Random Image: Marina Castillo

I must admit, like Charles Dodgson, I have a weakness for images that illustrate concepts in mathematics and logic.  This image was appropriated for a module on proportions in the United States; namely, the size of the image varies inversely as its distance from the observer (or the camera).

Marina Castillo – Midiendo fuerzas … (2012)

Marina Castillo lives in Mendoza, Argentina and this image is part of a series called ‘Scenes of dwarfs and giants’.  One cannot be completely sure, but it does appear that these scenes were constructed conventionally and not digitized.  If so, then a special setting or lens would have to have been used to maintain a depth of focus for the subjects in the frame.  This one which means “balancing forces” has the additional appeal of being a nod to girl power.

Maiden Voyages: July 2017

Mission Statement: As this site developed, it has become more and more apparent that it serves a greater purpose than one would assume at first glance.  As if living in a nightmarish world of doublespeak, it seems as if the mainstream culture would portray us as misanthropes.  We have, in fact, pursued the exploration of the subject of little girls with a sincere desire for self-knowledge.  Every investigation and every decision has two sides and thus we are not only examining the character and nature of little girls themselves, but why they have such a psychological effect on us.  A few serious people out there understand this and realize that this site must survive and persistently make its presence known to the mainstream community.  It was thought that to help bridge the gap, there should be an explicit mission statement so that those unfamiliar with this site and who might get the wrong first impression can see that this is a serious endeavor with a challenging mission.  The first four, and most essential, clauses in this statement have now been published—each introduced through the Facebook page and then added to the ‘Mission Statement’ page here.  More clauses will be added, but the key points are now in place and other pages will be added in time to make Pigtails in Paint a more effective resource and launching point for relevant and constructive social change.

An Image is Worth a Thousand Words: In the June ‘Maiden Voyages’ I reported how Google+ censored a photograph by Ilona Szwarc, hinting that it “depicts the exploitation or abuse of children” or “presents children in a sexual manner”. Now Christian informs me that his profile was temporarily suspended under a similar pretext after having participated to a Google+ discussion group opposing the stigmatization of minorities and, by extension, pedophiles; which was eventually banned. On the other hand, groups or individual profiles propagating hate, in particular glorifying Nazism or promoting anti-Semitism have not been removed, despite being reported; some of this content happens to be illegal in certain European countries, according to anti-racist watchdog organizations. So efforts are underway to put pressure on Google if it wishes to continue operating in those countries.  For any Google+ users who want to protest this hypocrisy, they can write on the profile of the Google+ owner or on the Google+ Help community.

Rescuing the Girl Next Door: There is a new film called The Book of Henry (2017) about a boy who uses his genius to help others.  His next door neighbor, played by Maddie Ziegler, is being abused by her stepfather while Henry helps strategize what to do about it.  You can watch the trailer here.

Archetypes of Femininity: A colleague recommended an interesting book published in 1988 called Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Sìecle Culture by Bram Dijkstra.  It is an intelligent overview of the perceptions of women in Victorian times and how that shaped their portrayal in imagery.  Dijkstra’s research is excellent, but he condemns artists too much for being the products of their own age.  It also points out how artists, including women, could only gain success if their work presented acceptable subjects and interpretations.  The eventual fascination with the girl child came about in an age that was infantilizing women and artists were escaping to so-called purer forms supposedly devoid of the evils of sexuality undeniable in the adult female form.  Because of this, it became possible for artists, like Charles Dodgson, to explore—however subconsciously—the eroticism of children with impunity.  This offers some real insight into the cultural environment these artists worked in.  The book is more valuable for its observations of cultural movements and how they shape today’s attitudes rather than Dijkstra’s opinion on the merit of particular artists.  The book is discussed on Celestial Venus and a book review can be found here.

Putting the Nature Back in Naturism: An associate mentioned a couple of images he found featuring naturists in the San Francisco area.  The TreeSpirit Project  founded and photographed by Jack Gescheidt was already reviewed by Pip but continues to add new images of which prints can be ordered.  It is important to realize that nudity can be used as an important political tactic that is both consistent with the group’s agenda while challenging people’s perceptions and complacency.

Child Models and Actors: Often lost in the sensationalist debate is the reality of child modeling and the children’s perception of their experience.  One of our readers has been feeding me interesting articles and tidbits on this subject and I keep meaning to pass them on.  So for the next few months, I will be publishing the links here until I have gotten through all of them.  Most of these items have to do with the stigmatization of children being nude, but I know that these issues overlap with many other ethical and legal subjects as well.  The first submission is anecdotal; it appears that there is actually a Facebook fashion blog that features a nude girl as its avatar.  I have also been informed that a nude image was successfully uploaded on IMDb from The Spy Who Caught a Cold recently reviewed on this site.

A Skin Thing: The producers of a recent exhibition called Skin Thing in Australia made a very apt choice for introductory speaker, Olympia Nelson.  Those familiar with Nelson will remember that her family became the subject of controversy and she courageously defended her mother’s (Polixeni Papapetrou) work publicly at the tender age of ten. Interestingly, there are reports that the artist will soon be releasing certain images that were held back at that time because of the thoughtless and hurtful comments received.

