Context Is Credibility

I’ve written before about the importance of context; and ranted too about “stolen” images used, uncredited etc., at Tumblr and other sites. I’ve tweeted and posted at Facebook about my hatred of such things. Others have taken a far more direct and pointed-tongued approach (NWS) regarding the issue. But Sarah Werner‘s It’s History, Not A Viral Feed is the most direct and well-articulated article — complete with excellent resources.

— A. History (@AhistoricalPics) January 24, 2014


Desperate To Be Obscene

EBay seller LadiesOnFilm carries a large number of vintage risque and nude images from publishers of adult magazines from the 60’s through the 90’s. It’s rather clear that many of them are the unused outtakes; but then, I guess “outtakes” are in the mind of the viewer.

It’s funny how often the “bad” pictures seem more natural than the “good” pictures. I find this photo of Carol Newell (by Ron Vogel, 1968) charming. It’s how a woman sits on the stairs, relaxed, not worrying about the planes of her face and the contours of her body… There’s no arching of her back while pointing her toes. That’s how the real girl next door sits.

The women struggle to look natural in odd poses. While the props are often dated and hysterical, it’s the desperate poses for the sake of sexual puns which are far funnier. I can just hear the photographer saying, “That’s it, that’s it, baby. Now just crawl along the floor and choke that plaster snake statue…”

I’m not saying that no simply nude woman has ever taken a bad photo, but they are far more beautiful than those photographs which overreach — either in physicality or in attempts at innuendo.

Little Jumping Joan

I always found this nursery rhyme a little unnerving…

Little Jumping Joan

Here am I, little jumping Joan,
When nobody’s with me
I’m always alone.

Apparently photographer Jonathan Hobin thinks so too; this is Jumping Joan, a little girl wearing a straightjacket, from his Mother Goose series.

Sign Of The Times: A Fishy Ephemera Hunt

I confess, I kill a lot of time just looking at the old snapshots and vintage photos at eBay. Sometimes I buy them, sometimes they inspire odd comments and random captions, and sometimes I become obsessive about them. This post is about a vintage photo I’ve become obsessed over:


All the seller (Darrins-Photoclique) says of the photo is, “Vintage Photo Ruth Lee Speaking at Rally Protest” and that the photo’s size is 3.5 x 5 inches; but I have no idea who the pretty blonde Ruth Lee is… And Google, searching for that name and with variations on “activist,” “rally,” “protest,” is of no help either. So I take a good look at the signs in the photo.

I can’t make them all out; only “Fish before people right???” is absolutely clear. But I try searches for “Ruth Lee” and “human rights” — with no success. I even try searching her name with the word “fish.” (Don’t laugh; if you ever become obsessed and desperate, I wouldn’t laugh at you — with you, sure. But not at you.)

So I try to make out that nearly-white sign above the sign with the argumentative fish question. Looks like “Bring Back Simas.” So I try that. Nothing shows up with her name, but I try “Simas” alone — too many results. So I try that name with “protest,” and low and behold I discover the story of Simas Kudirka, a Lithuanian sailor who tried to defect to the USA on November 23, 1970. (That date fits the fashions in the photo far better than the seller’s ‘Pre-1950’ categorization too.)

Being only 6 years old myself at the time, I knew nothing of this. Thankfully, Martha’s Vineyard Magazine (2005) has a fine retrospective the newsworthy events and CapeCodToday (2007) covers the interesting historical connections and political ramifications — each worthy of reading.

The short story is this: The 40-year-old persecuted Simas Kudirka, a radio operator on a Soviet fish processing vessel, leaps onto the deck of a Coast Guard cutter. The vessels were moored closely together, about one mile off Martha’s Vineyard, as folks were there for a day-long fishing conference attended by American and Soviet officials. Kudirka announces that he wishes to defect, but the Coast Guard, unsure what to do, goes up the chain of command until they are told by Ed Killham, the Soviet specialist, that they could fish a defector from the water — but he fails to add that they should keep him afterward. So when the Soviets forcibly come to get Kudirka, the Coast Guard lets him go. Bound and beaten, Kudirka is dragged back to his own ship, and the Americans are told Kudirka, if not already dead, will be so soon. The nation explodes in outrage, with plenty of press coverage and rallies — this is presumably where our photo comes in — and there are a number of international political issues as a result (Cold War and all).

