Some Oscars People Aren’t Talking About Today…

I was one of a very few people who didn’t watch the Academy Awards last night.  To be honest, watching a bunch of people wearing shoes that cost more than I spend on food in a month doesn’t excite me.  I also prefer books to movies…always have.  That being said, I decided to do an Oscar piece today, but I am dedicating it to “Oscars” I find infinitely more interesting than the Hollywood ones:

1. Oscar Brand.  Born in Winnipeg in 1920, Brand moved to the U.S. as a young man.  In addition to being a folk singer, songwriter, and author, Brand is also the host of the longest running radio show with the same host: Oscar Brand’s Folksong Festival has aired on New York’s WNYC-AM almost every Saturday night since December 10, 1945.  From 1963-67, Brand hosted a Canadian TV show called Let’s Sing Out! which featured previously unknown Canadian singers such as Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot.  Another one of Brand’s numerous claims to fame was serving on the original board of the Children’s Television Workshop, which was behind the creation of Sesame Street.  It is said that the “Oscar the Grouch” character is based on Brand.  Over his long career, Brand has composed more than 300 songs, and released nearly 100 albums.  His songs have been used in movies, TV and stage productions, and even commercials.  Brand is the author of seven books, including Songs of ’76: A Folksinger’s History of the Revolution.

An Oscar Brand album cover from 1961...

2. Oscar Howe.  Born on a Plains Indian reservation in South Dakota in 1915, Howe overcame physical and emotional obstacles to become a well-respected artist and sculptor.  The young Howe began drawing before age 5, but was discouraged by his father, who confiscated his pencils and proclaimed art “foolish”.  Howe switched to using charcoal from the stove, and when that was also taken away, used sticks to draw in the dirt.  Like other natives at that time, Howe was sent to an Indian school, but was sent home at age ten because he had a severe, disfiguring skin disease complicated by a case of trachoma, which threatened the boy’s sight.  There was no money for medical treatment, so Howe used commercial soap every day for months until his skin cleared up, and the eye affliction abated.  He went back to school, graduating in 1933.  After securing a job on a road crew, Howe came down with tuberculosis…this led to his enrollment in the Sante Fe Indian School, where he was chosen to participate in an art program known as The Studio.  Howe’s first painting sold for 50 cents…half the money went to the school.  After graduation, he taught art at the Pierre Indian School, the school that had sent him home.  Howe later was an art instructor at the Pierre High School.  After serving overseas in WWII, Howe became Professor of Art at the University of South Dakota.  In 1958, he sent one of his most innovative paintings to a national Indian Painting Competition at the Philbrook Museum.  It was rejected as not being a “traditional Indian painting.”  He sent a scathing letter to the organizers, which was enough to move them to change the rules to allow for individuality.  Howe died in 1983. 

The title of this Howe lithograph is unknown...I like it...

 3. Oscar Pistorius.  Pistorius is a Paralympic athlete known as “the fastest man on no legs” and the “Blade Runner.”  Born in South Africa in 1986, Pistorius was missing both fibulas, so a decision was made to amputate his legs halfway between his knees and ankles when he was 11 months old.  As a boy, Pistorius didn’t let what many considered to be a disability slow him down…he played rugby, water polo, and tennis in school, as well as being on the wrestling team.  After sustaining a serious rugby knee injury in 2004, Pistorius was introduced to running, and hasn’t stopped since.  He holds the world Paralympic records in the 100, 200 and 400-metre events and has competed against “able-bodied” athletes and won.  Pistorius’ career has been filled with controversy because some people in the sports community felt that the Cheetah Flex Foot prothesis that he uses to run give him an “unfair advantage.”  After failing in his bid to qualify for the 2008 Olympics, Pistorius is now focussing on training for the 2012 Games in London.  When he’s not training, Pistorius will be modelling, having signed up to be the “face” of Thierry Mugler’s men’s fragrance, A*Men.

Oscar Pistorius

4. Oscar Quam.  Born in Minnesota in 1887, Quam was known as “the professor of duckology.”  He started a family business making duck calls and decoys in the 1920’s, which his children kept going until 1972 (Quam died in 1969).  Quam believed in charging a fair price for his work: the average call cost between $2.50 and $3.50 in the early 1940’s (fancy inlaid ones might cost $15)…Montgomery Ward ordered 10,000 of the $3.50 ones.  Quam also taught duck calling techniques on radio shows, and wrote for outdoor magazines.  His original duck decoys were made of wood, but he later switched to cork, which was lighter.  Here’s a recording of Quam demonstrating some duck calls:

Quam Duck Calls  

5. Oscar Rejlander.  Born in Sweden about 1813, Rejlander is known as “the father of art photography” and studied art in Rome before trading his paintbrushes for a camera.  He moved to England in the mid-1840’s, where he opened a portrait studio in Wolverhampton.  Rejlander was a friend of Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), and later created one of the best-known portraits of him.  Undertaking many experiments to perfect his work, Rejlander is credited with inventing combination printing (each print consists of images from several different negatives) in about 1853.  Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were patrons of Rejlander’s, and among others, purchased a copy of one of his most controversial works, The Two Ways of Life.  In 1862, Rejlander moved his studio to London and continued experimenting with double exposure, photomontage, photo retouching, and retouching.  He also did popular “social protest” photos of homeless street children.  In 1872, Rejlander’s photos illustrated Charles Darwin’s book, The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.  Rejlander died in 1875 after a serious illness.

