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Geico No-Go: Franchise Frustration at NY Comic Con 2014


I was amazed and angry. I know that at the New York Comic Con, there would be soft-core porn, bad Once Upon A Time parodies, panels I couldn’t get into and the like. I’ve no problems with that…well I do with the last, but that’s besides the point…. But I’d never expected what I saw on the floor and am still a bit furious. It was the most offensive thing I’ve ever seen at one of these cons with the singular exception of a woman selling “Boys are stupid, let’s hit them with rocks” tee shirts.

This was even worse than the Death of Archie® or the Book of Job action figure with real running sores! It was the GEICO booth.

Now for the full disclosure: I own stock in Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate that owns this insurance company. But just because of that doesn’t mean I like their commercials. I don’t and never have. So when I saw an old fashioned trailer surrounded by cardboard cutouts of their pitch critters, I was incensed. Don’t get me wrong. I know that cartoons and advertising have been hand-in-glove pop culture items since the beginning. Hell, the Yellow Kid pitched cigars in the 19th century! But branding isn’t what this event is about -- at least for me. It’s about the art form.

Cartoons specifically designed only to sell something else isn’t what I think should be at an event like this comic con. The product that is celebrated at such an event is the artwork or the TV show itself, not the advertising that pays for it. This is not about selling automobiles or insurance for automobiles -- it's about the creative impulse behind the work made, the characters developed.  If it was, then goddammit, they would have let Kellogg’sQuaker Oats and Post Cereals have booths.

Garry Moore Tony the Tiger 1955

Toy companies and the like have been producing comics as promotions for years and years. If you go to YouTube and look at the opening credits for the Huckleberry Hound show, you'll notice that Tony the Tiger and Snap, Crackel and Pop were dancing around with everybody else. Then there was the Linus the Lionhearted show from the mid 1960s, where the Post cereal characters had their own episodes. While that managed to hold on for a while, (it was banned in 1969) activist groups came on it like a ton of bricks. They also destroyed a proposed Chester Cheetah show in 1992.

The question as to whether promotional premiums from fast food places or cereal boxes belong at a comic con is one thing. There didn’t seem to be too many dealers in antique stuff there (although there were people who would appraise your antiques or protect that copy of Superman #3 you have in your safety deposit box), and I don’t think there have been many Adventures of the Hamburgler comic books given away in the past 20 years anyway.

But the things that were supposed to be promoted were the ‘toons, video games, and TV shows, not commercials promoting insurance.The Geico characters are made simply to sell insurance -- there's isn't an innocent element of honest creation in the development of this gecko character or other related Geico concepts; they are just created as a cynical device for the sale of product. Celebrating this with a booth at NYCC is wrong.

Some things are just wrong.


Epic Cookies Emerge at NY Comic Con

When I went to the 2013 New York Comic Con this year, I knew there would be no shortage of ground to cover, panels to attend, and cosplayers to gawk at. All this running around is enough to tire even the most hearty con-goer. What I didn’t expect was to find a comic, a delicious snack, and an energy boost all at one modest booth.

Einhorn’s Epic Cookies are four delicious cookies, each packed with a fun little comic book, with some surprisingly decent art. It reminds me of the multitude of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle clones from my youth (COW-Boys of Moo Mesa, anyone?), but paired with some great treats that are of a less dubious nature than the old Ninja Turtle Pudding-Pies.

There are four flavors, each represented by it’s own anthropomorphic equine avatar. Houston is a chocolate chip cookie with potato chip pieces mixed in. Cadiz combines marshmallows, crisped rice, and sprinkles. Broxburn is a hearty oatmeal cookie with orange zest, raisins, and chocolate chips. Romsey is a daring combination of peanut butter, maple, and bacon. The cookies are packed with a comic that branches off in a unique path for each character/flavor.

houston cookieHouston is a classic style chocolate chip cookie, with a soft and chewy body and a pleasant crunch bestowed upon it by the potato chips. The salty/sweet combo may seem strange at first to some, but I noticed that the friends I shared the cookies with still tore through them voraciously. One or two cookies in a bag might be overly salty, but that feels like a trade off for the home-made/organic quality of the cookies. Houston takes a great “classic with a twist” approach and does not disappoint.

You would think that Cadiz would be a gooey cookie, but the sugars in it makes it more brittle and crunchy, which is not unpleasant, just unexpected. It’s taste is slightly reminiscent of Funfetti, but without being overly sweet. I recommend it with a cup of coffee.

Einhorn’s Epic Cookies have a true home made appeal to them. They’re not uniform, and sometimes you might get one slightly singed, but that’s okay. These cookies show genuine care and craft in them, without the cynical attempts at one-up-manship you see in the foodie/culinary elite.

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Hood by Air: The Look of The Underground

altEarly today at Milk's MADE Studio, Hood by Air (headed by Shayne Oliver) premiered their Fall/Winter 2013 collection amongst a crowd of ravenous and eclectic bloggers, reporters, photographers, and editors.

Unlike the high-gloss of the shows premiering at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Hood by Air took another approach, inviting guests into the large, clean-looking arena that is the MADE studio in the Meatpacking District of NYC. The venue reflected the aura of the show -- post-modern, structural, and unconcerned with the concerns of beauty.

The show opened with an array of lasers and a large white cloud of fog that obscured the models just before they came into view on the runway.

The show was exciting, the energy palpable. The show's theatric leaning added an extra dimension of interest, and differentiated it from the ordinary runway show. 

