Playing the Black Cat Game

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A peak inside the box. Black Cat Fortune Telling Game, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I know it is hard to believe, but I warned you! The huge holiday haul continues today with this late entry purchased days before Christmas, but arriving to Deitch Studio with time to spare. How appropriate for one of the first post of the New Year to be this black cat fortune telling game. Kim found this one on eBay and he snatched it up for me. I have always wanted one of these – devoted readers may remember that I have some of the stray cards which I wrote about previously in the post It’s in the Cards, so I will not spend a lot of time on the history of the game (created by Parker Bros. in 1897), but I will say that I am enjoying having the full set along with the (somewhat complex and confusing) instructions. Oh the joys of having my fortune foretold by this series of black kitties! I have chosen the one card image that was missing from my prior post The Present a nicely beribboned black kitty with mouse catching kitten. I do think it might seem like a somewhat foreboding image (especially if you are a rodent) to represent as The Present.

 

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On the back of each card is a long list of phrases or sentence fragments which I gather you mix and match together with the other cards as you lay them down. They include such phrases as Manners don’t pay the Tailor’s bill and mystically, In the glass whenever opportunity permitted. My personal favorite and most likely to apply to yours truly, Your stubbornness is offending many whom…” Since childhood I have been known for my stubbornness – a family trait I might note I feel I definitely come by honestly. Over time I have tried to learn to not so much deny it, but to mitigate the effects by applying it where it will do the most good. As I dig my heels into making my new job work I have had occasion to reflect on that often.

There is no time better than the beginning of a New Year to take stock of oneself, and this year I am reflecting on the first months of my new job. At the dawn of 2017 my job was not even a twinkle in my eye yet, something I was reminded of constantly in December, first as I traveled with the band (something I really couldn’t have imagined twelve months ago), and then as I finished the calendar year, always a busy time in fundraising. At the Met the final few weeks of the year were often busy to the point of being harrowing, and I would end the holidays and start the New Year a frazzled wreck. For better or worse, the incoming gifts this year never reached nearly the fever pitch, nor the complexity that they did at the Met.

This has left time for some reflection as well as a sense of tooling up for the next leg of this adventure. I knew that there were challenges when I took this job – and solving those problems were (and remain) of interest to me. I have been acquiring a sizable bag of fundraising tricks over the years and applying them to a new set of problems is an interesting challenge. Challenges, of course, are more fun when they are an intellectual exercise than when they are a reality and I have spent my share of nights awake at 3 AM running through the Jazz at Lincoln Center contributed income to date through a back of the envelope calculation in my head. And like a mom with many mouths to feed and feet to shod, I worry about how to make all the ends meet by June 30 fiscal year end.

That aside, there is the larger question of exactly how I raise money for this endeavor. I share below a snippet that I wrote in early December while freezing on a bus somewhere north of Atlanta and on our way to Chapel Hill:

I have written about how I got to be the Vice President for Development at Jazz at Lincoln Center (if you are just tuning into Pictorama that can be found at Leaving the Met) but even that does not fully explain why I am on this bus, far from home, eating vending machine junk food.

I guess what I am really writing about today is how I do my job. Like anything else, there are any number of ways to raise money, areas of specialty, different approaches. After almost 30 years of raising money for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the question of how I will approach this new gig lingers, but for me it all starts with falling in love. This was easy at the Met. I had been in love with it since childhood. After 30 years my approach was more than just a well oiled machine, it was embedded in me. The Met was family – a part of me and fundraising flowed from that naturally.

Having started to ignite my own love affair with this new endeavor, the hard question is how to deliver my experience to others. How to introduce my audience not only to the music and an extraordinary array of educational programs, but the commitment, charm, and ideals – in short, how do I make the magic happen on command when needed? How do I share the love?

Full disclosure, I am writing this on New Year’s Eve, anticipating a trip I need to make next weekend which will cramp my blog posting time, so my mind is much on the turning of the year and the year past. Yesterday was the anniversary of our friend Rich Conaty’s death (memorial post to him at Rich Conaty) and somehow I always think of him when I think of my new job, and the decision to take it, given that he did so much to introduce me to jazz and the early dance band music I love. So as 2018 and the fortune (as told by the black cat cards or not) of the future lays out before me this, is what I am thinking about, and in part I suspect I will depend on that well documented stubbornness to help me succeed.

