Our Most Beloved Pictures
We have always sought drawings,
photographs, or intaglio that enhance
the message of our reviews, articles,
poems and readings. Here are a dozen
that, over the years, have managed to
attract continuing attention

The Hidden Legacy
Pierpaolo Mittica
(Trolley Books)
This book is subtitled The Hidden Legacy, but a better one might have been Chernobyl after Twenty Years. Mittica ventured into the contaminated area and took hundreds of black-and-white photographs ... among which the most devastating are the abandoned schoolrooms, kindergartens, hospitals, playgrounds, and, most ominously, shots from the Oncology Children's Hospital.

There are, too, disturbing pictures of old people who were forcibly moved to large cities like Minsk, could not survive there, and returned to their homes, despite the level of radioactivity.

Then there are photographs of "liquidation workers," those who are hired to tear down houses in contaminated areas. One of them says of his job, "We have always worked without protection, we don't even notice any longer. We got used to radioactivity and radioactivity got used to us, and anyway, we have to work to live, and this is how you work here."

The layout of this book is impressive, the photographs are simple, elegant, and moving --- and the message is awful. As the author notes,

    Radioactivity has but one merit in the utmost expression of democracy: it falls on everybody's head, the rich and the poor, politicians and citizens. It knows no boundaries and pays no heed to politics or economic interests, only to the wind and the rain.

Chernobyl: The Hidden Legacy appeared more than three years ago. We missed it then, but we beg our readers not to miss it now.

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In the
South Bronx
Of America

Mel Rosenthal
(Curbstone Press)

In the South Bronx of America consists of over a hundred black-and-white photographs of people working to survive in the rubble of what is essentially a dust-bin, with commentary by the author and pertinent quotes from others who lived there, still live there, or are familiar with the area.

Rosenthal is convinced that his community fell apart because of political expediency:

    The burning of the South Bronx didn't just happen by accident, but was the result of decisions made by politicians, businessmen, government officials, and urban planners. The factors we have to examine to understand the burning of the South Bronx are the building of the Cross Bronx Expressway (which cut through the homes of tens of thousands of families), the building of Co-op City (a gigantic complex of affordable housing in the East Bronx which led to "white flight")...and the migration of poor people from places where there were no jobs and hopes...

He goes on to suggest that the destruction was promulgated as a policy of "planned shrinkage," by the New York City HUD and specifically, through the offices of one Roger Starr of the New York Times editorial board.

    Planned shrinkage called for the systematic withdrawal of basic services --- including police, fire, health, sanitation, and transportation --- from poor neighborhoods to make them, unlivable and thus drive the poor out of the city.

On the last page of the book, there is a quote from the Bronx Marketing Project, New York City Dept. of General Services:

    Your business will have room to grow in the Bronx. You don't have to worry about the spiraling rents, lack of space, congested streets, parking shortages, and a host of other problems that plague expanding businesses elsewhere. The The Bronx has prime real estate that is affordable. No inflated prices like Westchester, New Jersey, or Long Island. The City of New York is planning to sell prime parcels of real estate for retail, light manufacturing, office and industrial development. These are properties which the city has held from sale until the market was right. Now the market is right. You can own real estate in thriving, busy commercial centers, industrial enclaves, and growing residential areas.

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Hans Neleman,

(Edition Stemmle)
It was inevitable that the Christians who invaded the island three hundred years ago should attempt to ban tattoos, since it was an homage to the Maori divines. Ta moko was kept alive by older women who lived in remote areas beyond the pale of European condemnation. In the 70s, young urbanized Maori in search of powerful symbols of ethnic identity rediscovered the art, and moko found a new generation of skin.

One guide, who assisted with this volume, said that with his moko, "I will never pretend I am white again." Indeed, many of those who appear in this book do not see themselves as "exotics" or "natives." There are students, workers, soldiers, and businessmen and most, apparently, are deeply religious. Statements that accompany many of these photographs are Maori translations of passages from the Bible --- hinting that an ingrained ancient culture has merged, to an astonishing degree, with the Christian.

These photographs, almost a hundred in number, are a wonderful peek at a culture of artful difference. Some of the tattoos are delicate, understated. But some are a poke in the face, so to speak, at the world. Sinn Dog's decoration, running across the lower half of his face --- like a mask --- including nose, lips, cheeks and chin, proclaims MONGREL FOR LIFE. He is an ominous-looking dude, with or without tattoo. Meeting him in a bar, I would suspect most of us would speak to him with caution and some care. His life-time sign, right there before your eyes, says it all.

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My Black Cat
My black cat gave birth last night
Four and five make nine-o ...
One of them had deep blue eyes
Eyes as pretty as mine-o.

Mother said that they must go
Drown them in the well-o ...
So I hid the little one in my shoe
The one with eyes like mine-o.

