Monday, July 16, 2018

Shoes the artist's muse

Throughout history many artist have been inspired by shoes. Arthur Chaplin (1869 - 1935) assembled a collection of vintage shoes in his apartment on the IIe Saint-Louis and although he never painted them he was certainly conscious of their presence. The avant-garde artist, Jannis Kounellis (1936–2017) was a major contributor to Arte Povera and featured shies in many of his works, including multi-soled shoes. Vittore Carpaccio (1450-1522) was a Venetian painter and depicted shoes as turreted instruments of torture designed to seduce. He probably was not all that far wrong for long toed poulaines were eventually banned because of their sexual overtones. As a painter Vittore was influenced by Giovanni Bellini and painted with rich colour and a wealth of detail. In his painting Two Venetian Ladies circa 1490 there is a pair of chopines or platform shoes to the left.

Watteau, Jean-Antoine (1684–1721) was a French painter of Flemish descent. He studied in the studio of Claude Gillot. Theatrical life became the subject of some of Watteau's finest paintings, e.g., Love in the French Theatre. One of the great colourists of all time, Watteau executed gay and sensuous scenes in shimmering pastel tones, influencing fashion and garden design in the 18th cent. The Embarkation for Cythera (1717; Louvre) is a characteristic work. He paints little satin slippers in Indifferent Man and Pierrot.

Edouard Manet (1832–83), was a French painter. He was influenced by Velázquez and Goya, and later by Japanese printmakers. In 1861 the Salon accepted his Guitarist. Two years later, with the exhibition of Luncheon on the Grass, he was violently attacked; the painting depicts a nude woman enjoying a picnic in the woods with two fully clothed men. Manet's masterpiece, Olympia (1863), an arresting portrait of a courtesan, elicited outrage and abuse from critics and public. This hostility from the art establishment attended his work throughout his life. His subject matter and technical innovations were considered heresy, but he profoundly influenced Impressionism. Although often called an impressionist, he did not employ broken colour, or sketchy brush strokes. All his work was a successful attempt to describe the natural immediacy of the eye's perception, and he worked in broad, flat areas of colour. His major works include The Balcony (1869) and The Fife Player (1866). In his scandalous painting Olympia, he restored the shoe to its role of erotic synecdoche. Eventual acceptance of this metonymic representation was considered by many experts to be pivotal to the history of modern art.

The contemporary development of psychoanalysis made the eventual connection between contents and container to the point of singling out their specific sexual and fetishistic aspects. The syllogism is proper and if the foot is a phallus then the shoe must be considered as feminine or certainly female. René Magritte (1898–1967) was a Belgian surrealist painter. Influenced by Chirico, he developed a style of surrealism in which misleading realism is combined with mocking irony. Based on Freudianism, in the Red Model or Le modèle rouge he elaborates fantasies constructed around common situations and metamorphoses the shoe into the foot thus inventing the unisex image destined to trouble our dreams.

The Pop Art movement emerged at the end of the 1950s as a reaction against the seriousness of Abstract Expressionism. Pop artists used common images to express abstract formal relationships. Artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol attempted to fuse elements of popular and high culture and to erase the boundaries between the two. Shoes became one of its emblems because they represented status and consumerism. In was no surprise Andy Warhol began as commercial artist selling shoes.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Entertainment Australia in the good old days

Just over a century ago one of the most popular stage performances in Australia was a one legged dancer called, Signor Donato. In his act Donato included waltzing, marching and other military manoeuvres. Unfortunately the Australian Signor Donato was an impostor. The original dancer had been a sensation in Covent Garden around 1864 but died. In early days it was common to be passed off as the original and in the time honoured Australian tradition of "a fare go", it meant even an impostor could enjoy a long career because he or she was as entertaining as the original. Performers regularly past themselves off as famous or talented individuals because if successful the pickings were rich. Many theatre goers were successful miners and when pleased with the entertainment threw crowns and half crowns on the stage. Often the coins were wrapped in banknotes so they would not roll off the stage. Some gold prospectors threw paper-wrapped gold dust or small nuggets at their favourite acts.

