Good weekend, everyone. Wherever you may be.



Born in 1922, Maila Nurmi was a Finnish American actress who created the campy 1950s character Vampira. Her portrayal of this character as a television horror host and in films was influential over decades that followed.

The idea for the Vampira character was born in 1953 when Nurmi attended choreographer Lester Horton's annual Bal Caribe Masquerade in a costume inspired by a character in The New Yorker cartoons of Charles Addams. Her signature pale white skin and tight black dress caught the attention of television producer Hunt Stromberg, Jr., who wanted to hire her to host horror movies on the Los Angeles television station KABC-TV. The name Vampira was the invention of Nurmi's husband, Dean Riesner.

On April 30, 1954, KABC-TV aired a preview, Dig Me Later, Vampira. The Vampira Show premiered on the following night, May 1, 1954. As Vampira, Nurmi introduced films while wandering through a hallway of mist and cobwebs. Her horror-related comedy antics included ghoulish puns such as encouraging viewers to write for epitaphs instead of autographs and talking to her pet spider Rollo.

Nurmi died this past January.

:images retrozone via tatielle


the living and the dead

Joe Holmes shot the first of his amnh images in fall 2005, as an antidote to his obsession with New York City street photography; the darkness and languid pace of the American Museum of Natural History offered some interesting - and welcome - alternatives to Holmes's usual "city life" fare.

Three years to the day after Holmes shot the first amnh image, he returned to the museum on a whim, curious to see if those silhouettes could still hold his interest. He came away just as enthralled by the power of a simple silhouette. According to Holmes's artist statement on 20x200, he remains "fascinated by the surreal mix of living and dead, real and artificial, human and animal, and by the whimsy and wistfulness suggested by such juxtapositions."

Joe Holmes's current exhibition, under | exposed, is on view at the Wall Space Gallery in Seattle.



beautiful nightmares

Tim Burton's ingenious The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) was originally meant to be a children's book in rhyme. Inspiring, wacky and infused with Burton's gothic sensibility and unique romanticism, Nightmare is a hugely entertaining horror fable as well as a brilliant feat of moviemaking. The film was directed by Henry Selick (a veteran stop-action master) and written by Michael McDowell and Caroline Thompson, based on Burton's original story, world and characters.

Corpse Bride (2005) was Burton's second stop-motion film, featuring the voices of Johnny Depp as Victor and Helena Bonham Carter (for whom the project was specifically created) as Emily in the lead roles. Once again, Burton used his familiar style and trademarks, such as the complex interaction between light and darkness, and of being caught between two irreconcilable worlds. The film is frequently compared to Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride is often considered the spiritual successor of Nightmare. Corpse Bride received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature Film. Along with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride was one of Burton's most critically-praised movies since Nightmare.

The book, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride: An Invitation to the Wedding, is a staple of one young member of our family's library. In the foreword, Tim Burton writes about his inspiration and greatest artistic influences:

Growing up, watching monster movies, I became a huge fan of Ray Harryhausen's work: Jason and the Argonauts, the Sinbad films, 20 Million Miles to Earth. I knew his name before I knew any actor's name. Ray was, and remains, a very special artist and, watching his films, I could always feel the artistry behind his work. Like a lot of people, I was inspired by him and am where I am today in part because of him. Watching his films you were aware of the artistry, of the skill and of the love he put into his work. He managed to imbue his monsters with more emotion than most of the actors in those movies. And if they didn't have a character, then he always gave his monsters a great death scene. They always had one final dying breath and one final shake of the tail, and you always felt bad for them. Growing up, watching these monsters in pain have their own tragic death was, in a way, a form of catharsis for my adolescent self.




Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.
Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!
Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

:the witches’ spell, act IV, Scene 1 from shakespeare's macbeth; enchanting images from denise grünstein


one week away from changing america

Today, The Huffington Post published a piece by Richard Holbrooke, "Why the Nation and the World Need Barack Obama," in which Holbrooke succinctly outlines the "huge differences in positions, style and personal qualities of the two [presidential] candidates."