The Devil You Know: I Am Never Going Back

It was Pip’s original intent to review two short films dealing with the subject of child abuse and neglect. The first by Belgian director Hilde van Mieghem, De suikerpot (The Sugarbowl, 1997), was reviewed earlier on Pigtails and effectively showed the psychological tension of surviving in a home with a mother who goes into an angry rage at the slightest provocation. It is remarkable how consistently young children internalize the conflicts in their world as though it were their fault. While The Sugarbowl might be described as a kind of suspense-thriller, Я сюда больше никогда не вернусь (I Am Never Going Back, 1990) is a grim tragedy with a documentary feel. The film, directed by Rolan Bykov (Ролан Быков, 1929–1998) was commissioned by UNESCO to expose the terrible conditions many children suffered in the Soviet Union. It was intended to be part of a series called Comment vont les enfants? (How Are the Kids?) The alternate title, Люба (Luba), is the main character’s name played by Nina Goncharova. Ironically, the name is the diminutive form of a girl’s name that also means “Love” in Russian.  Bykov’s choice for actress lay primarily in the believability of her performance; Goncharova was herself an orphan living in Tashkent at the time but is an ethnic Russian.

During the 10-minute film, Luba acts out the drama of her home life with a doll and stuffed animals she has hidden in the woods. In the beginning, she is seen running away after a severe screaming fit and beating by her mother played by Elena Sanaeva. Another key difference between the Belgian and Russian films is that this one illustrates the conditions of poverty while the girl in De suikerpot came from a well-off family that could afford to send her to boarding school. As a result, the use of language is much cruder here. Both mothers wail about how they are cursed with such a rotten and ungrateful child. There is a moment of tension in the beginning when we see Luba near a passing train while the mother yells out that she wishes the train would run her over.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (1)

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (2)

Observing Luba running into the wilds, there is a strong feeling of the stark contrast between the oppressive environment at home and the serenity of nature just a short distance away. The girl starts calling out that mommy is coming to take care of her sweethearts. We do not yet understand to whom she is speaking and, as if answering back to herself, she says that mother is a bitch and neglects her children, with mutual accusations about how the other hogs the food. These situations are full of ambivalence: alternating between hating the mother and then convincing her how much they love her. Perhaps more than the physical abuse, this kind of psychological stress takes the greater toll.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (3)

In 2010, Izvestia interviewed Goncharova and Sanaeva about their experiences. It appears that little had improved in the mean time with about a thousand children being killed by their parents every year. In 2002, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Prosecutor’s Office reported about 44,000 crimes committed against minors and in 2007, there were 70,000. Under these conditions, it is no wonder that some survivors would find the idealism of fascism appealing as we seem to be observing with Katya Zashtopic.

Finally a small clearing is reached that serves as the scene for a makeshift home. We see the stuffed animals and doll for the first time. Shortly, mother and children get into an argument and she begins beating the bear all the while telling him that she is doing it because she cares about him and he really doesn’t understand. She scolds him for neglecting his school work. Because of the phonetic resemblance, the name “Misha” used in this scene is both the diminutive for Mikhail and the nickname for a bear. Luba beats him up and tells him how empty-headed he is but after his studies, she will have him and the doll get married. Misha retorts that he does not need schooling because he is going into the army anyway. Another interesting difference between poor and middle-class households is, due to the lack of privacy, poor children are usually privy to the specifics of sexual intercourse taking place in their home. Luba positions the bear behind the doll as though he were mounting her.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (4)

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (5)

As with all rages and tantrums, there is the period of sincere remorse afterward accompanied by promises not to do it again. The stuffing has come out of Misha and she tries to fix him by filling him up with dirt and material on hand, nice and fat, just like an army general—a Russian cliché is that army generals are fat and so the implication is that in such a condition, they would be eager to admit him to military school right away.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (6)

Now Luba frets that mother is going to kill her now that her dress has gotten soiled. She takes off her panties and dress and washes them in the stream. She uses her dress as a blanket under which the the bear can recuperate. All the while she is consoling them that at least they are not in an orphanage where they beat children’s heads against the wall—like the fate of many ethnic minorities, presumably. She scolds the monkeys for spying on her while undressed and tells them they are too young to look and tells them to take a walk.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (7)

While lifting the bear, her makeshift stuffing comes out and she scolds him for crapping himself. Without stuffing, the bear dies and she crosses its arms and has the doll close her eyes in grief. Once again, this is followed by apologies and wails over what will happen to the family next.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (8)

Luba walks over to a cliff overlooking a river. There is an ominous gust of wind and then she hears her mother calling out again asking her darling for forgiveness. But the apologetic tone quickly turns to impatience and the mother begins to scream for her good-for-nothing daughter to get home. Luba looks back and calls out that she is never coming home. As if driven by her mother’s voice, she shrieks one final desperate exclamation of terror and jumps off the cliff.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (9)

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (10)

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (11)

Bykov had a lot of experience dealing with actors having been a film and theater actor, director, writer and teacher. He was even given the designation of People’s Artist of the USSR. His favorite writer is Gogol and likes his use of surrealism. Art refracts life but can give it a magical quality and so Luba is made to transcend the ordinary in a final scene where she appears to be levitating—perhaps a hopeful expression of release and redemption.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (12)

Bykov discovered Goncharova when she was featured in a telethon. She was born cross-eyed and suffered a tragic family life before being placed in an orphanage. Her father had beat her mother and when the grandmother tried to intervene on her daughter’s behalf, she was imprisoned. The father abandoned the mother leaving her with four kids and died later in prison. Because she was so young at the time of filming, the director did not bother to explain the plot to Goncharova and knew the actress would draw on her own experiences to create a convincing performance.

Rolan Bykov – I Am Never Going Back (1990) (13)

For a while, Gonchorova lived at Bykovs’ home and Sanaeva took her to have her eyes surgically corrected, convincing the medical authorities that she was the girl’s mother. Then she was sent to a boarding school and majored in typography. She was never officially married but did have an Islamic ceremony with the father of her first child, a girl. Disappointed at this outcome, her ersatz husband abandoned them. She did later have a son with another man. She could never make use of her education because of the demands of motherhood so she started living with a good friend who could earn money while she took care of their home.

