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Twenty years ago or so, we came across a neat little book that told the story of a graphic icon: the funny little man, as the author (Virginia Smith) called him. On the cover was a truly dapper Parisian gent created by AA Cassandre for Dubonnet, the aperitif made with fortified wine, herbs, and quinine.
As we recall it, the book (check it out here) tells the tale of how companies, mainly companies selling alcoholic beverages, mainly in Europe, mainly in the 1920’s and ’30’s, often gave the job of promoting their product to a little guy.
You can find some lovely drawings by AAC here presenting the little guy doing all kinds of stuff.
It seems that Chaplin’s Little Tramp had pretty much started the whole thing rolling.
The book has disappeared from our local bibliotheque (though still available, it seems, from the warrior woman), so we went looking on our own to find some colourful little guys hard at work
The artist is Leonetto Cappiello, nice site in French here.
Cointreau has favoured Pierrot as their pint-sized sales guy graphically
For now, we’ll say goodbye to the funny little guy by way of a little portrait of Mr Chaplin himself, apparently by himself, sketched on a cocktail napkin. Salute. Santé
Our heroes are by definition magnificently far above us in what they do and how they do it. If you take a moment to look at the heroes of baseball, it seems not so impossible that you too might someday do what they do.
The costumes (simple, soft, comfy) and the main actions of baseball (swing, run, throw, catch, run, slide) tell you how sweetly uncomplicated it all is.
For a kid looking on, enthralled, obsessed, it almost looks possible. I can wear a uniform like that. I can swing like that. I can feel it.
At least that’s how it seemed in 1959, and we can hope that it is not far from the truth today.
Of the many who played the simple game at the highest level, these two Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron, twin gods of the Milwaukee Braves in 1959, represented to the kid just about everything that was worth being if you were human–including approachability. Yes, you could imagine them coming to your house and throwing the ball around. Yes you did imagine it, over and over.
And those Milwaukee heroes didn’t seem to mind that you also worshipped others, like these two Baltimore Orioles, Brooks Robimson and Luis Aparicio (1967). Real heroes understand that. They know it is not betrayal, it does not diminish them.
Mickey Mantle (the Marilyn Monroe of baseball ?(without the tragedy), seemed to understand that as well as anyone. There seemed to be no envy in his rivalry with other players, no bitterness in his blazing competitiveness.
The best in baseball, at least in those days, always had time for the kid who worshipped them.
Brooks Robinson, sitting down, taking time. The kid is the batboy for the team. The BATBOY! Baseball even has a JOB for a kid, a JOB among the gods, a job in heaven itself.
What a game.
This batboy became a Chief Justice in the Court of Queens Bench in Canada, but we bet he never felt more glad to be alive than right there, the boy in charge of the bats.
If you are lucky, there is a game going on soon near you, and if you are super lucky, it unfolds in a place like this bit of heaven.
Nat Baily Stadium, Vancouver, BC
Clowns tell us a lot about ourselves and our lives. The best of them reveal some sadness or strangeness or both while doing their best to amuse us. The overall message is: you might as well laugh because, well, life isn’t always a piece of cake, sometimes it’s a pie in the face.
Clown figurines of tin or ceramic seem to carry an extra layer of sadness and oddness after a few years. Maybe there is a contradiction between what we see now and the smiles the little joker was meant to induce. Crawling clown toy, 1900, from here
But for all the contradictions, we can’t stop smiling at this little gang of kidders.
According to Tracey’s Toys:
“The Rolly Dollys first appeared in 1902 and were produced through the 1920s in over 70 different styles. Some were based on advertising or cartoon characters like Buster Brown and Foxy Grandpa, while others represented children, clowns, police officers, and more.”
Is this him?
All in all, the clown whether he is a comic actor, a circus performer, a tin toy, or cookie jar (above) has a long history and a continuing important function in human society. Is there sadness underneath it all? Is there misery and madness?
Well…maybe. But we all have a choice to see the soda spray bottle half empty or half full. Is the whoopee cushion a cry for help? Or just a perennial boyish prank. We come down on the side of mirth. Release the clowns!!!
Play on fellas. Do you know “My Funny Valentine?”
Everyone should live alone–at least for a while, we think. It teaches you how to take care of yourself and your cave. It will make you a better roommate when the time comes. If you make the choice–or it is made for you–to live on your own, you mostly have to make do with a place designed for two or three or seven. Unless you get lucky.
