1940’s Magazine Ads, Part Two

March 28, 2016
From a Cigarette Ad, 1930's.

From a Cigarette Ad, 1930’s.

This is part two of my exploration of vintage magazine advertisements.

In this detail, above, a yellow “devil figure” pokes an arrow toward a nervous hand.  The whole point of the ad is that smoking will calm you if you’re wound up or agitated.  The beneficial effects of tobacco, liquor and perfume are often proclaimed.

crowAnimals and cartoon characters are sometimes present.  Above, we see the gloomy-looking bird hawking cheap bourbon whiskey.  Below, two cheerful cartoon birds prepare to start a drinking party with a bottle of Schenley’s “Light-bodied whiskies.”  The ad includes the copy: SCHENLEY “SWALLOWS” SING: “A Highball Tastes up to the Minute; When You Put Better Spirits In It.”

schenleytoThen there’s this beer ad, featuring a cat.  Back in the 1940’s, people didn’t seem too concerned that ads featuring cartoons could sell adult products to children.

Purity, Body and Flavor.

Purity, Body and Flavor.

It’s interesting to compare the style and approach of these old ads with the ads of today.  Magazines aren’t the important force that they were 60 or 70 years ago.  Television and computers have changed things a lot.  In the 1930’s and 1940’s radio, the movies and the printed publications held wide interest and influence.  There were less distractions and (some would say) better distractions.

From an ad for Le Jon Brandy.

From an ad for Le Jon Brandy.

Some of the art in these ads is interesting.  The painting style in these last two examples ended up being parodied in MAD magazine by Bill Elder.

From a Whiskey Ad.

From a Whiskey Ad.

I prefer a lot of the old ads to the ones of today.  Partly, they’re just a reflection of their times.  Yet what seemed innocent or normal then, can seem to be a bit odd or twisted today.


1940’s Magazine Ads, Part One

February 29, 2016
From a "Sky Chief Luggage Ad.

From a “Sky Chief Luggage Ad.

I’ve been doing a study of magazine advertising from 1938 to 1946 or so.   Most of these are from the New Yorker.  I’ve also looked at LIFE, Saturday Evening Post and others.  Some of the details are really interesting.  I’ve been posting some scans on my facebook page.  I’ll share some here as well.  This is the first of two parts.  I may revisit this topic again in the future as well.  Ads of the 1950’s?


Some of the products and places being sold are no longer with us.  Do they still make  Allen’s toffee?

There was an ad for tourism in Cuba, back before the revolution. Then there’s this ad, making money out of misery:


It’s definitely strange and seems to be in poor taste, at the least. Then there’s this one.  A late World War Two airline ad seems to espouse a sense of a “One World” utopia:

Late 1944.

Late 1944.

There was a strange series of Elsie the Cow cheese ads.  Some ads were drawn by well-known cartoonists such as William Steig and Virgil Partch aka VIP.  Here’s a trio of aristocratic tomatoes:


I like the unusual design elements in many of these advertisements. By comparison, many of today’s print ads seem to be ugly or out-of-date even when they’re new.  Is the future here yet?


From a Sylvania Electronics Ad, circa mid 1940’s.

Watch the Skies, Part One

January 31, 2016

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I’ve been taking a lot of photos when I’m looking up.  The patterns of light, clouds and sky fascinate me.  Only a few seem to make an interesting photograph.   Yet I’m keep trying.  I keep looking and keep shooting.

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When walking,  I often watch the ground.  That way, I don’t trip or stumble.  Sometimes I find things too: debris, money and so on.  Yet the skies!  The air is wild.

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The first three here are from 2014.  The final image is from 2013.  All were shot in Detroit.

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Searching for Shadows

December 31, 2015


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New York City

I search for shapes in the shadows.

I love to see the silhouette of a tree projected onto the side of a building.

My own shadow is usually a friendly presence.

Photography is a method for capturing shadows, among other things.


Detroit, 2013.


