A Walk Around Harvard Yard

A couple of days ago at Harvard College was the first day that students had a chance to get settled away to their dorms; freshmen arrived with their parents, and clutches of parents and their young adult kids were clustered around the statue of John Harvard to have photos taken of them touching the shoe of the statue of Pastor John Harvard (1607-1638) for good luck, in particlular the left foot. Both feet however, show evidence of wear when seen up close and personal (the left much more than the right), proving that even some Harvard students can’t tell their left from their right.

The superstition of touching this guy’s shoe is a tad amusing, having heard John Harvard didn’t found the university, he was a benefactor whose contribution of books even got destroyed in a fire some 250 years ago, save for one volume. In fact this isn’t even the likeness of John Harvard. Truth be known, nobody knows what he looked like, and since the sculptor Daniel French had nothing to go on 240 years after Harvard was founded, he used a student as his model. Also, the base of the statue says that Harvard “founded” the university in 1638. But it was founded in 1636, and named after the Oxford University alumnus, but not founded by him.

The founding of Harvard was by a vote of the legislature in the former colony of Massachusetts Bay, changing its name from the former “New College”.

T-Shirts I’d like to see

The following image is rumored to exist on recent T-shirts, the latest of many “Che” fashion statements:

whothef-k

… well, at least something like it. I haven’t seen it on any shirt, but some are saying that they saw it on some people at one time. But this is the web, and in the spirit of showing rather than telling, I cooked this one up on Photoshop. I would love to have a T-shirt with this image on it. Too bad I couldn’t wear it to work though… 🙁

Crappy Album Covers #45 — Teenagers

Teenagers are a difficult demographic to reach, unless you don’t know anything about them. If you know nothing about the demographic, then it does’t pose a difficulty for you. I know that’s kind of like saying that if you don’t know anything about painting a portrait, then slashing the brush in any direction or color at random poses no problem to the painter. It seems that way, with the covers below. If your album overtly suggests that “This album is for teenagers”, I will guarantee you teens won’t buy them. On the other hand, if you say this is “R-rated”, and contains cuss words and sexual suggestions that would put a blush on a two-dollar hooker (you know, like Rap), and that young people shouldn’t buy them at all, then they will fly off the shelves and teens would be the biggest part of the market.

album-cover-crap-19_bizarrerecords_comCase in point, this realistic portrait of teenagers having a good time. I bet you already knew they were listening to this very record, recorded by Bobby Krane and His Orchestra, and distributed by Bravo! Records.

Look! The young lady in the foreground is saying it too! — Bravo! Bravo! At least that looks like what she could be saying.

Look at the photo and indulge in the fantasy that there is still a world where young teen girls don’t dress like sluts; the guys stay straight and sober (by “straight” I meant drug-free, but I guess it could also be taken the other way) and don’t dress like plumber-butt pimps. And the guys even ask the girls “may I have this dance with you?”

And then there’s Tex Ritter. Tex Ritter? And that’s when I woke up.

album-cover-crap-20_bizarrerecords_comThe TOPS record label, which previously warned us about the world ending, are shown here producing records of “12 Top Hits” so you can party like it’s 1999, or more to the point, like it’s 1959.

You have to admit that the one thing that stands out most about this cover is that the lady who is dancing is wearing argyle socks. I thought there was a law passed by Joe McCarthy’s HUAC banning women from wearing argyle socks. It was supposed to be a guy thing. It totally clashes with the pink blouse.  If this is a fashion statement, then she should be arrested by the fashion police for bad fashion grammar.

Once again, the cover consists of the tamest teenagers you’ve never seen. And I don’t think they existed in 1959 either. Even in 1959, teens got drunk, and they had sex. Perhaps the only worthwhile thing that the photo realistically illustrates, is that in 1959, the guys didn’t have the bad taste to wear plumber-butt pants or hoodies, which would have made the chick in argyle look like Elizabeth Taylor (I mean Liz Taylor in 1959, not in 2008).

To anyone born after the 1960s: HUAC = “House Un-American Activities Committee“. It’s sort of like Homeland Security against commies and hippies.

album-cover-crap-18_lp-cover-loverThese seemingly adult-age folks may as well be adolescent, since they are depicted in the way their parents would approve. “I Love Music” was a sampler sent to radio stations across North America from Capitol Records back in 1958. The album cover gives every indication that the HUAC would have approved of this album. Going by the cover, for instance, it is obvious that these two folks are not planning the overthrow of the proletariat, and of taking over the means of production.