A few designers have, luckily, turned their heads to solo living. Above dwelling (“close to transportation”), is in Tokyo (of course) and is a solo abode designed for a 60-year-old woman above a tobacconist shop. Architects : Hideshi Abe / Avehideshi Architect and Associates. Photos by Hiroki Kawata. Viewed at dezeen here
The cost of land being what it is, the building has a small foot and lots of stairs to climb–beautiful stairs in this case, so take your time.
This drawing shows where the living quarters (or eighths) are, but how the solo householder has arranged it all is her secret.
Nor is this little lady telling us how she arranges her life and her bonnets inside this tiny red place. Chances are it’s either neat as a pin or a spectacular mess.
If you want some space around your home alone, here’s a nice little cube among the trees and rocks to call your own.
This is a tiny onesy tucked right into the woodsy countryside for the winter. Fits right in (“Maybe I should have the Birches over for hot chocolate”). Seen here.
Back to the future, this prototype for one is designed to supply food, energy, heat and oxygen to its occupant. Its maker calls it Oogst 1 Solo. Sadly for us, no mention of it providing wine and potato chips. Seen at polychroniadis on tumbler.
This is Piiri house, mostly wood, just for one, good for thinking about where you are and where you aren’t.
And if you aren’t yet sure where you want to live, consider the mobile option. This one in Lego colours folds up into a trailer and folds out into different rooms. More here
Mmmm. Designed for one, maybe but surely occasional sleepovers are allowed. APH80 tiny home designed by the Spanish design team at Abaton,
Once you start looking, it turns out there are more people than we thought, professional designers and just plain soloists, who have considered the uni-dwelling:
Blob VB3, Designed by Belgian architectural firm, dmvA above.
A bit of a cliffhanger, by Front Architect
Here at less, we are fans of a lot of uncommissioned public art, namely the kind that 1) makes you smile 2) makes you admire how well it is made and 3) makes you glad no damage was done in providing you with this unexpected smile. The category of u.p.a. that succeeds most often on all three scores is the kind that people stick on walls with paste. Like this swell white rabbit.
As you can see he’s just a little guy on the run caught in full motion on a nice blue/grey wall, found here
Here’s a white dog or doggish creature stuck on a wall in a lavatory in Melbourne, where quality public art of the non-commissioned kind seems to thrive. This colour spewing critter is the invention of an artist named Ghost Patrol, who is said to be one of Melbourne’s most prominent artists. See here.
According to the internet, at least, the top spots for really good stick-on art are Australia (Melbourne and Fremantle) and England (Bristol and London)
This fine little two dimensional shamrock green dachshund lives in London. He was spotted by the keen-eyed, generous, prolific photographer mermaid99, bless her heart. Find the pooch and much much more from the mermaid here.
Looking for the uni-coloured dachshund is this colourful kitty, another mermaid 99 find in London here.
pretty weird squidman in Mexico City.
And here’s a lovely bird, a swallow stuck up in Rye, East Sussex England. The artist goes by De Wilde when he’s outdoors. See this fine woodcut and more here
The finders of this paste up, called “Hello Stranger”, on a lamp post in North Oakland CA, are Alex and Allison who rightly point out that it is equal parts pretty and sinister, as all good childrens’ tales should be, we think.
This is just swell, another one from Melbourne. Thanks to we heart it
Why is it that “Steve” is the perfect name for this little white dino? Go here to meet Steve and other Fremantle sights.
These two bandits are having a lot more fun than Bonnie and Clyde. Found here at a site called Oakown Art (“an exposé of cool public art & culture in and around oakland, california”). The artist goes by “Get Up”.
Below, three finds of our own in Paris, 2011.
On this one old wall you’ll find a white paste up figure of indeterminate species grasping maybe a large slice of pizza and a coffee (?), a nifty green octopus attacking…Popeye (?), and a whole bunch of tulips. Also way at the top, a space invader.
And here’s a dapper masked fellow with a rosy fleur for his sweetheart.
And here is another sweet little space invader eyeing/protecting a sweet little cafe.
Space Invader is all over Paris (and quite a few other places too). These are also stick-up art but made of ceramic tile not paper so they last and last. They have become part of the fabric of Paris, not a poke in the eye, but an unexpected treat for those who love the sight of children at play without supervision. This image from here
Let’s give London the last smile:
Again thanks to mermaid99 for this fox. Find it here. The artist is Surianii.