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New York City.

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Detroit, 2014.



The World, As Reflected in Puddles

November 30, 2015

fo PICT0071In my photography, I’m always on the lookout for images reflected in puddles.  The still, standing water serves as a mirror which faces up. These are like small lakes.

This neighborhood parking lot was treacherous to drive through or to walk through.  They’ve since filled some of the holes with dirt and gravel.  It’s better now but still pretty bad.  Erosion does its work.

I’ve done a series of these puddle photos.  It’s hard to find any that are worth shooting but I keep looking for them.

These were all taken in Detroit in 2015.

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This one was in the rain under streetlight. It was raining, and the lights in the water looked like strange eyes.


Halloween Meets the Day of the Dead

October 30, 2015
Charles Addams books, a witch rattle and some Japanese skeleton art.

Charles Addams books, a witch rattle and some Japanese skeleton art.

Halloween and the Day of the Dead as Ritual and Festival

This is an exhibit at the Library of the McNichols Campus of the University of Detroit Mercy.

The display runs from October 30th to November 20th, 2015.

The library is currently open seven days a week.  Here are the hours:


It‘s on the west side of Detroit at McNichols and Livernois.  Here’s the location:


Both Halloween and the Day of the Dead celebrations go way back.  Halloween goes back to the Celtic harvest festivals in the 1500’s.

The Day of the Dead has roots connected with Aztec festivals even earlier than the Celtic harvest festivals.  In Spanish it is called El Día de los Muertos.  It used to be celebrated in the summer.  In the 1500’s, it was moved to the same autumn days as the Christian Allhallowtide.  It started as a harvest festival yet ended up as more of an an occasion to honor and remember those who’ve died.

José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) is an important figure in connection with this holiday.  His skeleton drawings have become iconic.

One major expression of the holiday is the ofrenda.  This is a sort of memorial altar which commemorates a specific person or a group of people.  Flowers, food, sugar skulls and mementos are items which are included in these ofrendas.

I made one when I was part of the Zeitgeist Detroit group, about ten years ago.  There are always enthusiastic Day of the Dead celebrations here in Detroit.  In the past few years, the Detroit Institute of Arts has celebrated the holiday by hosting a grouping of ofrendas

I think that it’s important to keep the Day of the Dead celebration separate from the Halloween holiday.  They both employ skeleton imagery.  Both involve the community.  Yet the Day of the Dead is about poetic imagery, memory and honoring those that we’ve lost.  Halloween seems to have become a sort of oddball party.  It’s focus is more wide-ranging.

Halloween goes back to the 1500’s.  It became a popular holiday in the United States around the mid 1800’s.  Before that, it was celebrated here only sporadically.

In America it started off as mainly a children’s holiday, but now Halloween’s become a big holiday for adults, as well.  It gives people and excuse to dress up and to socialize.  Of course, it’s also become big business. There’s money to be made from candy, drinks, food, costumes and decorations.

Kids still go from door to door begging for treats.  They’re usually in costume and collect candy in paper bags or pillow cases.  They ring door bells and yell Help the Poor or Trick or Treat to alert the households on their route.  Sometimes kids go out and play tricks on people, whether they get a treat or not.

There are massive Halloween parties for children or adults or for both.  There are “haunted houses” and Halloween themed concerts.  There are parades.  It’s an interesting holiday.  It’s all about ghosts, witches, goblins, fright and things that go bump in the night.

Halloween rarely seems to be a harvest festival or a time for memorials.  I think that there’s still a little of that though.  It seems to be more in the background.

I’ve seen attempts to commercialize the Day of the Dead as well.  I hope that it doesn’t happen.  We try to pay tribute those who we’ve lost in an honest and creative way.  It shouldn’t become just another way to make money.

A pumpkin, a gift and three masks.

A pumpkin, a gift and three masks.

