Fashion Designers in 1939 Predict How People Would Dress in the Year 2000

Some two decades before The Jetsons brought their animated vision of the future to the small screen, the cinemagazine Pathetone Weekly ran a featurette in which the “most famous" fashion designers in the U.S. predicted what the well-dressed woman would find herself wearing in the year 2000.

Cantilevered heels, multifunctional garments to go from office to evening wear in mere seconds, tech integrations, dresses made of aluminum and transparent net…

As one commenter on YouTube astutely observed, “Madonna wore most of these before we even reached 2000.”

As is to be expected, these futuristic fashions exhibited the flattering bias cut that we in 2019 associate with the period in which they were envisioned.

Gisele Bündchen, the top supermodel of 2000, could certainly hold her own against her glamorous 1939 counterparts, but the same cannot be said of the trucker hats, low slung jeans, velour track suits and denim everything that truly defined the look of the millennium.

The biggest loser of the year AD 2000, as envisioned by those famous designers of 1939, is the American male, whose drapey harem pants, Prince Valiant ‘do, and ill advised facial hair make George Jetson look like like Clark Gable.

The poor guy does deserve some cool points for wearing a phone, though. (It’s like they had a crystal ball!)

And his radio may well prefigure the iPod, which made its debut in 2001.

Because pockets were presumed to be going the way of the dodo (and skirts for women), a utility belt holds his keys, change, and “candy for cuties.”

This last item is surely an unnecessary burden, given the narrative emphasis on the female clothing designs' man-catching prowess.

(Imagine the 21st-century feminine disappointment when their electric headlights revealed what they’d reeled in.)

Perhaps the most useful innovation to come from this exercise is the “electric belt to adapt the body to climactic changes.”

Don’t tell 1939, but I think we’re gonna need a bigger belt.

As to the identities of the famous designers and the delightfully chatty (“Ooh, swish!”narrator), they seem to have been lost to the ages. Readers, if you have any intel, please advise.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City on April 15 for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Here’s John Steinbeck Asking Marilyn Monroe for Her Autograph (1955)

When asking a celebrity for a special favor, it helps to be a bit of a celebrity yourself.

As Keith Ferrell details in his biography, John Steinbeck: The Voice of the Land, the Nobel laureate had little patience for autograph seekers, pushy young writers seeking help getting published, and “people who never read books but enjoyed meeting authors.”

The shoe went on the other foot when Mrs. Steinbeck let slip to her nephew that Uncle John had met the boy’s movie star crush, Marilyn Monroe.

Suddenly, an autographed photo seemed in order.

And not just some standard issue publicity shot, but ideally one showing the star of The Seven Year Itch and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes in a “pensive girlish mood.”

Also, could she please inscribe it by name to nephew Jon, a young man with, his uncle confided, “one foot in the door of puberty”?

The star-to-star tone Steinbeck adopts for the above letter seems designed to ward off suspicion that this nephew could be a convenient invention on the part of someone desiring such a prize for himself.

Sixty years after a secretary typed it up, Steinbeck's message fetched $3,520 at Julien’s Auctions, one of a wide range of items culled from hardcore Marilyn Monroe collector, David Gainsborough-Roberts as well as the estate of Monroe's acting teacher, Lee Strasberg.

In addition to other correspondence, the Marilyn auction included annotated scripts, an empty prescription bottle, a ballerina paperweight, stockings and gowns, some pinup-type memorabilia, and a program from John F Kennedy’s 1962 birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden.

One lot that is conspicuous for its absence is Steinbeck’s promised “guest key to the ladies’ entrance of Fort Knox.”

Could it be that the boy never got his customized autograph?

We'd like to think that he did. Perhaps he's still savoring it in private.

H/T Alan Goldwasser/Letters of Note/Flashbak

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain, this Monday, March 11. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

97-Year-Old Philosopher Ponders the Meaning of Life: “What Is the Point of It All?”

If you’ve sat by the bedside of a dying friend or relative, or recovered from a terminal illness yourself, you may know too well: the concerns of yesterday—career anxieties, political high stakes, personal grudges—can slip away into the rear view, becoming smaller and more meaningless as hours pass into final days. What takes their place? Maybe a savoring of the moment, maybe regrets over moments not savored, maybe a growing acknowledgment that gratitude matters more than being right. Maybe a willingness to let go of prior ideas—not to adopt new ones, but to open to the questions again.

Sometimes, this experience is bewildering and frightening, especially when coupled with the pains of illness and old age. Whatever insights one might have at the threshold of death, they cannot easily overcome “lifelong habits,” says Herbert Fingarette in the candid short film Being 97, a documentary made in the last months of the contrarian American philosopher’s life. By the time of his death,” notes Aeon, “Fingarette (1921-2018) had lived what most would consider a full and meaningful life. His marriage to his wife, Leslie, was long and happy. His career as a professor of philosophy at the University of California was both accomplished and controversial.”

