Charlie Chaplin Makes Me Cry

In one of my graduate classes we examined the subtext of Charlie Chaplin’s films and the social commentary he presented in a time when it was rather risky to do so. We watched part of Chaplin’s Modern Times in class. I had to put both hands over my mouth to stifle the uncontrollable laughter I was gripped with during the following “eating machine” scene. Tears were coming out of my eyes and my husband, who was also in this class, just laughed at me as I tried to contain my hysterics. Imagine, a silent film causing me to laugh harder than I have laughed at a film in years. That’s what I call a great time-transcending comedic art.

We plan on walking over to Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center this week as I am in luck – Charlie Chaplin films are currently being featured.

The context of the clip below: the men are testing out a more efficient way for a factory worker to quickly eat lunch, to maximize productivity. This was blatant commentary on industrial working conditions and employee treatment during the Great Depression.

Modern Times Movie Plot

Modern Times portrays Chaplin as a factory worker, employed on an assembly line. After being subjected to such indignities as being force-fed by a “modern” feeding machine and an accelerating assembly line where Chaplin screws nuts at an ever-increasing rate onto pieces of machinery, he suffers a mental breakdown that causes him to run amok throwing the factory into chaos. Chaplin is sent to a hospital. Following his recovery the now unemployed Chaplin is arrested as an instigator in a Communist demonstration since he was waving a red flag that fell off a delivery truck (Chaplin intended to return the flag to the driver). In jail, he accidentally eats smuggled cocaine, mistaking it for salt. In his subsequent delirious state he walks into a jailbreak and knocks out the convicts. He is hailed a hero and is released.

Outside the jail, he discovers life is harsh, and attempts to get arrested after failing to get a decent job. He soon runs into an orphan girl (the “gamine”), played by Paulette Goddard, who is fleeing the police after stealing a loaf of bread. To save the girl he tells police that he is the thief and ought to be arrested. However, a witness reveals his deception and he is freed. In order to get arrested again, he eats an enormous amount of food at a cafeteria without paying. He meets up with the gamine in the paddy wagon, which crashes, and the girl convinces the reluctant Chaplin to escape with her. Dreaming of a better life, he gets a job as a night watchman at a department store, sneaks the gamine into the store and even lets burglars have some food. Waking up the next morning in a pile of clothes, he is arrested once more.

Ten days later, the gamine takes him to a new home – a run-down shack which she admits “isn’t Buckingham Palace” but will do. The next morning, Chaplin reads about a new factory and lands a job there. He gets his boss trapped in machinery, but manages to extricate him. The other workers decide to go on strike. Accidentally paddling a brick into a policeman, he is arrested again. Two weeks later, he is released and learns that the gamine is a café dancer, and she tries to get him a job as a singer. By night, he becomes an efficient waiter though he finds it difficult to tell the difference between the “in” and “out” doors to the kitchen, or to successfully deliver a roast duck to table. During his floor show, he loses a cuff that bears the lyrics of his song, but he rescues his act by improvising the story using an amalgam of word play, words in (or made up of word parts from) multiple languages and mock sentence structure while pantomiming. His act proves a hit. When police arrive to arrest the gamine for her earlier escape, they escape again. Finally, we see them walking down a road at dawn, towards an uncertain but hopeful future. (According to Wikipedia)

About Charlie Chaplin

(Born April 16, 1889 – Died December 25, 1977) In 1915, British-born Chaplin burst onto a war-torn world bringing it the gift of comedy, laughter and relief while it was tearing itself apart through World War I. Over the next 25 years, through the Great Depression and the rise of Adolf Hitler, he stayed on the job. … It is doubtful any individual has ever given more entertainment, pleasure and relief to so many human beings when they needed it the most”. George Bernard Shaw called Chaplin “the only genius to come out of the movie industry”. He co-founded United Artists with Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith. This meant more freedom in producing his own films. His high-profile public and private life encompassed both adulation and controversy. Chaplin’s identification with the left ultimately forced him to resettle in Europe during the McCarthy era in the early 1950s. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Chaplin the 10th greatest male screen legend of all time. In 2008, Martin Sieff, in a review of the book Chaplin: A Life, wrote: “Chaplin was not just ‘big’, he was gigantic.

