Guest Blogger Mage Bailey: Remembering to Laugh
Guest Blogger Elaine Frankonis: Easing Into Death

Guest Blogger Frank Paynter: Airbrushed Tangerine-Flaked Streamline Blog

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Frank Paynter. He is a writer who blogs at Listics, tweets @fpaynter and aggregates a lot of his online activity at friendfeed. He posts photos on Flickr, collects public bookmarks at delicious and has accounts with most of the usual social networks. He spends entirely too much time online when he could be gardening, reading, watching movies or at least doing the dishes.

A few years ago, the originals of two of those Dogs Playing Poker pictures that were painted by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge in 1903 for a cigar company, sold for over half a million dollars. When I was a kid I loved those pictures. The art critics called them tasteless schlock or kitsch at best.

Sadly, somewhere along the way - in college or maybe in high school - I fell in line with the critics' conventional wisdom and picked up the belief that "art appreciation" required "discriminating taste." I also let the pretensions of those critics dictate my preferences.

Fortunately, I've pretty much shed these prejudices and can today simply and sincerely say that I like art. I like literature, music, dance - really any creative use of the mind and body to make something, to communicate, to evoke feelings. [4:30 minutes]

Stripped of critical pretension, I can allow myself to like those Keane pictures of children with big eyes. I can like the pictures of dogs playing poker, and the velvet paintings of matadors or horses or Elvis - Elvis is always a great subject for the velvet paintings.

Maybe you'll see these admissions as an embarrassing confession, but it has taken me a long time to shed the snootiness and simply to appreciate what's right in front of me: a visible tattoo, a magazine advertisement for shoe polish, a photograph of a row of mailboxes on a country road - I dig it all.


In the 1950s, the black leather jacket was a fashion statement and nothing spoke louder than a jacket with an eagle on the back. That was art, but who knew? Another medium that's been too long under-valued is the hand painted hot rod and its variant, the motorcycle gas tank painting. The stylized flames, usually laid on by an expert with an airbrush, actually do help the machines go faster. They are also high art!

Airbrushed art is all around us. Before the rise of digital images, photographers often improved their prints with an airbrush. The airbrushed image on a tee shirt, like the black leather jacket with an eagle on the back, is an example of the artistic fashion statement.

And, of course, I have my preferences: I like the simple statement represented by my neighbor's second mailbox atop a twelve foot post with the words "Air Mail" stenciled on it, better than the airbrushed image of the white-tailed deer on black enamel that adorns the "real" mailbox.

Some other preferences...

  • I like The Far Side more than Dilbert.

  • I like the Shirelle's version of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow better than Amy Winehouse's, but for pure repressed cold war angst with that emotional twist of guilt and shame, Brenda Lee's cover is the best.

  • Francis the Talking Mule over Mister Ed, of course.

  • Twilight Zone over Outer Limits, as if there was any question!

I like reading a "long-form" blog posting better than a bunch of squibs. I prefer the quiet communities in the blogs to all the social media fanfare and foofaraw that goes on in Facebook or Friendfeed or twitter. Here at Time Goes By we know we will be treated to Ronni Bennett's thoughtful and informed opinions regarding the issues facing us as we age.

Other long-form bloggers such as poet Ron Silliman and journalism professor Jay Rosen share their expertise and perspectives in much the same way Ronni does. These are "bloggers with a beat" who focus their talent and influence each on a specific area. There are thousands of them, many of them quite good. Professional. And their work is an art form that is evolving as we participate by reading, commenting, and linking to them.

It's a new generation of writing that echoes the new journalism that Tom Wolfe introduced in the mid-sixties with his collection of essays, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby.

I would much rather read the blogs than most of the newspapers being published today, all sucking information from the same source, be it the Associated Press or Agence France. Of course, I would rather read Donald Westlake and Robert Parker crime stories than Shakespeare, and Dogs Playing Poker do it for me as much as the Mona Lisa, so - in this as in all things - consider the source.

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.


Love your moxie, 'tude, and phrasings ("shed the snootiness," for instance). I add to your list of "bloggers with a beat" LittlePurpleCow Productions.

