Friday Art: A Photograph Staged To Violate Every Aspect Of The Hays Code by A. L. “Whitey” Schafer, 1934.

I love the thinking behind this photo: “Tell me what I’m not allowed to do, and I’m going to do it just to flip you off.”

And what a great photo! A decade before film noir got going, and possibly what woulda been a fantastic lobby poster for a great sleazy murder story.

The photographer, A. L “Whitey” Schafer is, unfortunately, far lesser known than the more famous studio still photographers who specialized in glamour shots of the contract actresses. George Hurell or Clarence Sinclair Bull. He started out working for Thomas Ince in the early ’20s, moved on to run the photography department at Columbia by 1935, and then took over Paramount’s photo department in 1941. He died in a freak accident aboard a friend’s yacht in 1951. A stove exploded as he attempted to light it.

Schafer explained his technique of staging photos in an article for amateur photographers in Popular Science in 1943. Basically, never photograph anyone against a blank background (unless their outfit’s lines and patterns will draw the eye). Always have something there to frame them, and use those backgrounds to balance and frame the subject.

Here’s his publicity shot of Barbara Stanwyck for Double Indemnity (1944)

He uses that hat/coat rack in back of her, along with that rather loud necklace, to frame the soft shadows of her face. And is she ever in character for this one.

Don’t trust her, Fred MacMurray! Go back to Edward G. Robinson, he’s the true love of your life.

Shadows in the background can also be used for framing, especially when you want to emphasize darkness over light. How about some Marlene Deitrich?

Every now and then, some contemporary celeb will pose for black and white glamour shots like these, but it’s sadly a rarer and rarer art.

But kudos to Schafer, especially on that screw you to the Hays Code. In our current environment of overzealous speech policing, it’d be nice to see more of the same artful defiance from people these days.


Football Picks: Weekend of September 27-29, 2019

The sure-thing picks last week were 4-0, everybody! That’s a 14-1 parlay bet, y’know. Overall I was 8-6-1 for a season total of 19-14-2. Not great, not terrible. 54%. Good enough for a pro, I guess, but NOT good enough for ME.

Yeah, ME! The guy who adorns his degenerate gambling picks with a photo of William Schallert since “The Trouble With Tribbles” is on.

Whatever. Ten total picks this week, so let’s win some money. Top picks, once again, are in italics.

College Games

Duke +3 against Virginia Tech

Penn State -6 over Maryland

Boston College + 6 1/2 against Wake Forest (in a pick where I question my sanity, but I’ll keep telling myself how ANGRY BC remains after that embarrassing upset a couple of weeks ago. And then there were the tribbles in their chicken sandwich and coffee. As near as I can tell, they’re born pregnant. All you have to do is stop feeding them.)

Iowa State – 2 1/2 over Baylor

Fresno State – 17 1/2 over New Mexico State

Utah State -24 over Colorado State

NFL Games

Colts – 6 1/2 over the Raiders

Chiefs – 6 1/2 over the Lions

Patriots -7 over the Bills

Rams -10 over the Buccaneers

So there you go. And I have never questioned the orders or the intelligence of any representative of the Federation. Until now.

Football Picks, Weekend of September 21-22, 2019

I’m relieved to see the Pats have released Antonio Brown. He made a lot of money for one game, but he’s just not worth all the drama and baggage he brings. They have a light schedule for the first half of the season and they’ll get N’Keal Harry back for the second half.

So here’s hoping the strength & training coaches for the Yankees don’t moonlight for the Pats, giving them the never-ending rash of injuries that’s plagued my baseball team all friggin year.

While I didn’t do too well last week with my picks, I will stick to the same historic analysis theory I’ve mostly been working with since I believe it will be successful over the long haul. SO THERE. Season totals are 11-8-1 so far.

I’ve identified my stronger-Spidey-sense picks in italics.