The exhibit is on the first floor of the library.  In the farthest case, I’ve installed an exploration of the skeleton.  This is made up of quotations and of skeleton imagery.  In the nearby flat case, there a tribute to the Day of the Dead. This includes works by José Guadalupe Posada and Diego Rivera.  There’s a tribute to Frida Kahlo.  There’s also information and history related to this celebration.

In the lobby there’s a tribute to Halloween.  The first case is primarily a group of masks.  There are also a few toys and books.  The second case is a collection of Halloween themed children’s books.  There’s also an audio cassette of frightening sounds.  In the third case there are books on haunted houses, vampires, werewolves, ghosts and poltergeists.  There are also Crypt of Terror comic books and a few toys.  Case number four includes Charles Addams books and a witch toy.  Case five is a tribute to scary movies.  These are mostly older works from 1920 to 1980, including works by Harry Houdini, Alfred Hitchcock, Tod Browning, F.W. Murnau, Lon Chaney and others.  I hope that these displays give a good sense of the spirit of this holiday.

This case is in tribute to various scary motion pictures. Films featured here include The Haunted Castle, The Phantom of the Opera., Dracula, Freaks, Nosferatu and The Wicker Man.

This case is in tribute to various scary motion pictures. Films featured here include The Haunted Castle, The Phantom of the Opera., Dracula, Freaks, Nosferatu and The Wicker Man.

Further Information

Dia de los Muertos:


José Guadalupe Posada:





Ofrenda Altars:



Halloween “versus” Dia de los Muertos:




Harvest Festivals:






Devil’s Night:


My Library Exhibits at the University of Detroit Mercy

September 30, 2015
From a 2007 exhibit detailing the history of the art and theatre at Detroit's

From a 2007 exhibit detailing the history of the art and theatre at Detroit’s “Zeitgeist.” The painting here is by Jacques Karamanoukian.

I work at the library on the McNichols campus of the University of Detroit Mercy.  I’m responsible for a great many jobs, including book repair.  Since 2001 or 2002, I’ve assembled some 20 to 40 exhibitions here.  One of the “fun parts” of my work is to assemble and install these displays.

First I go through the collection here at the library.  I often find good materials there.  Then I also go through my own collections.  When I do that, I need to carry it all on the bus.  Once I had to spend thirty minutes standing up on a crowded bus with a heavy framed drawing.  I’ve had to lug a lot of books and other objects back and forth.

Sometimes I’ve borrowed materials from friends and acquaintances.

I loved doing the 2007 show on the history of the Detroit’s Zeitgeist art space.  It was a lot of work though.  I’ve had several art exhibits here including a strong group show and a solo exhibit by Jennifer Gariepy.

In 2002 I had a huge solo exhibit of my own work.  I had a concurrent solo exhibit at the Zeitgeist as well.  George Tysh came and interviewed me and I had a full-page article in the Detroit Metro Times.

Of all the exhibits I’ve done here, that was the most “press” I’ve received.

In 2002, my friend Jacques Karamanoukian died.  Later that year, I did a memorial show for him, including a lot of his artwork and writings by and about him.

Part of a

Part of a “Black History Month” display in 2007.

Most years, I’ve put together exhibits for Women’s History Month and African-American History Month.  We also do an annual exhibit for Constitution Day.

There have been a number of exhibits honoring Dudley Randall and Detroit’s Broadside Press.  Some of these I helped with and some I didn’t.  I remember Randall from when I was an undergraduate here.  He was a librarian at this library.

Recently, I did an exhibit of books from the library’s collection.  Here, I tried to include books from nearly every category and interest.  In the past, I’ve done exhibits of art books, of photography books and of children’s books.

Early on, I did an exhibit on what not to do to books.  I included nearly everything bad which can happen to a book.  There were books that had been damaged by water.  There were books attacked by pets and by children.  There were examples of underlining and dog-earing.  One book had been ripped into two pieces and was captioned The Complete Edgar Allan Poe, in Two Parts.

