Category Archives: Uncategorized

Breaking Bad and The Bribe (1949)

RobertTaylor_thebribeA husband with a fatal medical condition, trying to provide for his family by performing illegal services for a conglomerate. A wife doing what she can to get through it and make ends meet with a simple job. A cop who is too close to the situation and questions whose side he is on.

Sound familiar? Nope, I’m not actually describing the plot of Breaking Bad. The above are the main highlights of The Bribe, a lesser-known Noir from 1949 starring Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, John Hodiak, Vincent Price and amazingly enough, Charles Laughton.

[Warning – there will be some frank talking about plot points of Breaking Bad here. If you wish to avoid spoilers and have not seen the final season, avert your eyes now!]

To anyone who has seen the film, it’s not a really solid parallel, no. John Hodiak’s character is pathetic, pitiable and rather annoying, but he is by no means Walter White. He merely develops a medical condition that grounds him as a flier and then uses his knowledge of planes to help a deliciously evil Vincent Price test planes for nefarious ends. Ava Gardner as his wife does not experience the incredible transformation of character Skyler White goes through, but she does show glimmers of the calculating femme fatale Skyler became. Especially when her family (in this case, husband John Hodiak) is on the line. Robert Taylor shines as the special agent sent to ferret out the illegal dealings. He’s straight as a pin when he begins the crusade and by the end of the film, his feelings for Ava have so changed him, he questions everything he ever believed in. It’s somewhat like Walter White’s DEA brother-in-law Hank Schrader, who suffers such a betrayal with Walt’s choice of career, it causes him to become obsessed with taking Walt down.

The movie is an enjoyable Noir with some gorgeous 40s fashions, a fun little song and a host of remarkable stars. But by far, my favorite aspect of all is Charles Laughton’s Pie Shape. The fact that the great Charles Laughton would ever deign to play such a preposterous character is notable in itself. And then to have played him with such sincerity and perfection, it’s just unforgettable. Pie Shape is hard to peg at first. He’s just in the background, being remarked upon with bewilderment by Robert Taylor’s character. In between his whiny complaints about the condition of his feet and his completely serious showcase of the foot x-rays explaining his pain, he somehow becomes endearing. And that is the genius of Laughton: the ability to make even the most unlikable of characters human.

So, perhaps my parallel is a stretch, but it’s similar enough to deserve commentary, even if it’s purely coincidental. And being the rabid classic film fan I am, I would love to believe The Bribe was a source of inspiration to Vince Gilligan. Plus, there is one little line that connected a few dots for me in the similarities. When Ava Gardner is having a particularly hard time of it with her husband, Charles Laughton walks in, sets down his rain soaked poncho and asks “Things breaking bad?”

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Introducing: Ambigrams

Today I’d like to take a small deviation into artland for a moment to spotlight something that absolutely fascinates me: ambigrams.  I’ve been noticing this insatiable fascination with type faces and words cropping up in my thoughts lately, so I’m going to encourage it and see what happens.  Ambigrams are a trifle difficult to describe, so I’ll use Douglas R. Hofstadter’s definition.

An ambigram is a “calligraphic design that manages to squeeze two different readings into the selfsame set of curves.”

It’s almost like code writing, but instead of having a distinct set of symbols for the alphabet, the regular letter forms are used and manipulated to create dual-words.  Let me show you some examples:

I just couldnt resist showing this one.  I didnt make it, but its pretty amazing anyway!

I just couldn't resist showing this one. I didn't make it, but it's pretty amazing anyway!

Okay, look at the name Casey above.  If you flipped this image upside down, it would look exactly the same, even though all the letters would be reversed.  The C and the Y are formed the same, as are the A and the E.  This is a rotational ambigram.

Same idea with Mississippi here.  This would look precisely the same if it was rotated 180 degrees.

Another ambigram that works when rotated.  This one is for a new series of comic books.  It’s even better than the others because it has an accompanying reversible graphic.

Another rotational.  I think this doormat is my favorite. :)  I found it in the Uncommon Goods catalog earlier this year and used it for a class presentation I had to do at the time.  I think it kind of bewildered my friends.  I seemed to be the only one who could see the amazing coolness of something like this.  *sigh*  Just another kooky facet of my personality, I guess. ;)  Anyhow, the doormat welcomes you as you enter and properly sees you out, too.  It’s perfect for all those guests who drop by unexpectedly and must be admitted.  It’s quite real, and can be yours for a mere $24.

This is a mirror image ambigram.  Instead of flipping or rotating this one, you hold it up to a mirror and see the exact same image.

This magnificent painting by ambigram master John Langdon is a figure ground ambigram.  It forms two words: one with the positive space (the white blocks), the other with the negative space (the photo of the field).  You have to stare at it for a while to get your eyes adjusted to the changes.  (it says “optical illusion”)  If you’d like to learn more about ambigrams or learn how to start making some, check out John Langdon’s website.  It’s a wealth of information.  One of my favorite ambigrams is on Mr Langdon’s site, but I couldn’t link to it.  If you go it his site and click “Logos” in the top menu, look for one called “Victoria.”  It’s beautiful.

This ambigram thing is wildly popular and has even sparked it’s own thriving Flickr group.  It seems that the easiest way to make ambigrams work is by using a graffiti type script.  That’s not really my cup of tea.  I’m more partial to the traditional ones.  I’m going to give it a whirl and see what I come up with.  I’m armed with the tips from Mr Langdon and full of amazing inspiration from my searches this morning.

Okay, that’s all for art class today.  Let me know what you thought of this post.  I’ll be happy to do another art class post, but I don’t want to bore you when you only came to talk about movies or sewing.  Never fear, I’m not giving up either of those anytime soon.  I’m starting a new sewing project and will be posting on it soon.  Happy Sunday, my dears!


Filed under Let Me Introduce You, Uncategorized