“Alien Worlds 1988”

Alien Worlds 1988” (1988)
by Joe Chiodo (1958-)
24 x 31 in., oil on board
Coppola Collection

“Alien Worlds” was a science fiction anthology that Pacific Comics, and then Eclipse Comics, published 9 numbered issues of, from 1982-85, followed by a stand-alone issue, by Eclipse, in 1988.

This was either the cover that was going to be used on that stand-alone issue, or there were other issues planned that never saw the light of day.

Joe Chiodo is an award-winning illustrator in this genre, and he had already contributed the covers for issues 1 and 7.

I fell off the turnip truck a long, long time ago (Part II)

Previously, off the end of the truck… this.

Here is a description of someone’s history of giving: “Your charitable donations have gone up 100% compared with 10 years ago.”

Here is another description of someone’s history of giving: “Your charitable donations have gone down by 50% compared with 10 years ago.”

If you were a university fund-raising officer, which of these ‘someone’s would you rather target for that alumni dinner with the Dean?

On the surface of it, it seems pretty clear cut.

But it is not.

And every day (every day), the thinking person needs to filter the motivation of every author who presents or posts an idea. And particularly when they are quoting numbers, because we automatically, subconsciously, tend to regard numbers as clear and objective evidence without the intrinsic ambiguity that natural language can present.

But it is not that clear or objective. Keep  my two statements about those charitable donations in mind.

Ten years ago, when you were earning $50,000 a year, you made $5000 in charitable donations, which was 10% of your income. This year, you donated $10,000 from your $200,000 earnings, which was 5% of your income.

Turns out there are not two ‘someone’s in my original scenarios, and those seemingly contradictory statements are simultaneously true.

$5000 ten years ago; $10,000 this year; this means:

“Your charitable donations have gone up 100% compared with 10 years ago.”

10% of your salary ten years ago; 5% of your salary this year; this means:

“Your charitable donations have gone down by 50% compared with 10 years ago.”

Relative measurements (high, low, more, less, warm, cool…) all require additional absolute information (the point of reference) to understand them. Always think about that when people talk in percentage change.

“They Both Want Peace”

They Both Want Peace” (est. January, 1939)
by Vaughn Richard Shoemaker (1902-1991)
22 x 24 in., ink on paper
Coppola Collection

This cartoon is not dated on the back as are some of the others, but a meeting with Mussolini that ridicules PM Chamberlain is probably from early 1939.

On January 11–14, 1939, Chamberlain travelled to Italy and made his last official attempt to bring Mussolini to the side of the Allies. The Hoover Archives apparently contain some extensive photographic documentation of the visit, including this description of the visit, drawn from the diary of Mussolini’s son-in-law and foreign minister, Count Galeazzo Ciano:

“In substance, the visit was kept on a minor tone, since both the Duce [Mussolini] and myself are scarcely convinced of its utility. . . . How far apart we are from these people! It is another world. We were talking about it after dinner with the Duce . . . . ‘These men are not made of the same stuff,’ he was saying, ‘as the Francis Drakes and the other magnificent adventurers who created the Empire. These, after all, are the tired sons of a long line of rich men, and they will lose their Empire.’. . . .The British do not want to fight. They try to draw back as slowly as possible, but they do not want to fight. . . .Our conversations with the British have ended. Nothing was accomplished. I have telephoned Ribbentrop that the visit was a ‘big lemonade’ [farce].”

The cartoon is simple and self-explanatory. The setting is definitely a visit by Chamberlain to Mussolini, with overtures of peace that Mussolini is having nothing of.

Here is a picture from the Hoover Archives:

The strange handshake (from left to right): Galeazzo Ciano, Benito Mussolini, Neville Chamberlain (Istituto Luce Photograph Album, Hoover Institution Archives)

And here is a link to a video from the trip.

I fell off the turnip truck a long, long time ago (Part I)

I was having a periodic annoyance with my home wireless system that was increasing in frequency, so I got onto the chat line for the company to report it. Turns out I needed an equipment upgrade, which took about 45 minutes to figure out.

As that was being ordered and set up, the kind person at the other end of the chat pulled out the standard company playbook.

“While we are waiting, I noticed your current service, and I think you can definitely get more for less money. Would you like to hear about it?”

