Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Before the Smut


by Daddy X

My blogmates have already covered how their writing has changed over the years. We probably have similar stories, or at least stories that sound familiar. I thought to give an example of a proposal for a column I sent to a prestigious ethnographic arts quarterly back in 1996.

Here it is with all its warts, scabs, commas and exclamation points!!!


1/25/96
WHIMSEY; THE LAST WORD; FINAL THOUGHTS; FOOD FOR THOUGHT

I still fondly recall sitting by the radio, waiting for the latest episode of “Bring ‘em Back Alive with Clyde Beatty” to be aired. His escapades in the deepest, darkest jungles of exotic lands held a special fascination for children, and the absence of television allowed our imaginations to roam without visual boundaries. I decided I wanted to be a “Jungle Man” early on.

Also on our listening lists were: “Straight Arrow”, “Red Rider & Little Beaver”, “The Lone Ranger & Tonto”. I would ask Mom to buy Nabisco Shredded Wheat, not because I preferred it to other breakfast cereals, but because the boxes contained Straight Arrow’s ‘Indian lore’ cards, which made it feel like a kid brought up in Trenton, New Jersey could actually think and do things like a native American!

Later, with the advent of television, came “Ramar of the Jungle”, the adventures of an American doctor, practicing in the remote jungles of Africa and India. They kept rerunning the same twenty or so episodes in order which I memorized, so that I could predict which one would be shown on any given day. Still later came Disney’s “Davy Crockett” miniseries. Its popularity became an American Phenomenon, with children (including myself) running around in coonskin caps with powder horns over their shoulders, singing Davy’s theme song which actually made the hit record charts!

During all this time, I collected stamps and coins of the world, further sparking the imagination which took me to the far off lands I encountered. My only regret is wishing I had saved those nostalgic collections, or at least could still get stamps and coins for those early 1950’s prices! They must have been cheap for me to be able to afford them!

Of course, I also read Donald Duck, Batman, and Superman comic books, like any other kid of the times, but I COLLECTED “Tarzan” comics, as well as “Classics Illustrated” versions of “Green Mansions”, “The Last of the Mohicans”, “Around the World in Eighty Days” and “The Deerslayer”. I even admit to being a fan of “Mickey Mouse Club” too, but the TV show that impressed me the most, was one where a group of experts would examine an ancient or esoteric object and each would give an educated guess as to what the object was. I forget if there was a prize beyond personal satisfaction for the one with the closest guess. In fact, I forgot the name of the show itself, but if anyone out there remembers, please write me in care of this magazine and maybe we can talk about it in another issue.

These influences all dealt peripherally with indigenous peoples, albeit, usually in a condescending and unrealistic manner. The seeds were sown in my generation nonetheless, and may have led inadvertently to a later focus on modern, more objective studies and appreciation of ancient and/or primitive societies. Our popular music, for instance, has now taken on “primitive” rhythms and melodies, but primitive does not imply a lack of complexity or sophistication; far from it. In incorporating African, Latin, Asian and other styles, we now enjoy music that is more evocative, universal, and which speaks to what it means to be human.

Our appreciation of fine arts has been enriched by a new understanding of form and function, in part attributable to the study of ancient, primitive, and tribal societies. The paintings and sculpture of Picasso, (if not the entire modern art movement) are a prime example of this bridge between cultures in our search for pure art and emotion.

As I grew into and entered puberty, the romance of far off lands gave way to pursuits involving personal romance. So, the habits of primitive cultures took a back seat to my own mating habits in the back seat of the car.

(Momma) and I, after 31 years of marriage, still laugh about those formative years. During the ensuing time, a lot of water has gone under the bridge, and we are enjoying a very rich and varied life indeed, from stints in the restaurant business, to antiques, to publishing, to a year in remote northern California without electricity, nine miles from the closest pay phone.

Along the way, I was able to find the time and means to resume collecting coins.   beginning with 19th and 20th century pieces. Not very far down the road, I became interested in early U.S. large cents, then further back to colonial coinage, and soon to ancient Greek and Roman issues. I started to be exposed to ancient sculpture and artifacts! To make a long story short, I rejuvenated the antique business I had begun years before, specializing this time in ancient coins and antiquities.

