Animal Mummies?

Animal Mummies? post image

This looks absolutely ghastly. These people must be desperate.

Drawn from our renowned collection, the exhibition features choice examples from among the many millions of mummies of birds, cats, dogs, snakes, and other animals preserved from at least thirty-one different cemeteries throughout Egypt. Animals were central to the ancient Egyptian worldview. Most animals had connections to a particular deity. After death, mummified animals’ souls could carry a message to a god.

Brooklyn Museum

Soulful Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt

SEPTEMBER 29, 2017–JANUARY 21, 2018

Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 4th Floor

Hugh Hefner and the World of Art

Art, Commentary
Hugh Hefner and the World of Art post image

The death of Hugh Hefner at age 91 hurled us headlong back into recollections of the 1960s and what Playboy was supposed to be about.

If you weren’t a Playboy reader in those days—and few of us alive today were, let’s face it, since that would imply you were then a male between 25 and 50 years of age, making you about 90 years old today—you had a weird notion of it, one that came filtered through the schoolyard and MAD magazine. Playboy was a dirty magazine, a skin book. It had pictures of “naked ladies.” Read More…

Ask the Family Doctor: Taming the Bed-Wetters

column, Medicins sans frontal-lobes
Ask the Family Doctor: Taming the Bed-Wetters post image

with Ferenc Molmar, MD

Q. My youngest child, now 13, still wets his bed and I would like to cure him before he goes off to boarding school. I remember many years ago when you used to appear on the old Today Show with Jack Lescoulie and you demonstrated a sort of harness that could be used to cure bed-wetting, by strapping the children in at night. Do they still make this, or do you still use this? Read More…

Noted with Pleasure, in the Manner of Terry Southern

Noted with Pleasure, in the Manner of Terry Southern post image

Brooklyn recently went to a Tom Wolfe chin-music recital in New York. And my reaction was: you couldn’t drag me to a Tom Wolfe reading for all the smack in China. Not even if the opening act was a mud-wrestling grudge-match between Erica Jong and Susan Sontag. Read More…

Huntington Hartford Museum, 1964 Cartoon


This Esky cartoon is pretty inscrutable today, but Mr J D King points out that the Plaid Stamps sign is an allusion to the Pop Art fad of the period.

Hunt ‘n’ Andy

Mr Huntington Hartford was a much-married playboy and philanthropist who succeeded in running through his entire inheritance (A&P supermarkets) before he died. He pissed a few million away on an entertainment magazine, and then wasted another hundred million by building a modern-art museum on a traffic island by Columbus Circle—then a down-at-the-heels part of town.

A&P were the main providers of Plaid trading stamps. Plaid was a distinctly second-tier brand, the high-end competitor being the Beinecke family’s S&H Green Stamps. Just before the bottom fell out of the trading-stamp industry (late 60s?), you could get Green Stamps at major filling stations.

This was the pre-Oil Crisis era, when competition was fierce among the major chains. They couldn’t compete on price, since they all charged 29/9 to 39/9 for a gallon of basic leaded fuel, so they sited themselves in as many locations as they could (if Sunoco built a station on a corner, Gulf or Esso or Chevron soon went up opposite). And they ran never-ending giveaways and promotions. Read More…

Ask the Family Doctor

column, Medicins sans frontal-lobes

Dr Molmar

with Ferenc Molmar, MD

Q. My 5-year-old son has a very large purple cyst in the middle of his forehead. It does not interfere with his activities, but it looks a sight and makes people not notice what a handsome child he is. Lately he has begun to pick at it, and I think its presence distresses him. Should we take him to a dermatologist and have it removed, or just hope that my son outgrows it?

A. Healthy children normally engage in rough-and-tumble games, and it is not unusual for them to have bruises and scars and facial lesions. In your son’s case the cyst appears to be benign and naturally occurring. Instead of indulging your son’s vanity by removing a harmless growth, it is far better for you to teach him to accept it and learn to live with it. Boys who are overly concerned with their looks at this age typically grow up to be homosexuals. Read More…

Remembering Stuart Davis


Around the time of the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair, Stuart Davis was one of the most famous American painters . . . (to be continued)

Rauschenberg: Review of Reviews

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(First in a Series)

The Rauschenberg Problem, Part 1

Thing about Robert Rauschenberg is, it’s not at all clear what he really ever did, other than hang out with artpals . . . and experiment with various mixed media . . . and mountainous junkyards of techno-gadgetry that get set up and oohed over in “installations.” I guess they call them installations because you need six Bekins men and assorted appliance guys just to install them.