I fell off the turnip truck a long, long time ago. So there was only one reply to give.

“I assume this is a promotion that reverts to a higher price after a while. What is the deal, how long does it last, and what does the cost go up to at the end?”


“Let me get that information. Hang on.”

Bottom line: for more service (some of which was interesting), I would pay about $30 less per month for a year, compared with now, then $10 less for another year, then it would be $15 more thereafter. That was a pretty easy calculation. 12 x $40 in reduction is $480 relative to what I am paying now, which would offset 32 months at the higher price. So that is more service at the same cost for 5 years. Not that bad, and the increased services looked good. So I agreed. Five years is next to forever; I might get run over by a turnip truck by then.

And it came packaged with phone service, which means -$60/month by cancelling the current service into the house.

There was a two-part online contract to sign to authorize the new service. And, I read it, which is another part of the lesson here (after understanding that you do not get something for nothing).

As it turns out, their contract read that the lower price ($30/month savings) was in effect for all 24 months, not 12, and it looked like the final price at the end of the promotion was not +$15, but -$10, from what I am paying now.

Maybe you can get something for nothing.

So I signed it and sent my chat buddy the authorization. Once that was confirmed, I pointed out the discrepancy.

“Before we end, I do have one more question…”

What I got back was a non-answer… a cut-and-paste repetition of the numbers from before, an uninformed answer.

Big mistake.

So I dug in through two rounds of this stonewalling, and finally got the person’s attention.

“I just signed a contract and here is what it says (quote/unquote). I know what you told me, and I even agreed to it. But now I have another thing that contradicts it. That is a discrepancy and needs to be resolved.”

“Hang on. I need to check with someone.”

Stonewall wall.

Rinse and repeat.

“Hang on. I need to check with someone else.”

“Sure, no problem.”

“Sorry for the misunderstanding. Yes, the lower rate is in effect for 24 months and the total price at the end of that time is lower than what you are paying now.”

“Thanks. Can I have the confirmation number and the chat reference for our conversation today?”

“Sure, no problem.”

What a Handy Article an Umbrella Is

“What a Handy Article an Umbrella Is” (September 30, 1938)
by Vaughn Richard Shoemaker (1902-1991)
22 x 24 in., ink on paper
Coppola Collection

In 1938, Shoemaker won the first of two Pulitzer Prizes for Editorial Cartooning. This cartoon is fairly self-explanatory. And I have covered the reasonable background for it previously, so let’s fire up the way-back machine and self-plagiarize a bit. This cartoon related to the famous “peace for our time” speech that the British PM, Chamberlain, gave upon return from Germany…

As a wrote before:

Historians report that the Treaty of Versailles (1919), brokering the peace at the end of WWI, caused significant resentment in Germany, and that Hitler played off of this to achieve power. The British government believed that Hitler and Germany had some genuine grievances, but that if these could be met (‘appeased’) Hitler would be satisfied and become less demanding.

Becoming Chancellor in 1933, Hitler began to re-arm the country, breaking the Versailles restrictions. In March 1938, he annexed Austria. Czechoslovakia was next.

In September 1938, British PM Neville Chamberlain returned from Germany, having signed the Munich Agreement [as seen in this cartoon], and famously, publically, and ultimately ironically declared “My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time.”

German forces moved in and occupied a significant chunk of Czechoslovakia on October 1. Six months later, all of Czechoslovakia was taken over. Poland was next.

Digging into this a little more: after WWI, the European League of Nations was set up to create a mechanism of cooperation and communication, in an attempt to circumvent another war. The rise of Hitler and Mussolini, and their build-up of military conflict, proved that the League was not particularly effective.

Late in the 1930s, the major European nations adopted a policy of “appeasement,” in which concessions were granted to these two dictators with the idea that they would be satisfied and agree not to escalate their aggression. British PM Chamberlain, who took office in 1937, continued the policy.

Czechoslovakia was made up of a patchwork of territories, including a region with a majority German population called Sudetenland. The Sudeten Nazis, and Hitler, were emphatic about Sudeten’s autonomy from Czechoslovakia.

By September, 1938, violence was increasing as Hitler and the Nazis agitated against Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain made two trips to Germany in September.