College games:

UCF -11 over Pitt

Northwestern +9 against Michigan State

Syracuse -4 1/2 over Western Michigan

Wisconsin -3 over Michigan

Arizona State – 8 1/2 over Colorado

Georgia State +3 against Texas State

LSU -24 1/2 over Vanderbilt

Appalachian State + 2 1/2 against North Carolina (probably my strongest inkling to be honest, based on the historic patterns)

UAB -10 1/2 over Southern Alabama

Georgia -14 1/2 over Notre Dame

Washington State -18 1/2 over UCLA

Pro Games:

Packers -7 over Broncos

Rams -3 over Browns

and I gotta take the Pats -21 1/2 over the Jets. As much as you never see NFL spreads that big, the Jets look just awful, the Pats look great, and it’s in Foxboro. I’d also lean towards the Cowboys covering their huge 22 1/2 point spread over the clearly-tanking Dolphins. Oh why not… I’ll pick the Cowboys to cover.

So there ya go, 15 SURE WINNERS! And all for free… I’m just too damn generous, aren’t I?

Friday Art: Place Pasdeloup by Stuart Davis (1928)

Davis, an American artist from Philadelphia, started out influenced by Cubism, and then evolved into someone more interested in mixing symbols with his geometric shapes. I like all of his styles, but when he did material like Place Pasdeloup, the simple gray-black outlines of city corners and streets, combined with the solid blocks of color and primitive hand lettering, remind me of the backgrounds in old UPA cartoons.

Like this one:

Davis loved painting everyday objects like gas pumps or egg beaters, breaking them down into those wonderfully abstract geometric shapes and color blocks. He’d try to illustrate motifs and ideas he heard in Jazz, and influenced a lot of the pop artists of the 1960s.

Place Pasdeloup certainly looks empty and peaceful. Just an empty corner, no people, despite the sunny day and that wonderful scrawl in the sky – is it a wispy cloud? The path of a bird? A giant alien piece of string? Whatever it is, it just looks like it’s having a good time up there.

And the colors – the black against the yellow, opposite the French flag colors with some green on the bottom… all wonderfully balanced.

So happy Friday!

Friday Art: Contentment by Henriette Ronner-Knip

Ronner-Knip was a Dutch artist of the late 19th century who started out painting farms and animals, and after 1870, nearly exclusively painted cats.

Fluffy, pretty cats, too! Just look at that adorable momma cat and her kittens. Cats and kittens playing, or napping, or just sittin’ around looking adorable became her specialty, and she was one of the most widely known and popular woman painters in Europe during her lifetime.

She’d continue to paint cats just as pretty as this until her death. Unlike Louis Wain, an artists I really have to talk about more on here since his descent into CAT MADNESS makes me wonder about my own future, her style of painting them really didn’t change.

But cats’ beauty and elegance is eternal, isn’t it? Happy Friday!

Football Picks For The Weekend of September 13-15, 2019

You woulda won money taking my advice last week. Did you?

I told myself if I got 7 out my 9 picks last week, I’d open up some offshore web sportsbook account since it looks like the long arm of the law doesn’t really care about them anymore. Thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision, numerous states have begun to legalize sports betting and make it available. California will get around to it at some point, despite how amazingly stupid the state government is out here.

But so far it’s all academic… I went 6-2-1. Not bad, I admit, but I have to keep my promise to myself. I didn’t make 7, and even if the Rams covered the final spread of 2.5, I had taken them at 3. Gotta be fair. And considering how I yelled angrily at my TV over some ref calls in the Saints game where all I had on the line was my ego (priceless, I know), maybe it’ll be better for my general health if I don’t bet real money on this nonsense every week.

But I’m back again, with more picks that YOU can feel free to bet. Most of them are college games. Week 2 of the NFL is always loaded with overreactions to week 1, and all of the lopsided scores of last week (including the happy Patriots one) mess with my analysis of spreads. So I’m passing on most of Sunday’s NFL action, except for 2 games:

Continue reading “Football Picks For The Weekend of September 13-15, 2019”

Friday Art: Fragment of a Last Judgment Triptych by Hieronymus Bosch

This is one of two fragments of a lost triptych that’s attributed to Bosch because, well, come on! Nobody else in the entire history of art painted messed up visions of hell like this!

