“Too Soon?” (part 3 of 3)

“Too Soon?” (part 3 of 3)

On Shunga

Shunga, the painted or printed representations of sexual practices and activities, were produced between about 1600-1850 by ukiyo-e artists in Japan. If you are not interested in this topic, go read someone else; you have the choice to click away.

Early ukiyo-e artists specialized in making paintings, but creating prints made the work widely available. Without metallurgy or industrialization, the traditional form of reproduction (once paper was common) was woodblock printing. The main artists rarely carved their own woodblocks for printing; rather, production was divided between the artist, who designed the prints; the carver(s), who cut the woodblocks; the printer(s), who inked and pressed the woodblocks onto hand-made paper; and the publisher, who financed, promoted, and distributed the works. The prints were produced and sold either as single sheets or—more frequently—combined into book form.

Shunga books (“shunga” means “spring pictures,” a euphemism for sexual imagery) were popular and generally available. The exact historical context for the existence of these materials is not recorded, so it is difficult to understand completely from our modern perspective (and mores). However, there were repeated governmental attempts to suppress shunga, the first of which was issued in 1661 banning, among other things, erotic books (known as kōshokubon, literally “lewdness books”). While other genres, such as works criticizing samurai, were driven underground, shunga continued to be produced with little difficulty.

Colonization by and interaction with puritanical westerners during the nineteenth century put shunga into disfavor due to its explicitly erotic nature. In the mid-1800s, an American businessperson described shunga as “vile pictures executed in the best style Japanese art.” There are reports of Americans being “shocked and disgusted” when Japanese acquaintances and their wives showed off shunga at their homes. In the twentieth century, the historical shunga went further underground and became taboo.

As late as 1975, “no relevant material” existed in the British Museum when art historians would inquire. And even when pressed into being allowed access to it, researchers were told that it “could not possibly be exhibited to the public” and had not been catalogued. It was still too soon, at least by cultural standards. Recall that the fervor over Robert Maplethorpe only happens in the late 1980s.

In 1995, the British Museum staged the exhibition The Passionate Art of Utamaro, which included all of the great shunga works by that artist. And in 2013, the Museum presented a 170-item display, the first-ever dedicated to shunga – Shunga: sex and pleasure in Japanese art.

Getting shunga on display in Japan is noteworthy and recent; from “Time Out – Tokyo” (December, 2015):

After much hand-wringing and controversy, the first-ever exhibition of traditional Japanese erotic art (shunga, literally ‘spring pictures’) in this country is finally happening. Spurred on by the success of a similar, critically acclaimed display at the British Museum in 2013, the organizers reportedly offered this exhibit to around ten museums, only to be turned down by them all – the ‘obscene’ reputation of shunga remains strong in some circles, despite the fact the art is readily available in e.g. book form across Japan. The exhibition was finally taken up by Mejirodai’s Eisei Bunko Museum, usually dedicated to the preservation and display of the Hosokawa samurai clan’s history and artistic fortune. From September on, visitors can rest their eyes on around 120 pieces, but you’ll need to be 18 or older to enter.

Edo Period Original Japanese handscroll shunga picture (c.1680)
by unknown
11.25 x 8.5 in, ink and color on silk, on a paper backing
Coppola Collection

17th Century shunga painting picture: crease marks because it was originally rolled up and part of a long scroll. Still has very nice and clearly visible gold and silver mica (metallic pigments). The ‘Chinese white’ colorant (gofun) used for the female is derived from ground oyster shell.

Image from: Ehon Hitachi obi
by Kitagawa Utamaro (ca 1753-1806)
Dated: Kansei era, 7th year 1795
10.67 x 8 in; woodblock print on paper
Coppola Collection

Shunga Image (source unknown)
by Keisai Eisen (1790-1848)
Est. date: Edo period, 1825
14.75 x 9.75 in.; woodblock print on paper
Coppola Collection


On anti-Semitic propaganda

If you are not interested in this topic, go read someone else; you have the choice to click away.

