Good weekend, everyone. Wherever you may be.
Here's the thing.
P, of what possessed me notoriety and the wittiest writer in all the land, recently invited me to do this seven weird things thing. A few days prior, studio wellspring's Anjie, the loveliest blogger in all the land, had extended a similar invitation. Generally and historically, I have a strong resistance to such forms of nation-...er...online community building. But I'm trying to change my ways; at least some of them. So I'll play. But I draw the line at 'tagging' others to do the same. I just can't. Won't. Can't. Well, maybe. Someday. Here goes.
I sleep best after undergoing general anesthesia. My ear lobes are kind of lobeless. I adore driving in New York City. Preferably in a car with manual transmission. Heavy rainstorms: comforting; strong, whipping winds: terrifying. I've seen Raising Arizona about 117 times. My boxed collections include collections of boxes.
So there's a snapshot of about 47 seconds of my thought process (aka my weird). Welcome to my brain. One other weird thing (the eighth - I know, I'm pushing it) about me is that I seem compelled to add a twist to (read complicate) seemingly straightforward tasks (like coming up with this list, for example). If you do the NY Times crossword, you probably noticed immediately that the words in my list (if physically manipulated) could form a square grid. I flatter myself. If you do the daily JUMBLE, you noticed that immediately. So much for the cleverness of me. Thanks, P and Anjie, for the invite. I had fun.
:image leigh wells.
Now is the time to give me roses,
not to keep them for my grave to come.
Give them to me while my heart beats,
give them today while my
heart yearns for jubilee.
Now is the time...
— Mzwakhe Mbuli
Check out the previous post's comments for a bit of back story on today's post. Here's a snippet from the exchange between me and the inimitable (and stunningly observant) P:
p - What happened to your poem post? I loved that one, but it appeared on my Google Reader, not on your blog. I wanted to post a response to it...
d:m - Wow! You don't miss a thing.
They are incredibly powerful words. So evocative. I'll re-post. Took it down because I wanted to include a little something about my experience of regret: the sort where I've squandered opportunity to attend to and nurture a couple of important relationships - until it was too late, as they say. (I posted, but then clicked on SAVE POST and took away Mbuli's gorgeous words, figuring I'd get to my part later. How's that for today's tender morsel of irony?). Good on you for calling me on it, albeit unknowingly.
I'm wondering how others experience and use (or not) regret.
:lyric from mbuli's album change is pain; image surroundings
Last summer, the Library of Congress teamed with Flickr for a pilot project called The Commons. As part of that project, the LOC opened a Flickr account and uploaded a little over 3,000 of its archived images earlier this month. (The LOC houses 14 million prints, photographs and other visual materials.)
The goal was to address two of the major challenges the Library faces: 1. ensuring better access to their collections, and 2. maintaining the best possible information for the benefit of researchers and posterity.
The result was astonishing and could arguably be one of the greatest cultural achievements to date in the young world of social networking.
Here's what happened within two days:
• all 3,100+ photos viewed
• 420 of the photos had comments
• 1,200 of the photos were 'favorited'
• 392,000 views on the photostream
• 650,000 views of photos
Apparently, no one at either the LOC or Flickr expected this kind of public response.
From Flickr's blog: "Frankly, none of us could quite fathom how fantastic the response to the pilot has been." And Matt Raymond of the Library of Congress responded by saying "I can tell you that the reaction to this two-day-old project has already vastly exceeded our expectations."
Where might the Library of Congress take this project? And what might other libraries consider for bringing their collections to the public?
For now, I'm thrilled with the opportunity to access these visions of 20th Century Americana, most especially this remarkable set of color shots from the 30s and 40s.
:the commons; 1930s-40s in color
Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) spent most of his life in a frame house on Utopia Parkway in Queens, New York, with his mother and his crippled brother, Robert. From there this reclusive, gray man would sally forth on small voyages of discovery, scavenging for relics of the past in New York junk shops and flea markets. To others, these deposits might be refuse, but to Cornell they were the strata of repressed memory, a jumble of elements waiting to be grafted and mated to one another.
In the studio he would sort his finds into their eccentric categories - 'Spiders,' 'Moons,' and so forth - and file them with boxes of his own mementos, like love letters to Jennifer Jones and other movie stars or ballet dancers he'd never met; and from them he made boxes. He would tinker with them for years.
