Saturday, November 28, 2009


I took this picture of Reverend Craig Eder, (September 6th, 1919 to November 22nd, 2009) back in the early '80's. My friend George Ferris and I decided to photograph as many of our old St. Albans teachers as we could find. George set up the appointments and I did the photography.

Rev, as everyone who went to St. Albans called him, was at St. Columba's by then, a pretty church in NW Washington, DC. He had retired from St. Albans some years before. I asked if he was still called "Rev" and he said, "Only by St. Albans boys." Maybe he didn't like being called "Rev."

But that was the thing about him: he was such a sweet guy you could never tell what he disliked.

He taught the C. S. Lewis Narnia books to us in 5th grade Sacred Studies (it was that kind of school), and only once did I see him angry. A boy in our 6th grade class brought a lighter to school and lit another boy's jacket on fire. Rev gave him ten demerits, the equivalent of two and a half hours of Saturday detention. The worst you could get was twelve demerits, but Rev could only bring himself to give this little pyromaniac ten. "You have ten demerits, Werner! You REALLY do!" Any other teacher would have had the kid suspended.

Ah, Rev.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Opiate of the Peoples

The iconic front of Peoples Drugstore, the CVS of Washington DC. This image, from Shorpy Archives, is of the store at 11th and G Streets, NW, c. 1920. Peoples Drugstore #7, the sign says.

By the time I was born, in 1951, Peoples was ominipresent. Sure, there was Rexall and Drug Fair, but the Peoples' chain reigned supreme, a socialist banner of prescriptions, sundries and prophylactics unfurled in the seat of Capitalist power.

The chain was sold in 1990 to CVS, who kept the name Peoples until 1994, when all the stores became CVS's.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

N C Weighs In or Thanksgiving, pt 2

Here's another beautiful American Thanksgiving from another beautiful iconic American illustrator, the great N. C. Wyeth. This image is from the Golden Age Comic Book Stories Blog.

Freedom From Want: American Thanksgiving

Corny, isn't it? Norman Rockwell's now- iconic rendition of Thanksgiving, originally called "Freedom From Want".

I won't go into past Thanksgiving mishaps involving my family. No need for that here. But rest assured, there are plenty. Plenty, brothers and sisters, believe me.

I'll just say, that despite my own Thanksgiving history, it remains my favorite holiday. It is untarnished. In my memory it looks just like Rockwell's vision, except I don't recognize anyone in the painting. Well, maybe the guy in the bottom right looking at the artist. He's in a lot of my photographs.

So, I'll just wish faithful L by L readers a very happy Thanksgiving. I have a lot of blessings to count, a couple of folks to miss, and much to be thankful for. And I hope you do too.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Big Boy Little Posters

These are all posters I've made for my band, the Big Boy Little Blues Band (in which I inhabit the role of Big Boy Little). As some regular readers may know, we won a competition here in DC and are heading to a much bigger competition in Memphis this coming January.

The combination of winning the competition and the indefatigable efforts of BBL bass player Steve Crescenze and his S.O. Constance Warner has resulted in more bookings than ever, and more bookings means more posters.

The above poster with the Bourbon Street stripper sits in the Zoo Bar window. Since we play five times a month there, the poster hasn't been changed in two years. I met the stripper, now in her seventies, at a faux burlesque show in a theater in New Orleans, She was selling the picture of herself from back in the day, and I asked her to autograph it to Big Boy Little, which, of course, she did. BTW, she no longer strips, but tells off- color jokes. She still looks great.

This is the Thursday night jam poster. I've been running this jam for about five years, which I think is a DC record. Maybe not- who keeps track of this kind of thing? The picture is from John Stanley's Little Lulu, and features Tubby, a big boy himself.

Last of the Zoo Bar posters is the New Years' Eve edition from 2008's NYE. We're playing this New Years again, so there'll be a new New Years Eve poster soon. This one announced special guests because I couldn't get the new band to commit to NYE in time. It was a good gig, and Jakey and Mike did a great job. Whew!

These next are from the current season. New venues, new posters. As you can see, Arial bold seems to be THE Big Boy Little typeface. I keep trying to get away from it, but I can't. Yet. Keep checking this space. The Bare Bones skeletons are from a Silly Symphonies cartoon. The harmonica ad is from the back of a comic book (no wasting preciuos ideas here) and has been slightly modified and other images are from the inter-web. Two of them, the goggle- eyed boy and the pointed hat musicians, are from the wonderful Little Hokum Rag Blogspot. Thanks, Amy!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Moore Musicians

Man in Costume with Guitar
Frank B. Moore was a photographer based in New Orleans for more the sixty five years. Despite the fact that he was born in Minnesota in 1869, he certainly found his true home in New Orleans, which he chronicled from 1896 until his death in 1957.