Although anti-Semitic propaganda pieces have been integrated into the exhibits at some of the Holocaust museums, the first-ever dedicated exhibit of 150 pieces of these materials was presented at the Caen-Normandie Museum, in France, titled “Heinous Cartoons 1886-1945: The anti-Semitic Corrosion of Europe,” during the latter half of 2017.


The materials for the exhibit came from one collector. Since the early 1960s, Auschwitz survivor Arthur Langerman has amassed a collection of 7000-8000 items in this genre, and could never attract the interest of anyone to dedicate a display. And yet, he has argued, these are a key piece of remembrance.

The materials and their messages are reprehensible. But how can ignoring this critical documentation of historical and widespread hatred be the right decision, particularly because the Holocaust was the culmination of generations of overt denigration – worldwide – and not the de novocause that the Nazi regime championed and took to the level of mass genocide? The answer to the question of how such prejudice could happen so quickly is quite clearly that it was not quick at all. The evidence for widespread and explicit mass market hatred goes back to the mid-1800s, and these are statements of widespread historical scapegoating… not a new invention. You could buy and send your friends overtly anti-Jewish postcards from your vacation trip to the boardwalk.

How can 2017 be too soon?

The conversation is intriguing. From a published article describing the Langerman exhibition:

Given the deplorable nature of their message, can any of these works really be called art? “Yes,” says Langerman. But Stéphane Grimaldi, the museum’s director general, disagrees. “These are historical documents,” he says, “they have no artistic value. They’re everything art isn’t.” He refused to put any paintings on display, preferring to focus instead on the graphic propaganda.”

There are two collectors who have probably amassed the largest collection of anti-Semitic propaganda in the US, one of whom is in Michigan and the other in Ohio. Their site is Germanpropaganda.org

A video documentary about Langerman and the development of the exhibit was produced (password ARTHUR).



“Youpino” (page 3)
published by NEF in Paris, ca. 1930-1944
8 x 6 inches, printed on paper
Coppola Collection

Stamp and sticker in rear show this was the property of the Union Populaires de la Jeunesse Francaise, a fascist youth movement.

Plus vieux, it trichait au jeu pour accroitre le nombre de ses jouets. Parce que c’était un Juif!

Older, he cheated on the game to increase the number of his toys. Because he was a Jew!

“Youpino” (page 7)
published by NEF in Paris, ca. 1930-1944
8 x 6 inches, printed on paper
Coppola Collection

<Brulez ce blé, sinon les prix de vente vont baisser>
<Burn this wheat, otherwise the selling prices will go down. >

Marié, au lieu de gagner bon pain proprement, Youpino trafique, malhonnêtement pour s’enrichir rapidementParce que c’était un Juif!

Married, instead of winning good bread properly, Youpino trades, dishonestly to get rich quickly. Because he was a Jew!ˆ

“The American Jew”
by Telemachus Thomas Timayenis
1888 Minerva Press
Coppola Collection

America’s First Anti-Semitic Author

From: The National Herald, January 25, 2015:

No comprehensive history of the Greeks in the United States can be presented without the inclusion of this problematic individual. In short, Timayenis was a professor, novelist, playwright and one of the first to publish a discourse on what was then known as the Jewish Question along racial lines in the United States, rather than considerations of religious doctrine.

In 1886, Timayenis was the director of the New York School of Languages. By 1887, Timayenis was tutoring the children of some of America’s richest families including the Rockefellers.

In 1888, Timayenis left his academic work and established Minerva Publishing Company in New York, the first company in American to publish books critical of Jews. Timayenis anonymously authored three tracts on the Jews: The Original Mr. Jacobs: A Startling Exposé, ‎The American Jew: An Expose of His Career‎, and Judas Iscariot: An Old Type in a New Form.

Initially, Timayenis based his accounts largely on the publications of Edouard Drumont, founder of the Anti-Semitic league in France. Various authors adamantly contend that Timayenis’ work spread a permeating ideological fog over the 1880s such that Anti-Semitism gained new ground across the United States.

