Playing the Black Cat Game

Inside cat game boxJPG

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.

 

20180101-00003.jpg

 

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.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Come Hither Kitty

Pam’s Pictorama Post: In honor of the onset of Chinese New Year today – Happy Year of the Rooster! – I decided to focus on this heretofore unsung cat member of Deitch studio. Years ago we spotted and admired one of these lucky “beckoning” kitties at our favorite Mexican restaurant across the street, a splendid hole in the wall establishment run by a Korean family, where we get our Friday night take out every week. I hopped down to Chinatown and picked one up for Kim. I think it was an anniversary gift, but it might have been Valentine’s Day. Our little fellow waved cheerfully until the batteries ran out – then sadly the innards fell out when we tried to change the batteries. Waving or not, we remain fond of him despite this and stubbornly cling to the idea that he is indeed lucky.

My friend, Mr. Google, was ready at hand to tell me that this kitty is Japanese, although popular with Chinese merchants (we will have to assume Koreans as well) and has the official name Maneki-neko – roughly translated as beckoning kitty. Evidently these are modeled specifically on something called a calico Japanese bobtail – and yep, I checked and sure enough he is indeed a bobtail although ours does not indicate calico as some do. His red collar is just that, the kind of collar cats would wear – bibs with little bells to scare off the birds. (I saw a cat wearing such a contraption in Tibet in a monastery once – the cat looked rather aggrieved, although I assume he or she was used to it. Made sense to me that Buddhist monks wouldn’t abide bird catching.)

unnamed-1

From the back, bib bow and bobtail shown

 

The large item in his right paw is said to be a coin – the promise of good fortune. They are available in red, black and pink, as well as gold, and different colors mean different things – good fortune, luring away evil spirits, and love – of course! And they are produced in every medium from porcelain and plastic to metal and plaster. Frankly, we can’t decide exactly what ours is made of, perhaps a pot metal. I read that the calico ones are the luckiest – that’s what they have at the Mexican take-out. I show you one of those below.

 

maneki-neko-happy-cat_1

Calico Lucky Cat, not in my collection

I was the Secret Santa to my boss this year and I gave him a  tiny plastic version of one of these. I figured there was no more appropriate gift than that for a fellow fundraiser, but don’t tell him. Santa should remain a secret.

As Pictorama readers already know – and despite what you might think otherwise – black kitties are actually considered good luck by many and certainly we are of that opinion here at Deitch Studio. In a past post, Lucky Black Cat, I give a look at an early flyer that sold all sorts of lucky black cat paraphernalia. In an earlier post of the same name, Lucky Black Cat refers to a stuffed black cat held by Olympic British swimmer Ruth Moris-Hancock in a photo card circa 1936. Still, we’re secretly relieved that Blackie has that nice white badge on his chest – we wouldn’t want anyone to be scared of him!

 

Bonne Annee 2017

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I have fallen for these European New Year’s cards before. The 2015 New Year’s installment was an array of French cards, also titled Bonne Annee, and I have owned this card for more than a year already waiting for the appropriate moment. (There was a post a French, April Fools card as well, April Fools? with goofy French cats fishing.) I purchased this card with the intention of giving it to my mother, she who is the protector of and interested in all things swan related. I promise to get it to her soon.

I am interested in the tradition of New Year’s cards. I had the extraordinary privilege of being present when John Carpenter, one of the curators at the Met, took someone through a collection of Japanese New Year’s cards and explained that at the time they were drawn, wealthy people commissioned these beautiful drawings as cards and on New Year’s Day they would go from house to house with them and present them as gifts. At each house they would be invited in for music and food. The drawings he was showing us were a recent acquisition at the time, and he hopes to do an exhibit of them. Somehow these rituals around New Year’s seem to suit me – better than freezing in Times Square I guess.

It appears the French have stuck with New Year’s cards as well – I am under the impression that they still favor them over any other form of Christmas or generic holiday card. Getting back to my card above, there is some strangeness in this image. First and most obvious, that little girl has that wicked smile on her face – is this the face of the New Year I want? I guess she is a variation on the baby New Year symbol. I have to admit that she actually looks a bit like my mother did as a kid as well. There aren’t tons of photos of her, but it does resemble the one photo I have of her at that age – minus the dangerous grin. Then there is the swan which a trick of photography has captured in between both two and three dimensional space. Stuffed swan or cut-out perhaps? It remains unclear to me. Also, I was always told that horseshoes should always go the other way so that the good luck would stay in, but I grant you, it is easier to hook on your arm this way and perhaps the French don’t subscribe to that theory. The swan can represent purity, but also strength and, clearly in this case, water – although I am not sure exactly what that says about the coming year.

When I was a kid I used to write the numbers of the outgoing year many times – thinking that I would soon miss writing it and in sympathy with the outgoing year. I have no such sympathy as I kick 2016 out and close the door on it today. Many of you were along for the ride while our apartment was torn up for months in the spring; we all suffered through the political landscape; and even the Met was plagued considerably which rocked my professional life. Saddest of all, in the closing days of the year Kim and I lost a good friend, Rich Conaty, to cancer; additionally a Met colleague, Ron Street; and heard of the illness of still another friend. We here at Pictorama and Deitch Studios are grateful to have scraped through the year of ’16 and will pull up our socks for a productive and best ever Bonne Annèe  and we wish the same for each and everyone of you!