My favorite part of this are the two walking nun’s heads in the lower right. The Bosch visions of hell found in various triptych panels of his feature so many mutants, demons and animals dressed in human clothes torturing or sodomizing sinners in the underworld that after a while they start to look like weird acid trippy cartoons designed to scare kids on Saturday mornings. I’d like to think that’s why the churches hired Bosch to paint this stuff to put on display every week at Mass. What better way for the illiterates out there to get Clive Barker-esque imagery to match the sermon’s warnings about the results of sins?

This panel is also known as “The Death of the Reprobate,” who I assume is the central figure in the bed surrounded by demons and debauchery, never mind the weird lizards and spider-scorpion-thing on the floor.

Back to my favorite: those two walking monk & nun’s heads, a matching set. I’d like to hear them offering some sort of Statler & Waldorf commentary on the sins of the reprobate, with a few good punch lines.

I love Bosch. There’s always so much going on in his monster-sized tableau, always a new bit of weirdness to pick up on and wonder WTF? Breugel would do similar stuff, and while works like “The Triumph of Death” approach Bosch levels of horror movie weirdness, Bosch’s unreal creatures and mutations make the difference. The idea of people actually believing the reality of the cosmos he painted is mind blowing. In modern movies, we get deformed hell-demons and the like, whether it’s pea-soup vomiting Linda Blair or the apartment house full of demonic carnival freaks conjured up by Burgess Meredith at the end of The Sentinel (a must see item!), but Bosch’s stuff just looks… well…. comical. It’s like Charles Addams drew hell, or something only a few steps away from what Don Martin might have come up with.

After all, we all know hell really looks like this:

Some Football Picks For Sep 7-8, 2019

It’s been a while since I posted my football gambling picks on this blog. Why not kick off the NFL season with a bunch of picks ABSOLUTELY GUARANTEED to make money?

Well, if not for you, certainly for Vegas or whatever offshore online sportsbook you’re throwing money away on. Someone will make money off these picks.

I didn’t post my college picks for Week 1 last week, but TRUST ME, I did better than 50%. This time, it’ll be on the record.

Let’s start with those whiny college bums, shall we?

I like Army plus 22 1/2 at Michigan. Michigan ought to win this game, but I don’t think they’ll win by THAT much, and Army is actually a pretty decent team. And speaking of huge spreads that I don’t think will be covered, I’ll go ahead and take likely game loser New Mexico State plus a whopping 55 against Alabama. ‘Bama will win, and ‘Bama will absolutely CRUSH opponents, especially when they play out of conference, but they usually don’t roll up the points to such a huge degree – I could see them winning this game by 30-ish or even 40-ish points, but 55? I’ll take my chances with history here.

As bad as they looked last week, I think Missouri can cover 13 over West Virginia, who have a LONG history of failing against the spread in September games historically. Missouri’s at home, they want to make up for looking like crap last week, I think that’s a recipe for a 2+ score margin here.

And speaking of looking like crap and being bitten by the bug, USC opened a 3 point favorites over Stanford. It’s down to 1, but even with the wildcard of the backup frosh QB needing to step in for USC, I’ll go with a most likely more solid (in the immortal words of Linc Hayes) Stanford team plus the 1 point.

I looked over the opening NFL lines, and as reluctant as I am to usually bet the NFL during September at all, I gotta say that a few of these jumped out at me as real possibilities. I think the Forty Niners can cover 1 over the Buccaneers, and that the Jimmy G has returned Niners will do decently this year, although that division is really a lock for the Rams. And speaking of the Rams, I’ll take them to roll up some points in a “we lost the Superbowl by not scoring, so here’s a message that our offense is still here” type game and cover 3 over the Panthers.

I like the Chiefs to cover 3 1/2 over the Jaguars. As much as the Jags should be better this year with a decent QB and less drama than last year’s huge disappointing season, the Chiefs under Andy Reid always get off to a flying start, scoring a lot of points and getting everyone to believe until they slow down during the second half of the season and fall to my team in the playoffs. But week 1, to cover only 3 1/2? I’ll buy that for a dollar.

Another team looking to send a message after getting totally robbed last year would be the Saints, who I can see pounding a Texan team in some disarray, suffering some key injuries in the preseason. Take the Saints to cover 6 1/2.