In addition to the heaping platefuls of media that you're consuming right now, this piece is worth taking in if you have a moment:

The winner of the presidential election will inherit a perfect storm of problems, both economic and international. He will face the most difficult opening day agenda of any president since -- and I say this quite seriously -- the man who saved the Union, Abraham Lincoln. But a more instructive precedent is 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt offered inspiring rhetoric and "bold experimentation" to a nation facing economic meltdown and a breakdown in public confidence.

For me, the choice is quite simple -- and not simply because I am, by temperament and history, a Democrat. The long and intense political campaign has revealed huge differences in positions, style and personal qualities of the two candidates. And the conclusion seems clear.

JUDGMENT. John McCain has shown throughout his career a penchant for risk-taking; in his memoirs, he proudly calls himself a gambler. His selection of Sarah Palin, a charismatic but spectacularly unqualified candidate, as his running mate, is just the most glaring of many examples of the real McCain. His bravery in combat attests to his patriotism, courage and toughness, but his judgment has been found sorely lacking time and time again over his career.

Barack Obama is tough too, but in a different way. No one should underestimate how difficult it was to travel his road, against incredible odds, to the edge of the presidency. But where McCain is impulsive and emotional, Obama is low-key and unemotional. He makes his judgments in a calm and methodical manner; McCain's impulsiveness is anathema to Obama, and rightly so; one cannot play craps with history. Having seen so many political leaders falter under pressure, I prize this ability above most others. And Barack Obama has it.

THE FINANCIAL CRISIS. The first priority will be the international financial crisis. Since the crisis hit, Obama has been calm and, indeed, presidential -- he consulted the best advisory team in the nation, weighed each course of action carefully, and then issued a series of precise, calm statements. Meanwhile, McCain veered bizarrely, issuing contradictory statements throughout the crisis, "suspending" his campaign (while continuing to campaign), and urging that the first debate be canceled (when it was all the more needed). Advantage to Obama.

FOREIGN POLICY. The most explicit differences are over Iraq, Iran and Russia. But there are deeper differences. McCain's positions, with the notable exception of climate change, suggest that he would simply try to carry out Bush policies more effectively. Obama offers a different approach to foreign policy. By starting the drawdown of combat troops from Iraq, he would change the image and policies of America immediately. By engaging Iran in talks that would cover not only the nuclear issue but other aspects of Iran's destabilizing role in the region, he would either reach agreements that lowered the dangers from Iran, or he would mobilize a stronger international coalition to isolate Iran. Either way, engaging Iran is the right policy, and it is hard to understand why Bush and McCain have continued to hold out against such an obvious policy change, which, if carried out with firmness, will not compromise America or Israel's national security.

On Russia since its invasion of Georgia, Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden (who was the first member of Congress to visit Georgia after the invasion), stress helping Georgia rebuild its economy and maintain its independence in the face of a continuing Russian campaign against it. McCain, on the other hand, wants to punish Russia by such actions as expelling them from the Group of 8. Such measures may ultimately be necessary, but they do not help Georgia survive as an independent democracy. And even after the outrage in Georgia, there are issues of common interest on which the West and Moscow must work, such as energy and climate change. This was true even during the
Cold War, and remains true today, yet McCain seems not to recognize it.

LEADERSHIP. In the end, presidential elections come down to the intangibles of leadership. The vote for president is a sort of private contract directly between each voter and his or her preferred choice. Who do you want to see on your television screen for the next four years? Who do you wish to entrust the nation's fate to?

And here again, the contrasting styles of the two men offer a clear choice between a calm and confident man and a highly emotional one, between a major change in the nation's direction and a minor one, between a combative style and a more conciliatory one. Finally, in a year when the Democrats are certain to increase their majority in both Houses, an Obama victory would offer the Democrats control of both the legislative and executive branches for the first time since 1994, and with it the possibility of legislative achievement after years of stalemate. After so many years of polarization at home and unilateralism abroad, the choice for president seems clear.

Richard Holbrooke is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the chief architect of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war in Bosnia.

:huffington post


I've not found a more sumptuous autumn still life image than this photo from Surroundings. I posted it last fall as well, but thought its loveliness worth the reprise.

Wishing you all a splendid week ahead. I'll be drifting in and out over the next few days.

:surroundings flowers


Good weekend, everyone. Wherever you may be.

