Office in Mount Ayr. Created in 1941 by local artist Orr Cleveland Fisher (1885-1974), it is titled The Corn Parade.…more>>>

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

how structured and deliberate designers are

Above Streamlined-era magazine page layout for an Oldsmobile advertisement.

Mirra Merriman in Wendy Deutelbaum and Carol de Saint Victor, “The Art of Teaching: Interviews with Three Masters” in The Iowa Review Vol 28 No I (1998), p. 13—

One of the illusions people have who don't know about the making of art is that it’s an activity that comes out of a creative surge, a genius or passion. What is missed most of the time is how deliberate and how structured the choices that artists [especially designers] make are, and how one can read in the works of art the intellectual process that was taking place in the mind of the artist.