It could be said that the film was also a victim of neglect. The money originally promised to distribute the film never came through and so the final print of the film was passed from hand to hand until its value was finally recognized, transferred into other video formats and released on the internet.

There are many people behind the scenes that make Pigtails in Paint work and some posts are strong reminders of these contributions. Therefore, this post is dedicated to someone who goes by the handle “B.O.” who not only created the English transcription for this film but was also responsible for rescuing the original content of Pigtails when it was suddenly shut down by WordPress. In other words, he is one of our guardian angels and his efforts are greatly appreciated. -Ron

Wikipedia Entry (in Russian)

Maiden Voyages: June 2017

After a brief time in exile, Pigtails in Paint is now operating normally with the correct domain names and backups.  Witch hunt is an apt way of describing the struggle that is taking place today, but I am particularly reminded of The Reformation.  The tenor of the angry comments about this site smacked of anti-elitism and using the arts as an excuse to do something sinister.  During The Reformation, many pundits had legitimate complaints about the corruption of the Catholic Church but, in the end, their actions and influence were used to wreak great destruction on fine religious art.  Luther and Erasmus were considered important leaders of this movement but were appalled at the wanton smashing of Madonna statues and destruction of Church property in the name of iconoclasm.  Luther even pled with local princes to put a stop to these demolition gangs but to no avail.  Although there is certainly corruption in the most powerful and established elite institutions, I feel it necessary to point out that truly talented people form natural aristocracies.  Unless they are made to have contempt for their society because of the bad treatment they suffered in their youth, they generally use their talent for the betterment of everyone.  Only those who act on their irrational fear of those with remarkable skill and knowledge tend to push society to its lowest functional state—what might reasonably be called a state of spiritual poverty.

Imitation is the Best Form of Flattery: There is a Moldovan photographer Vladimir Timofeev who did a photo shoot imitating Hajime Sawatari’s Alice.  The simulation is remarkable even down to the expression on the girl’s face.  The blogger at Girls’ Portraiture recently featured this artist and included a number of other images from this series.

Walking a Fine Line: Christian has informed me that there is a censorship issue with Google+.  He tried to share Ilona Szwarc’s photograph Desiree, Brooklyn, NY  and it was immediately flagged as inappropriate followed by a message stating that it “may be in violation of our User Content and Conduct Policy”.  They added that “Content that depicts the exploitation or abuse of children, presents children in a sexual manner, or facilitates inappropriate contact with children is not permitted.”  After appealing the decision, a reviewer upheld the decision.  Therefore, Google+ believes that a photograph of a girl in a two-piece swimsuit and holding a doll is considered “child abuse”.  The irony is—and I have heard this complaint many times—there are many “hate” sites and profiles glorifying Nazism or promoting anti-Semitism that have not been removed, despite being reported. Christian adds that Facebook censored the Lehnert & Landrock photograph from Pip’s recent post ‘A Girl and Her Vessel’.

Interestingly, our service provider just did some research, asking a U.K. watchdog group to examine our site for any possible cases of abuse.  We got a clean bill of health on that point but were informed that they have no influence over what individual companies and organizations can censor.  These developments highlight the need for a knowledgeable organization that can make more clear and reasonable definitions that are legally-binding for law enforcement agencies and media service companies.

Little Belly Dancers: I have been informed that in The Ukraine, there are annual festivals where little girls perform this art.  Here are three fine examples on YouTube from the past few events: Anastasia Olkova (2014), Aleksandra Kutsyuk (2016) and Sofia Yavtushenko (2013).

Who’s Number One?  I recently watched Michael Moore’s film Where to Invade Next (2015).  The title is confusing at first until you understand the premise that Moore is traveling to other countries to steal their best ideas for use in the U.S.  Worth noting is his visit to a rural primary school in France.  The children are served what Americans would call gourmet food, served by chefs (no cafeteria lines), and they receive lessons on food etiquette during that time.  They were quite disgusted when Moore showed them pictures of school cafeteria food in the U.S.  Also, sex education is quite frank and without the kind scare tactics that are regular fare in the U.S.  The instructors there found it quite laughable when Moore suggested they should emphasize abstinence.

Crime Dramas: When I was little, I remember watching old television shows with my grandmother.  One show she loved was Quincy, M.E. starring Jack Klugman.  There was an episode that dealt with the topic of child prostitution.  It was interesting to see how the subject was handled in that show versus an episode of the more recent Numb3rs.  It got me to thinking that any long-running crime drama would deal with the subject sooner or later and it would be interesting to analyze changing perceptions over time and in different countries.  I am therefore requesting that any readers familiar with specific episodes that deal with this subject in a television series, please let me know.  The results of my research will be made into a future post.  Simply use the contact form to send me any leads.  -Ron

Random Image: 7-Eleven Ad

7-Eleven Advertisement (1966)

This advertisement is nostalgic for me.  It is remarkable how a company’s image can change over the years.  My memories are of a convenience store catering to kids looking for fast food like Slurpees and burritos microwaved right there in the store!  This ad gives the impression of a wholesome place safe for kids and they still called the man behind the counter a grocer.  This model has been imitated by a number of other companies in the form of the ubiquitous gas station convenience store.

If Worship Be the Right Name: Samuel Clemens

One day at Riverdale-on-Hudson, Mrs. Clemens and I were mourning for our lost little ones. Not that they were dead, but lost to us all the same. Gone out of our lives forever—as little children. They were still with us, but they were become women, and they walked with us upon our own level. There was a wide gulf, a gulf as wide as the horizons, between these children and those.  We were always having vague dream-glimpses of them as they had used to be in the long-vanished years—glimpses of them playing and romping, with short frocks on, and spindle legs, and hair-tails down their backs—and always they were far and dim, and we could not hear their shouts and their laughter. How we longed to gather them to our arms! but they were only dainty and darling spectres, and they faded away and vanished, and left us desolate.