:nicoliecoleee flickr



Under Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, Henry Clarke broke the mold of 50s-era, black and white propriety with powerfully alive images like this iconic photograph of Veruschka from the January 1, 1965, Vogue. The famed model strikes a dramatic pose in a kaleidoscopic, hooded Emilio Pucci caftan on the shore of Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania.

Since the early 60s, the world's most prominent photographers have worked with Vera Lehndorff under her modeling pseudonym, Veruschka. Veruschka was born in 1939 in East Prussia (now known as Kalingrad, Russia) as Vera Gottliebe Anna Gräfin von Lehndorff-Steinort.


Today, many Veruschka images are legendary. But Veruschka was not simply considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world (by Richard Avedon), she was also the visible personification of the liberation of the model from the male-dominated viewpoint of the artist.


Not unlike other performers of her era, Vera Lehndorff soon began working on the reversal of expectations of physical perfection. In 1975, Veruschka departed from the fashion industry due to disagreements with Grace Mirabella, the newly appointed editor-in-chief of Vogue. In 1985, she entered the art world, putting on a body-painting show in Tribeca; on her naked body, she was painted with different "outfits," transforming her into wild animals and several archetypes, such as film stars, dandies and gangsters. Occasionally, she still appears on catwalks.


The fashion world fosters an ongoing fascination with Veruschka's 60s persona. The makeup brand MAC sells a lipstick called Verushka (I bought my first tube circa 1992 - I'm not sure if they still make it), and there are boutiques named after her, yet she is detached from any hype. Asked if she misses the glamour of modeling, Veruschka replies, “No. I have my own drama and glamour. As long as I am here, it is not gone.”


(2.) I can't source this Vogue shot. Sorry. But the light and color are so powerful, I had to include it here. (3.) Franco Rubartelli shot this photograph in Rome for the April 1, 1969, Vogue. The print tunic and pants are both by Valentino. Veruschka also sports a two-tier hairpiece. Yes, that's a yellow Maserati Ghirli driving by in the background. (4.) Veruschka sits in a round entryway in this Henry Clarke photograph, which appeared in the November 1, 1966, Vogue. She wears a striped full-length wool coat over a striped chiffon dress, both from Valentino. (5.) Franco Rubartelli captures a futuristic yet luxurious look in this beauty shot of Veruschka, his then girlfriend, wrapped in strands of her own hair, eyelashes trimmed with sparkling stones, and face framed in Plexiglas with hanging crystals. The image appeared in the May 1, 1968, Vogue.

Mes beaux amis, I hope that Veruschka will hold your attention for a while. I'm taking another hiatus. 'Til we meet again. Obamanos!

: condé nast


bakst: orientalist fantasies

Léon Bakst was enthralled by the detail of Mughal and Persian art. Bright greens and pinks, azure and orange, yellow and chartreuse, mauve, black and gold not only produced the most dramatic stage harmonies seen to date by early 20th century audiences, but also interacted with the major artistic movements of the period.

So my Bakst infatch is going strong. Is that obvious? I'll put up a little costume and set design gallery as follow up to this post - later today if I have a moment. Gosh, Léon, ah just can't quit yew.

Thanks for bearing with me and my free associative wanderings, mes amis adorables.

Update: As promised (but without descriptive captions - those to follow), here are some more spectacular illustrations from Bakst's work for the theatre.

:(top image) costume study for nijinsky's role in la péri, 1913, watercolor, metropolitan museum of art; (second image) design for nathalie trouhanova's costume as la péri, 1911, lithograph colored by hand in watercolor, gold and silver paint, thyssen-bornemisza collection, lugano


Welcome to the brand new week. Please come in.

:denise grünstein


you're not dubya? really?

From Frank Rich's Op-Ed piece in today's NY Times:

The Bushian ethos that McCain embraced, as codified by Karl Rove, is larger than any particular vote or policy. Indeed, by definition that ethos is opposed to the entire idea of policy. The whole point of the Bush-Rove way of doing business is that principles, coherent governance and even ideology must always be sacrificed for political expediency, no matter the cost to the public good.

One journalist who detected this modus operandi early was Ron Suskind, who, writing for Esquire in January 2003, induced John DiIulio, the disillusioned chief of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, to tell all. “There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus,” DiIulio said. “What you’ve got is everything — and I mean everything — being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.”