By now, Hitler was demanding the ‘return’ of Sudetenland to the Empire under threat of a new war. During the first trip, Chamberlain agreed to advocate for handing over Sudetenland to Germany. And in response, Hitler continued to escalate attacks on Czechoslovakia. A week later, after the second trip, where Chamberlain agreed to Germany’s possession of the Sudetenland, Hitler upped the ante, insisting that Czechoslovakia be broken up completely… a demand he dialed back in exchange for the unconditional separation and return of the Sudetenland by October 1.

This appeasement, called the Munich Agreement, was the basis of Chamberlain’s declaration of peace on the same day as the publication of this cartoon, giving us all (today) an interesting sense of just how up to date communication, attention, and opinion was about current happenings. This cartoon is viable for only about a day – between Chamberlain’s declaration on September 30…

“I believe it is peace for our time. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”

… and the Nazi invasion of Sudetenland on October 1.

“Neville Chamberlain’s umbrella” turns out to be as big a deal as “Hilter’s moustasche” or “Churchill’s cigars” in terms of symbolism. After the Munich Agreement, Chamberlain become known as the Umbrella Man.

A recent article on Chamberlain and the umbrella sheds light on all of this.

Quoting from there:

Due to the irrefutable diplomatic failure of the Munich Agreement signed on 30 September 1938, at each juncture in the reassessment of appeasement historians, political scientists, and generations of politicians too have tried to identify the underlying lesson to be learned, whether strategic, ethical, or psychological. Munich has consistently been conjured as an object lesson in international relations, an example of a how negotiations with dictators should not be conducted, and used to serve as a practical example of a principle or an abstract idea.

In fact, umbrellas, and Chamberlain’s umbrella in particular, were omnipresent in the visual and material culture, and in the rhetorical constructions of the Munich Crisis and in its aftermath. Chamberlain’s umbrella was easily the most produced and reproduced political emblem of late 1938–9, represented in a wide range of textual and visual forms in the media, and in consumable forms as accessories, adornments, novelties, souvenirs and edible delicacies. In Britain and abroad, and especially in France, the umbrella came to stand for a distinctly British form of diplomatic engagement. The Yorkshire Post asked: ‘Is there any other single object that could be turned to so much political symbolism? Perhaps it was the association of ideas between Mr Chamberlain’s mission and the purpose of the umbrella that struck foreign imagination…the umbrella has no bellicose connotations. It is shelter, protection (originally against sun as well as rain)’.


Spiced Yogurt Chicken on Roasted Broccoli and Garlic

As the big concept, I like to make chicken breasts (whole; sliced and stuffed; pounded, stuffed, and rolled) that can be served on a bed of something (pasta and/or vegetable). Here is the dish I developed yesterday.

I was reading some ways to marinate chicken for grilling. Not that I actually grill anything any more, by the way, probably due laziness more than anything else, and I like spending dead time reading recipes on line.

This recipe at food.com for a Yogurt Lemon Chicken marinade got my attention. The other two recipes that inspired what I ended up doing were a Spiced Yogurt Grill from epicurious.com, and a Baked Chicken at tablespoon.com

My two strategies for cooking chicken so that it comes out plump, tender, and juicy are (1) cook it in plenty of wet ingredients, and (2) make the small but important investment in a good kitchen thermometer. I use this one from KitchenAid. The ones with tethered probes are nice because you do not have to lean into your oven or pull out the food to take the measurement; and if you want to leave it in, you can get your continuous reading outside of the oven, on your countertop.

I decided that a spiced yogurt chicken would go well on a bed of roasted broccoli, so I used these two recipes to develop that part of the meal – one from the Food Network and one from Food and Wine.

I chopped up some broccoli and garlic, added pine nuts, then tossed and marinated it all in a bowl with EVOO, lemon juice, and spices. After setting that aside, made the spiced yogurt sauce and spread a little on the bottom of a baking dish. I cleaned up and dried two large skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about ¾ pound each), placed them in the baking dish, and covered them with the sauce.

The chicken baked for 40-45 minute total (internal temperature at the thickest part 165-170F), so that went into the toaster oven first. With about 20 minutes to go, I spread the broccoli mixture out on a parchment-lined sheet pan and roasted those, with one turn, in the regular oven.

Everything finished up about the same time. I tossed the vegetables with some more lemon juice and some parmesan cheese, and laid out about a cup of that on a plate. And then turned half of one of the breasts into 3 large slices and placed them on top.