For my money, there’s nothing more spoiled and indulgent than a big art installation, something nobody can really buy and show off in the parlor. They are doomed to a life of roadshows, even when they have a nominal home such as the Beaubourg in Paris, which is where Rauschenberg’s Oracle often lives. (See pic, and the piece on the Tate Modern, below.)

Who does installations, anyway? Mainly they’re show-off academic artists who live on things like grants and hang out with art-pals and strive for ever-more edgy and insipid piles of junk. Rauschenberg doesn’t quite fit that mold, being really old and all, but he sort of invented it.

(At the Tate Modern last year…)

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008) has been called a forerunner of essentially every postwar movement since Abstract Expressionism. He moved seamlessly between the mediums of painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture, installation and performance, and often wove these methods together, blurring the lines between conventional artistic categories and developing a practice that defies simplifications and categorizations.

His open and inclusive approach to art led him to engage in meaningful dialogues with his direct peers, such as Jasper Johns and Cy Twombly, while also collaborating with choreographers, musicians, and even scientists and engineers. Rauschenberg’s global perspective and international footprint—something quite common for artists working today—was revolutionary at the time and demonstrative of his strong belief in the power of art to transcend cultural borders.

“Robert Rauschenberg” will present a holistic and multifaceted overview of the artist’s prolific career. The retrospective will include key examples from his iconic “Combines” series as well as showcase his innovative experiments with media appropriation, technology and performance. The exhibition will also reveal the global impact of Rauschenberg’s career, focusing on his close partnerships with artists across Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

Tate Modern’s presentation will begin with an examination of Rauschenberg’s early works, which were largely influenced by his formative years at Black Mountain College, North Carolina, a hub of artistic innovation and experimental practice in the 1940’s and early 50’s. During this period, both found materials and images became integral to Rauschenberg’s visual vocabulary as he began to incorporate newspapers and magazines into his drawings and prints, and perfected techniques of solvent transfer and assemblage.

Beginning in the 1960’s Rauschenberg produced several ambitious artworks incorporating technology, such as the sculptural environment Oracle, 1962-65. Comprised of five elements that Rauschenberg called “gifts from the street,” the sculpture has no fixed composition and emits a range of sounds from radios hidden inside the units.

The Polo Shirt, Rediscovered

margot darby

For years I shunned polo shirts because the standard cotton-piqué type (Lacoste, 1970s) was always just a little bit too heavy, and the cut of the women’s style was somehow too restrictive. (Something to do with the armholes, you know.) Of course you could always buy a larger size, but that was like wearing a men’s: baggy, totally unbecoming.

And the good ones were always so expensive. I remember how in the original novel Jaws the chief remembers how badly he wanted a Lacoste shirt, like the ones the summer people at Nantucket wore. But his mother sneered, called the Lacoste polo a “two-dollar shirt with a ten-dollar alligator,” or something like that. I guess this was supposed to be back in the 40s or 50s, but it was pretty funny to read in the early 70s, when Lacostes already cost about $30.

The best-made polos I’ve seen these days are from Fred Perry. Their detailing is perfect and everyone looks good in them. Alas, they too are a bit heavy, and quite expensive (around $90 most places).

I think the theory is that they last forever, and soften up after many wears and washing, and after you’ve had them many years you don’t care what you paid.

They are an investment, in other words, like a $200 Mason Pearson hairbrush that lasts a lifetime, provided you don’t lose it. Myself, I’ve never dared “invest” in a Mason Pearson brush.

But I’ve found a new source for polo shirts, and it may surprise you. It’s Vistaprint, the online company that makes you business cards and letterheads. Not only can they sell you a polo for about $25, they’ll even embroider your insignia onto it.