Rejlander's "Poor Joe"...this portrait is a re-enactment of a scene Rejlander saw on the streets of London...

  I hope you’ve enjoyed this foray into the world of “Oscars”…more fun for me than boring celebrities dressed like waiters!


Filed under history

50 responses to “Some Oscars People Aren’t Talking About Today…

  1. Very nice–a great counterpoint to the materialism, egotism and shallowness of the Academy Awards.

  2. Nice, Wendy. Oscar Pistorius was at school with my nephews … he’s quite an inspiring young man and a role model for sure.
    Sunshine xx

  3. Cool stuff Wendy. Pistorius is amazing.

    I usually don’t watch the Oscars but did last night (while working). I think I used last night to get all my judgmentalism out of the way for a while! I wrote a running log of snarkiness and posted on my site if you’re interested.


  4. duke1959

    You weren’t the only one that didn’t watch that garbage. Your post is much more informational and meaning.

  5. N B

    I didn’t watch them either, if it helps.

    Thank you for this wonderful, educational post. These “Oscars” are truly worth noting. They have accomplished a lot more, I think, than those who put on fancy clothes.

  6. I have maybe one or twice watched the Oscars. Your Oscars are MUCH more interesting. 🙂

  7. jesswords10

    Where do you find all this cool stuff? I hadn’t heard of any of these Oscars except Pistorius. Very cool. Nice take on a day’s alternate universe.

  8. I’m afraid I find it so long winded.

    I do like doodlooking well built men in tuxes (one reason to watch some of it)

    And the gowns. Some really are wonderful, and the others make you wonder just who let her out of the house in that thing.

    • Agreed, VFTS! Long-winded indeed! My friend Clay at EduClaytion, in his Oscar post, had the best line ever about the dresses: “How ironic that Cate Blanchett announces award for Costume Design while wearing a Happy Meal box.” Thanks for stopping by! Wendy

  9. I loved your version of the Oscars much better Wendy even though I didn’t watch this year’s Oscars. I’ll be back for next year’s Oscars ala Wendy. Great post as usual!

  10. Great idea for a post, Wendy! And have to confess, I didn’t watch the Oscars either. We have no TV at our house in Haiti.

    Hugs from Haiti,

  11. I attempted to watch the Oscars, but boredom had me changing the channel to Everybody Loves Raymond…ha! The portrait by Rejlander is beautiful and haunting. Thanks for sharing the real Oscars. ♥ Diane

    • I answered your comment once, Diane…not sure why it didn’t show up here! Anyway, I find the Oscar telecast boring as well! You’re the first to mention Rejlander! I love the photo too!


  12. I like your Oscars a lot better than the ones I saw on Sunday night.

    Oscar Pistorius’ story is amazing.

  13. duke1959

    The big story out of all of that was someone used the F word on air. Like that was the first time that had ever happened!

  14. That is a whole lot of Oscars. 😀

  15. That’s a lot of Oscars, indeed! Wow.
    I enjoyed your Oscars–lovely post, interesting, as always…
    Oscar Pistorus’ story (say THAT 5 times fast) is amazing.
    p.s. I had fun watching the OTHER oscars…I do love the glam.

  16. Ooh. Your 3rd Oscar is much better to look at than that gold guy!

  17. I love this post, Wendy! How very creative. I too, love to research. I bet you had fun looking up all of the Oscars. Great read!

  18. The story of Pistorius is simply amazing. And his surname is so pissy-glorius-notorius it’s like you cannot but be SOMEBODY with that name.

  19. You’re on a roll Wendy! What a great idea and infinitely more interesting 🙂 I didn’t watch the Oscars either…coz they were on at an unearthly hour and becoz frankly they’ve become a humongous bore…they follow the same format year after year and the comments and speeches are tediously repetitive!
    I love the Oscar Howe story and that lithograph is stunning 🙂

    Hugs, H.

    • Glad you liked the post, Harsha…agreed about the ceremony being boring! It’s interesting which “Oscars” people gravitate to…most people have mentioned Pistorius, but you’re the first to single out Howe! Hugs, Wendy

  20. I didn’t watch the Oscars, either. I’d like to nominate another Oscar to your list: Oscar Hijuelos, who wrote “The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love,” which was a very beautiful book that was turned into a very mediocre movie starring a Armand Assante, a young Antonio Banderas and Desi Arnaz Jr. as Desi Arnaz Sr.

  21. #4 is quite inspiring. My great grandfather’s name was Oscar and a couple of days ago I took a picture of a friend and her baby who she named Oscar!

    • It’s interesting…”Oscar” doesn’t seem to be that common a first name, although I found that there are a LOT of Swedish hockey players named “Oscar.”

      Thanks for stopping by, Colleen!


  22. Your Oscars were very good but I have to admit I am a movie nut and I watch the Oscars every year.

  23. Wonderful! Even though I LOVE the Academy Awards, I found your rundown of unknown Oscars much more fascinating than this year’s show, I must admit 🙂

    And I have to agree with you about the RIDICULOUS amount of money that is spent on clothes for the Oscars. Or by celebrities on any day of the week, for that matter, when you think there are children dying in this world for lack of $5 to buy a mosquito net … Ugh, now I’m making myself irritated. Sorry.

    Great post!

  24. Very clever, Wendy, and I learned quite a bit, too. Thanks!

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