If politics strongarm everything, you end up with the rampant cronyism, nonexistent long-term planning and abrupt, partisan policy improvisations that fed the calamities of Iraq, Katrina and the economic meltdown. Incredibly, McCain has nakedly endorsed the Bush-Rove brand of governance in his own campaign by assembling his personal set of lobbyist cronies and Rove operatives to run it. They have not only entangled him in a welter of conflicts of interest, but they’ve furthered cynical political stunts like the elevation of Sarah Palin. At least Bush and Rove didn’t try to put an unqualified hack like, say, Alberto Gonzales half a heartbeat away from the presidency.

:nytimes, barry blitt

endorsement + so much more

This morning on NBC's "Meet the Press," former Secretary of State Colin Powell crossed party lines to endorse Barack Obama for president. Powell specifically cited Senator Obama's handling of the current financial crisis, his "ability to inspire" and the "inclusive nature" of Obama's campaign as some of the reasons for his endorsement. "He has both style and substance," Powell said of Obama. "I think he is a transformational figure, he is a new generation coming onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama," Powell said. "Senator Obama displays a steadiness. He shows intellectual vigor. He has a definitive way of doing business that will do us well."

Powell said that John McCain has been a good friend for 25 years. But Powell expressed disappointment in the negative tone of McCain's campaign, as well as in his choice of Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential nominee.

"Now that we have had a chance to watch [Governor Palin] for some seven weeks, I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president," Powell said. "And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made."

And it was a refreshing surprise to hear a leading American figure rise in defense of Muslim Americans against stereotypes about their patriotism. For months, rumors have spread that Senator Obama, whose father was Kenyan, was a Muslim. In fact, the Illinois senator is a Christian. But Powell is the first high-profile leader to raise a larger question, to wonder what would be disqualifying if Obama were a Muslim American.

Telling the story of a mother at the Arlington Cemetery graveside of her 20-year-old son, Kareem Rashad Sultan Kahn, who died for his country in Iraq, Powell said the "right response" to rumors that Obama is a Muslim is not only to deny them but to expose them as bigoted and un-American.

:cnn, meet the press


Good weekend, everyone. Wherever you may be.

:sema bekirovic


hello, i must be going*

But not before I leave you with a dose of visual wonderment.

Elspeth Diederix was born in Nairobi in 1971. Although her early studies were in painting and sculpture, she found photography to be a more effective vehicle for her creative expression. Diederix deliberately abstains from the use of digital manipulation techniques; she achieves her whimsical special effects through manual intervention. Optical illusion, false perspective, mixing color and form - Diederix applies these painting techniques to her photographic images.

* Which Marx Brothers film features this lyric?

Hello, I must be going,
I cannot stay, I came to say, I must be going.
I’m glad I came, but just the same, I must be going.

The first correct (or witty - or both) response wins a prize!
('Tis the season, you know.)

:elspeth diederix


batman vs. penguin: the debate

Holy Maverick, Batman! This is uncanny.



ms. steinem & friend

Today's Pop Culture Nostalgia Tour takes us way back to 1972, when Wonder Woman graced the premier cover of Ms. magazine. The banner headline read: Wonder Woman for President. Gloria Steinem wrote one of the cover stories for the same issue, "Women Voters Can't Be Trusted."

In the article, Steinem refuted many assumptions that men in politics made about women voters, including the following: [women] consider politics a male province, and so are less likely to get into the process, to form political opinions, or to vote at all; black women are less concerned than white women with issues of sex discrimination, and more turned off by the Women's Liberation Movement as a whole; women are more conservative than men, and possibly even more violent and vengeful ("the real haters," as Richard Nixon once put it).


Ms. Steinem went on to quote pollster Louis Harris who summarized findings from two (recent-at-the-time) studies of women voters. "Women are voting differently from men," Mr. Harris said. "They are more inclined now to vote and to become active not only for their own self-interest, but for the interest of society, the world, and most of all, out of compassion for humanity."

Even if Wonder Woman didn't or wouldn't get your vote (what's wrong with you?), you gotta admit, her 1970s TV theme song wins the Awesomest-Lyric-of-Ever Award, hands down. I mean, you just can't
beat this:

"Wonder Woman" by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox

Wonder Woman!
Wonder Woman!

