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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • THE TOY DEPARTMENT, 1913

Face-Off: 1960

Face-Off: 1960

In this work, the photographer presciently foreshadows the essential dialectic that was to become the touchstone of the nineteen sixties. The polarities of the cultural rift that was to come is limned by the stark juxtaposition of iconic figures: one, a near-Kerouacian embodiment of the rejection of middle-class bourgeois values and mores, confronts his antithetical archetype, himself a veritable paradigm of conventional managerial-class affectations. Note also the seemingly aleatory disposition of deceptively mundane objects: the "bullet" lamps, an allusion to the violence intrinsic to the enforcement of conformist societal imperatives; the desk with no legs, an unconscious admission of the illusory foundations of work-ethic mythologies. Most tellingly, a copy of the Declaration of Independence is inexorably detaching itself from the wall, an ironic metaphor for the impermanence of superficial obeisance to culturally-imposed eschatology.

Back here on planet Earth, I'll point out that this is my brother visiting his college friend Bob in his room at the Blue Rock Apartments in Larkspur, California. The misè-en-scene was captured by me with my then-new Kodak Starmite. The negative is gone, and all that's left is this Scotch-taped print. View full size.

Brilliant caption

And so like the decor of my own bedroom.

Your brother reminds me

of Henry Mitchell. You know, Dennis's dad.

Blast!

Kudos on the Kerouac with pipe photo post.

On berets, goatees, capes

My father (biological) was a Beat. He was a rather small fish in a very big pond in Greenwich Village but became the big fish in the very small pond when he moved to Ottawa, Canada, in the mid-50s. He was actually in a debate on the local AM radio station, CFRA, in 1962 with three local English professors, two of whom felt that "The Beat Generation" were a bunch of bearded wastrels and their "literature" would be forgotten in a few years. I still have the reel-to-reel of the debate.

Mom tells me that he was often roughed up because he wore a beard, once being hospitalized in NYC, as a result.

My cousin out in Iowa related to me that Dad cut quite a figure when he arrived for my grandfather's 1952 funeral in Sioux City, wearing a cape, a beret, and a beard, and carrying a copy of "On the Road" none of which anyone out in Iowa had ever seen. My cousin said that he was in awe of him, particularly coveting the copy of "On the Road" which he had heard about but never seen.

["On the Road" wasn't published until 1957. - Dave]

Great off-the-cuff prose

Reminds my of something my mid-60's college roommate would come up with after smoking (or dropping) one too many.

Let him out!

Prince Albert in the can.

Slide rules and Howl

Bob was an ornamental horticulture major and went on to a successful career in landscape architecture, so presumably he had use for a slide rule, as did my brother, who started out in OH before switching majors to English. In fact, we have a self-timer shot he took of himself at his desk in his Cal Poly dorm room holding one. Unfortunately, he didn't use it to calculate his lens setting and it's badly out of focus. Too bad; it would have been a cool pic.

In the late-50s and early 60s, I sometimes accompanied my brother on trips to San Francisco that often included stops at City Lights Books, the virtual Mecca of beatnikdom. The owner, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, was the first to publish Ginsburg's Howl and Other Poems, thus occasioning a celebrated and unsuccessful obscenity prosecution by city officials. I never saw Ginsburg, but do remember my 14-year-old eyes widening at the berets, goatees, black turtlenecks, espresso, bongos and other Beat Generation trappings and personages therein. The scene was crazy, daddy-o; I flipped.

Aw, hell; here it is, from 1956.

Right, what you said.

Nice pole lamp.

+100

Points for using my most favorite word ever: inexorable.

I'll bet

the guy on the right (your brother's roommate) carried a slide rule in his shirt pocket, right? Your brother, in the typically angst-ish feel of the early '60s, probably had a copy of "Howl" or some Hemingway novel in his hip pocket. Am I right (or even close)?

Kerouac and Pipe

One Kerouackian who smoked a pipe: Jack Kerouac.

Compare this

to the way students will be dressing in 1970!

But wait, there's more!

The theme of polarity is further underscored by the subtle, yet tangible, effect
produced by the strategic placement of the streaked floor tile; tiles of
alternating "grains" have produced a discordant foundational atmosphere
which effectively summarizes the vignette in its entirety.

Writers Write

Personally I just adore the writing. Very period in itself & I wonder if anyone here could really have done any better---apathy & inaction may be the subject, but just being apathetic is not in the actual writing.

Kerouackian???

No Kerouackian worth his salt back during his heyday in Greenwich Village or elsewhere in the 1960's would be seen dead smoking a pipe. But I do really dig that pole lamp. I had one of those that moved with me three times in that ancient age to various pads in Manhattan.

Don't make 'em like they used to

Wow! That great lamp, and that awful tile floor. Thanks for the memories.

Silicon significance

And what ideological subtext, pray tell, may be gleaned from the early transistor radio, dutifully complying with the law of gravity, on the legless desk?

Your brother, in profile

To me he resembles your Italian grandfather in some of the photos you've posted. Since 50+ years have passed since this picture, does he still ... or have I gotten it all wrong?

Best ever

paragraph of meaningless BS I have ever read. Ever. Especially love the legless desk reference as a great excuse to be a lazy bum. I may have to figure out a way to use that one.

But, surely, there is some esoteric significance to the fact that Bob chose to assume the costume of the misguided white collar aspirant--perhaps a conforming counter point to the casual guise of the pipe smoking, literati-esque brother (didn't you say he was an English teacher)? And all while listening to the music of the mindless masses on his cool transistor radio.

Or is it just a game of who blinks first?

Alternate caption

"You swore to me that we would get dates when we got to college."

Caption this pic

"Hey, thats a nice pipe you got there."
"What pipe?"

You had me at "limned"

Well done, sir. Bravo.

Psychic test

"If you can guess what number I'm thinking of, I'll buy lunch."

Huh???

DO WHAT NOW?

In plain English

Two guys in need of Scotch tape while ignoring a photographer are bored, lonely, and hungry in a college dorm stocked with a hanging desk, a period piece lamp, and a twin bed. Don't read too much into it.

Nouvelle vague

"Jean-Luc Godard describes his latest existentialist-Marxist film project with a member of the 'Cahiers du Cinema' editorial collective, who remains unconvinced of its ideological correctness."

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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