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Category Archives: Paper

Indiana Wants Me


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When FOUND magazine co-founder Jason Bitner stumbled across several boxes of old studio photographs stored in the back of a small town diner, he discovered the found photo equivalent of a goldmine — some 18,000 formal portraits of the residents of LaPorte, Indiana dating from the ’40s to the late ’60s. Some of these images have been collected in a neat new book called (appropriately enough) LaPorte, Indiana. On the whole, it’s an intriguing look at how ordinary people once saw themselves at their best. Whether the subject is a smiling baby or an elderly couple, most of are dressed in their Sunday finest and posed stiffly against neutral backgrounds. The photos are nicely arranged in ways that underline their similarity — a spread of women holding a rose by their cheek, for example. Often the same subject is shown in a formal pose, then in a more spontaneous casual pose. It’s fun to glance at the sheer variety of faces on the subjects, while the hairstyles and (often dorky looking) fashions remain constant. One unsettling spread juxtaposes a small child and an older woman wearing virtually identical cat-eye glasses. Definitely a window into another time and place.

Although the people in the photos weren’t identified, the official LaPorte, Indiana weblog points out that some current residents have come forward with names. Pretty cool! Pre-purchase the book at Amazon here.

Frank Rich, Are You There?

An interview with Frank Rich, The New York Times onetime theatre critic turned political columnist. More accurately, a decent, short interview lies buried in there underneath the interviewer’s ingratiating back stories and name dropping. Come to think of it, all of the Media Bistro weblogs suffer from the same overwhelming “ain’t I clever” smugness. Blecch.

On second thought, just skip it and watch these Electric Company clips instead.

The Grumpy Old Man

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I had a $25 Barnes & Noble giftcard burning in my pocket recently (thanks to Christopher), so I spent it on a book that I’d been wanting to check out for a while — The R. Crumb Handbook by R. Crumb and Peter Poplaski. It’s quite a unique little book, a compact and chunky hardback that serves as part autobiography, part art book (oh, and it comes with a CD of his old-timey music, too). While the text seems patchy, Crumb writes in a refreshingly candid, self-deprecating tone completely in line with his art. It seems like his life is constantly guided by things that both fascinate and disgust him: his childhood interest in kiddie pop culture, his period with San Francisco’s hippie subculture, his weird sexual fetishes. Neat excerpts from throughout his comics career illustrate his ramblings, scrapbook style. As for the samples, I was surprised to find that his celebrated Zap Comix stuff is actually … flat and uninvolving (guess you have to be on drugs to fully appreciate them). The area where he truly shines lies in the painfully autobiographical work he did in the ’70s and ’80s. For any Crumb newbie, this one comes highly recommended.

A Found Find

The Christian Science Monitor just did a nice article on FOUND magazine. The FOUND empire — website, magazine, book, and traveling exhibit — is devoted to found notes, photos and pieces of paper. In their words, “We decided to make a bunch of projects so that everyone can check out all the strange, hilarious and heartbreaking things people have picked up and passed our way.” Like this melancholy snapshot of an abandoned BBQ:

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Rona, We Hardly Knew Ye

It is here that I note the passing of Rona Jaffe, author of the frothy 1958 novel The Best of Everything. Just before she died, Ms. Jaffe contributed a fascinating audio commentary to the film adaptation’s DVD where she goes into detail about her young life in the ’50s publishing world and in Hollywood (although she never spills the beans on working with Joan Crawford, dagnabbit). Strangely, the NYT obit doesn’t mention her later novel Mazes & Monsters. The cautionary M&M concerned a group of college students caught up in a Dungeons & Dragons-like game, a popular success which later became a thoroughly cheezy TV movie starring young Tom Hanks. My mom had a copy of that book! That probably explains why she disapproved whenever I showed an interest in playing D&D games. Anyhow, Ms. Jaffe will be missed.

Mister Manners

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You might remember Bill Barol from his witty weblog Blather, or for speaking with The New York Times on the daily strain of weblog keeping (only to drop said weblog soon thereafter), or for his fine articles for the likes of Slate and Fast Company. Now he’s resurfaced as the “typist” of a new book, Mr. Irresponsible’s Bad Advice: How to Rip the Lip Off Your Id and Live Happily Ever After. Mr. Irresponsible is a crusty and oblivious old coot who once wrote a nationally syndicated newspaper advice column, sort of a combination of Ann Landers and Grampa Simpson. In this slim volume, he dispenses advice that is caustically funny but also, strangely enough, useful. I mean, correcting unruly children in restaurants by turning them into projectiles is sound advice — don’t you think?