That day I put into verse, as well as I could, the feeling that was haunting us. The verses were not for publication, and were never published, but I will insert them here as being qualified to throw light upon my worship of school girls—if worship be the right name, and I know it is. -Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain’s Autobiographical Dictations, April 1908

(Photographer Unknown) – Frances Nunnally and Clemens, London, July 1907

I am always delighted to discover rare tidbits of human interest that relate to little girls. The most notable British case is Charles Dodgson known to most by the pen name Lewis Carroll who was a skilled photographer of children and enjoyed their company. Only a few years ago I learned there was also an American writer of great stature who also had a strong affinity for little girls which manifested itself in an unusual way in the last years of his life: Samuel Clemens (1835–1910), a prolific writer of novels and essays under the pen name Mark Twain. A pseudonym is used to create a kind of alter ego—to distinguish the man from the character of his work. This period in his life in which he became obsessed with school girls is a personal one and, for the sake of convention, I will refer to him as Clemens but when referring to those written works consistent with his other persona, I will call the author Mark Twain.

This interesting epiphany about Clemens’ association with young girls was best fleshed out in a book called Mark Twain’s Aquarium: The Samuel Clemens Angelfish Correspondence 1905–1910 (1991) edited by John Cooley. Cooley was then a professor of English at Western Michigan University. The editor’s first knowledge of the Aquarium Club came from his second cousin, Marjorie Breckenridge, who still had in her possession the letters Clemens had sent her. Fascinated with his cousin’s teenage friendship with Mark Twain, he set out to find out more—scouring the various institutions that housed his papers. The book endeavored to contain nearly every known written communication between Clemens and the young women who constituted his Aquarium Club. Undoubtedly, many of the letters have been lost. Because of its peculiar nature, this aspect of his life has been largely excluded from biographies.

(Photographer Unknown) – Louise Paine and Clemens in the angelfish headquarters, the billiard room, Stormfield, Summer 1908

When the book was written, only seven letters from angelfish survived of the eighty-seven letters Clemens wrote to them during this period. Since Clemens was a diligent saver of letters, it is assumed that his daughter Clara, who strongly disapproved of the Aquarium Club, disposed of many of them after her return from Europe in September 1908.

For example, Hamlin Hill’s important biography of Clemens’ last decade, Mark Twain: God’s Fool (1973), reveals many aspects of Clemens’ last years that strongly contrast with the image of him perpetuated by his daughter Clara and his official biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine. Until then, it was generally believed that Clemens remained the “king” of American humor—a devoted family man and playful public cynic, passing gracefully into retirement and old age. Only more recent biographies gave clues to the breakdown of his family life after 1904, upon the death of his wife Olivia which followed that of his eldest daughter, Susy. His relationship with his surviving daughters, Clara and Jean, became so strained that neither spent much time with their father during his last years. Clemens’ overwhelming vanity and unpredictable rage made him extremely difficult to live with. Quite routinely, after prolonged visits, Clara would place herself in a rest home to regain her emotional strength.

The impulse to be humorous choked a man whose sense of rage at the world in which he lived grew and grew to mammoth proportions. -Hamlin Hill. Mark Twain: God’s Fool, 1973.

(Photographer Unknown) – Irene Gerken and Clemens, Bermuda, Winter 1908

These girls and young women were no doubt reminders of the happy years when his own daughters were younger, and of his girlfriends from that happiest of times, his own adolescence.

His earliest sweetheart was Laura Hawkins. Clemens recalled her as a blond, blue-eyed “charmer” who wore white summer frocks, plaited her hair into two long tails, and lived across the street from the Clemenses in Hannibal. She was also the inspiration for Twain’s Becky Thatcher in Tom Sawyer and other stories. In the fall of 1908 Laura contacted him and was invited to come visit.

About next Tuesday or Wednesday a Missouri sweetheart of mine, is coming here from Missouri to visit me—the very best sweetheart I ever had. It was 68 years ago. She was 5 years old and I the same. I had an apple, & fell in love with her and gave her the core. She figures in “Tom Sawyer” as “Becky Thatcher” -Samuel Clemens in a letter to Margaret Blackmer, October 1908.

(Photographer Unknown) – Dorothy Quick and Clemens, Tuxedo Park, August 1907 (1)

Another important sweetheart was Laura Wright. She was fourteen when she met Clemens, an age of some significance appearing frequently in his stories. Years later his rules of the Aquarium Club stipulated that only school-age girls were eligible for active membership. In 1906, Clemens dictated a remarkably detailed passage for his autobiography concerning his brief romance with Wright, one summer forty-eight years earlier while she was sailing on a freighter with her parents from St. Louis to New Orleans.

I found that I remembered her quite vividly and that she possessed a lively interest for me notwithstanding the prodigious interval of time that had spread its vacancy between her and me. She wasn’t yet fifteen when I knew her.

Clemens stated that he was never more than “four inches from that girl’s elbow” during their waking hours over the next three days.

That comely child, that charming child, was Laura M. Wright, and I could see her with perfect distinctness in the unfaded bloom of her youth, with her plaited tails dangling from her young head and her white summer frock puffing about in the wind of that ancient Mississippi time. … I never saw her afterward. -Samuel Clemens, The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Charles Neider ed., 1959.

Wright’s parents did not approve of her continued association with Clemens who was the pilot of another ship. He wrote to her many times, but the letters were intercepted and disposed of. He did not hear from her until the publication of these passages 48 years later. She wrote to him to ask for money which he sent her, thrilled at the prospect of being her hero. He was quite dismayed by her change of circumstances, having a modest career as a teacher.