From the Introduction to “The American Jew”:

We expect that the Jews will try to boycott “The American Jew,” using the same peculiar tactics as in the case of “The Original Mr. Jacobs.” They will appoint committees to visit book-dealers, urging them not to handle the book; they will buy up and destroy all copies found exposed for sale; they will bribe, threaten, plead, and try in every possible way to interfere with its sale; they will circulate reports that the book has been “called in,” and will spread many other lies – lies that the Jew knows so well how to disseminate.

On Nanshoku

As with most ancient cultures, there is a history of men who have sex with men that dates back for millennia. If you are not interested in this topic, go read someone else; you have the choice to click away.

When one talks about the way culture and media provide a social construction of ideas, it is important to recognize that even the term “homosexual” and its appended concept is strictly modern and derives from fairly puritanical European and American roots.

With the rise of shunga in the Edo period, depictions of male-male interactions were not in dedicated volumes, but mingled (albeit infrequently in an absolute sense) within the shunga volumes. One’s role as the dominant or submissive partner was a more critical identifier than one’s gender.

The male-male shunga, called nanshoku (male color, using a character for “color” that was associated with sexual pleasure), ran the representational gamut that one finds in the ancient cultures: the young-old, perhaps pederastic relations found in monasteries and the military, male prostitution among young actors, to nothing more than humorous situations and acrobatic sex acts.

In the last 20 years, as collections of shunga have become available, some authors have written about the occurrence of nanshoku within shunga, but there has never been a studied exhibit of this taboo within the taboo.

Perhaps it is simply too soon

From “Sokuseki Joritsu” (in three books)
Images by Utagawa Kunisada (1785-1865)
Text author:Sanenaga
Size: 7 × 5 in, 18-22 pp each, woodblock print on paper
Date: Late 19th century
Coppola Collection

From “Makuro Bunko” (Pillow Collection).
Images by Keisai Eisen (1790-1848)
Size: 9.5 x 8 in., woodblock print on paper
Date: c.1823
Coppola Collection

From “Baibobo sensei injoho” (Mr Pussybuyer’s Erotic Treasures)
Images by Terasawa Masatsugu (?-1790)
Size” 8.67 x 10.67 in., woodblock print on paper
Date: c. 1760
Coppola Collection


“Apple with Honeycomb on Silver Plate”

“Apple with Honeycomb on Silver Plate” (2018)
by Abbey Ryan (1979-)
4 x 6 in, Oil on Linen on Panel
Coppola Collection

I found great humor in this painting. At first glance, you might imagine wanting to be a slice of apple pie on a plate next to an apple, which is a reasonable expectation. Then, there is something right about the overall outline, and something quite wrong about the details.

“Too Soon?” (part 2 of 3)

“Too Soon?” (part 2)

More than just making jokes, there is an interesting “too soon?” question about when uncomfortable or discomforting history is represented in the dramatic, consumable media (TV, movies, museum exhibits).

On the 9/11 attacks:

On March 10, 2002, the first documentary about 9/11 was broadcast on television (In “9/11,” the filmmakers were in NY on September 11 as part of a documentary on a group of firefighters). An international film made up of 11-minute segments was released on September 11, 2002.

The national memorial site and museum were opened on September 11, 2011.

On the Holocaust:

The war documentary “Nazi Concentration Camps” was released in late November, 1945, portions of which were included in the 1961 epic “Judgment at Nuremberg.”

Judgment at Nuremberg (the film) had itself followed from the concise, stirring and rewarding production on television’s Playhouse 90 (April 16,1959).

Beginning in the 1960s, survivors outside of Europe and Israel also took steps to memorialize the victims of the Holocaust. The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust—the first of such institutions in the United States—was founded by a group of survivors who met in an English-as-a-second-language (ESL) class in Hollywood in 1961. The museum’s first exhibit consisted of survivors’ own mementos, written records, and photographs.