Another interesting performer was Lola Gilbert or Lola Montez as she liked to be known. Lola was an Irish girl who dreamed of fame and fortune. She had the presence of mind to learn to speak Spanish and took dancing lessons in London before launching her career in the theatre. Her stage career in Australia was short lived but as a Spanish dancer she charmed the European capitals. Lola was soon courted by the glitterati and became mistress to Liszt and Alexandre Dumas to name but two. She was a bit too common for the Paris opera houses and frequently threw personal garments to her adoring fans in the audience. She was also sacked from one theatre for not wearing underwear.

(Video Courtesy: Culture Victoria Youtube Channel)

When she came to Sydney, Lola created a sensation when she performed her Spider Dance. This was a carefully choreographed search for an imaginary spider in her dress. Described as "a women who's every fibre exuded sensuality", the dance and Lola were destined to shock. Lola stayed in Australia for about a year travelling around the rural theatres before returning to the US where she died from syphilis in 1861. Lola dedicated the latter part of her life to the care of fallen women.

(Video Courtesy: Walter Nelson Youtube Channel)

Brisbane K (ed) 1991 Entertaining Australia: an illustrated history NSW: Currency Press.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Tennis bum, blisters, bunions and the couch potato

Tennis Bum is not so much a medical condition as a mental state of mind when the tennis season is on. Millions of couch potatoes sit glued to the box with little or no movement thereafter. A numb bum is usually the result caused by watching too much tennis. Fortunately I am of a certain age where the impetus to play the game, much as I love to watch it, has become an avenue of pleasure closed off. But I cannot say the same for the countless throngs of couch potatoes who inspired by what they see on the telly decide to play tennis with the inevitable outcome of getting blisters. Now as we have seen with the professionals it is amazing how sore feet can impair peak performance and blisters are no exception.

One of the most common problems people experience when the tennis season starts and that is troublesome blisters. To give them their Sunday best description blisters are a dilation of an existing space within the epidermis, (that's the outside layer of the skin), which fills, with exudation i.e. excess tissue fluid or blood. Superficial blisters or vesicles are the most common arise and measure < 0.5cm in diameter. These are caused by compression and when the skin temporarily rubs rudely against another rough surface. The simple blister is caused by shear. Friction causes damage to the skin cells and fluid gathers then separates the skin surfaces. Severity determines depth. A common cause of the simple blister is the foot rubbing against the inside of a shoe or sock. Damaged caused by dynamic friction roughens the shoe or sock surface and the constant wearing over the skin causes an inflammatory reaction. The skin fills with fluid, which initially tries to separate opposing surfaces. Pressures cannot pass through fluid and the associated burning pain ironically provides the two ways the body can protect itself from further damage. If ignored and the player plays on, the blister bursts and infection is a likely outcome. Hours and hours of play drive the skin separation deeper and sometimes a bursa (fluid filled sac) or bursitis (inflamed bursa) will arise.

(Video Courtesy: Rebecca Rushton Youtube Channel)

A favourite old time treatment for blisters was a cabbage poultice. Placed carefully in the shoe beside the site of the blister the cabbage poultice acts as a physical barrier preventing further sheers between opposing surfaces. This is the first principle of treating a blister but I cannot see Novak Djokovic wearing a cabbage poultice, can you?

A common temptation for all is to burst the blister. Not a good idea and when it is unbroken, best the skin surface is left intact. A good idea is to cover the blister and its immediate surround with stretch strapping. This encourages tissue fluid to be reabsorbed as well as a second skin to protect the sensitive area. Pain associated with a sore blister may be relieved with surgical lancing which is best done by a health care professional.

(Video Courtesy: Rebecca Rushton Youtube Channel)

Another common ailment exacerbated by friction from shoes is bunions. Many people think bunions describe a bony misalignment (or Hallux Abducto Valgus HAV). Hallux means big toe and valgus describes an anatomical position, where the big toe is tilted towards the small toe. The forefoot looks like an arrowhead. There are more than 150 operations for hallux valgus. One critic of forefoot surgery was Hans Rudolph Mayer, a Swiss medic, he believed many procedures had been designed to alter the female foot not for functional reasons but instead for cosmetic reasons to fit typical female shaped shoes. He called this the Cinderella Principle. In Cinderella (Walt Disney) the glass slipper was broken by the grotesque ugly sister. However in the original version of the fairytale, the wicked mother cuts the daughters foot in order to fit the shoe. When ladies complain of sore feet, they usually have a bunion or hallux valgus, or both.

