...will he ever win?
March 14, 2012
I've had two kids of my own, so my knowledge of this subject comes from first-hand observation. I claim magisterial authority on this subject...which is baby skin.
As you know, babies cry a lot for the first 6 months, then at the very minute they reach the seventh month, they immediately stop crying and act like cute little toddlers. The six months of crying is very trying for parents, and you have to wonder why nature would produce behaviors that are so potentially alienating to the baby's caregivers. I can't answer that, but I do know why parents put up with it. It is...amazingly...the quality of the little kid's skin.
Baby skin is the most pleasing thing to touch that you'll ever feel...well, apart from the obvious other pleasing sensation. Words can never adequately describe how soft and silky and alive it feels. No mink, no ermine, no fox fur can compete. It's the supreme experience for the sense of touch.
They say that the skin is an organ, just like the heart, but it doesn't seem that way, especially when it's dry and leathery like it is in adults. On a baby though, it's manifestly a fully functioning organ with a life of its own. The books say that it carries out complex respiratory functions and regulates some of the internal organs; It might even alter the electric field around it to produce a pleasing sensation in adults. I'll add that it also churns out fragrant oil...addictive
Yes, I said "addictive." Once you're hooked, if you don't touch that baby skin a zillion times a day you get depressed. No wonder adults get addicted to dangerous drugs...we're designed to be addiction prone so that we can be good parents.
So imagine that... your own baby addicts and manipulates you, and maybe you do the same to him. There you both are, manipulating each other and, amazingly, enjoying it. It's kind of nice to know that you're part of nature, flapping your wings and strutting around just like beetles and birds do.
Now here's the surprising thing...I've already made the point that living baby skin is like a flower that lives to attract bees. It'll do anything it can to attract its parents. What you may not know is that nature has built you to be vulnerable to that attraction, and that this attraction is partly located in the finger tips.
It's as if the skin contains sensors that you don't even know you have. They lay dormant til your baby's skin is first touched then they snap to wakefulness and you find yourself wanting to pick up the baby all the time and make silly sounds to it. That's true even if it's crying, and even if it puked on you a few minutes before. That sensitivity in the fingers is there even if you're a brick layer with tough, gnarled stubs for fingers; even if you're only feeling the baby's skin through pajamas.
So, that's one reason why having a baby is so much fun, even though it's admittedly stressful fun sometimes. I'll only add that, for this to work, the baby has to be your own baby, or one that you have a strong emotional attachment to.
March 14, 2012 07:53 AM
March 13, 2012
As you can see from the sculptures carved into Trajan's Column (above), the Romans were not always nice guys....
...but they were superb letterers. That's (above) the lettering at the bottom of the column. Thick and thin, serifs...wow, the Romans knew all about things like that. I assume the absence of space between the words is decorative and formal, and not the way writing was usually done (Stephen disagrees... read his correction in the comments).
Amazingly the Roman fonts are still with us, not only in the ubiquitous Times New Roman, but in in a host of adaptations like the ones above.
One of the most interesting of all modern fonts is Helvetica. It began life in Switzerland in 1957, in fact the name is a Latin form of the word Switzerland. It's the Calvin Kline of fonts, something that's simultaneously simple, elegant and avant garde.
My book on the subject, "Just My Type," says: "The font manages to convey honesty and invite trust, while its quirks distinguish it from anything that suggests overbearing authority; even in corporate use it maintains a friendly hominess."
Here's (above, top) my other favorite font, Futura. It's controversial because it only seems to work for capitalized titles. Whole paragraphs of it seem a little harsh. If I have the story right, somebody decided to make a version of it that favored paragraphs, and that's how Verdana (above, bottom) came to be. The problem is that Verdana only looks good in paragraphs. Verdana titles are lackluster and anal retentive. What a dilemma!
Stupid me, I would use Futura for the headlines and Verdana for the prose, but for some strange reason a lot of people don't want to do that. Forced to make a choice, most moderns prefer Verdana, so now Futura is on the endangered fonts list.
Ikea recently made the headlines when it switched it's official title to Verdana. Protesters picketed, talk of boycott was in the air. ...it was reminiscent of the public outcry when Classic Coke was taken off the shelves.
March 13, 2012 08:45 PM
March 10, 2012
Weeeeellll...here we are with Wally Wood again!
I hope you'll indulge me with one more post about about him...this time about the subjects he chooses to draw.
Of course Wood didn't write his own stories in this period. This one was ably written by Ray Bradbury. Ray packs the story with great visual ideas and Wood, as usual, adds a bunch of his own. Sorry I had to crop out some of the dialogue in order to fit everything on the scanner.
How do you like Wood's vision of the future? We see the robot servants, the hole in the floor that reveals that the apartment is probably on the 50th floor, the plants that grow through the bookshelf, the planetary models hanging from the ceiling...it's a feast for the eyes. The guy in the story hates it, but Wood and Ray can't hide their love for it. This is an important point, and I'll come back to it.
Here's (above) an excerpt from a story by Feldstein which contains lots of favorite Wood subjects: monsters, gorgeous babes in fantastic settings, and rockets flown as casually as people ride automobiles now. This is the stylized future the audience craves to see.