By this time, his wife of seventy years had been gone for seven. And at 97, physically frail and his career long over, Fingarette was coming to terms with “loneliness and absence” as well as with his need for help from other people to do simple tasks. After 42 years of teaching—and writing on subjects like self-deception, Confucianism, ethical responsibility, and addiction—he was also grappling with the fact he had been wrong about one particularly pressing matter, at least.

Fingarette became infamous when, without undertaking any scientific research himself, he claimed in the 1988 book Heavy Drinking that alcoholism was a problem of self control, not a disease. But he does not speak of the political furor in this minor controversy. Eleven years later, he took on an even heavier subject in Death: Philosophical Soundings. “What I said was in a nutshell,” he recalls, “is there’s no reason to be afraid or concerned or anything about death because when you die, there’s nothing. You’re not going to suffer, you’re not going to be unhappy… you’re not going to be…. It’s not rational to be afraid of death.”

He admits, “I now think that is not a good statement, because I think it’s important to figure out why it is then that people are afraid of death. Why am I concerned about it?” His best thinking aside, “my sense of realism tells me, well, no good reason or not, it is something that haunts me. I walk around the house and I ask myself, ‘What is the point of it all? There must be something I’m missing in this argument.’” He asks, he says, knowing “that there isn’t any good answer." But that doesn’t stop him from looking for one. We see Fingarette’s lifelong habits as a thinker push him forward in pursuit of what he calls a “foolish question,” although he intuits that “the answer might be… the silent answer.”

It’s a painful existential realization for a man so devoted to logical argument and pronouncements of certainty. This film of Fingarette in his last months is both a personally moving portrait and a drama in miniature of a universal human dilemma: why is it so hard to accept the inevitable? Why do we have minds that struggle against it? The multitude of possible answers may be far less meaningful than the experience of the question itself, painful and transcendent as it is, whether we are grieving the loss of others, facing our own mortality, or, as in Fingarette's case, both at once.

Being 97 will be added to our list of Free Online Documentaries, a subset of our collection, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

via Aeon

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

 

Jim Morrison Declares That “Fat is Beautiful” …. And Means It

There’s a bit of cognitive dissonance in a young rock god giving voice to the fat pride movement some four decades after his death.

Years before social media amplified celebrity weight gain coverage to the realm of national news, The Doors’ lead singer, Lizard King Jim Morrison, was the subject of intense bodily scrutiny.

The musician’s drug of choice—alcohol—swiftly added some extra cushioning to the sexy, shirtless young lion image photographer Joel Brodsky managed to capture in 1967.

That lean, leather-panted version is the one the Morrison director Patrick Smith went with for the Blank on Blank animation above, using audio from a 1969 interview with the Village Voice’s Howard Smith (no relation).

Occasionally animator Smith balloons the 2-D Morrison’s belly for humorous effect, but let’s be frank. By today’s standards, the 5’11 Morrison, who by his own estimate tipped the scales at 185lb, was hardly "fat."

Pleasingly plump perhaps...

Filling out...

Eating (and drinking) like someone whose bank account didn't require belt tightening.

His compassion toward generously proportioned bodies likely sprang from early experience.

As photographer Linda McCartney recalled in Linda McCartney’s The Sixties—Portrait Of An Era:

He … told me that he’d grown up as a fat kid that no one wanted to know and that this had caused him a lot of emotional pain.

Then he explained what had brought it all to the surface. Apparently he had been walking around Greenwich Village that morning and a girl who he knew as a child had spotted him and started going crazy over him. That bothered him because he sensed the hypocrisy of it all. When he was a fat military brat these people had rejected and ignored him but now, because of his new public image, they were fawning over him.

That “new public image” is the one most of us think of first when thinking of Jim Morrison, but as a flesh and blood exemplar, it was unsustainable. Photographer Brodsky reflects:

The shot on the inner sleeve of the Greatest Hits album was pretty near the end, I think. By that time, he was so drunk he was stumbling into the lights and we had to stop the session. Morrison never really looked that way again, and those pictures have become a big part of The Doors’ legend. I think I got him at his peak.

Morrison didn’t dwell on childhood miseries in his Village Voice interview, nor did he show any self-loathing or regret for physiques past.

Rather, he gave voice to the positive effects of his increased size. He felt like a tank, a beast—a body of consequence.

(To consider the implications of bodily size for a female in Morrison’s world, have a look at cartoonist Pénélope Bagieu’s California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot before the Mamas and The Papas.)

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City March 11 for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

18 Classic Myths Explained with Animation: Pandora’s Box, Sisyphus & More

Greek myths have an incredible shelf life.