I did a generic all music exhibit, including a lot of album covers.  I did a wide-ranging cinema exhibit too.  It got a nice write-up in the events listings at the Detroit Metro Times.

From my 2008 Puppet Exhibit.

From my 2008 Puppet Exhibit.

One of my favorite exhibits was my puppet exhibit.  I showed most of my personal puppet collection.  There were also books, articles and pictures which explored the history of puppetry.


Another detailed and expansive exhibit was The Wild Imagination at Play from 2010.  This dealt with overlaps and intersections between newspaper cartoons and film animation.  It featured such favorite as Popeye and Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo in Slumberland.  Though there, it went into the history and methods of both printed and cinematic cartoons.


From a 2008 Exhibit.

From a 2008 Exhibit.

There was an interesting chemistry exhibit which I put together with the UDM chemistry department.

There was an exhibition remembering the events of September 11, 2001.

I’m sure that there were interesting shows that I’m just not remembering.  I’m trying to assemble a complete chronological listing.

I’ve started a series of exhibits detailing Detroit’s cultural history.  In 2014 I did a history of Detroit’s visual arts scene.  This was fairly extensive and expanded into a facebook page and a series of blog posts.


This was the first of a series.  This year I had a 3 month-long Summer show celebrating the Detroit poetry scene and my own poetry and art zine, The Poetic Express.


It’s hard to get people out to see a Summer show, even if it’s up for three or four months.  Next year I plan on doing a history of Detroit’s cinema/motion picture scene including the Detroit Film Theatre, Jam Handy, Cass City Cinema and more.

Also in the works are show on Detroit music and a further exploration of Detroit’s poetry scene.  Get by if you can.

Found Photos

August 31, 2015
At the Electric Shoe Hospital.

At the Electric Shoe Hospital.

I’ve long enjoyed collecting photographs of people that I don’t know.  Some of these are discarded or lost family photographs.  These include both snapshots and more formal photo studio portraits.

To me, most of these are worth looking at,  Some are just odd or curious.  Others are mysterious and poetic.


The Cat and the Fish.

I’ve found them at garage sales, at used book stores and in trash piles by the curb.  They just keep turning up.

Some related material:






Four Women, One Pointing.



My Text Collection

July 28, 2015

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This box contains a collection of notes written over a forty-year period.

I’ve written things on small pieces of paper since I was in my late teens.  Recently, I started putting most of them all in one box.

I call these my texts or my text.

Sorting these will be one of my Winter projects.  Some will go right to trash or recycling.  Some will go in the treasure pile.  There are sure to be some strong winners.

These include the well-written bits, especially the fully formed poems.  I’m sure there will also be fragments of poems or plays and ideas for poems or plays.

Some will help me to place my history.  If I wrote down what I was doing and dated it, it can help me to reconstruct bits of my life.

There’ll be a lot of scribbled down quotations and things that I copied from books.  Then there are the phrases and ideas that pop into my head.  If they’re worthy, I try to write them down before I forget them.

There might even be a few drawings.

These texts account for a very small portion of my written works.  I have thirty or forty blank books which are filling up.

The pen and pencil are both essential.  The manual typewriter and the word processor have been my steady companions and worthy tools.  Then too, there are all these blog posts.  I have many works in progress.

I feel a strange compulsion to write.

From 1934: Old Tickets from the Cleveland Railway Company

June 30, 2015

tickettooI found these tickets in an old book on a used book sale shelf.  They’re quite beautiful and unusual.

Here, I share with you a bit of history.  Trains and streetcars were huge in the 1930’s and 1940’s.  More and more, the automobile came to prominence and supremacy.  As we become aware of the price we paid for that, maybe the world of the rail will have a resurgence.

As I write this, they’re building a stretch of train track on one of Detroit’s main streets.

ticketduo Further information on the old  Cleveland Railway Company:






Detroit’s new rail system, phase one:



Woodward Avenue, Detroit, June 2015

Woodward Avenue, Detroit, June 2015


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