When I knew that child her father was an honored judge … What had that girl done, what crime had she committed that she must be punished with poverty and drudgery in her old age? … It shook me to the foundations. The plaited tails fell away; the peachy young face vanished; the fluffy short frock along with it; and in the place of that care-free little girl of forty-eight years ago, I imagined the world-worn and trouble-worn widow of sixty-two -Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain’s Autobiographical Dictations, August 1906.

(Photographer Unknown) – Margaret Blackmer and Clemens in the cart; Maude, the donkey, with her groom Reginald, Bermuda, March 1908

Clemens’ fond recollections were not just from his own adolescence, but from the joy of spending time with his little daughters. And during the period of their childhood, Susy, Clara and Jean Clemens more than filled his need for contact with teenage girls. He teased and played with them and frequently created stories for their entertainment. His desire to relive these wonderful moments was made more acute by the death of his eldest, Susy, in 1896, the death of his wife, Olivia, and the lack of grandchildren. Two manuscripts devoted to his family, “A Family Sketch” and “The Children’s Record” (Mark Twain Papers, University of California, Berkeley) reveal how much pleasure his young daughters gave him.

For Clemens, childhood was the most important time—the central experience of life. Although boyhood portraits figured prominently in Mark Twain’s best-known and greatest works, in later years the author turned his attention to the adolescent female.

Clemens’ repeated concern for the innocence of his angelfish suggests that he believed young women became spoiled or perhaps corrupted upon entering the age of sexual activity. In both his fictional and his autobiographical writing, Clemens returns with some frequency to the idea of the “platonic sweetheart,” in which a somewhat older and more experienced male both longs for and wishes to protect his school-age sweetheart. This paradigm is most clearly expressed in the short story “My Platonic Sweetheart” (1898), which purports to be a report of Twain’s recurring dreams in which he is always seventeen and his love is an innocent maid of fifteen. Although he kisses her and they walk “arms-about-waists”, he insists that it “was not the love of sweethearts, for there was no fire in it.” Nor was it the mere affection of brother and sister, but something “finer than either, and more exquisite, more profoundly contenting” (Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger and Other Stories, 1922).

(Photographer Unknown) – Dorothy Sturgis (?) with Clemens, Bermuda, Winter 1908

Clemens worked out his concept of young female innocence in greatest detail in his Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (1895). Clemens remarked that Joan of Arc was written out of love, not for money, and that his heroine reminded him of his daughter Susy and believed it to be his best work. He was something of an authority on Joan—citing eleven books on the topic in his preface. Other revealing though minor portraits of young women appear during Clemens’ last decade of writing: “The Death Disk” (1901), “Eve’s Diary” (1905), “A Horse’s Tale” (1906) and an essay, “Marjorie Fleming, Wonder Child” (1909). There is a note of pessimism in his interpretation of the Saint Joan story: that an innate and powerful goodness cannot survive long in the real world, certainly invoked by his memories of Susy.

It is known that about three hundred letters were written and received by Clemens and the schoolgirls as well as personal notes indicating the extent to which the girls occupied his thoughts during the last five years of his life. In 1908, the Aquarium Club was at its height and Clemens sent several letters a week to the angelfish and received an equal number in reply and became his “chief occupation and delight”. Despite the author’s usual inventiveness in his writing, this correspondence was much more formulaic in his attempt to plead for letters and visits from his young friends. Nonetheless, amongst the gushing sentimentality, one can find small gems of wit, wisdom, and humor we would normally associate with Mark Twain at his best.

In grandchildren I am the richest man that lives today: for I select my grandchildren, whereas all other grandfathers have to take them as they come, good, bad or indifferent.  Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain’s Autobiographical Dictations, April 1908.

(Photographer Unknown) – Dorothy Harvey and Clemens on the front steps, Stormfield, Summer 1908

The spark for the Aquarium Club came from Clemens’ correspondence with a girl named Gertrude Natkin whom he met during his travels. Then one “golden day” in the winter of 1907, a fourteen-year-old English girl and her mother came to visit. Since then, Dorothy Butes and Clemens maintained a correspondence and he considered her his first angelfish. Only later did he begin “collecting” and corresponding with schoolgirls in earnest: Butes was followed by Carlotta Welles and Frances Nunnally, girls he met while on a ship for England. On the return voyage he also met Dorothy Quick. The first half of 1908 is when Clemens formulated his plan to establish his aquarium to be comprised of a school of girls of bright and lively temperament. The club really began to take shape during Clemens’ two winter trips to Bermuda, adding Margaret Blackmer, Irene Gerken, Dorothy Sturgis, Hellen Martin, and Helen Allen. Clemens notes that most readers will understand that, like all collectors, we believe our fad to be more rational than any of the others.

… As for me, I collect pets: young girls—girls from ten to sixteen years old; girls who are pretty and sweet and naive and innocent—dear young creatures to whom life is a perfect joy and to whom it has brought no wounds, no bitterness, and few tears. My collection consists of gems of the first water. -Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain’s Autobiographical Dictations, February 1908.

Each of the girls received a pin as a memento of their friendship.

Heather Morgan – Angel-fish pin given by Mark Twain to Louise Paine (Mark Twain Library, Redding, CT)

In June 1908, Clemens moved into a new home in Redding, Connecticut aptly naming it ‘Innocence at Home’ to commemorate his latest fascination. This villa was able to accommodate the angelfish during their numerous visits. New acquisitions at this point were Marjorie Breckenridge, Dorothy Harvey, and Louise Paine. Clemens’ daughter Clara disliked the name of the villa and its associations and had it changed to Stormfield—a name apropos to a period of discord in Clemens’ domestic life and the eventual decline of the Aquarium Club to come.