We may not retain all the players’ names or the intricacies of the various plot lines, but the creative punishments the gods—Zeus, in particular—visited upon those who displeased them have provided modern mortals with an enduring shorthand for describing our own woes.

Tempted to sneak a peek inside a lover’s diary? Take a teeny swig from the liquor cabinet whilst housesitting? Go snooping in your teenager’s Internet history?

DON’T DO IT, PANDORA!!!

But if curiosity compels you to explore beyond the famous punchlines of mythology’s greatest hits, TED-Ed’s animated Myths from Around the World series is a recommended rummage.

Averaging around five minutes per tale, each episode is packed tight as a snake in a can of mixed nuts. Prepare to be surprised by some of the tidbits that come springing out.

Take Pandora’s box, above.

(Actually it was a jar, but why quibble?)

Not to unleash too many major spoilers, but how many of us remembered that the thing contained a bit of good along with all that evil?

Or that the vessel she wasn’t allowed to open was but one of many gifts the gods bestowed upon her at birth? In fact, Zeus gave her two presents, that pretty box, jar, whatever, and—wait for it—an irrepressibly inquisitive nature.

Or the close connection between Pandora and Prometheus? Zeus conceived of Pandora as a retribution for Prometheus stealing fire and returning it to earth.

Remember Prometheus?

No, not the guy who’s doomed to spend his life rolling a massive rock uphill, only to have it roll back down before he reaches the top. That’s Sisyphus, as in Sisyphean task, like laundry or cleaning the cat litter.

Prometheus is the Titan who winds up chained to a rock so Zeus can send a hungry vulture—some say eagle—to devour his liver once a day.

(Which kind of puts the cat litter in perspective.)

In addition to ancient Greek crowd pleasers, the 18-episode Myths from Around the World playlist delves into the familiar stuff of Norse, Chinese, and ancient Egyptian legends, as well as less widely known Cambodian and Irish tales.

Each video’s description has a link to a full Ted-Ed lesson, with the usual complement of quizzes, resources and opportunities for teacher customization.

Watch the full playlist here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain, this March. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

When Fred Rogers and Francois Clemmons Broke Down Race Barriers on a Historic Episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1969)

Last year’s Fred Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, propelled François Clemmons—better known to generations of Mister Rogers Neighborhood viewers as Officer Clemmons—back into the international spotlight.

One of the most striking anecdotes in the doc concerns a 1969 episode in which Mister Rogers, who was white, invited Officer Clemmons, who is black, to join him in soaking his bare feet in a backyard baby pool on a hot summer’s day.

It was one of those giant leaps for mankind moments that passes itself off as a homey, fairly unremarkable step, though as Clemmons told his friend Karl Lindholm in a StoryCorps interview, Rogers understood the powerful message this gesture would send.

Likewise, his choice of Clemmons to embody a friendly cop for his television neighborhood, a part Clemmons, who played the role for 30 years, was initially hesitant to accept:

Fred came to me and said, “I have this idea, you could be a police officer.” That kind of stopped me in my tracks. I grew up in the ghetto. I did not have a positive opinion of police officers. Policemen were sicking police dogs and water hoses on people. And I really had a hard time putting myself in that role. So I was not excited about being Officer Clemmons at all.

Rogers, who had met Clemmons in a Pittsburgh area church where the trained opera singer was performing, prevailed, stressing the impact such a positive portrayal of a black authority figure could have on the community.

Officer Clemmons, the first recurring black character on a children’s series, paved the way for the multiracial casts of Sesame Street and The Electric Company, also on PBS.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a song can also pack quite a wallop. It’s hard not to get choked up hearing Clemmons sing “There Are Many Ways to Say I Love You,” above, a tune he reprised in 1993, for his final appearance on the show, below.

Such sentiments are a natural fit in programs aimed at the preschool crowd, whose love of their families is reinforced at every turn, but it’s still unusual to see these feelings articulated so purely when the only people in sight are grown men.

Clemmons learned not to doubt Roger’s sincerity when he said, “I like you just the way you are.”

And Rogers grew to accept his friend’s sexual orientation, though this embrace came a bit less naturally. In an interview with Vanity Fair’s Chris Azzopardi, Clemmons was philosophical, recalling his “surrogate father’s” request to steer clear of gay clubs so as not to endanger the show’s wholesome image:

Sacrifice was a part of my destiny. In other words, I did not want to be a shame to my race. I didn’t want to be a scandal to the show. I didn’t want to hurt the man who was giving me so much, and I also knew the value as a black performer of having this show, this platform. Black actors and actresses—SAG and Equity—90 percent of them are not working. If you know that and here you are, on a national platform you’re gonna sabotage yourself?

