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22 NOVEMBER, 2011

We Love You, Beatles: Vintage Children’s Illustration Circa 1971

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Can’t buy me love, but you can buy me this vintage treasure.

The Beatles are an utmost favorite around here. We’ve previously explored how the Fab Four changed animation, an infographic visualization of their life and music, Bob Bonis’s lost Beatles photographs, and Linda McCartney’s tender portraits of the icons. Now comes We Love You, Beatles — a stunning vintage illustrated children’s book from 1971 by Margaret Sutton (not the Margaret Sutton who penned the Judy Bolton mysteries). It tells the story of The Beatles, from their humble Liverpool beginnings to meeting the Queen to the British invasion of America, blending the bold visual language of mid-century graphic design with the vibrant colors of pop art.

The trees were rocking and the clouds were swaying and the flowers were swinging and the birds were dancing to the Beatles sound. ‘Let’s sing about love and people being happy.’ The Beatles sing songs you can sing in the sunshine. Sing them! Sing the Beatles’ songs!”

More than a charming way to explain who The Beatles were to a kid, We Love You, Beatles is a wonderful and visually gripping piece of cultural ephemera from a turning point in the history of both popular music and popular art.

Spotted on Burgin Streetman’s wonderful Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves

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22 NOVEMBER, 2011

Destino: A Salvador Dalí + Walt Disney Collaboration Circa 1945

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‘A magical display of the problem of life in the labyrinth of time.’

After last week’s discovery of Salvador Dalí’s little-known 1969 Alice in Wonderland illustrations, I followed the rabbit hole to another confluence of creative culture titans. In 1945, Dalí and Walt Disney embarked upon a formidable collaboration — to create a six-minute sequence combining animation with live dancers, in the process inventing a new animation technique inspired by Freud’s work of Freud on the unconscious mind and the hidden images with double meaning. The film, titled Destino, tells the tragic love story of Chronos, the personification of time, who falls in love with a mortal woman as the two float across the surrealist landscapes of Dalí’s paintings. The poetic, wordless animation features a score by Mexican composer Armando Dominguez performed by Dora Luz.

As fascinating as the film itself is the juxtaposition of the two creative geniuses behind it, each bringing his own life-lens to the project — Dalí described the film as “A magical display of the problem of life in the labyrinth of time” and Disney called it “A simple story about a young girl in search of true love.”

The project remained a secret and didn’t see light of day until a half-century later when, in 1999, Walt Disney’s nephew Roy E. Disney accidentally stumbled upon it while working on Fantasia 2000, eventually resurrecting the dormant gem. In 2003, it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

(I can’t help but wonder whether Destino inspired Ryan Woodward’s stunning Thought of You.)

Destino can be found on the 2010 DVD Fantasia & Fantasia 2000 Special Edition.

via io9

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22 NOVEMBER, 2011

And So It Goes: A Rare Glimpse of Kurt Vonnegut’s Tortured Soul

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The equilibrium of fiction, or what the Occupy movement can learn from a former GE PR executive.

Kurt Vonnegut — prolific author, anarchist, Second Life dweller, imaginary interviewer of the dead. And, apparently, troubled soul. At least that’s what’s behind the curtain Charles Shields (of Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee fame) peels in And So It Goes, subtitled Kurt Vonnegut: A Life — the first-ever true Vonnegut biography, revealing a vulnerable private man behind the public persona, a difficult and damaged man deeply scarred by his experiences.

The project began in 2006, when Shields reached out to Vonnegut in a letter, asking his permission for a planned biography. Though Vonnegut at first declined, Shields wasn’t ready to take “no” for an answer and eventually persuaded the counterculture hero into a “yes,” spending precious time with Vonnegut and his letters during the last year of the author’s life.

From his uneasy childhood to his tortured divorces to his attempted suicide to his explosion into celebrity, Vonnegut’s life was an intricate osmotic balance between private hell and public performance. As a leading figure in a movement of authors as a public intellectuals and a former PR agent for GE, he knew how to craft an image that would appeal to an audience — an art timelier than ever as we watch some of yesterday’s media pundits voice increasingly disconnected opinions on today’s issues.

He read the signs of what was happening in the country, and he realized that he was going to have to be a lot hipper than a nearly 50-year-old dad in a rumpled cardigan to be a good match with what he was writing about.” ~ Charles Shields

In a lot of ways, Vonnegut was an embodiment of the spirit behind today’s Occupy movement. Shields observes on NPR:

Kurt was a disenchanted American. He believed in America, he believed in its ideals … and he wanted babies to enter a world where they could be treated well, and he wanted to emphasize that people should be kind to one another.”

But Shields makes a special point not to vilify Vonnegut or frame him as cynical. Beneath the discomfort with this new private persona lies a deep respect for the iconic author and the intricate balance between private demons and public creativity, channelled perhaps most eloquently in this quote from Vonnegut himself, printed on the book’s opening page:

I keep losing and regaining my equilibrium, which is the basic plot of all popular fiction. I am myself a work of fiction.”

Powerful and revealing, And So It Goes joins the ranks of recent books that offer rare glimpses of the vulnerable selves of cultural icons — even though it perpetuates, all too dangerously in my opinion, the myth of the creative genius as a damaged soul.

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