In the 1970s and ’80s other museums were founded in El Paso, Texas; Farmington Hills, Michigan; San Francisco, California; and Buffalo, New York; as well as in Montreal, Canada; and Melbourne, Australia.

In the 1990s, at the approach of the 50-year anniversary of the end of the Holocaust, there was renewed interest in establishing institutions to memorialize, research, and educate. Around the world several more Holocaust museums were founded, including the Fundación Memoria del Holocausto (1993) in Buenos Aires, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (1993) in Washington, D.C., the Cape Town Holocaust Centre (1999) in South Africa, and the Holocaust Education Center (1995) in Fukuyama, Japan.

Later constructions include the Budapest Holocaust Memorial Center (2002) and, near Chicago, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center (2009).

On the Nazi art plunder:

As of 2017, there is an estimated $37B in art treasures still missing from the Nazi plunder of Europe during WW2, which does not count the art that current sits in museums and private collections around the world that was possessed, repossessed, or sold, in public or in private, over the years. The US estimates that 20% of Europe’s art disappeared into the hands of the Germans.

A new multi-million dollar stash seems to show up every year or so, as people or families with whom some of this stuff was sequestered die. And some of the art, generated by those deemed as degenerates by the Reich, was destroyed in public burnings.

The topic is a complex one. Many of the major US museums have posted the items in their collections whose provenance is questioned, and in recent years a few of them have hired staff members to more proactively seek out the history of these pieces. When you visit the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, you encounter an impressive collection of impressionist paintings that were originally looted by the Nazis then claimed as spoils in retribution by the Russian army.

Perhaps most notable is the case of the five paintings by Gustav Klimt, long held by the Belvedere Gallery in Vienna, that were awarded in 2006 by a panel of Austrian judges to Maria Altmann, the 90-year-old Los Angeles niece of a Viennese Jew from whom the paintings were stolen in 1938. She subsequently sold the pictures, one of them—the famed Gold Portrait of her aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer—to Ronald Lauder for a record $135 million. This story is told in a terrific documentary “The Rape of Europa” (2008). Since then, the same story was dramatized with moderate success in the 2015 Helen Mirren film “Woman in Gold” (the documentary is infinitely better), and the 2014 “Monuments Men,” which should have been a lot better than it was.

The holdings of the Hermitage, and the push to restore ownership, are taken up at the end of “Europa” and the poignant point is made – while the sense of restitution still lives in the minds and experiences of the Russian people who are alive and still so strongly affected by WW2, perhaps it is best to simply wait a while before pursuing for justice in the return of these objects. Their conclusion: it is still simply too soon.

“Things to Come”

“Things to Come” (est. December 1941)
by William “Bill” Crawford (1913-1982)
19 x 22 in., ink and crayon on Glarco Illustration Board
Coppola Collection

 In 1927, Babe Ruth captivated the country by swatting home runs out of ballparks. In Popular Science Monthly, with his typical prescience, Thomas Edison’s warned that the country would face a “rubber famine” in a second world war since America’s enemies would cut off supplies. “Lacking rubber, we would have to revert to balls stuffed with feathers or cork.”

The Japanese did cut off rubber supplies after seizing critical parts of SE Asia at the onset of World War II.

Indeed, four days after the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor, the United States banned the use of crude rubber in any items deemed non-essential to the war effort—including baseballs and other sports equipment.

This cartoon might well relate to this time. Crawford was a sports cartoonist for a pair of Washington DC newspapers from 1934-38, before moving to the Newark News as its editorial cartoonist.

“Too Soon?” (part 1 of 3)

“Too Soon?”

For 3 months during mid-2015, Darren Criss memorably played the titular role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway… a 3-month measure of quality over quantity (given that the horrid Spider-Man musical, which I never saw, had finally closed down in 2014, and had gone through 6 months of previews before it even “opened”).

Near the end of the first half of the show, Hedwig ends up with a sheet of music stuck to her foot and laments to Yitzhak – “what, we cannot clean the theater up before we do a show? If I wanted to see a mess on a Broadway stage, I would have seen Spider-Man.”

