Friday, April 27, 2007

Maria's Parents

Maria has been a dear friend for more than 12 years, and has helped me keep my home clean all these years. She is originally from El Salvador, and is now working on her U.S. citizenship. Her parents, who live in El Salvador, are here currently visiting her. She brought them along for me to meet. It was so nice to meet them. Her father is a very sweet man, and helped her out while she worked.

Maria's parents live in a very small rural village in El Salvador. They have cows, chickens and a garden. This is how they live, with no jobs. Cold water, no air conditioning. I told Maria it actually sounds refreshing. They were fascinated by the eclectic things in my house. They told Maria they were seeing things they'd never seen before, and were amazed to see so many things from so many other countries.

I wanted to take their photo. Maria's father especially loved the handmade shrine (from India) underneath the Chinese checkerboards. That's where he wanted the photo taken. And this is the pose he chose as well. Awesome, no?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Japanese Character Mask Collection

Now that my photography skills have improved somewhat over the last few years, I decided it was time to re-vamp my ModernToys™ Museum collection. I re-shot all the toys, and added three more pages. The 4th and 5th pages are devoted to Japanese children's masks. Check them out if you feel like it HERE. Click on any of the thumbnails to see the full toy or mask. The link at the top is to the mask page.

I'll be adding another page of masks tomorrow!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut: So It Goes*

There were a few books that I encountered in my late teens and early 20s that fleshed out my world by an exponential number. The most memorable of those books were J.D. Salinger's 9 Stories and Franny and Zooey, Ram Dass's Be Here Now, Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf and Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. Well, all of Vonnegut's books, really. Once I read Slaughterhouse Five, there was no stopping at that point. I then read Cat's Cradle, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and you know the rest of the stories.

There are always people from your own generation, and from previous ones, that light the way, for those of us who want to believe that there is more to the universe and to existence than our mainstream culture revealed to some of us during our childhood. My father owns a clothing store, and my memories of him going to work everyday, coming home in the evening still absorbed in this quotidian world, instilled in me the distinct impression that life as an adult was intrinsically uninteresting. Although very young, I just assumed that being an adult was boring, and that was reality.

Fortunately, when I was 12, The Beatles invaded, and I do mean, invaded. And that started the spark for me. It implanted, without me even knowing, the first seed that the universe was immense, and so were the possibilities. The next epiphany came when I was around 22. I was reading a Rolling Stone article about Paul McCartney. This was post-Beatles. The article was about Paul's new solo album. I know this will sound incredibly trite to you, but it was a huge epiphany for me suddenly--Paul didn't just slip into the business world after the Beatles. He continued creating music and carried this passion into the--and now for that phrase--"adult world". I was already primed to be a hippie at that point, but this gave me the necessary nudge. The direction of my life was for me to create. And it's been an adventure ever since.

So, it is with a really deep sense of sadness to learn of Kurt Vonnegut's passing. He was one of the people in my life, whom I had never met, but somehow known intimately. The normal metaphor would be to say that Vonnegut was a light of the world. And he was. But I like to think of him more as a medium of the universe. Like Lennon, like Dylan, like LSD, like Ram Dass, like Rimbaud. Some people seem to be more attuned to the universe. Vonnegut was one. He was brilliant and funny, and knew how to describe the human condition in a way that resonated with my sense of who I was. He taught me more about me.

He will be missed, but he won't be the last. So it goes.

*The title of this blog entry refers to the phrase Vonnegut uses in Slaughterhouse Five whenever a death occurs.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

President & CEO George W. Bush: Nixon Nostalgia

I just watched the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon, which was moving, to say the least. Throughout my 37 years or so of political awareness, I NEVER thought I would be nostalgic for Richard Nixon. Nixon may have had his criminal side, but nothing as insidious and manipulative as CEO Bush. The Nixon White House perceived a real threat in John Lennon. In Lennon's FBI files is a letter from then Senator Strom Thurmond to the White House recommending deportation as a "strategic measure", and you know the rest of the story. (If not, you can read the actual FBI files here.)

What the Bush White House has done is far more insidious. They have established the Executive Office as sacrosanct, immune from the fundamental principles of Checks and Balances. Because of the privilege of having a Republican rubber-stamp Congress, they have been able to sustain the illusion. Bush and his co-CEO Cheney have run the office like a corporation--expecting the nation to run on their directives, unquestioned and unchallenged. They have curbed our Bill of Rights, and called it the "Patriot" Act. Wherever Bush appears, protesters are cordoned off a safe distance from his (and the news cameras') presence. In the wake of the current U.S. Attorney scandal, they have agreed to unrecorded questioning of certain White House officials, and they not be under oath. Dissent, one of our fundamental rights--and the reason, I might add, that we are no longer English--is repressed, discouraged and equated with disloyalty and lack of patriotism.

In short, CEO Bush has hijacked the office of President. He promised when he first became President that he would restore dignity to the office (an obvious dig at President Clinton). He has, in fact, degraded it. His anti-intellectual, Crusade-centric, shoot-from-the-hip attitude has hurt our image around the world in such a way that it may take 50 years to restore it. One wishes now that his transgressions could have been as simple as getting a blow job from an intern!

Yes, I would prefer Nixon. Next to Bush, he was a lightweight. And this brings one bit of sadness to the fore---I miss John Lennon. What has allowed the current state of affairs is indifference. I would go so far as to say that the Holocaust did not happen primarily because of Jew-hating Nazis; it happened because of the indifference of the German people, the American people as well as the rest of the world. Indifference is more powerful than hatred. Lennon cared deeply about war, and put himself on the line to help end it. You may not know that he did not perform for money one time after the Beatles broke up. He only performed for political causes, and for free.


Sunday, April 08, 2007


Check out this website with some great anti-war posters.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Steven Guarnaccia

By the way, the friend I referred to in the last entry is a New York-based illustrator, whose work is quite extraordinary. He's been extensively published everywhere from the New York Times to the Italian design magazine Abitare. He's published a number of books, including an updated version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears (see it on Amazon); a skeleton pop-up book (also on Amazon); a beautiful book on the theme of "Black + White"; and projects too numerous to mention here. Steven currently teaches Illustration at Parsons.

Check out some samples of his work here.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Cool Rock Poster Art

I sell music memorabilia, mostly from the 60's through the 80's, but recently my good friend Steven turned me on to a contemporary artist who has broken the mold of the Kozik-influenced poster style. Her name is Tara McPherson. She's not an unknown artist, by any means, but I haven't seen her music poster work until now. She has reconnected 60's psychedelic artwork with the 21st Century. Her posters are primarily about the graphics, and she diminishes the venue information. The venue is almost secondary. Stanley Mouse, Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin and other iconic 60's artists did the same thing, only by incorporating the text into almost unreadable visuals (you almost had to be stoned to read them). Even though the poster was meant to advertise a concert, it became about the artwork itself. I think Tara has done the same thing updated. The venue information is secondary to the piece, which gives the poster as a whole more visual strength.

I've included a couple of samples of her artwork here. Go to her site for more HERE!