And the BEST TEAM? Oh, you must mean MY team, of course. Well, the Patriots open up at home, Sunday night against a Steeler team that lost most of its major offensive weapons since last season. While the Pats always take a while to get going the first few weeks, they looked great all through preseason and should hit their home field ready to demonstrate that their dynasty is alive and roaring after they unfurl their championship banner. They’re 5 1/2 point favorites over the Steelers, and I think the Patriots will win the game by 2 scores if not more.

So there you go, nine LOCKS. Feel free to send me commission after you get rich. I’ll be here.

My New Favorite Mafia Boss

I’ll read anything that’s all about Rhode Island mafia. Hell, I’ll write one of my novels about Rhode Island mafia.

I just finished getting through My Life In The Mafia, a 1973 confession by Vincent Teresa, who’d been a major player in the Patriarca organization before turning government witness. Spotting it in some thrift store one day reminded me how my parents had a copy of it for years and I’d neglected to pack it up with whatever I wanted to save from the widdle house I grew up in when I moved out west and everything got packed up, sold or trashed.

Teresa, through writer Thomas Renner, recounts his life in the mob and the various scams and crimes he’d committed over the years. Mostly stolen goods, bookmaking, loansharking and some stock and bond scams. A lot of the crimes he committed are truly dated – the various forms of check cashing and bank fraud would be nearly impossible now.

But in a story about his time in prison before turning informant, he relates a tale involving Carmine “Lillo” Galante. Lillo, a Bonnano family capo, basically ran the mafia section of the Lewisberg federal prison they dropped Teresa in for his securities fraud activities. And much like we saw in Goodfellas, mob guys have different prison lives than the rest of the population, to a degree. Lillo’s prison job was to run the greenhouse, where he grew his own vegetables and set up a nice grill for cooking the steaks and such regularly smuggled in for him.

And don’t put too many onions in the sauce, etc.

Teresa tells a story where Lillo kept 3 cats as pets inside the greenhouse and in his general realm. Evidently some strays had gotten into the prison yards somehow, and Lillo decided to adopt them.

From page 302:

“Lillo had three cats, and they ate better than most of the prisoners. Every morning they had pure cream for their breakfast with an egg beaten in it. The cats were sort of a symbol of freedom to Lillo. He used to say ‘At least they can get outside – they go outside the wall.’

The hacks almost never came to the hothouse, and when they did, it was just to be sociable. None dared tread on Lillo. I remember one problem came up with a hack because of Lillo’s cats. It was a Friday, and we were having fish in the prison dining room. Lillo sidled up to me and said “You’re not eating your fish, are you Fats?”

I shook my head. “I wouldn’t eat that crap.”

“Well, I want to take it for the cats,” he said. He walked up the row to the hacks and announced “I’m taking Vinnie’s fish.” Then he put it in a plastic bag with his own fish. The hack didn’t seem to mind, so Lillo sort of added insult to injury. “Those cats are pretty hungry. I’ll take two pieces.”

The hack was standing behind the row where the prisoners went through the food lines to eat at the tables. “Hey!” he shouted at Lillo. “You can’t take two, only one to a man.”

Lillo turned around. He gave him a look that froze him in his tracks. “Hey, I said I’m taking two or three pieces for my cat.” His voice was low and soft, but he had ice at the end of his tongue.

The hack stared back at him. “I said you can’t take them,” he snapped.

Lillo’s eyes narrowed, and that sneer of his looked worse than ever. His voice was soft, but it was menacing, It made my blood run cold the way the words came out. “You got kids at home?” he asked.

The hack looked startled. “What?”

“I said, you got any kids at home?” Lillo said again. “You want to see them?” He sort of paused for effect, letting the words sink in. The hack seemed to nod. “Good… then shut your mouth.” Then Lillo took five pieces of fish slowly, one by one while the hack looked, and he put them in the plastic bag. What he said he meant. He wouldn’t have hurt the kids, but the hack would have an accident one day in prison. He wouldn’t have lived to see his kids, just because of a couple of lousy cats. But that was Lillo. No one defied him.

Continue reading “My New Favorite Mafia Boss”

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