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Sketches: Tourists at Disneyland

Last October when we took a vacation in the L.A. area, I brought along the digital camera. It went unused much of the time, but the few pictures that were taken will appear online sometime soon. “Take a trip, make the website several months later” has, after all, become something of a tradition here in chez scrubbles and I don’t intend to break it.

Anyway, we took a couple of days to visit Disneyland and California Adventure in Anaheim, and during the entire time I must have taken a total of six photos — half of them blurry shots of the Tiki Room interior. Whenever we’re busy doing something, taking a photo is an afterthought. Especially somewhere as hot and crowded as that place. Instead, I thought I’d share some sketches I made last night of the tourists at Disneyland/DCA. Going from left to right, the first figures are a couple of kids that were playing on the railings in the waiting area of the River Belle Terrace restaurant. The kids’ moms basically ignored them and looked flustered trying to figure out what to order. The second figure is a sloppy woman who left her empty drink cup on the fireplace mantel in the Disney Gallery (guess she couldn’t wait to use the 1,000 trash receptacles throughout the park). The third is a guy with a huge backpack who preceded us in line at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Don’t know why, but seemingly everybody there was carrying half of their possessions in huge bags and backpacks. Next is the Minnie Mouse character played by an extremely tiny woman. I spied her at the Plaza Inn, and she couldn’t have been more than five feet tall. The kids seemed to love her. Last is a little girl in a princess outfit, a common sight. No little boys dressed in prince costumes, however. The only tourist I missed was someone with a huge baby stroller (I can’t draw strollers), but this drawing completes my memories of those two days.

Gruesome Twosome: Bad Santa Edition

Lenny Dee: “Mister Santa”
LP: Happy Holi-Dee, c.1961

Gisele MacKenzie: “Too Fat for the Chimney”
LP: Christmas with Gisele, 1957

These two frisky odes to Santa Claus came from a compilation I received five years ago from Vern Stoltz, author of the late thrifting ‘zine Cannot Become Obsolete. Organist Lenny Dee’s “Mr. Sandman” rewrite is utterly charming with a sparkling, Countrypolitain-style production (with The Anita Kerr singers on backup!). Frequent Jack Benny Show guest Gisele MacKenzie digs at Santa’s weight issues with the hilarious, hand-clappy “Too Fat for the Chimney”. Tunes like these make me want to head for the nearest Goodwill record bin, hoping to unearth a seasonal treasure (instead of the umpteenth beat-up copy of Firestone Wishes You A Merry Christmas). Basic Hip Digital Oddio has the entire Lenny Dee album available as an audio stream.

It’s An Honor To Be Nominated

Aw, gee … has been named as a finalist in the 2005 Weblog Awards, in the Best Blog Design category. Thanks to whomever got it there. Actually, I can only claim half-credit on this weblog’s design. It’s basically an out-of-the-box Movable Type template that underwent a few tweaks to make it look less, eh, templateish. The polls are only open for the next ten days, so get on over there and vote (and check out the other noms).

Very Scarry Christmas

An interesting flickr set contrasts the 1963 and 1991 editions of Richard Scarry’s The Best Word Book Ever. In the publisher’s efforts at appearing more P.C., the book became just a little dumber and more condescending. And so it goes.

Studying the wonderful Scarry illustrations in The Animals’ Merry Christmas is one of my favorite childhood holiday memories. I seem to remember every picture vividly; so much so that Kathryn Jackson’s accompanying stories are a blur. There was a story about a polar bear who had to shave his coat and wear red long underwear, another one about a slowly deteriorating stuffed sheep. That’s about it. The copy in our family was a ’70s reprint, but I was surprised to find that the book actually dates from 1950! Maybe that explains why Scarry’s art touched me so much. I coudn’t find any examples from the book online, but Eric Sturdevant’s groovy Old Childrens Books flickr set contains art that conveys a similar look.

Maybe She Knows

Cha Cha Charming interviews songwriting legend Ellie Greenwich In addition to being the queen of classic and obscure Girl Group singles (“Be My Baby” etc), she sang backup on Blondie’s “Dreaming”. Didn’t know that.

Also: the San Francisco Chronicicle says goodbye to CDs and lists some alluring alternatives to the old plastic shinies. Personally, I’m just discovering the magic of checking CDs out of the library and copying them onto my hard drive. Today I checked out Loretta Lynn’s Definitive Collection and The Roches’ self-titled album from 1979.

Whatever Happened To Illustration?

For my birthday last month, my parents bought me a copy of the 1920s volume in Taschen’s sumptuous All American Ads series. Paging through this hefty book, I’m amazed at all the gorgeous color illustration and hand-lettered typography that was utilized on a regular basis back then. Probably 90% of the ads collected use the power of art to sell their wares — and not just in an insignificant way, either. Tellingly, the art in these ads was rarely credited or signed. While it would have been a nice (but impossible) gesture for Taschen to have tracked down the artists names, I appreciate their efforts anyway. Two of the artists I do know are Coles Phillips and JC Leyendecker. Both specialized in impossibly elegant renderings of stylishly dressed figures — Phillips for the women, and Leyendecker for the men.

While I’m on the same track, do check out the American Art Archives. I could spend days perusing the cool old art there. It makes me long for the time when illustration was a true calling and not merely a sideline for fine artists.