Saturday, May 28, 2011

Klan Klatch

Long ago, at a school somewhere, before the age when everyone had a pc, I remember playing around with a basic paint program. It was fun and full of promise, theoretically. Along with most anyone else using it, it was good to explore some possibilities, as long as I could ignore my clumsiness and jagged lines with a mouse. It never went anywhere because there seemed to be little we could actually apply it to. Things couldn't be printed in those days. We still used typewriters to make documents. There was no internet, no digital photos, etc.

Then over the years and decades the computer insinuated itself more into my life. Photoshop and the internet came along. But now all this stuff was so damned complicated. I would use programs for certain projects and then forget how to use them, taking a long break after frying my brain during the eternally long sessions of trying to do some basic thing.

Suddenly it occurred to me: say, what ever happened to that fun paint program? It didn't take an eternity to figure out how to draw a line or color in a shape. I searched a little and found something close: Paintbrush. It's easy to use and basically how I remember.

I decided to do a magazine title with it. Computers are good at squares and right angles, so it seemed good for designing letters. I chose to remix a painting I had done last year, called The Clan. It would work for a magazine or comic book cover. What would the title be? I like alliteration, so I chose Klan Klatch, inspired by a googled image of an old cafe. The style of the letters for Koffee Klatch, the cafe's name, were just the type that I like, vaguely New Yorker-ish. In that era, around 100 years ago, artists redesigned the wheel every time they had a project. Magazine titles, newspaper ads, whatever, were nice and hand made, even though they were straight and vaguely machine-age. These words were hand-made, but also futuristic.

Nowadays, no one reinvents the wheel. Mr. Computer hands everyone thousands of fonts, so there is no call for anyone who likes drawing letters. Not following this trend, using a retro style of paint program, I drew the Klan Klatch title, thinking about every aspect of the name. Both “Klan” and “Klatch” are words whose time has faded. They are in keeping with the style of the lettering, c. 1920. The famous Klan or KKK reached its highest membership in the 1920s, I recall reading somewhere. (Lest one think the good old days were always all that good.)

The word klatch (a social gathering) may be as worn as the klan, perhaps not even known by youth. At one time German influenced American pop culture more than it does now. The old traditions of Vaudeville, where ethnic types were stock and trade, carried on for decades into radio and TV. Beloved rocket scientists, mad scientists of horror films, and “long hair” musicians always spoke in thick accents. Ernie Kovacs had many zany German accents, along with others of the Euro-ethnic soup that was mid-century America pop.

As for the actual content of Klan Klatch, which the painting symbolizes, what is it? This is a klatch of hominids, of an apish type. Or are they more than a klatch—maybe a clan, forbidden to outsiders, ever suspicious? Perhaps Klan and Klatch are contradictions. A gathering infers strangers, or acquaintances meeting socially. Perhaps it is a family reunion. Have you ever been to a family reunion where you were a stranger?

Among the curiosities that have fascinated me recently are the traditions and concerns of families. These concerns are all-important for a few decades, as if they are rules written in stone. Then the elders die off and the rules are forgotten. The house is cleaned out and the goods taken to the dump. It's strange!

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