Monday, November 30, 2009

Fortune magazine

Fortune magazine premiered in 1930. Founded by Henry Luce, to celebrate the importance and dynamic spirit of American business, he recruited top journalists and designers to assure the highest quality content and presentation. The phenomenal covers, especially those created prior to WW2, are highly collectible. The vivid graphics were created by the most talented artists of the day, including luminaries like Diego Rivera, Fernand Leger and Ben Shahn.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Marchesa Casati

Marchesa Luisa Casati - Man Ray 1922

Portrait of Marchesa Luisa Casati with a Greyhound Giovanni Boldini 1908

Portrait of Marchesa Casati - Augustus John 1912

Luisa Casati (1881-1957) was an heiress, art patron and hostess to legendary lavish parties. She was also the subject of a surprising number of artworks by celebrated painters and photographers. A new book, The Marchesa Casati: Portraits of a Muse explores her life and style, lushly illustrated with more than 200 images.

Reading about her nomadic lifestyle, with palatial residences in Italy and France where exotic pets roamed freely, she is not unlike contemporary wealthy albeit eccentric celebrities. But considering that she traveled in circles with Pablo Picasso, John Singer Sargeant, Marcel Proust, Cecil Beaton, and Nijinsky and inspired the likes of Fortuny, Salvador Dali, Coco Chanel, Colette and Cartier she is elevated beyond mere party girl.

The sculptor Catherine Barjanksky said, “She was so different from other women that ordinary clothes were impossible for her." She once arrived at a ball wearing white feathers streaked with fresh blood, causing several guests to faint. Luisa was criticized for her scandalous behavior, her outrageous fashion and her immeasurable vanity. Despite that, her ambition wasn't the pursuit of shock value, she defiantly declared, "'I want to be a living work of art.'

Saturday, November 28, 2009

May You Stay Forever Young

photo by Jerry Schatzberg from Blonde on Blonde

Recently, while staying at the Ocean Place Resort on the shores of New Jersey, Bob Dylan took a mid-afternoon stroll. Residents called the police to complain about ' a scruffy man, acting suspiciously.' When Dylan was detained by two young officers who did not recognize him by his appearance or by name it became much more of a news item.

Whether or not you're a fan of his music, it's surprising that anybody with access to Itunes, the radio, television or a library hasn't heard of Bob Dylan. Still, I understand the tendency to mythologize a person in their perfect youth. When I think of Dylan, the image I conjure is definitely young Bob. His most popular tunes played on the radio are from his early years, full of youthful anger, disappointment and amazement.

Dylan and many other 'rock legends' continue to record and tour. They perform new material, but always deliver at least a few songs from way back. Those songs are like old friends; in them we can be forever young.

Friday, November 27, 2009

You are here

10 List: Best HORROR films of the past decade

A horror film is like diner food: rarely good, easy to avoid, and nobody expects to be amazed. 10 scary goodies which probably won't make it on any 'best of the decade' lists, but really deserve some notice. They're all interesting, well conceived ideas that influenced many copycats. I won't watch slasher films, so there's none of that Saw business or helpless victims wandering alone in dark, deserted terrain where phones never work. Each of the ten has a ghost/vampire/zombie/monster or psychopath, but their victims wage a respectable defense.

I seeeee youuuuuu! (El Orfanato)

2000 - Ju-on (The Grudge)
2000 - Final Destination
2001 - The Others
2002 - The Ring
2002 - 28 Days Later
2004 - Shaun of the Dead
2005 - The Descent
2007 - El Orfanato (The Orphanage)
2008 - Let the Right One In
2008 - À L'Intérieur (Inside)

Spelunking is fun! (The Descent)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I have a lot to be thankful for...good health of course,

and the people I adore who are as smart...

as they are funny.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Good mail=a present for no reason at all.

I received a set of 12 Blank Matryoshka Dolls by post. They're made from sweet smelling Linden wood, smooth to the touch and a delight for the eyes. I suppose they can be painted, although they are perfect already. When I thanked her, S. said, "I remember you told me you'd like a blank set." That was a long time ago--how great is it when someone listens to your most random remarks and remembers your wish list? There is family you are born into, and also the family you find along the way.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Small Trades

The American photographer Irving Penn (1917 – 2009) is renowned for his black and white portraiture and fashion photography. During the early 1950's, while working in Paris, London, and New York, he created a series of photos of tradespeople dressed in work clothes and carrying the tools of their occupations. The entire collection of those images, titled Small Trades, is currently on exhibit at the Getty Center in Los Angeles

In each of the photos, the subjects occupy the same space with a neutral backdrop and natural light. Whether it was intentional or not, they are all roughly the same size no matter their trade, outfit, gender or age. Penn's signature style is so complete, the tradespeople are as elegant and iconic as any fashion model. The Penn photo below, of his model/wife (not part of the exhibition) is lit and staged in the exact format. There is obvious pride and dignity in the faces of the Small Trades series, but the austerity of the photos leave a lasting impression of unmistakable distance.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Radiant dark

Henri Rousseau/A Carnival Evening 1886

Georgia O'Keefe/The Radiator Building at Night 1927

Winslow Homer/Dancing By Moonlight 1890

Edvard Munch/Starry Night 1893

Wonderful night paintings always pull at my sleeve and make my heart beat a little faster.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Private space

"...walls are the most basic elements of architecture, and in all my works,
light is an important factor."