Like most photographers he shot to make a living, and his commissions ranged from graduating classes to wedding parties, nudes in the Bellocq tradition (but not from Storyville) and individual portraits, groups and even the occasional interior. His work can be found in the wonderful Louisiana Digital Archive Collection, which seems to grow every time I visit.

One of Mr. Moore's favorite subjects was musicians, and very much in keeping with the New Orleans tradition, he photographed a varied array of bands and groups, playing a varied array of music.

Mr. Moore's work is a fine glimpse of a bygone era in a city committed to bygone eras. Some of it (like everything in New Orleans that ever happened) seems almost to be contemporary.

Captain Coe, Daughter and Friends, February 21, 1917
Captain L. Allison Coe was an officer in the Salvation Army

Three Trumpeters

Edward Chittendon and Wife, June 2, 1918

Women's Band, possibly the Rembrandt Chicago Jazz Band?

A Society Band

Schilling's Dixie Jazz Band, June 6, 1917
According to the notes, the gentleman playing clarinet is African American, which would make this one of the first integrated jazz bands ever.

The G. J. Schilling Dixie Jazz Band, April 19, 1921
No African Americans in 1921 for Mr. Schilling

The Tipica Mexicana Band

Salvation Army Musicians

Four Musicians
The info speculates that these are Mexican- American musicians, but clearly they're Hawaiian

Mr. Moore has left us with a great gift- another glimpse of America's Greatest City, and another confirmation of the only- in- New- Orleans theory of being.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Rube

Rube Goldberg once opined that most people would rather do things the hard way than the easy way. And he should know, since he made a great living lampooning that all too human tendency.

Reuben Lucius Goldberg was born in San Francisco on July 4th, 1883, and died on December 7th 1970. He was an engineer, a sculptor, an inventor, and a Pulitzer Prize winner, but he will always be best remembered for his cartoon schematics of elaborate devices built to accomplish (relatively) simple tasks.

Here's one now:
and another:
Both of these are from his site,, where you can find a huge amount of information about Goldberg, his times and his influence on our time.

Lots of the information has to do with the current mania for building Goldberg-ian machines (lots of them use marbles for some reason) as an intellectual exercize, like Sudoku, I guess. Competitions are sponsored by and held at college campuses around the country. You Tube has a plethora of short films based on Goldberg's constructs or what nowadays passes as a Goldberg construct.

It seems to me that these kind of miss the point. Although marble shoots are way fun, getting an object to travel from here to there is only part of the Goldberg construct. What's more interesting is the random aspects of the construct, the predictions of behavioral characteristics built on shrewd observation, and social commentary. Okay: what?

Let's break one down. This is called Dodging Bill Collectors.
In order for this to work, a college boy has to mistake a tailor's audible measurements for football signals and tackle a dummy, and you have to be whitewashed so that you look like a statue and not (presumably) your deadbeat self. Why a college boy? Because they are football obsessed. A delivery boy would not mistake these measurements for football signals. Smart, huh? Why whitewash? Because it's white, the same color as marble statues.

What I'm trying to say here, is none of this would work. In all the films and competitions and "in- the- manner- of" contemporary Goldberg tributes, everything works. They all ring bells or trigger Slinkies or whatever. They're built on machine- driven cause and effect. Check out this You Tube video:

But Goldberg's things could never work. At least I hope they couldn't because they're not supposed to. They're commentary. They're satirical. Here's one having to do with people exclusively:
This is more like it. It's not that the system works, it's about making one think the system works. Clearly, the system doesn't work.

The opening pages from an article in Modern Mechanix magazine

Goldberg is trying to tell us something in such a beautiful and subtle way that the message has gotten lost in an elaborate Chutes and Ladder fantasy. He's saying, yes, it's entertaining and yes, it's insighful, but, no, it's not going to work. Everyday (it seems) someone tells me about a plan of theirs designed to bring about a specific result. And I always think, wow. Rube Goldberg. He's doing it again.

This is why Mr. Goldberg's constructs continue to be relevant today- they're everywhere! They're in American foreign policy and economic recovery. They're in the space program (Tang!) and our daily copings with the current economic situation. They're in movies and books and every level of our popular culture, from video games to the concept of recycling.

Rube didn't invent these machines, but he found them and brought them to our attention. Now it's up to us to see if they're ever going to work.

The title card of a film Rube made with the original Ted Healey's Stooges