Other comic book artists draw the same things, but view them as background for the story. For Wood the atmospheric elements are
the story. He figures that plot and character are the writer's job...it's the artist's job to provide mythic, aspirational subtext and unforgettable images. Wood isn't just an illustrator of other people's ideas, he's a partner.
Another point I want to make is that Wood always chooses to draw things which have romantic connotation. By way of an example, take a look at the picture above. The oddly-scaled hamlet is arrayed around the rocket like Plasticville houses under a Christmas tree. The houses look tiny like they were put together with glue. It's an appealing image for people who grew up with toys like that.
Come to think of it, look at the picture of the spaceship interior (above, right). It's loaded with gizmos. Every boy in that era had a fantasy that he was the master of high technology and could use it as no other generation had before to explore the universe. Wood took that fantasy and expanded on it. He validated what we felt and cheered us on.
Maybe at this point you're thinking, "So what? All the sci-fi artists of that time did that." Well no, not really. For contrast I thought I'd put up this impressive panel by Wood's friend, Al Williamson. It's a terrific drawing, but it's...well...generic. The architecture isn't caricatured and no point of view is expressed. It illustrates the story and nothing more. And the characters...they're just well-drawn standards.
There's nothing standard about Wood's EC characters (above). They're iconic, but that's not the same thing. There's not much acting in these poses, but a great deal of attention is given to the mythic, timeless qualities the characters are trying to project.
BYW: Animation Resources recently put up some great scans of EC horror covers. You can see them at: http://animationresources.org/?p=6882
March 10, 2012 05:14 PM
March 09, 2012
March 08, 2012
Here are some of my Dad's pals.
March 08, 2012 06:13 PM
I'm a huge fan of 30s pulps (random covers above and below), and my favorite part of those stories is usually the beginning. I just can't believe how quickly pulp writers could establish a mood and get the reader involved. Fans wanted their thrills as quickly as possible, and publishers were eager to comply. I thought you might like to see a few examples, sooo.........
What do you think of this opening from "Return of the Death Master" by Curtis Steele?"The subway moved through the ground like a snake in a tunnel. It slid smoothly across the tracks, its single nose light stabbing outwards like a glowing Cyclops eye. It was the only light anywhere in the train. Inside, everything was dark."
Wow...a Cyclops of a train speeding through the night time subway tunnels...and the inside is dark. Why? Is it a runaway train? Is it controlled by a madman? Four short sentences and you're sucked in.
Here's (below) the opening of another train story, 'Corpse Cargo' by Grant Stockbridge. This one starts a little slower:"Within the train all was peace and quiet. The overhead lights were dim and the green curtains hung heavy and dark, swaying now and then to the rhythm of the speeding Island Limited. The gray-haired conductor walked slowly through the dimness, stopped a moment in the doorway of the men's smoker and glanced in at the white-coated porter busily shining shoes.
The conductor pushed on along into the car proper and looked weary-eyed along the swaying aisle. Somewhere a baby, awake in the night, gurgled. A mother murmered soft, lulling words---as on the hill the woman gripped Bolo's arm and hissed, 'Now! Now!'
The conductor was smiling, his ears filled with the mother's soft humming when, like the fury of hell, the green fire struck! It struck like lightning, like a bolt from blue, cloudless skies. The dim, sleeping aisle of the pullman glittered suddenly with liquid light. Green-white chains of flame that struck like vicious snakes stabbed out from every metal thing upon the train, from the steel sides of the coaches.
The old conductor's face twitched convulsively and the chained lightning of the killers danced in fiendish glee. In the smoker the negro porter writhed upon the floor. In their berths, men and women and children tossed and jerked in the torturing grip of incredibly powerful voltage. And everywhere through the train the green, horrible light wavered and danced."
Nice, very nice.
What do you think of this one (below)? "Night, black and rain-swept, shrouded the Kirty Institute for the insane. Gusts of howling wind attacked the ugly gray buildings like seas pounding some bleak, rocky coast. There was the same impression of desolation, of a savagely forbidding place that humans shunned.
A small car lurched to a stop in front of the guardhouse at the gate. Two men got out, collars upturned, hats pulled low."
Geez, this (above) set the mood in the very first sentense!
I'll end with a story that starts in the middle, so as not to waste a single moment of the reader's time.
"A faint, almost imperceptible, click sounded in the room. The floor beneath Conners' feet dropped like a gallows trap. What had been solid, shining mahogoney was suddenly a gaping black void. The white man stumbled forward. His gun fell from his grasp as his arms shot upward, then he shot through space. Down, down, into the darkness below.
The native servants stood blandly silent. The vagaries of their master were not new to them. From the opening in the floor there came a horrible scream of terror, that echoed ominously through the room like a banshee's wail.
'For God's sake take me out of here! What is this thing? God, it's coming close to me!" It's----' "
March 08, 2012 03:34 AM
March 05, 2012
After you're done shooting extinct animals in the uvula, you can practice smoking to prepare you for growing up.
March 05, 2012 05:24 PM