All the world is waiting for you,
And the power you possess.
In your satin tights,
Fighting for your rights,
And the old Red, White and Blue.

Wonder Woman!
Wonder Woman!

Now the world is ready for you,
And the wonders you can do.
Make a hawk a dove,
Stop a war with love,
Make a liar tell the truth.

Wonder Woman!
Get us out from under, Wonder Woman.

All our hopes are pinned on you
And the magic that you do.
Stop a bullet cold,
Make the axis fold,
Change their minds,
And change the world.

Wonder Woman!
Wonder Woman!

You're a wonder, Wonder Woman!

:ms. magazine; © dc comics; © alex ross


visionaries: léon bakst

Léon Bakst (1866-1924) was born in Russia, but spent most of his artistic career in Paris. In 1898, he co-founded the World of Art (Mir Iskusstva) group. He then went on to establish a reputation as a portraitist. In 1902, he switched his artistic focus and devoted himself completely to stage design. Bakst is best known for his work as a costume and set designer for Diaghliev’s Ballets Russes.

The costume (above) is made of fine silks - lustrous satin, sheer chiffon and plush velvet - and is finished with a finely pleated frill on the bodice, thin blue ribbon, marabou feathers and hand-painting. This combination of luxurious fabrics and judicious detailing is evident in all of the 300 costumes which Bakst designed for The Sleeping Princess. The effect was overwhelmingly sumptuous.

Costume for the English Prince in The Sleeping Princess, 1921.

The Sleeping Princess is a familiar fairy story of how good vanquishes evil. After sleeping for 100 years, the Princess is finally awoken by the handsome Prince, and her wedding takes place in the last act. There are many guests at the celebration and the Bluebird, wearing this elaborate costume, dances a pas de deux. The doublet of royal blue and pale blue satin was worn with matching tights. It is intricately detailed with imitation pearls, jewels and appliqué.

Carnival, first performed in 1910, was revived by Colonel W. de Basil's Russian Ballet company during the 1930s. The costume for Chiarina, which reflects her youthful joy, was re-made according to Bakst's original design. The ruffled crinoline skirt is faithful to the designer's concept; however, the bodice differs slightly from the 1910 drawing.

:theatre museum, victoria and albert museum, © v & a picture library; national gallery of australia, canberra

vespucci's predecessor

In honor of Columbus Day (U.S. holiday today), I thought it appropriate to share some Spanish and Italian Vogue goodness. Courtesy of photography wizards Steven Meisel and Eugenio Recuenco.

Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo) (1451-1506) was an Italian explorer who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, hoping to find a route to India. He made a total of four trips to the Caribbean and South America during the years 1492-1504.

The First Trip:
Columbus sailed for King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Spain. On his first trip, Columbus led an expedition with three ships, the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria (captained by Columbus), and about 90 crew members. They set sail on Aug. 3, 1492 from Palos, Spain, and on October 11, 1492, spotted the Caribbean islands off southeastern North America. They landed on an island they called Guanahani, but Columbus later renamed it San Salvador. They were met by the local Taino Indians, many of whom were captured by Columbus's men and later sold into slavery. Columbus thought he had made it to Asia, and called this area the Indies, and called its inhabitants Indians. Columbus returned to Spain in the Niña, arriving on March 15, 1493.

The Second Trip:
On a second, larger expedition (1493-1496), Columbus sailed with 17 ships and 1,500 men to find gold and capture Indians as slaves in the Indies. Columbus sailed along the length of southern Cuba. He spotted and named the island of Dominica on November 3, 1493.

The Third Trip:
On a third expedition (1498-1500), Columbus sailed farther south, to Trinidad and Venezuela (including the mouth of the Orinoco River). Columbus was the first European since the Viking Leif Ericsson to set foot on the mainland of America.

The Fourth Trip:
On this last expedition (1402-1504), Columbus sailed to Mexico, Honduras and Panama (in Central America) and Santiago (Jamaica).

Did you know? Columbus is buried in eastern Hispaniola (now called the Dominican Republic).

:eugenio recuenco, steven meisel