Artless Bastard?



Did you know that NSW has an official “graffiti removal day”?

Well it does. And it’s today.

Just saying.

That’s the message the Premier, the Hon Michael Bruce Baird, MP posted to accompany a photographic portrait of himself standing next to a satirical painted portrait of him as ‘Casino Mike’.
It came to my attention via Christopher Moriarty, who’s Facebook page is one of the handful you need to stay atop what’s going on in the world at any time.

He added:

Did you know that NSW has an official "Premier removal day"?

Well, it does. And it's the next election.

Just saying.

I couldn’t help but point out that, come next state election, I’d be voting for Christopher Moriarty. Just saying.



I also feel I should add, for the edification of the Premiere and for anyone else: the painting is definitely [street] art rather than graffiti. The difference is the care taken with the artwork, the fact that it's making a statement, offering social commentary that speaks of the milieu (temporal, political, social) in which it was created, rather than merely the ego of the artist. But, you know, removing it, ‘disappearing’ the artist etc also speaks volumes.

By now, lots of people are passing judgement (thanks Katie and Simeon for pointing this out) and of course überblog Junkee has written it up, the site going on to note some of the cleverer comments such as ‘will you replace it with a mural of apartments?’




The most important points to be made at this point are these: the brilliant artist is Scott Marsh; and if the Premier could have just handled the political commentary, spectacular and larger than life though it is, he would have likewise been ‘embiggened’ by it.

Unfortunately, this supposedly ‘humorous’, light-hearted approach to creative political commentary has backfired – as the contributions under the picture on the Premier’s Facebook page attest.

One of my several buddies who’s a comic, bemoans the collective reaction to the Premier’s post.

“Mike Baird takes playful, ironic dig at himself on social media. Irony zooms miles overhead of the usual suspects and Facebook goes into meltdown,” he says. “Bloody hell Sydney, you deserve everything you get.”

Look, I’d like to agree, or feel guilty that I’ve over-reacted, or go easy on that good bloke the Premier (after all, I’ve seen him dressed as a civilian, chowing down on the best restaurant-bought pizza you’ll ever have, at Mimmo’s Pizzeria in Brookvale). And maybe I could. The day after NSW Graffiti Removal Day, if it turns out the mural’s still up then we clearly over-reacted at playful ironic self reflective Premier with a sense of humour. If, however, it's gone the way of live music venues, century-old houses and trees, affordable public transport etc, then I stand by my disdain and that of every detractor.

Only, it seems the mural was painted over; “months ago,” according to one Facebook commentator, “reportedly… one hour after Mr Baird finished the Facebook post,” according to an ABC report.

So as far as interacting humorously with the media, the Premier, that supreme wag, isn’t quite as much of a cool dude as, say, former PM Sir John Gorton, who in 1975 told journos trying to doorstop him that he couldn’t stop to talk, he had to “get home to watch Countdown!”

Not very Gorton at all, our Casino Mike. In fact, if he were to be compared to a former PM, some may go as far as to consider his manner less swimmingly, and his behaviour, more ‘bottom-of-the-harbour’, than Harold Holt.

Just saying.




Half human half robot Lego minifigure

Kids Lego copy


Some time ago I blogged about my nephew, whose 'work around the house' consists of playing with Lego. It's still his primary occupation. (Well, those houses, trucks and spaceships are not gonna build themselves!)

However, he's ramped the work up a bit, going so far to design a new minifigure. He's sent his design to Lego's Australian office, with a note (transcribed by his mum):

"Please can you make a Lego man that is half man, half robot please. This is what it would look like. For the next minifigure series."

I think this would be a pretty cool Lego minifigure!









Some hand-some artwork

Capitol Classics CLCX047_20cm

Not too long ago I blogged about my recent acquisition of an Australian pressing of the Capitol Classics edition of Copland's 'Billy the Kid', performed by the Ballet Theatre Orchestra conducted by Joseph Levine. I quite love the cover and was keen to discover who was responsible for it.

I asked my mate Coatsie, who is an artist, as well as other artist and record collecting mates if they happened to recognise the style or know who the artist might be.

Coatsie suggested it might be Thomas B. Allen. Not a bad suggestion. Turns out Allen did provide the cover art to a recording of Copland's 'Billy the Kid'. But not this one.

His work adorns the cover of The Copland Album, a CBS Masterworks release (nowadays it'd be on the Sony Masterworks label) featuring the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, performing a number of Copland's pieces.