Watching it, I couldn't help but be reminded of Bernadette Corporation, which operated mostly strongly as a subculture phenomenon in the 1990s, a collective of people entering the fashion world and subverting it from the inside. Shayne Oliver borrows from the aesthetic of 1990s club and streetwear as well, with oversized, deconstructed pieces that look almost as though they are about to fall off the body, but miraculously cling, giving many of the looks the illusion of floating.


A fur hood that might otherwise conjur the idea of luxury, taken here for its own and subverted into something that exhibits strength and a unique taste.

The most striking thing about Hood by Air, though, is its conversation between street, club-kid, thumping underground and high society, and past culture.

Oliver includes accessories that might be seen on a rich woman on Park Avenue, such as a diamond earing or pearl necklace, but the piece is absorbed too by the seemingly haphazard style of everything else. When closely looked at, it becomes evident that these tokens of high society become grounding focal points for structures that are carefully planned out.


The collection involved some pieces with extremely angular arcitechture.


The collection inspires also a sense of the otherworldly, as a few of the models took on their own exterior, creature-like personas and danced, thrashed, and crawled their way down the runway.

The power of the clothing was enhanced by this idea of the near-paranormal, a unique style and attitude exhibited by those in the club scene. At the same time, many of the looks reflected inspirations of dress from ancient cultures.

Some looks included pieces of accessories from high society.

In the end, what this show and this brand really becomes about is power and self-expression without needing to convert to something from the mainstream.

[All Photos by Emily Heinz] 

The Salon: Art & Design in NYC

taj tableIncluding the opening day, The Salon was held for the first time at the Park Avenue Armory (643 Park Ave) from November 8 -12, 2012 providing a large range of art objects, painting, sculpture, furniture, and decorative items which met for most the objectives of the show, museum –quality works of art.

The show was organized by the New York based Sanford L. Smith & Associates and the French Syndicat National des Antiquaires. They selected 56 galleries from Paris (27), New York (14), London (six) and other cities presenting in 53 booths more about 700 art objects. All work chosen for the salon were vetted and organized into categories:

  • Furniture and Decorative Art of the 20th Century
  • Twenty and Twenty First Century Design
  • Paintings and Drawings
  • African and Primitive Art
  • Ancient Art
  • Furniture and Decorative Art in 18th – 20th Centuries
  • Sculpture

The Salon included a fund raiser for the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club. Several panels sponsored by the SCENE magazine were offered covering respectively design value creation in real estate and through the social media as well as on the Vanderbilts bringing “French Grandeur” to America and Deconstructing Modern Design.

The breadth and quality of the Salon was astounding covering hundreds of years of art and design creations and presenting many galleries who were never in New York before. Only comparatively few decorative objects from the contemporary design period were puzzling and difficult to ascertain, yet they found their audience too. Certainly the art, genre, style and period preferences of the well clad upscale audience were readily met by the exhibits in well arranged spaces.

It would be difficult to identify a single established 20th century artist whose work was not shown. Further, this first salon was not crowded during my two visits as Armory art shows frequently are, thus allowing for undisturbed talks of exhibitors and collectors, an advantage pointed out by visitors and staff, in short, as one visitor put it, the salon was a collector’s paradise.

Apart from an overall compliment for this well managed show it is difficult to do justice to all exhibitors and the plethora of objects on view. Among my favorites were the Carpenters Workshop Gallery (London) with its astounding upside down Taj Mahal table, the unending attraction of Rene Lalique’s work mounted by the DJL Lalique gallery (Glen Cove, New York) and kindred art nouveau objects arranged by the Jason Jacques Gallery from New York.

Among the most notable pieces of furniture was DJO Bourgeois’s desk in steel and Bakelite from the Galerie Marchilhac (Paris). Their Zürich counter part, the Gallery Gmurzynska featured the suprematist PROUN portfolio of prints of which only three copies are known to exist, one held by MOMA. For the artist El Lissitzky the Russian Proun stands for 'Project for the Affirmation of the New'. Zlotowski (Paris) devoted all of its space to showcase paintings by Le Corbusier offering an amazing contrast to his style in architecture. And the German-American artist Richard Lindner had two of his eroticizing paintings on view at the Galerie Pascal Lansberg (Paris) exhibit.

As noted the work shown spanned centuries with the oldest paintings on display presented by the Paris and Geneva based De Jonckheere gallery specializing in old masters and specifically Flemish painting. The darkened exhibit space featured The Harvest painting by Pieter Brueghel, a panel by Lucas Cranach the Elder, and the magnificent “Temptation of Saint Antony in a panoramic landscape” by Jan Mandijn. At least for this writer, the picturesque landscapes, village scenes and portraits by the other masters shown in this booth were not as intriguing as Mandijn’s imagination of St. Anthony’s temptations. Following Hieronymus Bosch’ imaginary creations Mandijn demonstrates superb craftsmanship with surreal and detailed scenes. Masked people and bizarre creatures are leaving caves surrounded by strange insects, birds and other fantastic objects against the background of a seemingly peaceful landscape. What he presents transcends our imagination.

If you have missed the show you may want to visit two galleries across from the Armory on East 67th Street. At Friedman & Vallois the focus is on the French artist Rachid Khimone selecting totems and masks created over the last five years using bronze, iron, wood and mixed media. The objects evoke Africa and her traditions. Jumping into 21st century, the Lohner-Carlson Silences exhibit at the Erik Thomsen's gallery of Asian art presents Active Images 1990-20, combining the best of moving images and photographic approaches. The images are shown on a series of high resolution video panels and provide a poetic and elegant glance at seemingly normal scenes. Yet they succeed in unframing our structured visual perception of reality and moving us out of that perception box, if we look closely enough embracing a meditative patience.

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