You’ll have to read the links to find out whatever became of Simas Kudirka; but I will tell you that in 1978 there was a made for television movie made about the incident, The Defection of Simas Kudirka, though there’s currently no home release of the film. Something J.B. Spins laments — and while I may not agree with his views on Russia’s plans, I think it’s important to remember stories like this too:

These stories are important to study. They are not distant skirmishes from the War of 1812, but critical events of the defining conflict of most of our lifetimes.

I have my perusing of vintage photos to thank for the history lesson. However, I still have no friggin’ clue who Ruth Lee is, or even where this photo was taken. If you have any information, please share it!

Whatjamacallit Wednesday, For Fans Of Blowdryers

A vintage (circa 1920’s-1930’s) photo of a model “using a then state of the art modernist hair dryer”; photo taken by illustrator Charles Gates Sheldon.


Somehow, it sort of makes Madonna’s armpit drying scene in Desperately Seeking Susan (even) more poetic, doesn’t it?

(If you’re into that scene, or Madonna in general, Madonna Celebration: The Video Collection was just released; yup, that hand-dryer-applied-to-sweaty armpit clip’s on it.)

Weekly Geeks: The Experience Of Reading & Reviewing Books

weekly-geeks-book-pileThis week’s Weekly Geeks challenge is a response to author Shannon Hale’s post about evaluating and reviewing books; we were to respond to the questions Hale asked in one of three ways — but I’m just going to go ala cart.

Since Hale’s post was as much for readers as reviewers, I feel I should start with a bit of my basic book philosophy, that reading is an experience. As such, the book is as much a prisoner of the reader’s context — your context — as it is the author’s, and the time and place in which the work was written, edited, published, etc.

Even if a book is not, as Zaid says, a conversation — or if you only view a book as a one-sided conversation — the reading of it is the process by which the book becomes alive, useful, “on.” (An unread book is just an object, art in a closet, a sweater you were given at Christmas that you don’t like enough to wear, or have no place to wear — at least not yet. Perhaps you intend to read it, but until you do, there’s no real experience with it — other than the experience you had obtaining it.)

camper-girls-1910sReading, like any other experience, does not exist in a vacuum; you take stuff with you going in. Some of it is practical, but much of it is subjective & personal. Like a hiker heading out on the trail, you take along your knowledge, educated opinions, dreams, expectations, likes & dislikes — and your previous experiences. Are you familiar with the territory? If so, is it too familiar — boring and formulaic? If it’s new territory, is it full of exciting discoveries? Or is it overwhelming, not for the novice? Perhaps you were poorly lead by the guide? Or maybe you were the problem, ill-prepared, lazy, or otherwise not up to the challenge. If the failings were yours, should you try again — would you?

In any case, whatever you discovered during your experience, including knowledge about yourself, those are the things you discuss with others upon your return.

Are you reacting to any fears or insecurities?
What was it about the story that resonated?
Would you have loved this book as much five or ten years ago?
Will you continue loving it in the future?
Where are you in your life that this is the story you wanted and needed?

Answering these questions is a somewhat natural process; you are automatically sorting & sifting through these things when you read a book and think to yourself how your sister simply must read this book, or how your girlfriend would hate the heroine, or how your father would pick the science apart. You might not articulate these things as well as a reviewer does (or ought to do), but you are making the connections.

vintage-campersDepending upon who you are talking with, your tale may vary. When talking with those who have never been, you might describe the trail (plot) in greater detail. With those who have been, you can share those insider jokes & stories (spoilers and “you had to be there” moments). With those who are either planning on going or those who you sincerely believe must go, you tailor your tale to arouse their interest without ruining their own discoveries (you can share those “had to be there” moments after they’ve been there). Conversely, if you hated the trip, or had places where you struggled, you share those accordingly as warning. And for those with no interest whatsoever in the subject, you will simply comment what a great (or poor) trip you had — and should they politely ask questions, you will steer your comments towards things your companion can relate to.