In my travels, googling 'Billy the Kid', 'Copland' and 'Capitol Classics', I stumbled upon an excellent website belonging to Nori Muster, outlining aspects of the Capitol label's history. Nori's father Bill spent some years as Capitol's merchandising manager during the 1950s. In addition to being a working musician, her stepfather, Don Hassler, was a sales rep for Capitol for the better part of that decade, beginning in 1953. Given the Capitol Classics Billy the Kid album was released in 1953, this could well lead me to the information I was after. So I emailed Nori.

Sadly, Nori's stepfather passed away a few months ago. It's likely he would have known the answer but we couldn't put the question to him. Instead, Nori offered to put the cover on her site and ask the question there.

Her historian friend, Mark H.N., suggested it might be the work of Donfeld, "better known," according to Mark, "for his costume design for movies and television". I admit, I didn't know Donfeld's work. Or rather, I did; I just didn't know his name. Mark gave me an excellent example: Donfeld designed Linda Carter's Wonder Woman costume.


Mark goes on to say Donfeld's first job, after graduating from college, "was as a designer and art director at Capitol Records starting in 1953, the year this album was released". He points out similarities in the Billy the Kid cover to some of Donfeld's costume sketches, "especially the upraised hand holding the gun":

Capitol Classics CLCX047_detail_southpaw

Mark offers, as an example, Donfeld's sketch of Sylvia Miles's costum in Evil Under the Sun.


 I will admit my ignorance of the work of Donfeld. I love how, like Sting, Bono and Miles, he gets around with just the one name. Although a little bit of research reveals he was in fact christened 'Donald Lee Feld' and his film and television work is as extensive as it is varied. (Spaceballs and Prizzi's Honour!)

That means the thing by the showgirl's thigh that looks like a bit of a running writing on its side is in fact just filigree or ribbon, and not a stylised signature.

CLCX047_detail signature

I hope he produced more covers. I look forward to stumbling upon more of his work. Meanwhile, check out his portrait and see if you aren't drawn to his hands, which seem very similar to the hands that he's drawn.


Wanna get baked and have some cookies with Radiohead's The Bends?

When enjoying your favourite album was still about inserting a disc into a slot…

My, but that's a gluttonous mannequin.





Leg... Oh!
(Or: Pull the other, other one.)

Jobs We Do At Home

My five-year-old nephew Hunter drew an excellent picture at school, illustrating 'Jobs We Do At Home'.

It features Hunter, his brother Dylan, his sister Olivia, his Dad and his Mum typically toiling about the house.

Look closely:


Kids Lego copy


Clearly, the job Hunter, Dylan and Olivia do at home involves picking up Lego.


Mum vacuums


Mum vacuums. Note the long tube with the attachment on the end. 

Perhaps Mum's third leg - the curvy one in the middle - is in fact the vacuum cleaner, at her feet.

When not working at home, Mum is a doctor. She says her kids rarely see her vacuum.


Dad uses laptop


Dad is also a doctor. And he also appears to have a third leg.

At home, it seems, he works on his laptop. Sometimes, if the picture is to be believed, without his pants on.

Okay, I'm willing to accept Dad's spine protrudes to form the vestige of a tail; it occurs more frequently than you think. For a kid, even a tiny protrusion looms large - hence Hunter's extreme depiction of it.

Actually, the reason for Dad's third leg is far more interesting.

Turns out Dad was discussing one of his favourite bands, Alice in Chains, with Hunter. Alice in Chains' 1995 self-titled album features a three-legged dog on the cover. And a photo of Francisco (Frank) Lentini on the back. Marvel at the resemblance: Hunter has rendered his Dad after Lentini.






Mickey Mouse doorbell

Mickey Mouse doorbell


I was wandering the back streets of Glebe the other day, having attended (and recorded) October's edition of Tell Me A Story when I came across only the best doorbell ever. (It's not like I was randomly approaching doors of houses, casing joints - although I did note it was set into the high wall-with-solid-security-door surrounding the yard.) It's Mickey Mouse, in a classic vintage pose, cast in metal.

It was too good a doorbell not to photograph - even though I know, what with the dicky moustache, thick-rimmed glasses, t-shirt collection and hi-tops, this tendency to 'photograph random objects and blog about them' makes me an over-aged 'hipster', apparently.

But I couldn't just upload the image without actually saying something about it.

On first look, clearly, it could have been better executed: the actual button of the doorbell should have been one of the buttons of his lederhosen. Perhaps that was the original plan.