The term bunion is a kind of bursa, known medically as an advantageous bursa and is formed to protect the big toe joint, the major lever of the foot. Painful bunions will stop your sporting prowess just ask any lady who suffers from them and they will soon confirm how they burn with exquisite pain. The bursa or fluid filled sack sits deeper in the skin at the dermal /epidermal junction. The primary function is to protect vulnerable areas such as the big toe joint or back of the heel. When the area is aggravated by repeated sheer the bursa becomes inflamed i.e a bursitis. Many professional players are plagued with sore feet throughout their career. .

An old cure for bunions was nightly rubs of patchouli and lavender oil, or chamomile or geranium ointment. This is very pleasant compared to earlier cures which involved cow dung.

So if you want to play the odd game of tennis you might like to take a few sensible precautions. First thing is to get a pair of tennis shoes that fit the feet comfortably. The range of tennis footgear is extensive and these have been designed to cope with the stresses of the game, ordinary trainers may seem similar but are not. Slipping on the old shoes for a few sets is bound to aggravate the skin. Some people advocate greasing the skin which gives lubrication and does cut down friction but this can be messy. Others prefer to use surgical spirit to toughen the skin. This may appear logical but is not recommend because it dries out the skin and makes it less able to deal with friction. The secret to prevent blisters is to wear two pairs of socks. When friction occurs it rubs the two layers of socks and not the skin. Any old war wounds like burst blisters or small new ones should be covered with a strapping such as a band aid. The tight binding of the skin offers an outer cover to the damage area. Always take time to warm up before a session by stretching and warm down after a game. This prevents stiffness and reduces the risk of injury. Aches and pains should not be ignored and persistent pain may need professional care. Follow these simple steps and keep up the practice and I may see you on the telly, next year.

More Information
Rebecca Rushton The Advanced Guide to Blister Prevention Reviewed 14/07/2018

Friday, July 13, 2018

Say no more

Dorothy's red slippers: The most iconic shoes in Hollywood's history

Why should the truth get in the way of a good fairy tale?

In the original Cinderella her shoes was made of fur but due to bad translation from the original French, became glass for the Disney movie. Dorothy (Gale) also had a costume change and did not wear Ruby slippers as seen in the film version of L.Frank Baum’s The wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), but wore silver shoes instead. Now we could not contemplate these classic shoes in any other way. They have left such a deep impression with fantasists and movie goers that there is an entire book written on the history of Dorothy’s shoes. The ruby slippers have their own fan club and a number of websites all dedicated to Dorothy’s foot attire. But why?

Many experts believe the shoes represent a rite of passage once mastered open new delights for the owner and all who love her. Red in fairy tales represents blood and changing the colour of her shoes to ruby red may have had symbolic significance. Shoes are often a metaphor for the vagina and the imagery suggests menstruation. The character does not look for the shoes neither is she aware of them (pre-pubescent). When Glinda puts the shoes on Dorothy's feet and says,

"There they are and there they'll stay."

At first the ruby slippers seem like blight as she tries to escape the Wicked Witch of the West, but eventually Dorothy comes to understand their magical power, just as a girl comes to understand the mysteries of reproduction. This is not dissimilar to the first pair of heeled pumps worn by a young teenager going to her high school ball and may well, at least in part, account for the phenomena which surrounds adult footwear. In the past fairy tales and nursery rhymes were written as political allegory. Baum denied his works were so, but many believe comparison to contemporary events would refute his claim. In Littlefield’s academic interpretation of the wonderful wizard of OZ he draws many examples of allegory. The original silver slippers take on significance as a disguised reference to the Silver Standard at the time. Populists wanted Americans to adapt both the silver and gold monetary standards (bimetallism) when the yellow metal (yellow brick) prevailed. Farmers joined the Popularist movement became virile political activists eager to promote "free silver" as a way of easing the money supply and giving them greater access to credit.