Haiku Wednesday: Judgment!

Your Honor, let’s get real…
You’re not fooling anyone
That wig’s a bath mat.

“The world judgement ham”
is the lyric that I hear,
The [honey baked] Cult.

Oh, Rapturist clown,
You worship a mean, flawed God
Reset your Doom Clock.

A social comment:
his pinched face constipation,
through Pink Floyd’s Brit tunes.

Outrageous, madam!
Let’s not play with each other!
You, put your hand down!

Judge Dredd’s huge package
is where he keeps his gavel.
Sentenced to hard time?

Haiku Wednesday: Old Timey Adults

This Haiku Wednesday is made possible in part by some old timey adult public domain photos. Please feel free to leave your own Haiku in the comments section. Let’s make this an open collaborative project of hilarity.

Maxell commercial!
Where’d you get all those phonebooks,
thy airheadish maid?


Oh homely princess
with ice cream scoop hat and long
Bassett hound lace ears.


Is your Schick on strike?
Yes, professor Wolfman Jack,
you wear kid-sized specs.


BigThigh McLargeHuge:
Your legs are in charge, but you
can’t outrun me, sir.


Aunt May’s high again.
I’m paging Jason Voorhees:
Please make lemonade.


Ruiner of souls,
Crispin Glover, is that you?
What is the product?


Haiku Wednesday: Old Timey Kids

Due to popular demand, Haiku Wednesday will be a re-occurring feature. This week’s series is dedicated to old timey kid photos.
 New sheriff in town
I pushed Humpty Dumpty off
This is my wall, bitch.
 You looking at me?
Don’t make me come off this chair
I’ll tune you up, son.
 Hey, it’s Lloyd Christmas!
Scissors and a soup bowl make
the haircut of shame.
Chunkified baby
Stores terror in her huge cheeks
Get in my belly.
 Dressed like a VP
Gift basket of dead flowers
Worst birthday ever.
 Lil girl linebacker
Holds bosomy doll of death
Don’t make eye contact.
Future pole dancer
Too many sexual jokes
So churn, baby, churn.

Wagon doll is dead
No clean pants – a skirt for Jim
Anne plots more murder.



Haiku Wednesday Part I

Haikus are pretty interesting forms of word art. A refresher of the rules: Haiku is one of the most important form of traditinal Japanese poetry. Haiku is a 17-syllable verse form consisting of three metrical units of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. They can be created around anything…and to prove my point I have written the following haikus around a few random images for your viewing pleasure on this beautiful Wednesday.

I'd rather stab my eyes out.

Oh redneckery
Left turns for eight hours
Someone kill me now

A scene from the last act of Stephen King’s Cat’s Eye movie.

Mob husband gets mad
Table turner skyscraper
Ledge walks to the end


Johann Heinrich Füssli's 1802 oil painting "Nachtmahr"

 Monkey nightmare fuel
That jerk horse stands idly by
Please get off my chest


I can’t even look at this photograph for very long.

Teeth to eat my soul
Stop looking at me right now
Nuke it from orbit

I encourage you to join in on the fun. Please comment your own haiku on this post along with a link to the related image if applicable. 

Want more haikus? Check out these resources:

A Haiku Poem Blog

Morden Haiku Poetry

Haiku Pause

Illustrator Aubrey Beardsley: Victorian Ink Lord

When I was a freshmen undergrad at Columbia College Chicago one of the first reports I gave was on the Victorian illustrator Aubrey Beardsley. I remember spending hours thumbing through his works and admiring his editorial-like style, with sweeping curves and masterful line control. His use of standard black and white mixed with provocative and sexually erotic subjects juxtaposed biting social commentary – he pulled culturally profound statements out of bottles of India ink. This I have a huge respect for. While Aubrey’s frustrations with Victorian society were apparent his scandalous drawings were consumed almost as a precursor to Playboy magazine.