--- Clare Marx Arce

500 Butterflies
From Around the World
Ken Preston-Mafham
Preston-Mafham tells us that there are 20,000 species of butterflies all over the world, give or take a few thousand, and 500 --- 514 to be exact --- are shown here in photographs, listed neatly by family, along with range, principal food plant, wingspan, and scientific name. The editor explains to us that butterflies come from the superfamily Papilionnoidea.

An erroneous etymology claims that the word butterfly came from a metathesis of "flutterby"; however, the root is the Old English word buttorfleoge, which means flapping (or 'flopping') butter. According to Grimm's Law, it devolved into the word we now use.

Preston-Mafham believe that there is a definite difference between the butterfly and the moth. The forewing and the hind wing are separate in the former, joined in the latter. Antennae, in general, are shorter in moths, but the butterfly excels in two regards. One is setting our hearts aflutter as a Pipevine Swallowtail dips by when we are out in the garden, trimming the pansies. Moths aren't allowed to do that ... their state in life is to fly in your candle and die.

The other difference has to do with names. Mother-of-pearl Hairstreak. Variable Diadem. Orange Daggerwing [Fig. 1]. The Lady's Maid. The Bespectacled Eyemark. The Fritillary (Dark Green, Silver-washed) ... "fritillary" being one of the loveliest words in the English language, well-favored by Vladimir Nabokov.

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Waiting for the
End of the World

Richard Ross
(Princeton Architectural Press)
Richard Ross has a fascination with what were once called "fall-out shelters," and here he has sought out thirty-two of them, including those from strange far-off worlds like China, Russia, Switzerland, Montana, and, the weirdest of them all, Utah.

Some of them weren't even built in this century, so they weren't necessarily fall-out shelters, unless you call Christian invasion an undesirable fall-out. The Muslims of Acca in what is now Israel built one in 1100 A.D. just to protect themselves from the depredations of those bloody Crusades sent down by the religious fundamentalists of the day. Even further back, in 2,000 B. C. the Hittites of Cappodocia carved a shelter in the hills. The stone was such that it could dissipate the smoke of their cooking fires to help them avoid discovery.

There's a grotty one in St. Petersburg Russia that has been turned into "The Trendy Griboyedov" nightclub. There's a drain-pipe shelter a-building (at $1,000 per linear foot) in Salt Lake City, although the author tells us that since it is not very deep, it will have "limited effectiveness."

Thirty-five years ago, the Chinese built an entire "underground city" in Beijing which, we are told, could accommodate 350,000 people. On the other hand, the subway stations of Moscow, which look considerably more beautiful than the Lexington Avenue Line, were used as shelters during WWII. The author even found in one veterans of the Russian Chechyna War, singing "historical patriotic songs" and asking for donations.

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The Man-Eaters of Tsavo
Lt. Colonel J. H. Patterson, D.S.O.
(Lyons Press)
The Man-Eaters of Tsavo ostensibly about lion-hunting is, more exactly, a chronicle of the Good Old Days of Colonialism, when Great Britain was at the height of its powers, when it could send in a single ambitious officer to design and build a railroad and keep an army of workers and "natives" under control. Outside of the simple tale of murdering as much wildlife of Uganda as possible in two short years, The Man-Eaters of Tsavo is a fascinating document on colonial power --- a power that struck both ways.

Plain Tales from the Raj, which we reviewed several years ago, revealed that fully seventy-five percent of the front line soldiers from England were to die in India. Likewise, Patterson had to deal with not only lions, hippos, crocodiles and bustards, but malaria, dysentery, yellow fever, typhoid, leprosy, sleeping sickness and, in one case, the plague:

    I gave the natives and Indians who inhabited it [Nairobi] an hour's notice to clear out, and on my own responsibility promptly burned the whole place to the ground. For this somewhat arbitrary proceeding I was mildly called over the coals, as I expected, but all the same it effectually stamped out the plague, which did not reappear during the time I was in the country.

"Mildly called over the coals." Ah, shades of Kipling.

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Cynthia Berger
Not only are their table-manners deplorable, their accommodations are vomit-inducing. The Screech Owl will typically have a nest filled up with various types of garbage. "The bottom of an owl's nest makes a nice home," says Ms. Berger, although we believe the word "nice" here should be considered relative. "It's a messy mulch of its own feces, coughed up owl pellets, and the remains of prey such as mice and beetles."

Ants and fly maggots move in to feed on this, so it becomes a stinkpot cafeteria. To make it even more vile, some owls bring home Texas blind snakes --- live ones --- who, once in the nest, defecate and release "a noxious, smelly liquid, then writhe so that the slippery mess coats their small bodies."