Dorothy’s shoes were designed by Gilbert Adrian (Greenberg). He used the surname 'Adrian' professionally and was MGM’s chief costume designer. The shies were made by Innes Shoe Co., Los Angeles, Hollywood, Pasadena. It is debatable how many pairs of shoes were made for the film but most authorities agree there were five pairs accounted for with two others thought to exist. The shoes which appeared in the film were remarkably ordinary and had red silk faille sewn onto them with red hand sequined georgette attached to the silk. The shoe design did not contain real rubies. There were forty six rhinestones surrounding 42 bugle beads with three large red rectangular stones. The bow was cut out of strap leather, 1/8" thick and dyed red. The soles were painted red and had orange felt glued on the front foundation to reduce noise during the filming of the movie. There were rubber caps on each heel painted red and the inside of the shoes were lined in white kid leather. Colour film quality in the late thirties was inferior to today and the rubies are darker than appear on film.

One pair of the ruby slippers was donated in 1979 to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C and has been on permanent display ever since. This pair was worn by Judie Garland in her dance scenes and has the felt on the soles to muffle her dancing footsteps. These are known as the People’s Shoes.

The other shoes are in the hands of private collectors and zealously guarded. Rarely do they come up for auction and when they do exchange hands for extraordinary prices. In 2000, the original pair of Dorothy’s Shoes sent by MGM to New York to promote the film were auctioned at Christie’s East in New York and sold for $666,000 (US). These had been previously owned by Anthony Landini who acquired them in 1988 for $165,000 (US). Roberta, the original owner won them in a competition in 1939. She was a high school girl and belonged to a Photo Play Club that ran a competition to name the 10 best pictures of 1939. Her selection was good enough to win second place in the contest and her prize was the Ruby Slippers. After Anthony Landini bought them they formed part of a display at Disney MGM Theme Park for about ten years. Now the shoes are owned by David Elkouby. A short time later, St Louis art dealer, Philip Samuels purchased a second pair from Christie's East for $160,000 (US). A couple had decided to sell their prize procession which they bought 19 years before for $15,000 (US) probably at the MGM auction. A number of pairs of shoes had been removed from auction and kept by Kent Warner before he sold them privately. Warner was hired by MGM to prepare costumes and wardrobe for an auction in 1970. When he found the slippers in an old building he presented one pair and kept the rest. This may be why the studio thought there were only two pairs in existence. Aficionados think the shoes owned by Samuels may have been the pair that appeared in the scene where the dead witch of the East's feet lie under the fallen house. Samuel’s slippers have a higher heel than those in the Smithsonian and hence the shoes are known as the “Witches Slippers." Samuels unveiled his pair for the first time in 1988 at a fundraiser benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The “Witches Slippers” are lent to the Smithsonian when the “Travelling Slippers” are on tour.

Actress Debbie Reynold's reportedly paid $300.00 for a pair of shoes sold by Kent Warner. These were called the Arabian Test slippers and did not actually appear in the film. The shoes were displayed in Reynold’s Hollywood Hotel/Movie Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada before it was closed. The Arabian Test shoes had no felt on the soles. Although unsighted it is thought Bill Thomas owns a pair of size 5 slippers with Judy Garland's name written in the lining. The test pair was called The Bugle Bead Slippers and was allegedly found by Kent Warner. Although bowless these were purportedly worn by Judy Garland during filming in October, 1938. Hollywood memorabilia collector, Michael Shaw bought a pair at auction for $15,000 (US). Legend has it the slippers were discovered, wrapped in a Turkish towel, in a bin in the basement of MGM's Wardrobe Department. The shoes were covered with cobwebs and dust and in some places, sequins were missing. Until very recently Shaw has offered the Travelling Shoes for display around the US. The slippers have been used to raise money and awareness for orphaned children and AIDS research. Shaw insured his shoes for over $1 million (US), just as well because they have gone missing. In 2006 the travelling slippers were on loan to Children's Discovery Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. This houses the Judy Garland museum who was born in Grand Rapids in 1922. The shoes were stolen from the premises and so far not been recovered.