I toyed around with their site recently, inventing country clubs and yacht clubs with funny names. Finally I settled on a navy polo bearing a black-sun logo and the words BLACK SUN YACHT CLUB.

I’m told yachting shirts are almost never black, as they absorb the sun, but that just makes the whole thing funnier!

Really, take a look at this mockup: obviously it’s not as detailed as a Fred Perry, with Fred’s contrasty trim at collar and sleeves. But you do have the choice of many makes and fabrics, including some in dry-fit tech synthetics. And you can get the personalized shirt embroidered and shipped to you in a week or so, all for under $30.

What I really want though, now, is a sleeveless polo dress.

Crime and Punishment at the Art Students League

(Originally published June 29, 2014)

Odd doings at the Voorhees-Rohr Mansion!

Our very own Mr. Ian Stuart Dowdy of the Art Students League likes to tell the tale of how he was responsible for the death of an old lady he was supposed to be taking care of. Old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr was often bedridden with a prolapsed colon and needed round-the-clock care. As no nurse or home-care-giver was available on a live-in basis (this was during the War), and the live-in maid did not wish to do this sort of work, Mrs. V-R had her attorney look for a young man or woman who could move into the spare bedroom down the hall.

A day or two later our own Ian Stuart Dowdy appeared and you can guess the rest.

A willowy, good-hearted young bit of artsy flotsam, Dowdy was very much an urban “type” of the era. Too snooty to be ribbon clerks at Bonwit Teller, young fellows of this breed very frequently found sinecures as caretakers of enfeebled old ladies and gentlemen or even the odd congenital idiot with a monied family who did not wish to shut him up in an institution.

house09The Voorhees-Rohr mansion on West End Avenue, one of the original houses in the neighborhood, was in a parlous state. Electricity had not been “laid on” until the mid-1920s, and that had been done so quickly and amateurishly, by the son of an Italian cobbler (who has now inherited his father’s shoe-repair shop on Amsterdam Avenue), that the fuses blew whenever you tried to run more than two appliances at once. Our Mr. Dowdy learned this the hard way.

A shocking circumstance

He was bathing old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr’s feet in the new electric footbath her sister had given her for Christmas 1933 (but which she had never opened), and thought some music might be pleasant. So he started up a Lawrence Tibbett recording on the plug-in Victrola, forgetting first to switch off the big Atwater-Kent radio because its volume had been turned down. Immediately the house was in darkness.

“The gas! The gas!” shouted old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr. It took a while for Ian Stuart Dowdy to figure out that she meant the gaslight sconces that hung on the walls and still functioned, most of them. Soon the room was bathed in that soft, ethereal glow that only gas can provide; and Mr. Dowdy headed for the stairwell to find the fusebox.

This was nearly a weekly routine at the Voorhees-Rohr residence, and helps to explain why old Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr had never had the gas lighting removed. There was the ever-present danger that gas would leak from an unlit, broken fixture; and indeed, one could detect a bit of gassy smell in some parts of the mansion; but Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr had finessed that problem by leaving a window open in every room of the house. Mr. Dowdy did not understand this, and shut all the windows one cool night in October. Livid and hysterical the way only the old and disabled can be, Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr screamed at the top of her lungs that Dowdy was trying to kill her. People in the neighboring houses heard this and sent the police over to remonstrate with the confused and by now very frightened young caregiver.

Nevertheless, when Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr met her extremely timely end, it was not because of a gas leak. Mr. Dowdy was forbearing and meticulous, and taught himself to disconnect all electrical devices that were not being used. A full month went by without blowing a fuse. Then one day when Mr. Dowdy was briefly out of the room, Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr herself turned on the radio while running both the electric footbath and the plug-in Victrola. Patient as Job, Ian Stuart Dowdy headed on down to the under-stairs to check the fuses. While he did so, Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr helpfully attempted to disconnect the footbath, the radio, and the Victrola. But her grasp of the plugs was uncertain. Just as Dowdy was screwing in a new fuse, she electrocuted herself.

Tragedy and controversy

“She should never have had electricity put in in the first place,” was the opinion of old Mr. Burnington, the sexton from Blessed Sacrament Church on West 71st St. He had an old carriage house on the other side of Amsterdam that would remain the last non-electric holdout in the neighborhood until he passed on in 1959.