 

 

 

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Good Cats and Bad Cats

 

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Okay, still rounding up the last of what was a Pictorama perfect holiday season with more magnificent gifts than I could have imagined! (We are indeed fortunate over here at Pictorama!) This entry is an extraordinarily thoughtful gift from a colleague at Jazz who clearly understands the Pictorama ethos. I am just mad about this little volume, the likes of which I have not seen before. For those of you who are wildly jealous (you will be) I will tell you that a less charming reprint seems to be available, but this original version seems far less easy to obtain.

In case the book itself was not perfect enough, the inscription, in pencil and dated Christmas, 1911, takes it over the top. It reads, To my good Kitten (and then in tiny script underneath which is hard to read) who is sometimes just a wee bit bad. Who wouldn’t love that? The volume, published by Frederick A. Stokes Company (September 1911 so this was hot off the press at the time) is author dedicated thus, To FUZZY WUZZY a Perfectly Good Cat Except WHEN SHE IS BAD or (as is usually the case) UTTERLY INDIFFERENT.

What follows are these wonderful cat illustrations and a volume that is one part children’s book, written entirely in rhyme, describing first a good kitty and then the naughty bad kitty:

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But at times it becomes an actual comic strip:

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There are also these sort of splendid full pages that seem to be something all their own:

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Alas, while we all aspire to being a good kitty, who among us does not as frequently identify with the bad?

Finding information about author/artist Frederick White tested my amateur sleuthing skills mightily and just about when I was ready to turn the question over to you, my erudite readers, I teased out some information from Mr. Google at last by searching his name and 1911 under comics. Born in Queens on December 4, 1869 he seemed to be a journeyman cartoonist, although the artistic trail sort of peters out as you will see below. The real information I found comes from the excellent work of fellow blogger Allan Holtz over at Strippers Guide. I quote from him and link to him below (all these links in color from his blog work) where further information can be found:

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said White did The Gol-I-Fings, from May 5 to June 9, 1901, for the McClure Syndicate. His Gol-I-Fing ran in the San Francisco Chronicle from October 12 to November 2, 1902. 

The Christian Register, January 2, 1908, reprinted White’s verse, Bill, a Cheerful Dog. Apparently it was the basis for the 1908 book from Holiday Publishing. The book was well received by The Presbyterian Banner and American Motherhood.

White created Good and Bad Cats for the News Syndicate which ran it from November 6, 1910 to March 19, 1911. The material was compiled in a book by the Frederick A. Stokes Company in 1911. For the NEA, White produced Kute Karols for Kitty Kats which debuted January 1, 1912. The Day Book (Chicago, Illinois) printed White’s Nine Lives of Kitty Kat from February 5 to 14, 1912. The Boston Globe published White’s Edie and Eddie from August 22, 1915 to March 19, 1916. Edie and Eddie also appeared on the inside back covers of Everyland magazine in the 1920 issues for JanuaryFebruaryMarch and May.

An interesting aside I enjoyed further is that the last home listed is with his sisters at 45 East 85th Street (between Park and Madison Avenues) a few short blocks west from the perch where I write from right now here on 86th Street, near York Avenue.

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Ad for The Nine Lives of Kitty Kat! in the Daily Day Book.

Sit Up There Buster

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I have long held the pure fantasy of legions of cats who not only are trained, but also perform with Busby Berkley-like skill and perfection. I am talking about a sort of an all-singing, all-dancing cat review, sort of circa 1933. For a number of years I suggested to Kim that this would be a lovely birthday surprise, and yet Februarys have come and gone and still, no secret cat rehearsals in the hall, and no birthday cat performance. Imagine! And there is no evidence that Cookie and Blackie will be the ones to break into show biz. Out of all of our cats, they are I think the least inclined to attempt miming human activity, although Cookie will engage in a game of fetch and will do cat yoga in tandem with Kim’s daily work out. (It is my belief that Cookie just want to show how much better she is at stretching and exercise than humans are. She is right – and she is doing it as I write this.) Blackie prefers to maintain his own state of cat perfection and disinterest.

Fairness does compel me to point out that while we at Deitch Studio may have fallen short of two-stepping kit extravaganzas for my birthday, Kim has on many occasions drawn such epics for me and in this regard I am, as I so often reflect, a very lucky woman indeed.

The jolly fellow who authored this card looks like he may be training his cat while sporting evening dress, but perhaps it is just the poor lighting of this photo and he isn’t in dinner clothes. I like to imagine he is however – how dashing! The cat is more kitten than cat, good to start training ’em young I guess, and Buster seems mildly game if somewhat disinterested. The training quarters appear to be a porch railing. He should be told that pointing your finger at a cat never works however.

This postcard was mailed from Los Angeles and the postmark does not show the date over the penny stamp, however it is dated in his neat hand, Sept-12-11 and it reads as follows, Dear Friend, I am glad you are having so good a time Fishing and Hunting. I wish I were there too. Will have some fine kittens for you when you get back. Truly Yours Billy Lindsay. It is addressed, Mr. C. P. Sprague, Gardiner, Maine. Mr. Sprague was quite far from home and clearly in a place sufficiently unpopulated that he presumably was able to get this card addressed in this fashion. Meanwhile, Billy may have been trying to create that Hollywood all cat review I am waiting for! Go Billy, go!

I have touched on trained kitties numerous times, first in the early post Peeved Puss Postcard, and also later in Dashington’s and my favorite, Mad Jenny – and probably several times after that I think. It is almost a subgenre for us at Pictorama. What this man needs to know is that cats do not train blithely and a deep reserve of cat treats seems to be necessary. However, starting in early while the feline is still a kitten as he is probably is a good idea.

Meanwhile, although this photo is of more or less epic bad quality I sort of love that about it. In fact, sometimes a photo postcard that is printed this badly charms me with the reminder that this was a very manual process at the time, evidence of the human hand, and that this is indeed likely to be a singular photo. Although I certainly have numerous mass produced photo postcards in my collection, it is these (not infrequently poorly executed) one-of-a-kind ones that hold great romance for me. I took this photo and I decided to make a postcard out of it – and sent it to you! It took some work and some planning, but I did it! In some ways for me the specialness of this is now lost – although I am very charmed by exchanging photos daily with great ease via the internet. It is a lovely few minutes I spend with my Instagram feed a few times a day, seeing what my friends are doing and looking at, not to mention those photos exchanged by text, email, on Twitter and of course on Facebook. We live in a time of visual bonanza. Still, the extreme singularness of the bygone printed photo postcard and the evidence of it is somewhat lost in our time of phone tapping and computer clicking ease.

 

Three White Kittens

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is another item dug out of the Pictorama archive. As you can see, it is quite fragile and frankly even the amount of scanning we did, as feared, seems to have injured it further. I do not have a clear memory of how I acquired it. At first I thought I bought it at a flea market, but no, it was a birthday gift from my friend Eileen shortly after I met her. It is odd in that the pages are not printed on both sides, so you have spreads of blank pages between those that are printed. Therefore it was unclear if it was complete with all its pages – in addition they are not numbered – however some quick research found a copy on Abe’s Books (you can own your own in significantly better condition for $75 at the time of writing this) and my copy does appear to be complete.

Three White Kittens was published in 1880 by McLoughlin Bros. Publishers, New York. McLoughlin was a publishing company founded in 1858 based on the new color printing methods for children’s books. They also produced board games and were eventually purchased and made a division of the Milton Bradley Company in 1920. Their game production ceased, but they continued to produce children’s books, paper dolls, linen books and the like for several more decades. A quick search on images shows a vast amount of this colorful material surviving in collections and archives today. The kitten theme was popular with the company and I supply another cover below. (I find it an interesting coincidence that both this one and my copy have handwritten notes at the top of the cover. This one a gift, and mine indicating ownership.)

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3 Little Kittens, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The writing, however, is quite not aimed at children. As Wikipedia expresses it, these are slightly bowdlerized or retold versions of children’s tales for a more adult audience. As a result, these kitten stories, told in rhyme, are of kits trying to eat someone’s bird, or gold fish. They have titles such as The Greedy KittenThe Cross Kitten, and The Disappointed Kitten. By way of example I offer a verse from The Disappointed Kitten below:

I flew to save my darling,
The dreaded foe in view, –
Oh! never fear, my birdie dear,
No kitten shall dine upon you!

Alas, for those of us who worship at the alter of the fluffy and adorable kitten perhaps not the feline attributes we most prefer to be reminded of. For the record, the kittens appear to be named, Tit, Tiny and Tittens, which appears at the top of each page of verse. Below are some of the illustrations from inside the book, a slightly different look, highlighting the hijinks of those naughty white kitties.

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The Greedy Kitten (?) Pams-Pictorama.com collection

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The Foolish Kitten, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Finally, this is clearly a deep area of collecting and I offer a few highlights of other covers and games, pulled off the internet and into a slideshow below.

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High Five Kitty

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: There are lazy times when I like nothing better than to take a long stroll through ancient press photos on eBay. As Pictorama readers know, I purchase the occasional one, but I also enjoy the trip along the way. Comic and human interest photo filler for newspapers appears to have been more prevalent and somewhat more freewheeling than today – although perhaps I am just reading the wrong papers now. Strangely these photos are generally dated with a month and a day and not a year, so we don’t know exactly where in the early part of the 20th Century this one falls, but we do know that it was set for publication from the Acme Roto Service for release Sunday, May 29 or Saturday, May 28, to papers not having a Sunday edition.

The caption was to read, ‘Big One for Me’ ‘What’ll you have, Fifi?’ asked a visitor at the bar who was buying drinks for the house. ‘Make mine a long, tall, cool one,’ answers Fifi, using his forepaws to show the bartender the size. I raise an eyebrow at Fifi being a he, but will have to let that slide I guess. Fifi, if indeed that is his name, has a great look of intensity and some annoyance in this photo. Clearly he was born decades too early and should have been doing cat videos on the internet during today’s generation of kitties. Most memorable for me are the patti-cake playing cats who do a slo-mo fight to a narration of patti-cake, but a quick search turns up numerous others. Cats are standing up and gesturing with their paws all over the world and we love recording it with gif’s and on youtube. (This of course leads to cat boxing, a subject previously covered in my post Powo! Cat Boxing and Cat Boxing, Round 2.)

Since I never had a cat do this before Cookie and Blackie, I assumed it was perhaps an evolutionary advancement in 21st century cats. However this photo is here to remind me that, once again nothing is new that isn’t also old as well. To my surprise both our cats do this spontaneously, but Cookie much more than Blackie. She especially likes to hop on a small rocking chair and let it rock gently (adds urgency perhaps?) and reach up with a star fish paw for your attention and bam, a little high five along with a chirp. Blackie much more likely to reach the occasional, languid paw up, almost more of a stroke, for your attention. (And that says all anyone needs to know about their personalities and the differences.) When the cats were tiny they would stand on their haunches in unison chattering, paws outstretched, when Kim would exercise with an old paint pole, back and forth over his head.

This barmen cat is a solid citizen so we will assume he was the recipient of many complimentary bits off the blue plate special of patrons at lunch time – or there was a plentiful rodent population at his disposal, my guess is both. This photo pre-dates the high five as we know it, and so our friend the bartender doesn’t quite know what to do in response and gestures unconvincingly. I do like the idea that Fifi is requesting a large, perhaps frothy drink. “No, I want it this high!”

This photo reminds me of a restaurant I used to frequent when I lived in London. It was in Holland Park and was sort of upscale so I didn’t go so very often. However, in the bar area there was always a rather amazing buffet of various foods including a beautiful plate of salmon trout. Same bright orange as salmon, but a much smaller fish that I only ever saw in Britain. (Turns out that it is of the rainbow trout family and is also, less attractively, known as steelhead.) Anyway, the beautiful and well mannered cat of that bar was always parked provocatively under the plate of salmon trout. I inquired and was told that kitty was very well-behaved and never helped him or her self, although was known to have a portion slipped to him now and again. So there he remained, ever hopeful.

Taken From Life, The Pussy Cat Rag

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Zipping back to the world of cat themed sheet music today. I especially like the bit above the title – Taken From Life. What does that mean? Where are these tuneful cat choruses that I seem to have missed? (See prior post, Kitty Sextette Singers for illustrated speculation on that subject.) Referring clearly to noisy cats in the backyard, it could also refer to the seemingly real cat and dog chorus used – at least in the youtube I have supplied below. The first time I played it Blackie woke from a sound sleep and wandered over to frown at the computer which was cheerfully spewing these cat and dog sounds.

The drawing on this cover is spirited indeed – throwing not only shoes and cans (Prize brand tomato), but a stool at said kitties! Seems a bit extreme. A close look at this also shows the item throwing humans to be racist depictions of people on those fire escapes. I was surprised to find this bit of racism hidden in my new acquisition. I put it up in my office and my assistant, Farzana, said she had never encountered this before. Another colleague, who has an advanced degree in early American music, talked about history and use of such imagery. It led to a discussion of racist sheet music and cartoons. If anything she seemed more distressed when we finished than when we started. I think I will need to swap it out – perhaps for one of the sheets I keep at home which I covered in this early post Me-ow! Kitty Sing-a-long.

A quick look on Wikipedia tells us that William Gill was born in 1839 to Manx parents – I needed to look that up and it turns out that it is those who are of The Isle of Man.  His bio neglects this ditty and focuses on Manx related music. Although he gets top billing here, Harry Taylor who wrote the words but also has the misfortune of a common name, does not seem to rate a Wikipedia entry. I was unable to locate him online. It is unclear to me what year the music was written, Will Rossiter of Chicago seems to be the publisher here, but no date.

I offer a few versions of this for comparison and there is some debate about the date of the first recording. A remark on Youtube pegs it for 1928 since Polk Miller’s group seemed to do two sets of recordings – 1909 and 1928. The first is here on Youtube:  Polk Miller & His Southern QuartetteA somewhat lesser recording is Ada Jones, 1914, in Ada Jones & The Peerless Quartet in the Pussy Cat Rag – this is the one that had Blackie going although both are sleeping through it as I play it now. How quickly kitties become jaded.

 

 

Tiger Chase Tired with Play

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Tiger Chase is a pretty great name for this striped fellow. A pity this photo postcard is a tad dark, which makes some of the detail, like his nicely dark striped tail, hard to see. There is a bit of string next to him, and I wonder if that is the instrument of play that has so tired him – a really intense game of string chase can do it, and of course he seems to be named for a fondness for chasing. This card came from Australia and with the rustic fence (you can just about see a sign that says Private in the lower right corner), and slightly out of focus stone building behind, it looks like a nice view of Australian countryside – timeless really. It is unused and nothing is written on the back, but it appears to be fairly old and the paper has a slightly brittle quality. Perhaps the Australians used different photo paper stock?

Of course, what we consider cat play is actually our felines sharpening and deploying their hunting and killing skills. Here at Deitch Studio, Blackie in particular seems to really lose it when playing certain games. We have one toy, a lucite rod with a bit of elastic string and an “insect” that looks like something you would fly fish with, that makes him so crazed that I hesitate to take it out. (Incidentally, when purchased the manufacturer insert suggests that the toy be put away where the cat cannot get to it – I thought this was an exaggeration, but no – left to his own devices Blackie would shred and consume it I’m afraid. He even snuck it out of the box when left on my desk one night.) Cookie mostly invents her own games – she picks high perches to jump on and off of, does laps around the apartment at high speed, and occasionally incites Blackie to riot.

When we found ourselves in a rare cat-less position several years ago, adopting Cookie and Blackie from the same litter as tiny kittens, the idea was that they would have each other to play with and keep each other company. I think I had visions of adorable cats, napping with paws around each other. However, I had not anticipated the reality that their primary form of play would be what I like to call kill the guy and that every night before bed I would hear the strangled cries of (usually) Cookie being assaulted by Blackie (after having pushed his buttons) and having to break it up. While I am mostly content to live in my dreamy, anthropomorphic cat world where there are seemingly endless, charming conga lines of kitties dancing and romping, I do realize that in their heart of hearts my little darlings, like Tiger Chase, dream dreams of being elegant killing machines, contentedly and endlessly chasing prey on the veldt or savannah of their imaginations.

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Cookie & Blackie as tiny kits, enjoying a rare moment on Kim’s desk! Pams-Pictorama.com

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Cookie here, ready for action! Pams-Pictorama.com