I weighed this thing, the pros and the cons. And I thought, I not only have a national platform, I’m getting paid. I was also getting a promotion that I simply could not have afforded to pay for. Every time I did the show, and every time Fred took us across the country to do three, four, five personal appearances, my name was being written into somebody’s heart—some little kid who would grow up and say, “Oh, I remember him, I remember that he could sing, I remember that he was on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” I didn’t have the money to pay for that, but I was getting it free. There were so many things that I got back for that sacrifice that I kept my big mouth shut, kept my head down, kept my shoulder to the plough.

Students at Middlebury College, where Clemmons was a long time faculty presence, were well acquainted with the self-proclaimed “Divaman’s”’ flamboyant side:

Clemmons has added color and soul to the Middlebury College scene for nearly 25 years. As Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence and director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir, he is known by many names: the divo, the maestro, the reverend, doctor-madam-honey-man, sportin’ life, and even black magic. He has played the role of professor, choirmaster, resident vocal soloist, advisor, confidant, and community cheerleader. Yet his purpose is singular: to share hope through song.

Listen to StoryCorps podcast episode #462 about Mister Rogers’ and Francois Clemmons’ famous foot bath, as well as an incident that took place five years prior where protesters staged a “wade in” at the “Whites Only” pool at St. Augustine, Florida’s Monson Motor Lodge.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City on March 11 as host of  Theater of the Apes book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Neil Gaiman Reads His Manifesto on Making Art: Features the 10 Things He Wish He Knew As a Young Artist

I think you're absolutely allowed several minutes, possibly even half a day to feel very, very sorry for yourself indeed. And then just start making art. - Neil Gaiman

It’s a bit early in the year for commencement speeches, but fortunately for lifelong learners who rely on a steady drip of inspiration and encouragement, author Neil Gaiman excels at putting old wine in new bottles.

He repurposed his keynote address to Philadelphia's University of the Arts’ Class of 2012 for Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World, a slim volume with hand lettering and illustrations by Chris Riddell.

The above video captures the frequent collaborators appearing together last fall at the East London cultural center Evolutionary Arts Hackney in a fundraiser for English PEN, the founding branch of the worldwide literary defense association. While Gaiman reads aloud in his affable, ever-engaging style, Riddell uses a brush pen to bang out 4 3/4 line drawings, riffing on Gaiman’s metaphors.

While the art-making “rules” Gaiman enumerates herein have been extrapolated and widely disseminated (including, never fear, below), it’s worth having a look at why this event called for a live illustrator.

Leaving aside the fact that each ticket purchaser got a copy of Art Matters, autographed by both men, and a large signed print was auctioned off on behalf of English PEN, Gaiman holds illustrations in high regard.

His work includes picture books, graphic novels, and lightly illustrated novels for teens and young adults, and as a mature reader, he, too, delights in visuals, singling out Frank C. Papé's drawings for the decidedly “adult” 1920s fantasy novels of James Branch Cabell. (1929’s Something about Eve featured a buxom female character angrily frying up her husband's manhood for dinner and an erotic entryway that would have thrilled Dr. Seuss.)

In an interview with Waterstones booksellers upon the publication of Neverwhere another collaboration with Riddell, Gaiman mused:

…a good illustrator, for me, is like going to see a play. You are going to get something brought to life for you by a specific cast in a specific place. That way of illustrating will never happen again. You know, somebody else could illustrate it—there are hundreds of different Alice in Wonderlands.

Which we could certainly take to mean that if Riddell’s style doesn’t grab you the way it grabs Gaiman (and the juries for several prestigious awards) perhaps you should tear your eyes away from the screen and illustrate what you hear in the speech.

Do you need to know how to draw as well as he does? The rules, below, suggest not. We’d love to take a peek inside your sketchbook after.

  1. Embrace the fact that you're young. Accept that you don't know what you're doing. And don't listen to anyone who says there are rules and limits.

  2. If you know your calling, go there. Stay on track. Keep moving towards it, even if the process takes time and requires sacrifice.

  3. Learn to accept failure. Know that things will go wrong. Then, when things go right, you'll probably feel like a fraud. It's normal.

  4. Make mistakes, glorious and fantastic ones. It means that you're out there doing and trying things.

  5. When life gets hard, as it inevitably will, make good art. Just make good art.

  6. Make your own art, meaning the art that reflects your individuality and personal vision.

  7. You get freelance work if your work is good, if you're easy to get along with, and if you're on deadline. Actually you don't need all three. Just two.

  8. Enjoy the ride. Don’t fret it all away. (That one comes compliments of Stephen King.)

  9. Be wise and accomplish things in your career. If you have problems getting started, pretend you're someone who is wise, who can get things done. It will help you along.

  10. Leave the world more interesting than it was before.

Read a complete transcript of the speech here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City tonight as host of Theater of the Apes’ monthly  book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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