Object, Les Roses des Vents (below) was begun in 1942 and not finished until 1953. It is full of emblems of voyages Cornell never took, a little box of mummified waves and shrunken exotic coasts, peninsulas, planets, things set in compartments, with a drop-in panel containing twenty-one compasses, each with its needle pointing insouciantly in a different direction from that of its neighbor. Even the map on the inside of the lid, cut from some 19th-century German chart book, depicts an excessively remote coastline: that of the Great Australian Bight.
The earth is presented not as our daily habitat but as one strange planet among others, which to Cornell it was.
In recognition of their groundbreaking contributions to architecture, furniture design, manufacturing and photographic arts, designers Charles and Ray Eames will be honored this summer with a pane of 16 stamps designed by Derry Noyes of Washington, DC. Perhaps best known for their furniture, the Eameses were husband and wife as well as design partners. Their extraordinary body of creative work — which reflected the nation’s youthful and inventive outlook after World War II — also included architecture, films and exhibits. Without abandoning tradition, Charles and Ray Eames used new materials and technology to create high-quality products that addressed everyday problems and made modern design available to the American public.
Charles and Ray achieved their monumental success by approaching each project the same way: Does it interest and intrigue us? Can we make it better? Will we have "serious fun" doing it?
They loved their work, which was a combination of art and science, design and architecture, process and product, style and function. "The details are not details," said Charles. "They make the product."
A problem-solver who encouraged experimentation among his staff, Charles once said his dream was "to have people working on useless projects. These have the germ of new concepts."
Their own concepts evolved over time, not overnight. As Charles noted about the development of the Molded Plywood Chairs, "Yes, it was a flash of inspiration," he said, "a kind of 30-year flash."
With these two, one thing always seemed to lead to another. In the early 1940s, when Charles Eames was working on MGM set designs, he would return to the small apartment where he and Ray were experimenting with wood-molding techniques that would have profound effects on the design world. Their revolutionary work in molded plywood led to their breakthrough work in molded fiberglass seating. These discoveries led to a commission from the U.S. Navy in 1942 to develop plywood splints, stretchers and glider shells molded under heat and pressure.
After World War II, they adapted the technology to create inexpensive, high-quality chairs that could be mass-produced. The process eliminated the extraneous wood needed to connect the seat with the back, which reduced the weight and visual profile of the chair and established a basis for modern furniture design.
A magazine contest led to their highly innovative "Case Study" house. Their love of photography led to film making, including a huge seven-screen presentation at the Moscow World's Fair in 1959, in a dome designed by their friend and colleague, Buckminster Fuller. Graphic design led to showroom design, toy collecting to toy inventing. And a wooden plank contraption, rigged up by their friend, director Billy Wilder for taking naps, led to their acclaimed chaise design.
A design critic once said that this extraordinary couple "just wanted to make the world a better place." That they did. They also made it a lot more interesting.
:design museum; usps.
"In everything he loved magnificently lavish abundance," wrote 17th-century chronicler, the Count of Saint-Simon of France's notoriously bling-bling Sun King, Louis XIV.
From man-size silver candelabras to 770-pound silver tables and 930-pound silver mirrors, Louis XIV's chambers at the Versailles Chateau have been redecorated for a spell to serve as a reminder of the extravaganza of silver celebrated across Europe at the time.
Titled "When Versailles Was Furnished in Silver", the exhibition runs through March 9 and brings together 200 massive pieces of silverwork gathered from the collections of European royalty, a third of them from Denmark. The display design and concept is by interior designer Jacques Garcia.
"This is the first exhibition ever in the king's apartment," says Beatrix Saule, Versailles' chief curator. "It will also be the last as there'll never be anything else grand enough to place there. Our aim was to show why European royalty and visitors would rave after seeing Versailles' silver furnishings."
The silver cabinets, stools, chandeliers -- and even an indoor fountain -- are on loan not only from Denmark's Rosenborg Castle but from England's Windsors, the Prince of Hanover's Marienburg castle, the Prussian Prince's Hohenzollern, Chatsworh in Devonshire, the Esterhazy's Forchenstein, as well as from the Kremlin and the Dresden castle.
Silver, some of it from Peru, some mined in Europe, was viewed as the most prestigious metal of those times, said Saule. "Louis XIV wanted his silver to serve his image," she said. The silver pieces of furniture, so heavy they had to be carried by several men, were a sign of his power. They had to be the most beautiful, the most numerous, the most modern.