--Tadao Ando

Church of Light/Osaka, Japan
Church on the Water/Hokkaido, Japan

The architect Tadao Ando did not receive any formal architectural training. Instead, he schooled himself by reading and traveling extensively through Africa, Europe, and the United States. His use of concrete and glass, and his reverence for light and shadow is nothing short of remarkable.

Friday, November 20, 2009

10 List: Best films of the last decade

It's hard to believe we're just a few weeks from the close of the decade, and naturally there's the round up of 'best' lists. Creating a tally of 10 premier films spanning ten years is difficult: there are titles with outstanding performances; Monster, There Will Be Blood, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, and others with astonishing writing; Memento, The Squid and the Whale, Y tu mamá también, In Bruges, Punch Drunk Love and still more that are visually spectacular like Lord of the Rings and Pan's Labyrinth. I could easily list 100 that I really enjoyed so this is no reflection on any lack of appreciation! Ultimately, watchability was the deciding factor. Does the film hold up? I've seen the final ten numerous times and each for me has the rare combination of great performances, distinct direction, crisp writing with deliciously interesting characters, a unique look and delivers a story you experience.

Joel meets Clementine...again.

2000 - O Brother Where Art Thou? Joel and Ethan Coen
2000 - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Ang Lee
2001 - Spirited Away Hayao Miyazaki
2001 - Amelie Jean Pierre Jeunet
2001 - The Royal Tenenbaums Wes Anderson
2003 - Kill Bill Quentin Tarantino
2004 - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Michel Gondry
2005 - A History of Violence David Cronenberg
2005 - Match Point Woody Allen
2006 - Children of Men Alfonso Cuarón

Sen takes the A train

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Real Thing

The night before I left for college, my boyfriend took me to a fancy French restaurant where we sat uncomfortably dressed up and dined on dishes with names we couldn't pronounce. Afterwards, we walked around the upscale neighborhood in the sticky August humidity of Chicago and shared a bottle of Coke. The stuff of memories.

I watched an interesting program about the evolution of Coca-Cola and how it became one of the most recognized products in the world. Robert Woodruff, the Coca-Cola president for decades, was chiefly responsible for the aggressive and innovative advertising that propelled the soft drink to icon status. Woodruff realized that a soft drink wasn't a necessity; a distinctive logotype in bright red and white, and a unique curvaceous bottle were a good start for branding, but effective ads were critical for its success. During World War II, following a request to, "Send Coke!" from General Dwight Eisenhower, Woodruff set up bottling plants around the world to supply American troops, inadvertently accelerating global sales and awareness of the soft drink.

In 1985, responding to Pepsi's larger market share, Coke changed its carefully guarded secret recipe and launched a campaign for "New Coke." The product flopped, the public was confused and outraged and the debacle is now widely considered one of the biggest marketing disasters in advertising history. The original 'Classic Coke' recipe was quickly reinstated and after the flurry of criticism settled, a vital realization emerged: Coca-Cola was much more than a recipe or mere opponent in the 'Pepsi challenge', it was part of the fabric of American culture, deeply ingrained visually and emotionally in the public, whether or not they actually drank the soda. Coca-Cola represented youth, happy outings with family, innocent first dates, a taste of home to a weary soldier in a foreign land, a winning game, the Olympics, in short-- a better, happier time.

A couple weeks ago, in the season finale of Mad Men, a drama set in the 1960's about advertising in Manhattan, one character said to another, "There are people out there who buy things, people like you and me. But something happened, something terrible. The way that they saw themselves is gone, and no one understands that. But you do, and that's very valuable." Happiness, nostalgia-- it's a serious business.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is This You?

Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson collaborated on several children's books, among them, The Carrot Seed remains a beloved classic.

Another title of theirs, Is This You? (1955) is inventive for a children's book; by asking the reader simple questions about where they sleep or go to school or what they eat for breakfast, it inspires observation and introspection.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chris Ware

One instructor was insanely talented. It was pretty obvious she was teaching to pay her bills, and couldn't wait to leave class to get back to her studio and her work. Her drawings made us wonder why we even bothered with our own. I asked her if she ever had 'bad drawing days.' She thought for a second and answered a matter-of-fact, "No."

When looking at Chris Ware's work, I guess that he doesn't have those days either. Always great, really off the charts!

Monday, November 16, 2009

A mountain for dessert

It's not very sweet, it looks a bit wormy, the texture is mealy and the color resembles putty. Although the Mont Blanc isn't as pretty as other pastries, it's distinctively dense and sublimely subtle. Inside the fort of chestnut puree, is a light chantilly cream filling.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hear here

An $8.00 painted iron ear makes other hooks look so lifeless. Thank you, Urban Outfitters!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fritz Kahn

Man as industrial machine
Healthy effects of sunlight
Mechanism of salivation

When Bodies: The Exhibition was shown at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, I was one of those stragglers that kept getting to the end of the displays, only to start over again at the beginning. I lose all sense of time when viewing anatomical charts, mannequins and cutaways, transfixed by the complexity of the nervous system, organ function and blood circulation.