(Photographer Unknown) – Dorothy Harvey, Clemens and Louise Paine in the “Fish-Market”, Stormfield, Summer 1908

Clemens’s own awareness of his destructive pessimism, of his great rage at the swindle of life, must have driven him all the harder to construct about himself a small court of happiness, innocence, and youthfulness, which he set against the ever painful reality of his life. Thus, his indulgence in stories and tales involving young female characters and his collection of young angelfish serve as a surprising antistrophe to the strophe of his rage and despair. -John Cooley, Mark Twain’s Aquarium, 1973.

Although Clemens’ last years were often dominated by loneliness, illness, and depression, his angelfish letters are nearly always optimistic, loving, and playful; they reveal the depths of his loneliness and the size of his need for attention and affection.

(Photographer Unknown) – Dorothy Harvey and Clemens, Stormfield, Summer 1908

It is interesting to examine this work in the context of his other writings of the period: his autobiography, The Mysterious Stranger, and in his late stories, essays and letters. The contrast between this and his angelfish correspondence helps us appreciate the conflict between his natural inclination for youthfulness, playfulness and affection against his growing fatalism and cynical rage.

Clemens’ writing during his last decade does not include young female characters and reveals his preoccupation with predestination and a corruption seemingly inevitable in adulthood. In one of the most bleak yet most important works of his last years, The Mysterious Stranger, Twain has his cosmic representative, a young cousin to Satan named Philip Traum, reveal that human and earthly reality are purely an illusion. Despairing as this seems, he concluded that the great, unbeatable weapon of the human race is laughter. In another work, What is Man?, the old man declares that nothing is able to shake humanity of its fundamental cheerfulness, not even the most bleak facts of existence.

For Clemens, there seemed an eternal dichotomy between evil and good, darkness and light. As Albert Stone expresses it, Clemens sought to maintain a “desperately delicate balance between despising mankind and loving certain individuals, between intellectual assertion of a meaningless universe and intuitive awareness of love’s reality” (Albert Stone, The Innocent Eye: Childhood in Mark Twain’s Imagination, 1961).

A core issue in this counterpoint between light and dark is Clemens’ ambivalence about sex and sexuality and as Mark Twain, he generally avoided dealing with the subject. A set of writings published posthumously bears this out. Letters from the Earth (1909) concerns morality, the hypocrisy of religion and racism. It takes the form of a personal report to Satan, informing him of the numerous foibles of Earth’s human denizens. Clara Clemens initially objected to its publication in March 1939 but finally conceded that “Mark Twain belonged to the world”. The letters were first collected, edited and published by Bernard DeVoto. Twain writes the following startling revelation expounding on humans’ obsession with sex, despite the well-known presence of Biblical admonitions.

The law of God, as quite plainly expressed in woman’s construction is this: There shall be no limit put upon your intercourse with the other sex sexually, at any time of life.

The law of God, as quite plainly expressed in man’s construction is this: During your entire life you shall be under inflexible limits and restrictions, sexually.

During twenty-three days in every month (in absence of pregnancy) from the time a woman is seven years old till she dies of old age, she is ready for action, and competent. As competent as the candlestick is to receive the candle. Competent every day, competent every night. Also she wants that candle—yearns for it, longs for it, hankers after it, as commanded by the law of God in her heart. -Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth, Letter VIII, 1909

(Photographer Unknown) – Helen Allen and Clemens, Bermuda, 1908

Not all the letters have a cynical tone. Twain speaks eloquently about the beauty of the “sweeter sex” and that of the nakedness of an uncorrupted human body.

The pleasant labor of populating the world went on from age to age, and with prime efficiency; for in those happy days the sexes were still competent for the Supreme Art when by rights they ought to have been dead eight hundred years. The sweeter sex, the dearer sex, the lovelier sex was manifestly at its very best, then, for it was even able to attract gods. Real gods. They came down out of heaven and had wonderful times with those hot young blossoms. The Bible tells about it. -Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth, Letter IV, 1909.

The convention miscalled modesty has no standard, and cannot have one, because it is opposed to nature and reason, and is therefore an artificiality and subject to anybody’s whim, anybody’s diseased caprice. And so, in India the refined lady covers her face and breasts and leaves her legs naked from the hips down, while the refined European lady covers her legs and exposes her face and her breasts. In lands inhabited by the innocent savage the refined European lady soon gets used to full-grown native stark-nakedness, and ceases to be offended by it. A highly cultivated French count and countess—unrelated to each other—who were marooned in their nightclothes, by shipwreck, upon an uninhabited island in the eighteenth century, were soon naked. Also ashamed—for a week. After that their nakedness did not trouble them, and they soon ceased to think about it. -Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth, Letter III, 1909.

This last passage expresses effectively a key philosophy of Pigtails in Paint. Also of interest is a book written by one of the angelfish, Dorothy Quick, Enchantment: A Little Girl’s Friendship with Mark Twain, 1961.

(Photographer Unknown) – Dorothy Quick and Clemens, Tuxedo Park, August 1907 (2)

*Mark Twain’s Autobiographical Dictations are part of a collection of Mark Twain Papers housed at the University of California, Berkeley.

When We Had a Sense of Humor

When this ad was first brought to my attention, it was suggested that it might be a fake. It is easy to forget how uptight we have gotten about viewing the human body these days, but with careful analysis, I think it is clear that something like this would not have been that unusual in 1974 Germany.

Elefanten Schuhe Ad (1974)

It is worth noting some of the motivations and circumstances associated with this ad. First of all, this image was meant to convey humor as in “look at how cute and silly these children are!” For those who can understand the text, Elefanten Shoes is advertising the fact that their children’s shoes come in three widths, just like the girls—wide, medium and narrow.