The complete recipe for this dish, and others, can be found here.

“Sea Slice II”

“Sea Slice II” (2014)
by Oriana Kacicek (1986-)
6 x 24 in., Oil on Linen
Coppola Collection

Oriana had done a painting similar to this one (the long slice) and I really thought the sense of depth represented by this subject in this aspect ratio was impressive. That painting was long gone, but I commissioned a second version of it, and it turned out even better.

“Pomegranate in Last Light”

“Pomegranate in Last Light” (2016)
by Abbey Ryan (1979-)
4 × 5 in., oil on linen on a panel
Coppola Collection

To me, all art forms are a virtual reality. Our own perceptions of the world are (in my view) wholly unique. Through art, we get to experience (to some small degree) the perception of the world as experienced by someone else.

Yes, yes, yes… I know… the reading of the performance is still filtered by our own perceptions. On the other hand, the artist has been able to externalize the internal, which brings us a little closer to the shared experience.

I like to think about how Abbey was seeing this pomegranate, the aspects that stood out, and the decisions to lay down the colors and tones in a way that represented what it was she was seeing.

“Bringing Up Father” – An Immigrant’s Tale

“Bringing Up Father (12/25/1940)”
by George McManus (1884-1954) and Zeke Zekley (1915-2005)
23.25 x 5.75 in., ink on paper
Coppola Collection

The art on this comic strip is one of my favorites. The unique, art-nouveau style is just so crisp and clean – the intentionality of an artist laying down deliberate lines shines through.

On January 12, 1913, Bringing Up Father debuted, featuring an Irishman named Jiggs, who simply does not understand why his ascension to wealth (via the Irish Sweepstakes) means he cannot hang out with his friends, and his nagging, social-climbing wife, Maggie. The strip was an instant hit, possibly because of its combination of an appealing cast of characters with a unique look.

The strip deals with “lace-curtain Irish,” with Maggie as the middle-class Irish American desiring assimilation into mainstream society, in counterpoint to an older, more raffish “shanty Irish” sensibility represented by Jiggs. Her lofty goal—frustrated in nearly every strip—is to bring father “up” to upper class standards. By 1954, Jiggs’s Irishness had faded—the new generation saw him as just a rich guy that liked to hang out with a regular crowd.

Syndicated internationally by King Features Syndicate, Bringing Up Father achieved great success and was produced by McManus. In the early days, his brother Charles was an uncredited collaborator. Zeke Zekley was his assistant on the comic strip from 1935 to 1954. After moving from Detroit to LA, Zekley was unemployed after two weeks at Disney, due to the studio closing during the summer, and Charles noticed him sketching on a napkin at a diner and brought him to his brother’s attention. Zekley’s style was indistinguishable from McManus’s, and he took on more and more of the duties on the strip as time went on. A friend of Zekley’s, working on behalf of Zekley’s wife, has been regularly selling off the storehouse of originals that Zekley left behind upon his death.

This particular strip is from Christmas Day, 1940. The worries of the world do not appear in the funnies, but I still find it interesting to contextualize these comic strips in reminders of what was happening in the rest of the newspaper.

The second Christmas of the war was very different from the first for people in Britain. A year earlier, only Poland and Czechoslovakia had been occupied by the Nazis – and the ‘phoney war’ had yet to make much of an impact on peoples’ lives. The dramatic events of 1940 had seen the occupation of most of Europe – and the threat to Britain had become very real.

Britain was surviving the threat of invasion and was holding off the attacks. But British towns and cities were being laid waste on a daily basis. Thousands of families up and down the country were facing violent and sudden death. Tens of thousands of people were recovering from serious injuries.

George Beardmore wrote of a ‘dismal Christmas,’ in Civilians at War: Journals, 1938-46:

…in the absence of home, friends, and relations, with only a few cards and parcels sent to us. But we were in God’s own heaven compared with many, as for instance Jones, the arthritic ex-Stock Exchange clerk who is living with his wife and two small children in freezing rooms with no cooking apparatus. Or the unknown untold thousands celebrating Christmas in shelters, the firemen, the soldiers, Stan Lock in Iceland, the conscientious objectors in farms, the lonely mothers and ruined shopkeepers, the city children living in farmhouses.