Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Neon Burnout

Two letters of the illuminated sign for Elmhurst Hospital Center, Queens, have burnt out, leaving " lmhur t" — or "I'm hurt," reports The New York Times. Said hospital spokesman Dario Centicelli, "Thank goodness our name is Elmhurst instead of some other name where it could go out really bad."
There's no photo of the hospital sign, but the article contains a link to this invaluable archive of accidentally "treated" neon signage. The piece also mentions the long-running use of the concept in film:

In the 1992 film “Batman Returns,” Catwoman smashes the “O” and “T” on a sign that says “Hello There!” leaving a more ominous “Hell Here.”

The cartoon family the Simpsons once stayed at a Sleep-Eazy Motel, where a burned-out “E,” “P” and “E” rendered it into a more accurate and descriptive “Sleazy Motel.”

And in the 1942 Abbott and Costello film “Who Done It?” a shootout turns “Vote for Townsend Phelps” to “Send Help,” which again gets shortened simply to “End.”

There are many more movie, TV, literature, and video game usages here. Most tantalizing revelations:

The entire premise of [manga comic] Aoi House is that the initial "Y" fell off the sign.

"Tony Hancock's film The Punch and Judy Man, set in a seedy English seaside resort, has a scene where Hancock's title character is shaving just before performing at an important reception at the town hall. His faulty electric shaver shorts out some of the town's illuminations, causing them to spell out insults."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

they know about the brochures

From Ann Coulter's "The Grating Communicator"

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bonus Joe Brainard Edition

In last week's column, Ann Coulter used the phrase "I remember" three times. This led me to attempt Joe Brainard's game of "I remember" — on top of the usual Tom Phillips treatment, of course.
For the uninitiated, Joe Brainard (1942-1994) was an American artist and writer of the Pop era. Like Phillips he created a meme that now serves as the point-of-entry to a diverse, media-spanning oeuvre. In Brainard's case, the meme is "I remember." You start a sentence with those two words and add a pithy reminiscence. Some examples will explain better than explication can:

I remember the only time I ever saw my mother cry. I was eating apricot pie.

I remember my first erections. I thought I had some terrible disease or something.

I remember planning to tear page 48 out of every book I read from the Boston Public Library, but soon losing interest.

I remember my parents’ bridge teacher. She was very fat and very butch (cropped hair) and she was a chain smoker. She prided herself on the fact that she didn’t have to carry matches around. She lit each new cigarette from the old one. She lived in a little house behind a restaurant and lived to be very old.

In other hands, "I remember" would be mere nostalgia. Brainard took the idea and produced what Paul Auster called "a masterpiece... one of the few totally original books I have ever read." I Remember first appeared in book form in 1970. It was followed by sequels (including a 1973 I Remember Christmas commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art) and compilations. The latest edition of I Remember is available from Granary Books.
Even Brainard's many fans may not know that there is an unusually fine Joe Brainard website. ("From an early age Joe showed artistic talent, winning virtually every art contest he entered. He even designed his mother's dresses.") Brainard is associated with the New York School poets — he collaborated on hilarious comic strips with Frank O'Hara. As a visual artist, Brainard is best known for his takes on the cartoon character "Nancy," paintings of flowers (done simultaneously with Warhol's but more hypnotic), and collages. Brainard was incredibly prolific. He took amphetamines to speed his output, and one gallery show had 1500 of his works. (They were very tiny). After 20 years of intensive work, Brainard stopped making art to focus on reading and going to movies. Above is one of Brainard's later works, Blossom, from 1974.
John Ashbery wrote that Brainard "proves that beauty is really interesting after all."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Who’s Who

Back in the LP era, Tom Phillips' art appeared on album covers. The most prominent example is Brian Eno's 1975 Another Green World. The cover image is a small detail of Phillips' painting After Raphael. The album's lyrics were created by a cut-up technique in which Eno listened to nonsense syllables and formed them into words.

Phillips also did one of the portraits on the cover of The Who's Face Dances (1981). Peter Blake, best known for creating the Beatles' Sergeant Pepper cover, commissioned a cross-section of British popsters to contribute: David Hockney, Richard Hamilton, R.B. Kitaj, Howard Hodgkin, Allen Jones, Patrick Caulfield -- as well as Phillips and Blake himself. Can you tell which portrait is by Phillips? (There's a telltale clue, barely visible if you click for the larger view.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Monster Mad-Libs

[Editor Jason Rekulak] "had these lists, and on one side he had a column of War and Peace and Crime and Punishment and Wuthering Heights and whatever public domain classic literature you can think of. And on the other side he would have these phenomena like werewolves and pirates and zombies and vampires. He called me one day, out of the blue, very excitedly, and he said, all I have is this title, and I can't stop thinking about this title. And he said: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. For whatever reason, it just struck me as the most brilliant thing I'd ever heard."
—Seth Grahame-Smith, co-author (with Jane Austen) of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Escape From N.Y.

Today's puzzle picture: Find the Ann Coulter book title in this 2007 collage by Dash Snow.