I decided to do a search for the 'original' image, hopefully to determine who the artist was. That proved a little difficult to ascertain: it may have been Les Clark, who was animating towards the end of the 1930s, or perhaps it was Ub Iwerks, who co-created the character. 

No matter. What proved more interesting was the fact that so many variations on that classic image exist. The artwork has been interpreted and adapted, and many of those images have been collected on Pinterest.

This surreal take, for example, as though created from an elaborate doodle, takes the form of the artwork frequently produced by schizophrenics and hippies under the influence of certain chemical refreshments. (Nowadays this art is being reclaimed as a kind of therapy called - and trademarked - as  'Zentangle'. I shall rant about this down the track, rest assured. It will probably include a joke about someone else 'owning your doodle'.)



Well, I thought it was psychedelic until I saw this one - the proper, full-blown LSD trip with all the colours and the paisley.



Then I found this more sinister variation. More '80s eccy than '60s LSD. Three buttons and scary tongue, it's with ear recursion, it's all a bit scary, really.


It makes a bit of sense that Mickey Mouse would be given the counter-cultural artistic make-over. On the one hand, it's rebellion: taking the symbol that may represent the commercial, conservative way of life reinforced by the military-industrial complex. Or whatever. But there's also that element of psychedelia that involves the LSD-user’s regression, to childhood. Hence the Victoriana and World War I chic that became all the rage during the swingin' 60s 'summer of love': the Beatles' Sgt Pepper costumes, Pink Floyd using the title of a chapter from Wind in the Willows as the name of their debut album Piper at the Gates of Dawn. It's what those twenty-something hip acid trippers were recalling from their childhood, rooting around grandma's house. (The American psychedelic equivalent of England's Victoriana was 'cowboys and indians' - a similarly seminal idyllic of regression.)

Speaking of Mickey Mouse in psychedelia, Aussie pop artist Martin Sharp seems to have snuck a Mickey Mouse reference into the artwork he created for the cover of the album Wheels of Fire, by the legendary Cream (which featured Sharp's UK flatmate, Eric Clapton, on lead guitar). It's either on the back cover or the front cover, depending on which edition you have:



The Mickey motif appears in the corner, bottom right. Here it is in detail:

Wheels of Fire Detail


Obviously not the same classic Mickey, but certainly a reference looming in the mix. And speaking of Mickey Mouse looming in the mix of juvenile hippie regression and music, consider 'Mr and Mrs Mickey Mouse' by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, who specialised in presenting that older genre of music to hip, swingin' '60s audiences:



Returning to the initial theme of the post, the adaptation of the image of Mickey Mouse in that pose, here's an example from the digital age: Mickey rendered in the RCA leads that connect your blu-ray or DVD player to your telly.



More traditionally, there are products bearing the image. Mickey's one of those blue-chip trademarks that has spawned an industry. And clearly, a cup you can one-shot the hottest coffee out of…



And having appeared on all manner of mass-produced items, it's no surprise that  even Andy Warhol has had a go:



I did see that Mickey Mouse somewhere else… Where was it? Oh yeah, on Psy's belly, flashing that Oppa Gangnam Smile! (Even though he was looking in the opposite direction, and had somehow lost his tail.)


Paralympic Streaker

If I were editing a British tabloid, the headline would have to read something like

My, Oh, Maya Naked!-nishi

and maybe point out that the act of 'streaking' used to mean 'running very fast' before it meant 'getting your gear off', but now means both at once thanks to paralympic sprinter Maya Nakanishi.

You see, she's gone and raised money for her London Games by posing nude for a limited edition calendar. Which, of course, has sold out its print run.

At this point, I should throw it open to the blogosphere, and have you suggest which olympic hopefuls you'd love to see au naturel. Apart from everyone's favourite petite Russian gymnast, Nadia Getsergearoff, obviously.

Maya Nakanishi shows us her pink bits. Pilfered image: Japan Daily Press


Who's That Little Old Man?

Nick O'Sullivan, a buddy I've known for about a million years, is a fine artist who creates awesome caricatures. I'll take every opportunity to bring his work to your attention, and today's the day for Paul McCartney.

But before we get to that, here's a classic clip from early on in the Beatles film A Hard Day's Night (1964):



People who recognise Paul's granddad, Wilfred Bramble - who also played 'Albert Steptoe' in the sitcom Steptoe & Son - will get the references to his 'cleanliness' (he was forever the 'dirty old man!' as far as his 'son' was concerned in Steptoe & Son).