I, too, would rather read blogs than newspapers; they are more interesting and have better content!

Right on, and the snootiness cuts us off from so much, tattooing as an art form for instance, and as you mentioned, car and bike art. Seeing with new eyes. Thanks.

No, No, not the Keane's. :)

Thanks for the reminder to keep that mind open.

Thanks so much for the great example you set. You've obviously let go of needing to meet other people's standards; thanks for the reminder. If we're not going to be ourselves now...we're not ever going to be!
PS - The dog pix are fun.

Texans have always had a flair for tacky. I think we invented it.

My great Aunt Minnie's favorite word was "tacky".

I'll take tacky over snooty any ol' day.

Who wants to be "couth" or have "couture" when tacky and home grown are so entertaining?

Like you, Frank! (Entertaining, you know *grin*)

If you ever get a chance Frank, come visit Arkansas. Most of the items artistic in nature referenced in your post are still considered mainstream motif here in the Natural State. Many a mantle and/or outhouse is blessed with the Coolige paintings. Some have even had the family dog stuffed and dressed in gambler's attire after it's passing.

Ditto on many of your other preferences, especially my long time hero Gary Larson (aka Farside).

Don't you think there can be standards? I mean, everything you mentioned, even if not "refined taste" has some originality about it. But I just get completely bored by water color paintings of barns with bushels of apples in front that can be seen in so many motels.

I agree about blogs. They are more interesting than most of the news. And one gets to talk back.

Because I live in Tucson near the border to Mexico we would always take out of town guests to Nogales where paintings on velvet were for sale in every curio shop. I took a friend from Mass. one time and she bought one. When her husband saw it he said, "Well, I guess we can hang it in the laundry room."

One nice thing about growing older, we can like whatever pleases us without apology.

Yes I also love reading blogs, but for some reason I worry about starting one of my own. I wrote a memoir about teaching high school during my last year on the job. Should I put it on a blog? What might happen if I do that? All names are I a chicken? Pock, Pock...

Doctafill, go for it! Here is a thoughtful reflection on how to preserve relationships and write with discretion: "Mea Culpa".

Reading through all the comments again, I'm struck by how diverse we are geographically, but how much we have in common. Arkansas, Texas, and Tucson -- from Atlanta and Tel Aviv to Walla Walla, Washington and Manley, Alaska -- as for me, I'm writing from a little farm house in the countryside near Madison, Wisconsin.

I'm gratified that so many people chose to comment on this post. Whether we call it "kitsch" or "tacky," pop culture or poor taste, it seems many of us were influenced by simple expressions like the poker playing pups, or a favorite magazine photo of a bicycle leaning against a stucco house with a freshly painted bright green front door.

Anne, I think there can be standards, and each of us has a right to own our own feelings about art work. In 1969, I was in a booth in a roadside restaurant in a small town in Wyoming. The beef was just what you'd hope it would be, but the oilcloth on the table was a little sticky and there was a little too much smoke in the air. There on the wall behind the counter was a tasteless print of autumn woodlands purchased and hung more because it filled the space than because anybody could possibly be moved by it. Sadly, I recognized the print. My parents had an exact copy over the couch in their living room.

So we have standards and limits, but we'll always find those boundaries stretched by what's going on around us. And sometimes that stretch will be a little uncomfortable. :-)

Thanks for taking the time to reflect on this post. The comments complete the work.

i wonder when chenille bedspreads and chenille robes will be "collectors items" We used to see those hanging outside outlets between Atlanta and Chattanooga and I threatened to stop and buy one with a peacock on it.

Maybe they already are selling for big bucks on EBAY?

Sounds like a good state of mind -- I like what I like and you can like what you like -- who's to pass judgment on those choices?

Yeah, I like those dogs, too! Also really enjoy Far Side and Twilight Zone.

There aren't too many absolutes in my life as I like some of this, a lot of that and maybe a little bit of something else -- think of different genres in books, music, art etc. Furthermore, tastes change throughout life.

Wonderfully saikd, Frank!!! And re: your preference list, I'm with you right down the line.

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