Fritz Kahn (1888-1968) a German scientist, gynecologist and author, created a graphic system that presented the metaphor of man as machine. His entertaining visuals with assembly workers and switchboard operators at their posts within the factory of a body was a unique and revolutionary method that made science, particularly health and the body more accessible for the public.

A new lavishly illustrated monograph, “Fritz Kahn: Man Machine” by Uta and Thilo von Debschitz (SpringerWeinNewYork) is available here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

10 List: Unlikely friends

In film, there are the heroes that inspire us, the protagonists we root for, those good guys we love to watch. But I wonder, could you really spend quality time with these characters if they were flesh and blood?

10 you'd want on your side, but maybe not with you during down time or at the dinner table.

(Least likely to call you to go shopping.)

Ellen Ripley/Alien: Sure, she's absolutely capable but you'd feel intimidated just asking her to pass the salt.

Ethan Edwards/The Searchers: He's got a chip on his shoulder, he's racist and he'll never give in. And those are his good qualities!

(Most likely to drink you under the table.)

James Bond/the Connery version: He's always on the make so you couldn't leave him alone with your girlfriends or sisters. He's perpetually bored, a know-it-all, and doesn't care a bit if he destroys your valuable electronics.

Harry Callahan/Dirty Harry: No sense of humor and limited conversation.

Forrest Gump/Forrest Gump: No sense of humor and UNlimited conversation. Yack, yack, I get it--life is like a box of chocolates!

Rose DeWitt Bukater/Titanic: Argumentative, spoiled and most likely to take the last slice of dessert, considering how quickly she booted Jack from the raft that could have saved him.

("Jesus, man, could you change the channel?")

Jeffrey Lebowski/The Big Lebowski: Easy going and good natured, but eventually his love of Creedence Clearwater Revival will cause a rift.

Rick Blaine/Casablanca: He's cynical, world weary and bitter. And the guy goes on and on about the past. Sheesh!

("Let me introduce you to my little friend...")

Dorothy Gale/The Wizard of Oz: It may be interesting to befriend a runaway who kills witches, but girls that carry little dogs with them at all times are generally friends with other girls that carry little dogs with them at all times.

Carl Spackler/Caddy Shack: Makes explosives, hunts small animals, destroys property--if that isn't enough to make you nervous, it's nearly impossible to understand his mumbling.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Road

A father and his young son walk alone through the ravaged landscape of America after it has ceased being anything but a burnt husk. Buildings, homes and cars have been destroyed or abandoned, the trees and earth are stripped of any sign of vegetation, and it is cold, terribly cold. No reason is given for the catastrophe that has transformed the world into this bleak terrain, but it's clear it has been like this for some time. The Man and the Boy have nothing but the clothes they are wearing, a pistol with two bullets and most important, each other. So begins the film, The Road.

The remaining population has been reduced to savage survivalists, the stronger will take from the weaker, possibly using them as food. The Man (Viggo Mortensen) and the Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) make their way south; although it is uncertain what they may find, it provides a purpose in their long days of bitter weather and homelessness. Occasionally, a memory flickers of life before the darkness; we see the mother (Charlize Theron) in these flashbacks, and know that there is even more missing in their lives.

There are now many titles that portray the world post-apocalypse. The sci-fi versions (28 Days Later, Terminator, Zombieland, I Am Legend) and the action versions (The Day After, Independence Day. 2012) entertain the audience with pesky zombies or robots, mutant diseases or the spectacle of a toppled Eiffel Tower or wrecked White House. The Road is a profound meditation of a future beyond all of that. After humanity has been leveled of the things that divide and separate us; wealth, possessions, status, and citizenship, what remains? We have seen time and again the principles worth dying for, but more complex, what in essence is worth living for?

The Road, directed by John Hillcoat, based on the book by Cormac McCarthy is scheduled for release November 25.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gjon Mili

Gene Kelly
FBI Agent

By today's standards, Gjon Mili's work is outdated and old-school. The Life photographer was a pioneer in the use of photoflash to capture a sequence of actions in one photograph. The technique captures motion so crisply--I love it.

The Way You Look Tonight

Although he frequently downplayed his singing ability, Fred Astaire was instrumental in introducing classic songs by Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Jerome Kern. He was admired for the way he interpreted a tune, his phrasing and diction, so much that songwriters had him in mind when they created their music. This video, from the 1936 RKO film Swing Time presented Kern's 'The Way You Look Tonight' to the music loving public.

I attended a wedding where a tuxedoed father sang this song to his daughter, the bride. He sang softly in a sincere tenor. I didn't know either of them, but you must realize, smoke gets in your eyes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Little things

Usually, Thanksgiving is spent in Chicago, but not this year. I'll miss spending time with my nieces and nephews:

the one that loves the heel of a bread loaf,
the one that loves Nutella on...everything,

the one that loves marmalade as much as I detest it,
and the one that loves LOTS of ketchup on his eggs.