No one can figure out why owls bring home these disgusting characters to be their roommates. It reminds us of Ms. Downey, down the street, who lives with thirty-five (or thirty-eight, or forty-three) cats: the atmosphere downwind from her house can peel the bark off your elm and neem trees.

Owls has, without much effort, managed to temper our interest in getting to know the Spotted Owl or Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl or the Flammulated Owl. In this volume, there are, in all, eighteen species pictured. Ms. Berger shows herself to be a lively, companionable and occasionally zany expert on these characters. Owls, by the way, don't just hoot. They also purr, snore, hiss, chirrup, twitter, whinny, and, when they hear a funny joke, chuckle. Didja hear the one about the Screech Owl that went into a bar and asked for ...

They also go boop-boop-booptidy-doop.

Just like Little Richard.

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Therapy of a
A professionally trained female employee of a state hospital was referred to the writer for therapy after extensive medical study. Her complaint was one of severe headaches for which numerous medical studies had found no physical basis and severe personality disturbances manifested in quarrelsomeness and uncooperativeness. At the time she was seen, she had been given notice of her discharge to take effect either immediately or, if she sought therapy from the writer, in six weeks' time.

Under these adverse circumstances, the patient sought out the writer, explained the situation bitterly, and declared that she was confronted with "The choice of wiring home for transportation money or being messed around with by a damn hypnotist." (The fact that the writer was wholly innocent of any responsibility for her situation was totally disregarded by her.) She, added ungraciously, "So here I am. What do you want? Go ahead."

An effort was made to secure her history but she was uncommunicative and remained so throughout the course of therapy. The only material obtained was the following: For the past four years, beginning when she parted ties with her childhood home, she had been suffering from intense, unlocalized headaches. These sometimes occurred twice a week, were accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and physical incapacitation from two to four hours' duration. They were always associated with intense, inexplicable emotional disturbances characterized by extreme quarrelsomeness, bitterness and violent verbal attacks on everyone about her. Usually, these emotional disturbances presaged the headaches, and upon recovery from that symptom, she would remain seclusive, subdued and somewhat socially adjusted for a day or two until the next attack. This had caused her to lose one position after another, all of her friends and even the possibility of making new friends. Hence, she felt most lonely and wretched about her situation. Every attempt to secure more adequate information from her failed. She resented any questions or even casual conversation about herself. She was embittered by the fact that she had been given notice of her impending discharge and then had been referred for psychotherapy, "as if to make up for firing me."

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The Key West
From: bwachtel@XXX.net

To: poo@cts.com

Subject: Photo Inquiry


I came across your website while searching for historic Florida photos. I absolutely love this photo that you show depicting a survey being taken from an ocean platform. Can you tell me where I could purchase a print of this photo? or where you got the photo from?

Any help you could provide would be very appreciated.

Thank you for your time.

--- Bryan Wachtel
Brooklyn, NY

Hi, Bryan:

My guess is that it came from the book under review.

You also might do a Google search under the Florida East Coast Key West Extension.

--- Ed

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in question

The Algeria Hotel
France, Memory, and
The Second World War

Adam Nossiter
(Houghton Mifflin)
As we read through The Algeria Hotel, we are reminded of Proust, and the question of memory, of one's participation in those memories, of the way we can turn memory any way we choose. The people of Bordeaux, Vichy, and Tulle lived through a bifurcated time --- a time when they were technically being governed by their own countrymen. Those of Bordeaux and Vichy quickly forgot, and they were mostly resentful of the trail, obviously irritated by the questions of the author.

Those who lived in Tulle, by contrast, said that they are still haunted by the memories of the 200 of their own who were hung in 1944 by the Nazis. "I was intrigued," he writes, "by the conviction that the town was still suffering."

Nossiter is seeking to understand how individual memories, and the cant of those memories, are to be confronted. If we forget, are we not the better for it? Should we dwell on the past, no matter how sweet, no matter how sad, no matter how brutal?

To the reader the value of this wonderful book comes clear as he tells of his visit to Mme. Godillon, in Tulle. It is the heart of his story, the very reason for his careful study: "Charles Godillon had been a lathe operator at the arms factory, thirty-six years old, a father of two and expecting another child. You could still make out, in faded pencil, the note he had scribbled to his wife on one of those cards before being led out to die --- not knowing, as it turned out, how.

    "Goodbye my dearest, my little ones, and all my family that I loved so much. Call the one who is coming Charles, or Marie. I am leaving to be shot: goodbye my love, my dear ones."

The author concludes:

    She was visibly shaken by this forced dredging up of her most painful memory, and I left her feeling ashamed of my inquisitiveness. Mme. Godillon had talked, with emotion and sorrow, of others who had died that day, of her own grief, of her intense struggle to make ends meet afterward, and of her solitude. Yet when she made reference to the murder of her husband fifty-five years before, for the first time her tone had abruptly shifted. There was a kind of release. Her statement was like a window onto an intimate reality, one so essential its relationship to the normal pain of loss was not the expected one.

