Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Polish Cat Stamps: A Lesson In Cuteness

It was hard to say exactly why I did not let out an “Ooooooo cute!” when I came upon these sheets of cat stamps from Poland.

At first I thought that by finding them in Yale’s Beineke collection, I assigned them more gravitas than I would your average cat stamp. But I wasn’t really convinced. Then I realized, that there must be some sort of “multiple-effect” operating, if there is such a thing. Array anything in a fine enough grid and you read the grid, not the image. And while grids have many wonderful qualities, let’s face it, they are not cute.

I happened to be looking through "Suspects, Smokers, Soldiers, and Salesladies," a wonderful collection of collages by Ivan Chermayeff and was glad to have this "theory" of multiples confirmed as a design axiom. Here’s what he says:
What about seeing several things repeated? Repeating is an act that forces one to view the act instead of the actor. If something ugly is repeated and remains ugly, it only means that it has not been repeated often enough. Repeating is like enlarging in this respect because if something ugly is big, then it only means that it was not made big enough. The Saint Louis arch is horrendous as an airport souvenir and quite magnificent as the gateway to the city… Supermarket shelves prove that the visual repetition of the worst possible packages can be a delight, which sometimes even surpasses the repetition of the best packages.

As the sheets were undated, I went elsewhere to find when they were issued. That’s when I came upon a listing for them on Etsy, arrayed as single stamps of a series. They date back to 1964.

Oooooooo, how cute!!!!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Soviet Chess Books

Above, the Botvinnik-Tal match, 1960

Is there another game with as much in the way of illustrative, graphic and metaphoric possibilities? You’ve got royalty, war, strategy, various figures and characters, not to mention the black and white checkered board on which the game is played.

The importance of chess in the Soviet Union cannot be overstated. As Grandmaster Anatoly Karpov, World Chess Champion, 1975-1985 put it, “Chess in Russia is like baseball in America.”

Paul Hoffman interviewed Karpov (above) in 2010. Here’s an excerpt.

Question: Why has Russia dominated the chess world?

Anatoly Karpov: Because of long time traditions and chess was... chess was part of intellectual life in Russian Empire. And so big writers, great writers they were playing chess and so this was privilege in part of top society, in top society people. And then after the revolution, new power, they saw in chess the tool of bringing knowledge and education because it was easy, it was cheap and if you recall the time when revolution happened, most of educated people and top society people they left the country. And so new power should work out something to make new intelligencia and new intellectual people. And so they believed that with the help of chess they could do it, and especially it’s very cheap compared to any other things. I don’t talk even about sport, but about other subjects and sciences. And that’s why it was supported and even during civil war, when we had civil war in 1920, first championship for Soviet Russia took place. And later it became part of education system, before World War II. And after all chess became national game. Like you have here in America, you have baseball, and so Russia had chess.

The Chess ABC-Book, Czech book published in Russian, 1983.

"Kids Play Chess"
Kindergarten textbook, 1991

Garry Kasparov's game with Deep Blue

Grand master Eduard Gryunfeld, left, and "I Prefer to Risk" about five time world champion, Nona Gaprindashvili. She was the
first woman grandmaster.

1927 book about famous game between Alehin and Capablanca.

Third world champion J. R. Capablanca.

"The Praxis of My System," by A. Nimzovich, 1962

"Become a Grand Master," 1985

Chess magazines, 1966.

Chess game journal.

Books are from eBay and antiquarian bookseller sites.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Sunshine State of Mind

Map of Floria in oranges and grapefruit, circa 1940s. This postcard, along with others in this post, are from the wonderful site Florida Memory.

For modern-day Florida, see tonight’s Republican reality show with Newt, Mitt, Rick & Ron.

If you’d like some visual distraction, here’s a bit of nostalgia from the Sunshine State.

Juice King orange crate label.

Ostrich Farm

Shell show catalog, St. Petersburg, 1967.

Brochure, The Fountain of Youth, St. Augustine.

Ceiling of the post office in Miami Beach. (via Flickr)

Weeki Wachee Mermaids.

Busch Gardens, Tampa.

Early Bird Special at Wolfies, in Miami Beach. (From here)

Anita Bryant in an ad for orange juice, 1970s.

The Fountainbleau Hotel, Miami Beach, and
Slim Aarons photo of the cat-shaped pool.

"A Florida Blossom Among Grapefruit and Oranges"
via Kitschy-kitschy-coo.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Anonymous Good: Eyelash Photo

A friend of mine has this totally cool black and white photo of false eyelashes hanging in his bathroom (TMI?). He found it in a warehouse that was being emptied many years ago. I presume that it was for advertising, but there really is no clue as to age, purpose, or maker. And none of that detracts even one wink from its fabulousness.

I love how the length is exaggerated with those long luxurious shadows, and how there’s only one pair that is “open.”

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