Audience groan-laughs.

Hedwig looks out into the crowd and asks “Too soon?”

Naturally, the show that gets mentioned changes over time to keep it current.

The phrase “too soon?” is used to respond to someone making a comment that was intended to be funny, but touches on subject matter that perhaps should not be joked about, usually because it was a recent event.

It is hard to track down a true origin, but Gilbert Gottfried’s joke about 9/11, that he told at a Friars Club Roast of Hugh Hefner mere weeks after the attack, is said to have kicked off the modern age of “too soon.”

His joke: “I have to leave early tonight, I have a flight to California. I can’t get a direct flight — they said I have to stop at the Empire State Building first.”

Gottfried says “I don’t think anyone’s lost an audience bigger than I did at that point. They were booing and hissing. One guy said Too soon! He was just a face in the crowd, but now I wish I knew who it was, because his comment became part of the language.”

“Too soon,” Gottfried continues. “I had never heard that before. I knew there were times where people wait to make jokes about something, but I always thought that concept was ridiculous. Is there an office with a guy behind a desk who decides when it’s not too soon anymore?”

A 2014 paper in Social Psychological and Personality Science (studying the use of humor after a bad hurricane) found there was a peak moment to joke about a tragic event – 36 days later. After that, the “funniness” of the joke wears thin, and is seen as merely, well, meh.

“We find that temporal distance creates a comedic sweet spot,” says professor Peter McGraw. “A tragic event is difficult to joke about at first, but the passage of time initially increases humor as the event becomes less threatening. Eventually, however, distance decreases humor by making the event seem completely benign.”

“More Hairpins that the Burma Road”

“More Hairpins that the Burma Road” (est. July 1941)
by Lucius Curtis Pease (1869 -1963)
18 x 28 in, ink, pencil and chalk on board
Coppola Collection

This is a challenging cartoon to date. It depicts a still-open Burma Road and (rocky) negotiations happening between Japan and the US. After Pearl Harbor, there were no peace overtures, so I say this is pre-war.

 The Burma Road was built during the Second Sino-Japanese War, during 1937-38 1938. After the bombing of a USS ship on the Yangtze River in December 1937, the US and its allies began sending assistance to China.  The British used the road, famously depicted as a series of hairpin turns up a steep slope, to transport materiel to China before Japan was at war with the British, and the US used the Burma Road to transport Lend-Lease (March 1941) materiel to the Chinese. The Japanese overran Burma in 1942.

 Japan signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy on September 27, 1940 thereby linking the conflicts in Europe and Asia. Then in mid-1941, Japan signed a Neutrality Pact with the Soviet Union. The Japanese continued their aggression in SE Asia, and the US began taking preventative measures. We halted negotiations with Japanese diplomats, instituted a full embargo on exports to Japan, particularly steel and oil, froze Japanese assets in U.S. banks, and sent supplies into China along the Burma Road.

 Although negotiations restarted after the United States increasingly enforced its embargo against Japan, they made little headway. Diplomats in Washington came close to agreements on a couple of occasions, but pro-Chinese sentiments in the United States made it difficult to reach any resolution that would not involve a Japanese withdrawal from China, and such a condition was unacceptable to Japan’s military leaders.

In autumn of 1941, President Roosevelt, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoye, and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew were on the verge of arranging a meeting in Alaska, but the parties could not come to an agreement on terms.

Faced with serious shortages as a result of the embargo, unable to retreat, and convinced that the US officials opposed further negotiations, Japan’s leaders came to the conclusion that they had to act swiftly. US leaders doubted that Japan had the military strength to attack US territory. On December 7, 1941, in an attempt to goad the US into lifting its sanctions, the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor was attacked.


“Off!” (est December 1939)
by Lucius Curtis “Lute” Pease, Jr. (1869 -1963)
18 x 28 in, ink, pencil and chalk on board
Coppola Collection

There is only a short while, historically, where the Soviet Union is “on board” with the axis, and when Mussolini was still avowing a sense of neutrality.