Some years later, at an antique show in….We’ll just call it…Obscure,  USA., a woman who ran a second hand shop, spotted a small Seljuk bronze bird I had and declared that she had “A whole box of things that looked something like that”. She said she’d “had them in the shop for years” for $5 each and couldn’t sell them.

When she returned, she opened a cigar box with what I now know were 75 Ashanti goldweights. I had seen reproductions of these in flea markets and bazaars around the world, selling for the equivalent of a few dollars apiece. I was vaguely aware they were African. One piece stood out from the rest, however, and I had the feeling that it was quite special. It was a fine casting with deep black surfaces that, as numismatist, I knew, was very old. She asked a price for the whole box that I was sure was too much, but I just HAD to have that one piece. I guess she saw that in my eye because she never wavered in price! So, I bought them.

The Sana Fe Ethnographic was my next show, and I had time in motels on the road to look more closely at the other intriguing pieces in that box, soon determining that these pieces were ALL rather old, not ancient, but not reproductions either! There were animated castings of people, of fish, stools, tools and insects, good luck knots, tiny shields, and animals which were obviously African.

That old, childish intrigue poked itself back into my psyche and rekindled the fire of imagination. Like listening to “Clyde Beatty”, I was transported, once again, to deepest, darkest Africa. This time the stimuli were tiny pieces of brass, not a radio. I once again felt like a “Jungle Man”.

It often seems that we are all on a quest for our human roots. The paths we take define us as individuals. We would like to explore these individualities in this column, as we do on a larger scale in the rest of the magazine. The column is likely to be shaped by the whims and expectations of our readers. We hope to provide a dialogue of greater scope and lighthearted sensitivity than is possible within a “Letters to the Editors” format.

What we need now is input from you, the reader. I can ramble on forever about things that are of interest to me, but this is YOUR magazine. Beginners, send us your questions. We’ll get the answers from the experts! Veteran collectors, send us your anecdotes, your collector’s stories. Although countless, they are singular and often priceless bits of humanness. Gripers, if you have a gripe, and if your gripe is outside the realm of a letter to the editor, you can complain in this column. While we would like to maintain a light touch, we will not shy away from difficult subjects, but will still try to leave you with a smile!

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They didn’t bite on the column. Sigh… :>)



11 comments:

  1. The royal "we", Daddy? Or the editorial we? Or were you actually talking about you and Momma working together?

    I personally think they were crazy not to have accepted your proposal. I have no doubt your column would have been the most lively thing in the journal!

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  2. Yes, the collective 'we'. Momma only edits my non-erotic stuff. She's easily squicked. And yes, again; it was a bit of a stuffy periodical. I hoped to popularize it more with non-professionals. I can't find them any more. Guess they're out of business.

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    1. Of course they're out of business. They turned you down!

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  3. Great post Daddy! I was born and raised in Scotland but my association with American culture started early, as a friend of my mother's sent us (the family) newspapers and magazines on a near monthly basis. I grew up reading The Phantom, Dick Tracy, Archie etc. My favorites were the Westerns - I always rooted for the 'Redskins' as they were called then. There was even a movie with the title 'When Redskins Rode' - imagine that today. You can find it on YouTube!

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    1. Thanks JP. We Americans do spread our seed.

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  4. Ah, Classics Illustrated! I loved those, especially the Jungle Book. I wish I'd saved them for my kids, but kids always prefer things they choose themselves. There was an attempt to resuscitate the Classics Illustrated line at one point, but I think it fizzled.

    How about Erotic Classics Illustrated? Fanny Hill? The Story of O? The Tropic of Cancer?

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    1. Now there's a good idea. Like a graphic novel in the buff! Yeeow!

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  5. You could always make up for the lost column with a series of erotic stories about a mild-mannered numismatist who must travel the globe responding to questions from the readers of a certain scholarly publication that pays him a modest stipend...

    (Really, I just wanted to use "numismatist" in a sentence)

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    1. It works especially well with "mild-mannered"....!

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    2. Yeah-- it's the 'mild-mannered' part that doesn't compute. Anything but that!

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    3. I am perfectly happy to revise it to "wild and irrepressible numismatist" if I get my stories! ;)

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