Controversy continues to surround the number of shoes made for the film. It is likely there were several pairs of shoe available to the actress and these could have been mixed up during takes. This might account for why the markings on the right shoe of the Travelling Slippers reveal 5C 11869 D536 which matches the numbers in the left shoe owned by the Smithsonian Institution. Shaw's left shoe is numbered 5BC 15250 which matches the Smithsonian's right shoe. No attempt has ever been made to reconcile the pair. The remaining shoes appear to have no matching numbers and many theorists think this indicates there were more pairs made.

Over half a century later the red slippers still hold their own fascination.

Littlefield H. 1964 The Wizard of Oz: Parable on Populism , American Quarterly 16 (Spring, 1964), p. 50.
Thomas R 1989 The Ruby Slippers Reference of Oz Los Angeles, CA : Tale Weaver Publishing.
Turn me on Dead man Trippy Films: The Wizard of Oz (1939)

(Video Courtesy: Movieclips Youtube Channel)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Australians: The best dressed huff puffers

Without question in the ath-leisure industry the blue chip shoes have been basketball footgear. Whilst other types of sport shoes share the limelight the real star is the jumper kicks. Over the last decades however, market lead has eroded and many observers attribute this to superstar endorsement, no longer by itself, sells shoes. The formula worked for a long time, although sports varied from Baseball’s Converse’s Chucks to Basketball’s, Nike Jordan’s the shoes sold in their billions. Now it has all changed and urban teens (aged 12-17), which set the sneaker agenda, value leisure shoes as a kind of body art, or foot armour, which expresses their individuality rather than they are fans of Shaquille O'Neal (who once signed one of the biggest shoe endorsement deals, ever).

Not old enough to legally drive, kids transpose the same kind of brand equity and fashion more to sneaker types than their parents and older siblings did for quality cars. The Sk8’s or thrashers cult, (that is skate boarders to you and me) require all the protection sport shoes can afford but need to conform to the neo grunge fashions of the urban guerrilla. Conservative brown and black are back in and this further frustrates the giant sport shoe companies, who are now in crisis mode trying to recover their market lead. The new kids on the block reject the brand leaders in preference for their own shoes made specifically for skateboarding and sold through small specialist surfing outlets. All this comes at a time when many well-known retailers are expanding their premises to cater for the growth of accompanying apparel.

Sport clothing is enjoying a renaissance and shoes are considered by the market as the lure. Of course the real irony is by far the vast majority of people who are seen wearing said sports accessories have never seen a playing arena, let alone played the game for which the gear was designed. What does this tell us about ourselves? Why are we so willing to seek the best (well according to the elite athlete) to be able to truck up to the shopping mall for a quick jog at Walmart.

Australians buy more designer trainers than any other Western Country yet the general health of the populous would compare favourably to a third world country. They pride themselves they wear the gold medal shoes yet most of them could not run the distance of themselves without breaking into a huff puff…..

(Video Courtesy: The Living End Youtube Channel)

Lefton T 1998 Brandweek Feb 2, 1998

Reviewed 24/05/2016

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Promiscuity and Decent Shoes: A brief history of pointed shoes

Ask any podiatrist how patients justify their choice of footwear and they will tell you.

'These, they are the only decent pair, I could find!"

Begs the question if there are decent shoes, then by some logic, there must be indecent shoes. And indeed there are. We need to go back in history seven hundred years when a nameless cobbler to a European courtier, by the name of Rulk Fulkner invented a new style of footwear. Rulk was a dandy, a fop and dedicated setter of fashion in the middle ages. He suffered from bunions and his feet were very broad. Not to be put off the man commissioned a pair of shoes to fit his feet and have a fashion flair. The cobbler lasted the foot and made the shoe four centimetres longer than the toes, meeting at a point. The shoe style was called the poulaine and became a very popular style for over three hundred years.