The other thing is that although an ad like this would not have been so out-of-place at that time, still it would not have been used to target the general market. Clearly, this ad appeared in a publication targeting the countercultural demographic with money to spend.

There are certain advantages to using bare bodies to advertise this product. Any clothing might have distracted from the shoes which the company wished to emphasize and there is also a timelessness that would have been lost if the girls were wearing clothing of a particular era and nationality. Clothing would also have obscured the noticeably different figures of the girls as would a calves-down only view which we might see in a more mainstream ad.

So, who out there is going to make a fuss about this ad? And what does it say about our capacity for humor?

Maiden Voyages: May 2017 (Pigtails in Exile)

My apologies for getting this update out late, but some new information came my way and I had to compose my thoughts.

Ruffled Feathers: Pip is not naive and neither am I. When he started Pigtails in Paint and when I joined him, we knew we would have to use extreme discipline to make sure we did not create any legal problems for ourselves. We know how touchy people can be and how unaccustomed the layman, particularly in the US, is in viewing the human body. We are also aware of the witch hunt mentality that is taking place with regard to the ostensible exploitation of children. We hoped to persuade the general public and art lovers specifically about the legitimacy of the child nude. We felt we could do this without ruffling any feathers; we would remove any images if an artist complained or if we were persuaded that a particular image violated US law (or in the country of our service provider). Since then, the popularity of the site has grown enormously and it is no longer possible to fly under the radar. We had to deal with both primitive and sophisticated cyber attacks and survived. We took it on the chin when critics would insist that we are really a pornography site pretending to be something else. Well, they are entitled to their opinion and flaunt their ignorance, ignorance we hope to someday dispel. The problem comes when our adversaries do not play fair. Instead of engaging in informed debate, they resort to ruthless and underhanded tactics to shut us down. These people fall into two groups: the zealots and the puppet masters. The zealots are the true believers and think our site is an abomination on the internet and are the front line soldiers getting people worked up to take action. Behind the scenes are certain moneyed interests who feel Pigtails has a chance of upsetting the status quo. They fund those zealots who would otherwise not have the kind of time to make this much trouble.

If I learn of a website that is stupid or silly or ethically questionable, I will simply not pay it a visit. If I believe there is something illegal about it, I would be duty-bound to report it. Then it is up to the authorities to handle it. I do not organize a grass-roots campaign to have it shut down. I know I am not a legal expert of everything and so it is not my place to engage in a cyber war with the operators of these sites. Our adversaries do not respect these protocols. Fueled by the power of their faith (or a cynical easy buck), they take it upon themselves to take the law into their own hands. In one respect, I have been naive. I thought if we operated within the law, we would have no problems with service providers (WordPress, JaguarPC) or domain registrars (Register.com). Due to the widespread ignorance of the law and the role of nudity in general, our adversaries have succeeded in their tactics. First, they bombard the service provider with complaints that Pigtails contains sexually explicit material. Supporters of this site know that is categorically false: 1) no persons are shown in sexually-suggestive poses, 2) no emphasis is placed on the genitalia whenever visible and 3) there are no suspicious displays of adult-child interaction. However, service providers and registrars are companies and are not used to images of the human body and so are unable to make the distinction. These requests for termination of service are almost always accompanied by threats of hacking and other cyber attacks. Since the companies are primarily money making operations and the claims at first blush appear to be true, it is easier for them to make a summary decision rather than investigate the case properly and treat us fairly. They claim Pigtails is in violation of their Terms of Service (TOS), getting them off the hook for contractual violations and then cut us off. In each case, we were notified only after the fact and not given the chance to make our case. The companies were simply uncomfortable hosting our site. Register.com’s actions are particularly egregious; not only did they not make any offer of a refund, but they are punishing our service provider by requiring that he transfer 10 of his other domain registrations to another company, incurring additional costs. From the look of it, these other sites are mundane businesses with no association with Pigtails, no images of children or controversial subject matter of any kind. This move seems like a special effort to keep service providers in line with the status quo.

As it stands, it does appear that we will be able to retain our .org domain, but it will have to be registered through a company that knows how to handle these aggressive tactics. Pip and I are US citizens and it is ludicrous that we would be blocked from having an American domain designation. Our new registrar will undoubtedly have to field complaints and if they do not cave in to the demands of cyber bullies and terrorists, their next step would be to make their appeal to ICANN (although they would have to refrain from their more heavy-handed tactics to make a good impression), the organization responsible for issues regarding domains worldwide. Let us hope that they are sophisticated enough to make sound judgments, but I am not holding out much hope.

Protests and other complaints about Register.com’s actions should be directed to:

Tom Lam
Manager: Abuse, Fraud and Executive Escalations
Register.com, a Web.com service
Maritime Center, 2nd Floor, 1505 Barrington St.
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 3K5 Canada
Office/FAX: (902) 749-2746
Toll Free: 866-964-4270

I suppose these folks have not thought this problem all the way through. After all, if they believe our adversaries are capable of following through on their threats, what makes them think that technically savvy Pigtails supporters won’t do the same thing?

At least some of our adversaries are up front about intending to shut us down for good. Therefore, we need to be proactive about fighting this hate-mongering and obstruction to progress. Anyone willing to offer legal services, investigation services or have contacts with law enforcement officers willing to assist with this problem is urged to come forward. We must find out who these people are, how they are funded and take the appropriate legal action. Pigtails in Paint does not deserve to be singled out in this manner. Why are our adversaries so terrified of informed debate and its implications for the reform of our society?

Readers are reminded to consult our Facebook page when encountering interruptions of service rather than trying to email me directly. If there is a problem, an explanation will be posted there right away.