On the one end, the Soviet Union and Germany signed a ten-year non-aggression pact, called the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact, on August 24, 1939, with no consultation with Italy.The news has a devastating effect on the Italian fascists, who saw a core value in anti-communism. Italy was uninvolved when Poland was invaded later in August 1939. Mussolini declared “non-belligerence” as the war on Germany was declared, and tried to persuade Hitler against waging war through the first part of 1940.Hitler ignored him and moved forward with plans to conquer Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, starting in May. So this honeymoon period between Germany and Russia, with the first conquests in hand, and with Italy preaching neutrality, sits between September 1939 and April 1940. I will call this for about December 1939, when Russia was invading Finland and Italy was declaring its neutrality again (December 7).

Mussolini and Hitler meet at the Brenner pass in March 1940, which signals Italy’s intent to get into the war. Mussolini invaded Greece, in a famously disastrous strategic move in October 1940.

At the other end, Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.

“Western Cliffs at Land’s End”

“Western Cliffs at Land’s End” (prelims)
by Jeffrey Catherine Jones (1944-2011)
12 x 17 inches, pencil on paper
Coppola Collection

I’ve had no luck searching out any more information than what you see here.

“Western Cliffs at Land’s End” (frontispiece) seems to be the title
“The Dreaded Moonlight” is an illustration

I thought that the depiction of the children was classic, classic Jones and worth having, probably/maybe (judging from the style) it dates from the 1970s.

Three Years Later…

I take 500 mg/day of Metformin voluntarily.

A1c remains flat at 5.0% (now measured only every 6 months).

AM blood glucose (by the strips) averages 70 (clinical blood analysis is more like 80). All other measures are dead-on normal (too).

I average 1050 calories a day – 60 g fats, 70g carbs (15g fiber, 18g added sugars), 55g protein and 900 mg sodium

“It Won’t Be Long Now”

“It Won’t Be Long Now” (February 1941)
by William “Bill” Crawford (1913-1982)
19 x 22 in., ink and crayon on Glarco Illustration Board
Coppola Collection

 H.R. 1776
A Bill Further to promote the defense of
the United States and for other purposes

was introduced to the US House of Representatives on January 10, 1941.

After the defeat of France during June 1940, the British Commonwealth and Empire were the only forces engaged in war against Germany and Italy. Britain had been paying for its material with gold as part of the “cash and carry” program, as required by the US Neutrality Acts.

By late 1940 Great Britain was increasingly unable to pay for and transport the war materials it needed in its fight against Nazi Germany. Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill appealed to President Roosevelt to find a way for the United States to continue to aid Britain.

During December 1940, President Roosevelt proclaimed the US would be the “Arsenal of Democracy” and proposed selling munitions to Britain and Canada. Isolationists were strongly opposed, warning it would result in American involvement with what was considered by most Americans as an essentially European conflict.

FDR proposed providing war materials to Britain without the immediate payment called for in the Neutrality Act under a program of “Lend-Lease,” a clever and political side-step to the “cash and carry” policy.

The House of Representatives passed the bill on February 9, 1941. The vote in the Senate occurred a month later.

The cartoon, with the Axis members and Churchill watching from the Senate Gallery, puts the likely date as sometime in February, probably recognizing the passage of HR 1776 by the House and its movement to the Senate.

Congress passed “Lend-Lease” and President Roosevelt signed the Act on March 11, 1941. After the United States entered the war, Lend-Lease became the most important means for supplying the Allies with military aid.

In 1943–1944, about a quarter of all British munitions came through Lend-Lease. Aircraft (in particular transport aircraft) comprised about a quarter of the shipments to Britain, followed by food, land vehicles and ships.

The program began to be ended after VE Day. During April 1945, Congress voted that it should not be used for post-conflict purposes, and during August 1945, after Japanese surrender, the program was ended.