Reviewing isn’t that much different — but it does add another layer, another experience.

A book selected (or assigned) for review will have those additional contextual constructs affecting the experience. You know you will be having conversation, regardless of your impressions of the book — and let’s face it, not every book you read is necessarily one you care enough to talk about. Why? Because maybe it failed to show you any magnificent views. Maybe it didn’t ignite a memory, provoke an idea, force a feeling, or jog an interest. Maybe it didn’t even offend you enough to warrant warning others. It was, overall, a rather unremarkable experience — but one you must record nevertheless.

(In the past decade of reviewing online, I’ve had my share of those! Quickly, I learned not to accept books or items I would otherwise have no interest in; if I wouldn’t buy it or at least want to buy it, I won’t take it for free — the price paid for having to write a review full of “I don’t usually read” and disclaimers regarding my own lack of knowledge, experience or interest is even less fun than reading a book for which I have little knowledge, experience, or interest.)

As I myself never use rating systems for anything in life, I do not use them with continuing the book’s conversation. (When forced to use them at sites like Amazon, I’m continually chafing at the lack of options — Why no zero rating, no 3.5 stars? There’s never been a rating system that really works for me.) This is part of my personality, as subjective as anything else in the experience of reading and discussing books.

For me, the primary mandate of reviews is honesty: I’m very aware of my obligation as a reviewer. I may not know all of my audience (blog readers) as well as I do my circle of family & friends, so I face a different circumstance in conversing. Using the hiker analogy again, I must write either a review of the hiking spot for a general audience of hiking enthusiasts (taking into account the varying levels of experience, but focused on the trail), or I must write, as I do here at Kitsch Slapped, for an audience that is more interested in what I opine — keeping in mind that what I have to say about my discoveries and experiences is at least equal to what I am writing about.

In either case, I must be fair to disclose not only what I liked &/or didn’t like, but why — and what things are purely subjective to me & my experience including my personal tastes, my failings — my penchants and peccadillos.

camp-merry-meeting-1920sAnd I, like the authors themselves, must accept that even though we are all part of the same group of bookish explorers taking in the same views, we will have different experiences, different tastes, and different reviews.

Images via FuzzyLizzie’s vintage hiking & camping gallery.

Sign Of The Times: 1943


You’ve heard of safety shoes, right? Well, here’s a safety bra straight out of the history books of home front WWII.

Via The U.S. National Archives at Flickr, the original caption reads: Safety garb for women workers. The uniform at the left, complete with the plastic “bra” on the right, will prevent future occupational accidents among feminine war workers. Los Angeles, California. Acme, ca. 1943.

(Really) Cheap Thrills Thursday

As I’ve said, I’ve long admired Laura’s Living Dolls series, but it wasn’t until this little vignette that I felt inspired to try a photo myself. (And it was perfect timing too, because the Cheap Thrills Thursday post I had in mind ended up being more of a collector’s post than I thought!)

Upon seeing Laura’s recent photo, my first impulse was to interrupt the kids (13 year old daughter and 9 year old son) in the middle of their chores (not that they minded) and excitedly yelp at them: “Stop what you are doing — and bring me a Bratz doll and a toy shark!”

To which they responded (only slightly puzzled, because they are used to my bouts of insanity), “I don’t have a toy shark…”

How can we not have a toy shark?!

But I re-group well. “OK, how about an alligator?”

Blank stares.

“Anything that lives in water… Has a big mouth?”

Some searching.

But all we’ve got is a Bratz doll — and a boy one at that. (He’s the only one that hasn’t made it into the rummage sale box; note to self: pillage that box before next weekend’s sale to see about sharks, other dolls, etc.)

But I am nothing if not flexible. So I scrap the idea of posing the girl Bratz doll, seated on the edge of a plastic dishpan, above a pool of razor-teeth-critter-infested water & reformulate a new one.

“Whatcha got with teeth, and a big open mouth…”


OK, so that still works with my fantasy — to play out my Bratz doll fears. No, not the slutty ones; the ones that involve the feet that pop off with the shoes. :shudder:

Anywho… Here we go; my first attempt at a Living Doll creation: