Flying to the Moon

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I guess I am a sucker for kitten balloon photos. You may remember an earlier, similar card in my post Flying Dutch Kitties, which is in all fairness, a better photograph. It was the moon that grabbed me in this one – I do love a good man in the moon. (I am, after all, married to Kim Deitch. His man in the moon images are, of course, the best and one of the many sterling qualities I married him for.) This one looks full of mischief to me. I can remember being a little kid and looking hard at the moon and being fairly sure I could put together the face of the man there.

This appears to be an American made card, sent from Chicago in 1912, but the specific date is obscured. It was sent to Austria however, and there is a long note, penned in tiny German I have no hope of translating. Landor, the maker of the card, seems to have been partial to cat photo postcards, made at the turn of the century, but I cannot find the history of the company online.

Unlike the masterfully constructed set in Flying Dutch Kitties, this one is deceptively simple. As if you could have easily taken this photo at home with a couple of kittens, string and tissue paper. For me, these are the photo equivalents of how I felt about the Little Rascals when I was a kid. You would look at those various stitched together vehicles, clubhouses and staged shows and the construction seemed like it should only be just within your reach – which of course, wasn’t true at all. Now I frankly marvel at the thoughtful construction and technology of them.

As for me, I have failed to record Cookie and Blackie doing any of their “tricks” for the camera – hind leg standing and boxing; Cookie giving Kim high fives; or her skill in moving a small rocking chair she is partial to. Candid photos of orchid eating or displayed on Kim’s desk is about the best I can do with these two. Too bad – I could be a contender for the Queen of the Cat Video on Youtube if only I was a little bit faster with the camera.

Cookie & Blackie 2015

Cookie & Blackie in an undated photo

 

Painted Puss

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This rather lurid painted photo caught my eye recently – I guess it was something about the saucy looking woman with this cat draped around her shoulders. (My cat Zippy used to occasionally climb up around my neck when he was a youngster – while I was sitting at the drawing table. It seemed very sweet, but was a little tough on the neck and shoulders after a few minutes. I don’t know how he got the idea – I have never had another cat that did this.) Somehow the colored cat’s fur and woman’s hair have more or less merged into one here. The painted cat expression can’t hide a certain annoyance when we look closely – somehow they managed to leave kit’s whiskers white as well as some chin hairs. She, on the other hand and if somewhat garishly painted, has quite the come hither look. You boys better watch out!

This is a German card and the postmark is illegible. It was sent to someone in Holstein and there is a pencil note written in German which I have not attempted to translate, but the sender’s name is Erna Steine.

This photo reminds me that my maternal grandmother had matching high school graduation photo portraits, cap and gown, of my mother and her brother, my Uncle John, hanging in her living room. They were the first hand-painted photos that I ever saw and I was always fascinated by them. My mother’s in particular looked nothing like herself. I wouldn’t say that it had as much impact on me as the somewhat terrifying, dramatically technicolor picture of Jesus in her bedroom (that’s another whole story – Kim and I were just discussing that yesterday) which more or less scarred and colored my views on Christ for years, but it stayed with me and formed and lodged an image of my high school mother in my mind.

My Uncle John looks exactly like a younger version of him in his photo – all red hair and green eyes. As for my mother, perhaps it is the fact that my mother truly never wears make-up. (I wonder sometimes how I can be her daughter since I have delighted in it since my early teens.) The painted photo gives her vivid lipstick and rouge. My mother’s nose was also broken in an accident after that time, and it was set slightly differently – bottom line, she is barely recognizable. Yet of course, in another way she is, especially when I look at the photo with adult eyes. When my grandmother’s house was cleared out and ultimately sold, I believe my mother ended up with both photos. My parents have just moved and almost everything is still in boxes – I must remember to ask where those photos are. I would like to have them someday.

Master Willie Rowell

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Obviously it was the weird cat toy (at least I think it is a cat) on this oddball card that attracted me – strange, mysterious and sewn toy smile on his face, perched on that very worn ball toy. It must have been quite a day at the old photo studio when they decided to do that photo shoot. But he is perky (if a bit maniacal) and this card was beloved enough to make it down the generations to us today. Not surprising, perhaps, it is British and although I just received it in mail fairly recently I don’t remember it coming from there. I believe it was an American dealer.

The card was never mailed, no postage, but it is fully addressed on the back to Master Willie Rowell, Glendon, Castle Road, Torquay. Also written, To wish dear Willie a very happy day of many happy returns with love from Raymond xxxxxx x one from Phyliss. It is a sweet birthday greeting written in a clear, adult hand. Sadly birthday cards are becoming a bit rare in their own right (let alone thank you notes which, if you aren’t professionally inclined to them as I am, belong almost exclusively to the octogenarian set) as our birthday greetings now most frequently zoom across cyber space. This seems like a kindness to the less organized, who don’t have to time the purchase and mailing of a card. (They have no excuse for missing the date now however.) No less sincere, but far less tangible, the detritus of today’s felicitations will not be available for future perusal and subsequent purchase.

At the bottom is a birthday greeting written in verse,
Happiness be thine
Little lad with eyes so true
This greeting comes to-day
To wish the very best for you
On this they natal day

And, at last, I offer this as a sly advance (cyber) birthday wish to my own beloved guy – xxo and many happy returns of the day!

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

 

A Cat Named Boy

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This card caught my eye recently and I decided he was a fine addition to the Pictorama collection. At four years he has achieved quite a solid citizen look indeed, and I have long been a sucker for a fat boy cat with a spotty nose. I am especially fond of his very white bib and paws – and he is a big fellow weighing in at 24 lbs! My goodness, quite the guy. The name and information appears painted on during the photo process. I don’t really understand how, but it is very neatly and decoratively done here. Often these applied on messages of this sort look like white pen, and are usually neat if not this pretty; however sometimes such writing is more of a scrawl. I am always a bit fascinated by this – did they print it themselves? Seems unlikely. Did they send the information along with the film to be printed? Was it a kit of sorts?

I have seen photo postcard cameras and imagine that postcards like these came from a mix of home executed or maybe occasionally by itinerant photographers. According to Wikipedia, Kodak introduced the 3A Folding Pocket Camera which took film that could then be printed on a postcard back and in ’07 they introduced a service called real photo postcards which enabled people to make postcards from any photo they took so this was certainly in place by the time this card was made. I assume some place in this process they allowed you the opportunity for a title and a few words.

This card was never used or written on, but we know from the front that it was done in 1911. Until I read the Wikipedia entry I didn’t realize that the term real photo postcards originated with Kodak. Interesting, they also state that it was more widely used by the public than in Kodak marketing. These cards are still called that today, sometimes by the abbreviation rppc.

As for Boy, I wonder about his name. It seems like a careless name for a prize kitty who was ultimately beloved enough to be memorialized on film in this way. You never know about cat names though. Sometimes they just materialize and stick and you don’t know for sure how or why. I remember thinking that back when we were naming Cookie and Blackie a few years ago. Giving them names seemed so arbitrary at first. (The person who rescued them had been calling them Thing 1 and Thing 2. Although we teased them with that for a bit, and it even seemed somewhat fitting to the little crazy furry aliens they seemed to be at first, I couldn’t warm to it.) Kim christened Blackie and I named Cookie. (She’s a smart Cookie for one thing, but I once knew a glorious fat Tuxedo named Cookie belonging to a friend and I was thinking of him at the time.) You know that ultimately you will get so used to calling the kits by those names, until the idea of them and the name merges, and you eventually can’t imagine them being called anything else.

Riding the Big Kitty

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: We’re having a stop the presses moment here at Pictorama to bring you this latest acquisition. I initiated this blog as a way to bring some order to my photo postcard collection of people posing with outsized Felix the Cat dolls, other Felix related photos, and the even more rarified people atop of giant stuffed black cat photos. (For two earlier posts you can have a look at the very early Cat Chair or the more recent Cat Chair (episode 2) ) For those of you who have been on board for a bit you are probably aware that the blog has instead rambled, stretched and rolled in many directions to include toys and all sorts of personal whims. However, we here at Pam’s Pictorama still drop everything for the inauguration of these photos. They rarely come cheap, but after all, that is what we are here for!

Today’s photo has an especially great cat. I adore the agape and almost bejeweled looking kitty mouth, highlighted claw paws, white whiskers and a stitched nose which looks like a great arrow pointing down to that mouth! This cat has pop eyes, outsized bat-like ears and the very most glorious and enormous tail I have ever seen on one of these fellows. He is an extraordinary specimen. Not at all worn-out looking, this one is fresh and handsome. Another appealing aspect of this photo is this little girl. I don’t think even I could enjoy it more than she is. (Although I would love to try of course.) Children do not always embrace these opportunities appropriately, and they often look confused or generally put out by the experience. Not this kid – she’s astride this kitty and she’s got a great grin on her face. Her white strappy Mary Janes and outfit provide an excellent contrast to kitty’s black surface.

Like most souvenir photos of this type, this photo was not mailed. There is no writing on the back and, like all of the cards of this kind I own, this one came from Great Britain. (I have come to assume that giant cat chair photo opportunities were only available in Britain. Please do let me know if you have different information.) Looking at the background, and not being an expert in flora, I guess it is probably a seaside resort or amusement park.

While I am not sure where I would put it in our studio apartment, (get rid of the couch?) I do nevertheless dream that these giant stuffed cats and their Felix counterparts are extant somewhere and that one day I will acquire them. A girl’s gotta dream, right?

Cat Boxing, Round 2

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I usually hold the line against these posed cat photos, but once in awhile I am sold. Previously I have caved on Flying Dutch Kitties and Breaking News and this is the latest entry. This card was never sent and there is nothing written on the back.

I am somewhat curious about the man in the double breasted suit behind these battling kits. Odd attire for a referee I would think. It’s hard to see at first, but the white cat has a very striped tail. That must be an interesting looking kitty. A close look also shows us that these kitties are wearing harnesses which look rather hateful really. Everyone has their piss-cat ears on.

The cat boxing concept has long been put forth in various forms. (I have covered some of this territory before in my prior post Cat Boxing so I apologize for any repetition.) I am convinced that it all grows out of the natural tendency of cats to, well, box. Anyone whose lived with a couple of cats has seen this show eventually. Cats will stand on their hind legs and, often in a sort of slow action (I call it slow mo’ boxing when Cookie and Blackie go at it) engage in a kitty version of fisticuffs. It entertains the heck out of me when they do it, although by its very nature it usually descends into a proper fight, and everyone has to be separated and sent to time out in their neutral corner. The very best recording of this is the Youtube sensation, Cats Playing Patty-cake which never seems to fail to elicit peals of laughter from me. (As good as drugs really for a day when I am especially down.)

Back to the beginning of cinema, among the earliest surviving images from the dawn of film, is a famous half minute film of two kits going at it, Boxing cats (Prof. Welton’s 1894). It isn’t hard to see that Professor Welton is manipulating the cats in question – much as I assume our be-suited friend is in this photo. Kim says he remembers as a kid being entertained by a similar act on Ed Sullivan and his dad, Gene, telling him that it was all faked – and about the early kinetoscope version.

I can’t remember the first time I saw the film, nor the first time I saw my own cats do this dance. I can say that, more than any cats I have ever known, Cookie and Blackie seem more comfortable standing on their hind legs in general and they will routinely square off at each other this way. (I, of course, have assumed that this is an evolutionary step forward for cats, but perhaps that is another post. It is the way my anthropomorphizing mind works.) Given all of this, I am pretty sure that somewhere, somehow – perhaps in the remote areas of Russia where performing animal acts still thrive – there is a cat boxing act still on the road. The distant descendants of Professor Welton and generations of Vaudeville performers.  And, if not, we certainly have Youtube!