Bonne Annee 2016

Girl and goose

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The New Year celebration of 2016 continues with this unusual card. This one is a shout out to my mother, Betty, who has devoted considerable effort to the conservation and care of swans. I bought the card for her.

The swan ringing in the New Year with the good luck horse shoe could symbolize any number of things – love, beauty, and transformation to name a few that would work for New Year’s wishes. (Horse shoe is upside down, allowing the luck to run out, but perhaps the French don’t buy that part of the symbolic reading?)

This little girl has a pretty devilish look. She’s got that swan rigged up like a goat cart here, transporting her flowers. She knows stuff about the coming year – not sure we want to know what however. The card was sent, but the stamp and cancellation have been lost. On the back, written in a beautiful script is, Bons Souhaits to tous Marie Coissart (Good Wishes to you) and a lovely little sticker with a pink bow on the address side which says Mes meilleurs voeux (Best wishes).

For a bird that represents such lofty symbolism, the mute swan gets a bad rap in general. Everyone’s first reaction is to say they are mean, and the more scientific critics will mutter things about them not being indigenous. As some of you may have read in past posts, Betty spent years rescuing injured swans, but also fighting against movements to slaughter them in areas where they are not wanted.

My experience of swans is that, if not guarding a nest, they are no more or less nasty than any other wild animal – perhaps because of their beauty we hold them to a higher standard? I can think of many occasions that required my mother to handle them. (Not that I am suggesting that you try this – experienced people do take precautions such as gloves and goggles when helping an injured animal.) Meanwhile, horses aren’t indigenous to this country either and I hear no talk of the value of eradicating them.

If you want to feed a swan, use something like corn – hunks of bread are even worse for them than they are for human waistlines. Frequently my mother gets calls about swans poking around for food – often in garbage areas. Invariably it is a swan whose wings have been pinioned (to keep them from flying away from a manmade pond) but left in ponds without sufficient food to support them. Strange that some folks are killing them and others are trying to keep them in a pond they have made – yes?

 

Dawn of a New Year

Scan(2) copy 12

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As always, waking up on January 1 is a bit sobering, even to those of us who did not seek year-end oblivion the evening before. The cool gray light of that early January morning is the time when we put the old behind us and embark on resolutions and new leafs.

I bought this fellow several months ago. He looks very unhappy with the operation of photo taking and one can easily imagine him off like a bullet a moment after the shutter snapped. The strange, somewhat amorphous shape drawn around those champagne bottles look a bit like something you might start to see crawling around on the walls after several too many – or perhaps during a fit of the DT’s a la Lost Weekend?

This weird period of photo collage fascinates me – a strange marriage of commercial and homemade. Some of my other posts of this interesting medium include Cat Photo Collage and Mad Jenny. It is a nascent tributary that photography went down, but didn’t fully take hold. Not so much a false start and a dead end – although by contrast elaborate photo albums that were collaged eventually were huge in their time. There was an exhibition about it at the Met which I loved back in 2010, Playing with Pictures: the Art of Victorian Photo Collage(Some images from it can still be seen on the Met’s website indicated above.)

Resolutions in hand, clear-eyed and determined – here’s to the very best to all in the New Year!

 

 

Bonne Annee!

Kute Kate #1Kute Kat #21484240_10202127843150520_1138775871_n

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Happy New Year! Featured here is a small clutch of New Year’s cards that I purchased last year while contemplating the then New Year ahead. The ever sensible French have a cultural preference for New Year cards over Christmas cards – thus allowing themselves more time to enjoy the holidays. I have two examples from France above and two are British. Evidently dancing black cats were all the craze for ringing in the New Year in the 20’s which is the period of these cards, ’29 (black and white cat) and ’25 (three black kitties) are the postmark dates on those that were used.

The Bonne Annee card is dated December 27, 1929 and is addressed to Mademoiselle Dora Cordova, L’rue Guy-Patini, Paris, X. The brief message, as closely as I can read it, is Meilleurs voeux et vous (?) souvenirs, Yoorssie (?) Lehmann. The other, in English, is dated 4:45 PM, December, ’25 but the day is obscured.  It says, From your Loving Sister in Law and Family with best wishes for the new year and better Luck. From Ada xxxxxx. It is addressed to Mrs. Thornton 22 St. James Street, Walthamstow.

I love the tubby black kittens – especially that party trio! But my favorite is the very mischievous brown and white fellow. He has a sort of Devil-may-care Maurice Chevalier charm about him. Quite a New Year’s bash at his house! Something makes him just short of cute. While I don’t think I am capable of tossing my habits aside and moving to New Year’s cards, I like the thought. Non-denominational well wishes for the coming year make more sense and cards arriving during the brief lull between Christmas and New Year’s or just beyond seems nice. As a small child I was always quite serious about the changeover in years – solemnly writing down resolutions, something I no longer do. Somehow I approach the whole affair with some trepidation as an adult. So, crossing my fingers and hoping for the best, here’s to 2015 to one and all!