Note: the cartoon at the top of the page is titled "Henri Sjöberg's Vichy."
The artist made satiric drawings of the bureaucrats of Vichy,
which were later published as Hors-Saison à Vichy.
The drawing shows a French official at work in his office
at the Hôtel du Parc.
Go to the full

Fulgencio Batista
From Revolutionary to Strongman
Frank Argote-Freyre
(Rutgers University Press)
If any of us in this day and age have any doubts that the United States was fiddling in the internal affairs of Cuba, all you have to do, according to historian Argote-Freyre, is spend a day or so at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, reading the letters, notes, and diaries of the then Assistant Secretary of State Sumner Welles. According to the author, "The importance of this collection cannot be understated."

    Although [Jefferson] Caffery, ambassador from 1933 to 1937, burned all of his important correspondence, Welles never threw any letters away. This voluminous correspondence opens a revealing door onto the period. Many of the letters I have used here have never before appeared in a scholarly work.

Batista's journey is a fascinating one. He was known as "el mulatto lindo," "el literaro," "el Indio," and to some Americans and upper-class Cubans, "the nigger." He came into a government reduced to chaos by poverty, American interference, the Depression, and President Gerardo Machado and his ABC party.

He was masterful at manipulation, backtracking, withholding judgment, and timing his moves. In his later years, he was dictator pure and simple, but in the 1930s, he was forced to build an empire on compromise: compromise with other parties, with the United States ambassador, and, most importantly, his associates in the Cuban military.

Our main complaint about this one is that it's too short. A history book that is too short? You gotta be kidding. No: it is that good. Argote-Freyre comes off as a careful, just and scholarly writer, who is able --- unlike most of his peers --- to write a literate sentence. But the book comes to an abrupt halt at the year 1940. It should not do so. The title is Fulgencio Batista. It is not (as it properly should be), Fulgencio Batista, 1901 - 1940.

Despite that, we find ourselves sucked in not only by a careful historical presentation (Batista still evokes passionate feelings in Cuba and various parts of the United States and the world) but by the very improbability of his story. Here is an "Indio" cane-cutter who left school before age ten, who once slept on floors of railway stations, who entered the military as a lowly private, who only became a colonel after a revolt he may have joined uneasily (certainly not foreseeing the dramatic outcome, the upending of an entire political system).

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Mighty Man
--- Laciviously Yours
TO: larryblake2@yahoo.com, lcaskey01@yahoo.com, loreanmc@yahoo.com, lolitalark@yahoo.com, liz_feeler@yahoo.com, lilbrat744@yahoo.com, lesa462002@yahoo.com, lauren_gidley@yahoo.com, linda_shearimage@yahoo.com, lesgar1@yahoo.com, lighthouselee2001@yahoo.com, lllince@yahoo.com, lostboi172003@yahoo.com, leecole1966@yahoo.com, lisibuon@yahoo.com, lilslickem14@yahoo.com, larissa_doudy@yahoo.com... more

FROM: ruPc3kkfUv

RE: Mighty Man

Hello, mighty man! How are you?

I feel so lonelythese days! I guess you would make a hot company for any playful babe like me! Why dont we meet online to get each other better? I have a number of thrilling nude pics at this dating website. Please be there for me! The registration is free. I will tell you everything in a private chat, sugar! Cannot wait to see you!

--- http://t.co/ruPc3kkfUv

Dear ruPc3kkfUv:

Thanks for your interesting if not solipsistic letter.

Unfortunately, although we are, naturally, looking for hot company for (and, presumably) "playful babes," we find ourselves so hot that we've been called away to Afghanistan for the duration.

The pix? You may send those if you must, but you have to understand that our photo fanbox folder is filled with probably some less seemly folks, the likes of Joyce, Keats, Shelley and that lascivious notorious vicious dabbler, Lord Byron. Your steamy pix may get lost in the shuffle.

As for a private chat, you are free to make a call to our home base in the new Green Zone, but please be advised that we may find ourselves preoccupied by other activities. Bombs, shellings, drones ... the like. These may distract from any foreplay you (and the rest of us) were hoping for.

Thanks for thinking of us anyway.

--- Ed

From: taitradio@gmail.com

To: lolitalark@yahoo.com

Hello Editor,

On this page--


There is a picture of a moon face. I have been trying to figure out who originally drew or engraved it. Do you know?

--- Paul Leslie
Lifestyles Entertainment

Hi, Paul:

And thanks for your email. Bless me if I can remember. I only vaguely recall that it came from one of the many Dover Books publications of old advertising pix. I think if you look through their catalogues, you will find it.

--- Ed