The artlessness of these depictions are a sure symptom of the McCarthy era. I recall when I began collecting old issues of Mad Magazine (digested in paperback form) going back to the 1950s, the most boring and least funny issues were during the period of 1958-1963. It couldn’t have been a good time to be a satirist.

And there was one more I forgot to add:
tammy_casual-slack-080726Yes, this 12″ LP of hits, which by the cover seems to treat teenagers as younger than they really are, may not have been headed for any kind of landmark success.

A toy doll with a toy record goes to a toy jukebox to pretend to play music on it. And, what’s left? You can only sing along to the music you are pretending to play.

I must say that much of the advertising I see today parallels the kind of mentality depicted on all of these albums in today’s blog. There is a certain advertising these days that points to a certain clientele, or a certain lifestyle as we would like to see it. But it is made to look artsy, so that you can’t accuse advertisers of appealing to people that don’t really exist. Instead, it can look naive, even idealistically so.  Sticking to album covers, the Putumayo Collection, discussed earlier, is an example of album covers that are like this.

(Crappy album covers — sidebar) — The Shaggs: A quandry

Much of my youth was devoted to getting any info I could about the pop music culture I grew up in. From time to time, there would be the odd mention of The Shaggs, a band of four young sisters, Dorothy, Betty, Helen and Rachel Wiggin. In fact, there was (and likely still is) a strong cult following led by the likes of Frank Zappa. The album depicted here is a compilation called “Shagg’s Own Thing”, released in 1982. If anyone were to be introduced to The Shaggs, I would recommend this album first, since it is a better approximation of conventional music.

I don’t wish to go into a long diatribe about the history of The Shaggs. They are well-written about and have been reviewed, especially after the reissue of “Philosophy of the world” by RCA in 1999, in such publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The New Yorker.

This second album was their 1969 debut, “Philosophy of the World”, recoded a few months before Woodstock. To quote Jimmy Guterman and Owen O’Donnell, from their book “The Worst Rock and Roll Records of All Time”: “In their insistence that technical proficiency was immaterial, The Shaggs were the original punk rockers.”

People are largely on two minds about The Shaggs. On the one hand, they don’t seem to know how to play their instruments, their instruments and their voices appear to be out of tune, and they have no consciousness about keeping time with each other. If you listen to their music, this is depressingly obvious, and you feel embarrassed for them.

One gets the feeling that these sisters probably never wanted to be in a band. That was their father’s idea, and the sisters’ desires didn’t matter. This reprint of the New Yorker article paints a picture of daughters who lived in fear of Austin Wiggin, their authoritarian father, who hated much of the popular culture that was around him, and worked hard to shelter his daughters from those influences. Yet, he wanted his daughters to play popular music, partly to make a name for himself in his home of Fremont, New Hampshire; and partly to fulfill a prediction made by his clairvoyant wife that his daughters would play in a band. Neither parent was remotely musical, the kids were homeschooled, and this separated them even more from mainstream culture. What musicality could possibly emerge from such a deprived environment?

That being said, there are those who, thirty years on, still think they were on to something. I go with my instincts, and think that this was a family run by a controlling father, and what desires really exist within them to become whole; any move toward even knowing their own feelings and desires was something that only became possible after the death of Austin in 1975. The Shaggs were an extension of Austin, and had little to do with the young ladies.

Models make bad computer geeks

Computer Gique Chic
Computer Gique Chic – Unknown who the model or photographer is, but the main attraction is, is that darned computer!
I saw some images, professionally shot, of these stylish models in front of this mostly glass computer monitor with a glass touch keyboard. There were two problems I had with this: 1) there is no such keyboard or monitor; and 2) if I was that good-looking and stylish I wouldn’t be spending so much time in front of computers. This is the trouble you run into where can i buy tramadol when you have too high a budget and hire high-priced models to fill the job of conveying some kind of realism in the cyber world.And, no there is no such computer. There exist various see-through LCD displays for some of the fancier clock radios, but this has not filtered into computer screens. The patent for glass keyboards have been around since 2003, but I am not aware of see-through ones except as artwork or as props.

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