Over some two decades Louis XIV had his silver metal turned, for the first time, into very massive works of art by the finest silver-workers available, working off designs often penned by official painter Le Brun. The pieces initially travelled with the court, wrapped in leather. But when Louis XIV moved to his just-finished palace at Versailles in 1682, the silver furniture and silver tableware graced his chambers. A one-ton silver balustrade was placed around the royal bed (good night, Irene).
As reports of the opulence of the Versailles court spread across Europe, making it a benchmark of lavish living, the fashion for silver furnishings took off in other European courts, many made in the southern German city of Augsburg, some in solid metal, others plated.
The exhibition, lit by candlelight to evoke the three weekly soirees of 1,000 people hosted by the king through the long winter months, conjures up the magnificence of the court, its wining, dining and its games. But the Sun King's silver period was short-lived. Faced by war against the Augsburg coalition of countries in 1689, and short on cash, Louis XIV coolly decided to melt the furniture down to fund his troops. Estimated as having cost 10 million pounds -- the currency at the time -- to produce, the king hoped to raise six million, but actually received only two million pounds from the molten metal. This never-before-never-again exhibition brings together many of the pieces that were spared Louis' desperate efforts to refinance his troubled monarchy.
I'm surprised that those of you (you are many) with a predilection for all things mid-mod haven't yet posted about this terrific series. Perhaps you young people aren't inclined to watch AMC? Perhaps you've got a post buried somewhere and I haven't yet discovered it? Don't know. But I predict that this show—with its star, Jon Hamm—is going to rock the cazbah at upcoming awards events (or...er...announcements).
So forget for a moment that Mad Men is the best new thing on TV. What really fuels the series is pure, undiluted mid-century Manhattan Glamour. With its intoxicating styling and set design, Mad Men is a super-crisp reflection of what many New Yorkers think of as their own personal alternate universe, a place where men wear fedoras and lipstick leaves dark stamps on everything it encounters. The show is heaven for design geeks and retro romantics alike.
Don Draper (Jon Hamm - pictured just below) is an icon of male confidence—a cynic with smarts who, like so many New Yorkers, has erased his own history and learned to control the city that would swallow him up. Each day, he dominates a midtown playground, one outfitted with eight-martini lunches. Unlike, say, Entourage, Mad Men is willing to acknowledge its rat pack’s ugly streak (Don's casual insensitivity to his wife tops the list of his ugly). But thank heaven for decent character development.
Mary Corey, a lecturer at the University of California in Los Angeles who specializes in post-World War II intellectual and cultural history, said Mad Men is a dead-on depiction of the era, with its vast inequities between the sexes. “It is at the very moment that the party is almost over for American men,” she said. “It’s extremely accurate — the sadness and loneliness of the women.”
Professor Corey described the era as a “roiling mess” about to explode. “The show explains why the ’60s had to happen, because it can’t stay like that,” she said. “The surface tension is too profound.”
Bonus: A bit of John Hamm's backstory (if you don't already want to know something about this guy, give it time):
“Nothing [in Hollywood] happens without incredible luck,” says Hamm, 36, “being in the right place at the right time and taking advantage of what you have.” Times were hard (until relatively recently!) for Hamm, but he was used to it. His mother died when he was 10. His father followed 10 years later. “What my mother left me was a trust that was used to pay for my high school and a little bit for college,” he says. “And my father had nothing when he passed away. My mother—it sounds very Dickensian and romantic—but my mother’s dying wish was that I go to this particular private [high school], John Burroughs School in St. Louis because friends had gone there. I have to say it was the single most profound, resonating decision ever made in my life. It wasn’t made by me, but it’s what every mother should want for her child.”
Hamm went on to finish college with a major in English. “By the time I graduated college I managed to talk them into giving me a theater scholarship and then into hiring me to do plays ... I went back to my old high school and said, 'You’re the reason I am the person I am today and I would like to inspire other people in the way this place has inspired me.' They thought it was a good idea, and I went back and taught school there for a year under the person who had taught me acting.”
It was after he’d resolved that debt that he decided to take the tumble into show biz. “I thought, 'If I don’t do it now I’m never going to do it.' For me, I think, the idea of not doing this was way more terrifying than doing it. I couldn’t imagine the soul-rushing regret of not giving it a shot. And even had I never gotten a job and never gotten a career or any of it, I would’ve said, 'You know what? At least I was the man in the arena, at least I threw it out there and gave it a shot. I had my opportunities and I tried.'”
You go, Jon.