Duck Duck Book

45 – greetings from oregon
05.9.2007, 6:33 pm
Filed under: art & entertainment

Greetings from Oregon / by Gideon Bosker and Jonathan Nicholas.
Portland, OR : Graphic Arts Center Pub. Co., c1987.
[741.683 B743g; three copies, one hold]

Picture postcards have been ubiquitous for a long time, but before color film was widely available to amateur photographers they must have held a special appeal. If you went to an exotic foreign locale (like, say, Newport, Oregon) you could send home postcards showing beautiful, realistic images of the highlights of your trip to family and friends. Or, you could buy postcards for yourself and use them to indulge in nostalgic memories of your journey later. Think of how thrilling this would be if no one had yet heard of modern wonders like mobile telephones with a built-in cameras!

Greetings from Oregon reproduces hundreds of postcards of the Beaver State. Some are the classic location postcard, the ones with the word “OREGON” or “PORTLAND” or whatever spelled out in letter-shaped pictures of photogenic spots. Others are photographs of prosaic rural vistas, graceful urban environments, important buildings, natural wonders, and scenes depicting practical aspects of the local economy. Most are in full color — beautiful, slightly unrealistic hand-tinted full color — and all are reproduced at about their original size.

After a stirringly patriotic (in the provincial, loyal-to-one’s state sense) and completely unnecessary introduction from then-governor Neil Goldschmidt, the pictorial contents of Greetings from Oregon are arranged geographically and topically, with sections devoted to the Columbia River, the mountains, Eastern Oregon, Portland, the coast, rural Oregon, the timber industry, the towns of the Willamette Valley, and, last but definitely not least, postcards immortalizing three of our state’s major celebratory events — the Lewis & Clark Exposition of 1905, the Pendleton Round-Up, and the Portland Rose Festival.

Greetings from Oregon may be one of the best ways to look at some of Oregon’s lost treasures — Celio Falls (page 12), a passenger train departing Seaside for Portland (page 77), the old State Capitol (page 95), a busy Main Street in Pendleton with no cars in sight (page 31), a single old-growth fir cut to fit four rail cars (page 88), or the old Portland harbor (page 43), not to mention the round bed at the Mallory Hotel (page 59)!

The book would be better if the captions explained the approximate date of each postcard, and (I know I’m always saying this. . .) if it had an index. But, I’m not complaining. Greetings from Oregon shows us at our air-brushed and hand-tinted best, and we ought to be proud of how damned fine we looked.

[thanks, Geoff]


45 – sock monkeys
05.9.2007, 6:31 pm
Filed under: art & entertainment

Sock monkeys : (200 out of 1,863) / Arne Svenson + Ron Warren.
New York : Ideal World Books, c2002.
[MCL call number: 745.5924 S968s 2002; two copies, no holds]

Ron Warren’s collection of sock monkeys began with the simple desire to show how unique and special each individual sock monkey is. No monkey is like another. By the time a friend introduced him to photographer Arne Svenson, Warren had accumulated more than a thousand monkeys, and he hasn’t stopped yet. Sock Monkeys is the record of Svenson’s quest to individually photograph each and every one of Warren’s sock monkeys in classic studio portraiture manner.

You might think that two hundred sock monkey portraits would be dull and repetitive, but Warren’s collection is astonishingly diverse, and Svenson takes care to capture the individual expressiveness of each sock monkey. Some monkeys are straight-up classic; their only ornamentation in the style of their ear construction, the shape of their eyes, or the arrangement of the tuft at the top of their precious heads. Others are wearing elaborate outfits denoting their profession, personal interests, or sense of style. The photographs are punctuated with stories inspired by some of the sock monkeys – written by Neil Gaiman, Penn Jillette, Jonathan Safran Foer, Isaac Mizrahi, and others.

Sock Monkeys is a book you could find amusing with just a brief glance; but you may find yourself pouring over each photograph, considering the differences in personality between monkeys with eyelashes and those with none, monkeys with buttons sewn down their fronts and monkeys with bow ties, monkeys with caps and those with veils, and between monkeys who hold their heads up high and those who demurely nod at the camera.

45 – london under london
05.9.2007, 6:29 pm
Filed under: history & geography

London under London / Richard Trench and Ellis Hillman.
London : J. Murray, 1985.
[MCL call number: 942.1 T789L; one copy, no holds]

London is a very old city.  Romans founded Londinium just shy of two thousand years ago, and there has been something of a settlement ever since. Every period in the city’s history has seen efforts by the powerful, the wealthy, and the creative to build the city better and more interesting — and because there is only so much space in a city, sometimes that meant building underground.

Of course, everyone has heard of the London Underground — the system of subway trains — but if you stop to think for a moment, you can imagine a lot of other stuff under there too. Sewers, utility conduits, catacombs, access tunnels, subterranean waterways, secret government sub-basements, and so on. Trench and Hillman lead readers on an exploration of a wide variety of underground wonders, providing a goodly number of illuminating photographs, maps, and diagrams along the way. Of particular interest are chapters on subterranean London during World War II (pages 11-21), the city’s underground defenses (pages 193-203), and “Smothered Streams and Strangled Rivers” (pages 23-53).

The book’s main text is followed by a gazetteer (which gives readers helpful tips about how to visit the different underground sites profiled in the book) and a modest index.

* * *

London Under London‘s chapter on underground rivers may put some of you in mind of a book I discussed a few years ago, N. J. Barton’s The Lost Rivers of London (Phoenix House, 1962, and Historical Publications, 1992; reviewed in Duck Duck Book number 20) and then mentioned again in a review of Christopher Fowler’s The Water Room in Duck Duck Book number 44.