Home » ARTSY FARTSY » JEAN SHEPHERD Kid books, PART 3 GIFTING- Erector Set, Tinker Toy end & (53) ARTSY Shunga

JEAN SHEPHERD Kid books, PART 3 GIFTING- Erector Set, Tinker Toy end & (53) ARTSY Shunga


Now this is a different problem.  It’s Christmas time—what do you say?  “Oh, Tinker Toy!  Just what I always wanted!”  Or do you tell the truth?  Tinker Toy!  And my mother said, “I thought it would be best to get you Tinker Toy because you might cut yourself on an Erector Set and you could get a shock from the motor.”

Oh, my god!  I had a Tinker Toy set that could make a windmill with paper vanes on it.  I played with it for maybe seven or eight milliseconds.  And I realized that a Tinker Toy was just not my sort of thing.  It may be your thing and you may have loved it.  I was bored out of my skull with Tinker Toy and Lincoln Logs.

I’ll never forget what it said on the Tinker Toy box—“A Wonderful Educational Toy.”  And now I’ll have to reveal the worst.  Twenty minutes later I get a phone call from Schwartz.  He was ecstatic.

I said, “Schwartz, what did you get?”

“An Erector Set!  It’s fantastic!  I’m working on this Ferris wheel.  Oh!”

Schwartz hit the jackpot!  I said, “Oh well.”

He said, “What did you get?”

“A Tinker Toy set.  You can make a windmill.”

He said, “That must be great.”

I knew what he was saying:  “You lost, didn’t you, buddy.  Heh heh.”

So be careful, people out there.  Be careful, please.  You think you’re doing something great for somebody, you think you’re doing good.  Be careful.  There’s nothing that a kid loves more than a dangerous toy.  Dangerous toys are what life is made of.  In fact, if you invented a truly dangerous toy it would be a toy that the minute the kid plugs it in, it blows up, and with that toy, he would be educated for everything else he will get and also educated in life.




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In addition to the well-known Japanese woodblock prints, the lesser-known printed books, and netsukes, the traditional genera of Japanese art includes “shunga,” which is erotic art of usually the most explicit sort. Japanese artists produced overt and symbol-laden art focused on sex, both in netsuke and in the very common woodblock books usually called “pillow books,” because these “sex manuals” were supposedly meant to be placed under the pillow to help instruct couples in the art of making love.

Only in recent decades have these become more commonly known and reproduced in the West. I’ve only seen these works in photos and reproduction. They are outrageously explicit, detailed, and frequent use enormous exaggeration. (The inquisitive might google shunga and look at images.) From my impression, the most artful/elegant were produced by such great woodblock artists as Hokusai and Utamaro.

Utamaro, best known for his elegant portraits of women including courtesans, did what we call pornography as well as a set of books depicting the Yoshiwara district, the-then widely-known red-light district of Tokyo—these two volumes set the stage but don’t raise the curtain on any acts.



Utamaro’s Yoshiwara books, from my cheap set printed from re-cut blocks.

Prostitutes on display; prostitutes watching the artist touch up a painting.


A non-explicit double-page from

one of Utamaro’s erotic works.



The non-explicit halves of

Hokusai pages in (half) their elegance.





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