Regardless, most people believed that Ian Stuart Dowdy was somewhat to blame for Mrs. Voorhees-Rohr’s death. Neighbors rejoiced when it was reported in the Herald-Tribune that the dowager had left her caregiver absolutely nothing in her will.

It was 1950 before the Voorhees-Rohr heirs were able to evict Mr. Dowdy from the mansion with the help of a $10,000 bribe. By this time they were so sick of the old house that they decided to have it torn down and replaced with one of those ugly brick apartment buildings that were just coming into vogue. Mr. Dowdy meanwhile embellished his tale through many retellings, so that today he himself half-believes that he killed the old lady, and that it was a clear case of justifiable euthanasia.

Did Over-the-Knee Boots Cause Manchester Bombing?

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If like many women you spent the autumns of 2015 and 2016 longing for a sleek pair of over-the-knee boots, but held off because the Stuart Weitzmans you wanted started at around $800, there may be good news in store!

It now appears the thigh-boot fad is over, meaning you can probably rock a nifty pair of dominatrix specials for as little as $200.

Does that still sound steep? Remember: you can always cut a thigh boot down to calf length—or even an ankle bootie!

Ask your friendly cobbler to make your thigh-highs into pert booties.

Many smart gals will be investing in over-the-knees during this summer’s clearance sales, and then keeping an eye out for autumn trends!

I just realized the thigh-boot fad had “jumped the shark” when I noticed Ariana Grande was still wearing them at her Manchester concert last week. You know, the one where an Asiatic terrorist set off a bomb and killed a couple of dozen people, maiming or beheading many others.

Joan Crawford

Like most people, I knew very little about Ariana Grande excepted that she famously sported over-the-knee boots. I expect she’ll still be wearing them in November, when Fairchild Publications announces for the seventh time that over-the-knees are So Last Year.

Because they’re her trademark. You didn’t see Joan Crawford trade in her f*ck-me pumps for wedgies in the 60s, did you? I’m not entirely sure what f*ck-me pumps were (hence I can’t show you an image), but the point still holds.

One thing’s for sure, though. This terrorist bombing in Manchester has been an enormous shot in the arm to Ariana Grande’s career. Wrote the LA Times on May 23:

In the hours after the Manchester bombing of an Ariana Grande concert, Twitter was flooded with messages of support for the the victims and their families and friends.

But not forgotten in the aftermath of the terrorist attack, which left 22 dead, including a victim as young as 8, is Grande herself.

“These are innocent vulnerable kids,” Rihanna tweeted early Tuesday morning. “This could have been any of us.”

Like most online newspaper stories these days, this one is mainly a string of tweets.

Hiding in the Woodpile: How Altimeters Are Weaponizing Irony to Spread Margarine

Hiding in the Woodpile: How Altimeters Are Weaponizing Irony to Spread Margarine thumbnail

This seems to be what the kiddies are into these days. Confess I just don’t get it, myself. I understand the “Proud Boys” have something to do with fighting Onanism. From The Grauniad:

Experts say the ‘alt-right’ have stormed mainstream consciousness by using ‘humor’ and ambiguity as tactics to wrong-foot their opponents

Earlier this month, hundreds of “alt-right” protesters occupied the rotunda at Boston Common in the name of free speech. The protest included far-right grouplets old and new – from the Oath Keepers to the Proud Boys. But there were no swastikas or shaved heads in sight.

Instead, the protest imagery was dominated by ostensibly comedic images, mostly cribbed from forums and social media. It looked a little like an animated version of a favorite “alt-right” message board, 4chan.

At least one attendee was dressed as the cartoon frog Pepe (a character co-opted by the movement against the wishes of its creator). Others carried the flag of “Kekistan”, the imaginary country created 4chan members. Kyle Chapman, the man who became the “based stick man” meme after attacking anti-fascists armed with a gas mask and a Captain America shield, also addressed the crowd. The same crowd later confronted a counter anti-fascist protest in the street.

Read the full nonsense.

Correction: An earlier version of this article gave the author as Hallen Smith. The actual columnist is Ian Stuart Dowdy.