Soon extensions became longer and longer until they were so long as to make walking almost impossible. Young bucks started to stuff wool and moss in the extensions to keep them erect. Indeed, the blatant phallic symbol became so long, often they had to be attached to the knee with a chain to prevent tripping. (Sabbaton). A popular vulgarity was to paint the extensions flesh coloured, allowing them to flap with lifelike mobility. Small bells (hawk bells) were often attached to the end of the poulaine to indicate the wearer was a willing partner in sexual frolic.

Footsie - footsie took on a more meaningful importance during this time and many banquets would be enhanced with below table carry on. The poulaine was the fore-runner to the codpiece. Shocked at the overt obscenity of the habit, the Church tried to stop men from wearing them. Initially they were condemned because they physically prevented them from praying. This edict met with dumb silence. Considered as Satan's Curse university professors were banned from wearing them in the thirteenth century. The Black Plague (1348) was cited by the clergy as God's revenge for the poulaine.

In 1367, Pope Urban V publicly scorned the fashion and banned commoners wearing them with penalty of excommunication and in some cases death. He was less adamant with upper classes, turning a blind eye to their open promiscuity, and granting those of royal birth immunity to wear the poulaine. The end of the fashion came in the 15th century.

Interestingly enough in the 1960's there was a re-emergence of the winkle picker for men and the high heeled stiletto, for women. Both styles would be associated with promiscuity. More recently we have seen the resurgence of the long pointed toe, but unlike any other time in history, the fashion has been solely for women. The mighty phallus on the female foot says much about today’s sex politics. Women are on top.

Reviewed 11/07/2018

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Three Pair of Shoes

Three Pair of Shoes by Vincent van Gogh (1886)

Merry Quip

I must of bought my new shoes from a drug dealer. I don't know what he laced them with but I've been tripping all day.

What have veggie shoes and pleather (faux leather) got to do with Pythagoras?

Pythagoras was quite an extraordinary person who lived in ancient Greece. Aged 18, he competed and won prizes in the Olympics as a wrestler. He travelled to Egypt and Babylonia to learn the ancient wisdom of the priests and it is said he could take on a bear or stop the eagle in flight with a few magical words. He was a masterful musician and physician and founded a school of philosophy and mysticism.

He started a sect called the Pythagorean Brotherhood and members were sworn to secrecy. They could not speak until they listened to his teachings for five years. The Brotherhood taught mathematics, music, astronomy and magic. Pythagoras believed everything in the universe followed mathematical laws and was created out of the geometric interactions of numbers. His philosophies formed the basis of numerology. Throughout his life Pythagoras was a committed vegan and would not have student under his charge unless they first relinquished leather shoes.

The serious outbreaks of foot and mouth disease as well as the fear of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or Mad Cow Disease have resulted in a vast increase in the numbers of people in the Western World now committed to veganism which extends to the conscious decision to not to wear animal products including, shoes made from leather.

Ths critical mass is sufficient to now make it extremely profitable for many companies to cater for this loyal and developing market. In recent years’ footwear made from hemp, cotton, synthetic fibres and recycled rubber has increased. Outlets on the World Wide Web have proliferated to meet the expanding market. With relative ease it is possible to buy specialist shoes for bowling, skating and ballet all of which are guaranteed to contain no animal’s products. More and more companies are offering non-leather alternatives.

One advantage to the general consumer is non-animal products are cheaper to produce which makes these alternative shoes cheaper to buy. Some vegan type companies employ Earth friendly manufacturing and working conditions. One novel aspect of looking for no leather footwear it is cheaper and subsequently should be the first criteria for discerning shoppers. Even big companies like Nike have a shoes made from synthetic products. Synthetic leather is enjoying a 21st century revival with fashion doyen’s Alicicia Silverstone and Pamela Anderson regularly seen clad in PVC. In part this is due to supply, especially in Europe post Mad Cow disease but is surely combined with a far greater awareness of non-animal products made all the more attractive with 21st century technology. The “pleather industry” is making its way to a shoe shop near you. .

(Video Courtesy: ehowathomechannel Youtube Channel)

Barker C Future frock Quantas the Australian way July 2003 pp 10-12.

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