Because of the gravity of this situation, all other monthly notices of interest will be postponed until the June ‘Maiden Voyages’. -Ron

Child Emancipation

*** Spoiler Alert ***

With our recent troubles, my thoughts have been occupied with those guardian angels who have helped us in the past and those who continue to do so today. Therefore this post is dedicated to “Liquid” who handled the technical end of getting our site up and running again after first being shut down by WordPress. In one of our few communications, he mentioned one of his favorite films starring a sweet little girl called Maisie. What Maisie Knew (2012) is the latest remake of a story based on a novel by Henry James. It is about a neglected girl who bonds with her nannies and, in the end, exerts her independence by expressing her wish to stay with them. The theme of the story reminded me of a film years ago called Irreconcilable Differences (1984) starring Drew Barrymore. This inferior film starred Shelley Long and Ryan O’Neal as Casey’s parents. It had a clever hook; at the time, there was a California law that allowed for minors to “divorce” their parents and take adult responsibilities for themselves. The intent of this law was for older teens—who were close to legal adulthood anyway—to escape the abuses of the foster care system or neglectful parents. The unusual thing in this story was that the girl suing for emancipation was 9 years old. Her wish was to live with the housekeeper and her children. It is an intriguing idea but the fact of the matter is that this movie was guilty of child neglect itself. Instead of telling the story from Casey’s point of view, her testimony was simply used to showcase the retelling of the drama of her parents’ relationship working in the brutal world of Hollywood film production.

Charles Shyer and Nancy Meyers – Irreconcilable Differences (1984)

On the other hand, the latest incarnation of Maisie directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, screenplay by Nancy Doyne and Carroll Cartwright, was a delight. Six-year-old Maisie (Onata Aprile) gave a skilled and convincing performance. Her mother Susanna (Julianne Moore) is in an updated role as a music diva engrossed in her career. It was decided that the early scenes should reflect her parents’ more nurturing sides. Although Moore is a performer, this was the first time she was recorded as a singer—singing a bedtime lullaby.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (1)

Maisie’s father Beale (Steve Coogan) was a high-stakes business man travelling all the time. One of the motifs of the film was that Maisie should be surrounded in animal imagery to accentuate the difference between her world and that of the grownups.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (2)

Aprile was a remarkably disciplined actress for her age. She had barely turned six when she was cast. Her mother Valentine Aprile dedicatedly ran lines with her and was present on the set during shooting. Valentine played a small role in the film as one of the mothers of Maisie’s classmates.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (3)

The only time Onata’s discipline would be broken was when food was present. Good directors of children know how to make use of these foibles and there were a number of ad libs that made it into the final cut—usually the girl’s idle but effective manipulation of the various props—making her performance that much more real. For example, while assembling a peanut butter sandwich, Aprile could not help licking her fingers.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (4)

We are introduced to Margo (Joanna Vanderham) in the first scene.as Maisie’s nanny. At first she is working for the mother but, as an added bit of turmoil in Maisie’s life, she falls in love with and marries Beale and thereafter is only present in the father’s household. Instead of the girl’s father properly explaining the situation, Margo is left to look after Maisie’s well-being by explaining things the best she could.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (5)

With Margo living with the father, one of Susanna’s groupies Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård) was abruptly tasked with running domestic errands including shuttling Maisie around. The first time he did this, no one was informed so Margo and the school personnel were quite nervous about turning over custody without some verbal confirmation from Susanna. These days, we are so conditioned to expect the worst since the decision to send Lincoln was made in haste and we did not really know him yet. There are two amusing details about the Aprile-Skarsgård relationship. For some reason Aprile really took to Skarsgård and loved spending time with him on and off the set. One of the demonstrations of her skill as an actress was persuading us that she was actually nervous about being passed off to Lincoln. The other thing was that Skarsgård was quite tall and getting the two of them together in the same shot was a continuous logistical challenge.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (6)

During the course of the film, Maisie is seen spending a lot of quality time with her nannies—sometimes at the same time. In these scenes, she is actively involved with the adults. In contrast, except in those cases when the parents are lavishing her with compensatory attention, whenever Maisie is observing the adults, the directors established the convention of shooting her behind some kind of obstacle or barrier to help convey this alienation.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (7)

The neglect becomes progressively more horrific as Susanna goes on tour and Beale travels overseas. The situation reaches a climax when Maisie’s mother leaves her unattended at the bar where Lincoln works because she neglected to confirm the arrangements. Beale’s neglect takes its most severe form when Margo is locked out of their apartment and cannot get in because he did not bother to put his own wife’s name on the lease. Aprile really enjoyed those scenes with the young couple and movie-goers begin to realize that they had fallen in love during the course of this drama. By all accounts, this is when Aprile gets to display her real personality. She was reported saying that she hoped her next film would be a happier one because she dislikes having to be “so sad” all the time in this one. While both parents were away, Margo took Maisie away on a kind of retreat to a beach house on Long Island owned by her uncle; they are shortly joined by Lincoln.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (8)

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (9)

When Susanna arrives later in her tour bus, assuming that Maisie would be delighted at the prospect of joining her, she is surprised to learn that she would rather stay with Margo and Lincoln. In a frank and heartfelt moment, Susanna finally realized how unhappy Maisie had been and in a selfless act of love, allowed her to stay with them.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (10)

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (11)

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (12)

The point of James’ novel was to show an uncharacteristically self-possessed little girl take a hand in her own happiness. Although her future was far from certain, she at least had some say in shaping it. At the end of the pier was docked a boat and in the last shot, she is shown running toward it in anticipation of another outing, another adventure.

Scott McGehee, David Siegel et al – What Maisie Knew (2012) (13)