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Per Wikipedia, Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (21 August 1872 – 16 March 1898) was an English illustrator and author. His drawings, executed in black ink and influenced by the style of Japanese woodcuts, emphasized the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic. He was a leading figure in the Aesthetic movement which also included Oscar Wilde and James A. McNeill Whistler. Beardsley’s contribution to the development of the Art Nouveau style and the poster movement was significant, despite the brevity of his career before his early death from tuberculosis.

Bursting with talent from an early age, Aubrey began illustrating literature that he owned at age 15 (Madam Bovary and the like). A mix of the industrial age in which he lived and Greek art which one would find on a classical urn, his style was often described as “grotesque” and “naughty”. A homosexual who carved his name into art history with subjects including the evil female power figure Salome holding the severed head of John the Baptist, there is no question that a Victorian sensibility could be so easily offended. Amongst his famous works are illustrations for Le Morte D’arthur.

According to Erin Smith, he was fully aware that challenges to Victorian values came not only from the avant-garde, but from the Women’s Movement, which by the 1880’s, had made some gains in the areas of education and economic rights. Through his bizarre and symbolic style, Beardsley’s drawings blur gender lines and mock male superiority. They also play on Victorian anxieties about sexual expression and men’s fear of female superiority.

As a feminist, I am truly drawn (forgive the pun) to his fantastical and masterful ink drawings.

Further Resources:

The Savoy: The Art of Aubrey Beardsley

Seduced by Package Design

I’m often seduced by package designs. I’m a pushover for unexpected curves, thematic details, and bold design decisions. The M.O. of Apple (as in stock symbol AAPL) is that all of their iCandy products have a seductive minimalistic design, but great design doesn’t always have to be stark and simple. I see great package design everywhere… especially in liquor stores. I’m drawn to the creative shapes and incredibly effective designs that wine labels and vodka bottles have. I could dedicate a whole blog post to genius wine labels alone. That’s another day. Right now, here are a few designs I like:

With one sinister broken fork tine, it just says "Thanksgiving". I'd get a case of this to last for holidays to come.

A shape you can slip into a bookcase or briefcase or into your local library's night drop slot.

A bit phallic, but also a bit bong-ish...naughty all around and possibly a straight man repellent.

Aside from my liquor bottle fetish, I also really find perfume bottles to be objects of desire, looking sharp and pointy or jewel-like. Again, I could do a whole post on perfume bottles. (Digression: when I was four I would ask my Grandma if I could put on some of her “pume” – she always had a respectable and varied selection in her boudoir.) Well, here are a couple of my “pume” package design faves:

DKNY Be Delicious. I want to eat this. Keep away from children.

I've never found the antidote nor lost my love of the occasional dose of Poison.

This didn't have a name, but the peacock side of it catches my eye. It reminds me of looking and playing with marbles as a kid. Those were wonderous and youthful days.

Like a breakable lily pad, this one is pretty sparkly, and it may cut you with its sharpness. But there's so much would so be worth it.

But my package fascination happens with other items, too. I used to be enamored with Fiji’s square water bottle, but I would betray that design for this one by Evian, however impractical and heavy…and space-hogging:

Drinking water was never so hard to accomplish. Try not to drop it on your foot.

Per, the following design was concept packaging created for Adidas by a Capilano University college student named Jenny Kim and I totally dig it.

These promise to make me fast. Fast like a Solid Gold dancer.

Same with makeup. I sometimes can be made to buy makeup because it just looks so damn good. I don’t currently own these, but I would if they were within eyeshot:

Well behaved women rarely make history...or sexed up package designs ; )

Fred Faruggia makeup. This would be either FUN or a NIGHTMARE to use.

Made by a Brazilian cosmetics company (Ducha) I'm not even sure what these are, but they look fun.

There are just so many great designs out there, I feel like I don’t even know where to begin. I guess this post will have to be one in a series of posts highlighting great design.
Other recommended package design-related sites:

Veerle’s Blog

Packaging Diva



Packaging of the World