However, the 'who's that little old man?' motif will have developed a new meaning for Paul McCartney fans and avid Grammy Awards watchers. For, as Paul McCartney and a supporting cast of superstars presented the big side-two-of-Abbey-Road finale of the 2012 Grammy Awards, it had an interesting, hitherto unseen effect: it was confusing ignorant Gen Y brats.



Because suddenly, around the world, the blogosphere was filled with people wondering out loud just "who TF" this old dude called Paul McCartney was:



Well, finally, today, on his 70th birthday, we can now answer both questions effectively:

Who the hell is Sir Paul McCartney? He is that little old man. And who is that little old man? He's Paul McCartney.

Happy birthday Sir Macca. Here's Nick O'Sullivan's brilliant caricature.



Artfully taking the piss

I don’t know much about ART but I can tell you this:
Duchamp’s Urinal is a piece of piss!

© The Doug Anthony Allstars – ‘Funk You’



Why have a photographed a bunch of stickers on a wall?

Take a closer look: they’re not just any stickers. One, bearing the business letterhead of Veitch – manufacturer of  ‘Quality stainless steel products’ – outlines the customer details of a a certain item known as a hinge grate urinal, sized at 1500 (I’m assuming centimetres), for an entity known as Tradelink St Kilda. So far, so what?

The sticker next to it seems to offer a water rating for – we can only assume – said hinge grate urinal. Its rating is 1.9, and as I am not a connoisseur of any aquatic devices, let alone urinals (hinge grate or otherwise) I cannot tell you what a 1.9 signifies in the greater scheme of things. However, it gets one out of a possible five stars, so it can’t be that good.

The sticker below actually names the model as a ‘hinge grate deluxe model’, and provides diagrams and perhaps details of how it should be installed and operated. Does the fact that it is the deluxe model suggest that the - ahem – bog-standard model receives an even lower, no-star water rating?

Doesn’t matter.

I saw these stickers in a room in a building during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year. The building, for the duration of the festival, operates as ‘Tuxedo Cat’, one of the other artier, edgier, more interesting independent venues during MICF. The room – if you haven’t guessed – was in fact ‘the smallest room in the house’, and the stickers weren’t attached to a wall – they were stuck to said hinge grate urinal.



Why did I photograph the hinge grate urinal in the dunny of the Tuxedo Cat during the 2011 Melbourne International Comedy Festival?

That’s the wrong question. (And the wrong answer is, ‘as a continuation of the tradition begun in 2010’!)

A better question would be, Why would you install a urinal leaving these stickers still attached to it?

I assume it’s because of sticker number three, with the diagram and instructions of installation and operation. Most intelligent place to have them while the unit is being installed.

Best question of all: Why are those stickers still attached?

Do you really need an answer?

If you leave them on during installation and fail to remove them after installation and they are still on during operation and usage – well, they're definitely staying on. Who wants the job of taking them off?

Or perhaps it’s a test a manhood – to see how long they take to get pissed off. The added challenge being, they are attached with some kind of adhesive, and they’re above groin level. It’s not like pissing a sh*t stain off the bowl…

Of course, the other obvious reason would be the same reason most toilet cubicles in pubs have ads on the doors now. Captive audience. Place writing in front of them, they’re more than likely to read it. Although – if you were going to start renting urinals as billboard space, surely you’d want to advertise more than just other urinals. The urinal market’s got to be pretty limited. Surely the last people to need a urinal are the ones already using one. I think you'll find they have one at hand.

And what of those fine purveyors of quality stainless steel products?

I can’t help wondering if the Veitch behind the company is related to Michael Veitch. Remember him? Originally of D-Generation fame, followed by a long stint on Fast Forward, and now fronting the ABC arts program he used to take the piss out of back in his sketch comedy days. That'd be an awesome irony, if there was a connection between taking a piss in an arty, interesting comedy venue and an arty, former piss-taking comedian.

Which leads me to my last artful piss-taking photo.



You’ve no reason to recognise this, necessarily, but they are a pair of cubicles in the men’s loo at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. And I think you might have guessed that anyway if you’d thought about it: it had to be somewhere frequented by the sort of gentlemen with enough refinement that, should they suffer performance anxiety and be otherwise unable to line up at a urinal, they still have the decency to LIFT THE SEAT RATHER THAN PISS ALL OVER IT! Heck, they probably even did that other most rare of lavatory activities – wash their hands afterwards.



What exactly does this mean? Is it a sociological description, a definition of a gentleman which I can either take or leave?

Or perhaps it’s  a loyal toast…

© Jonathan Miller, ‘Heat-Death of the Universe’, Beyond the Fringe