Main

November 7, 2009

Swingin'

When you pause to appreciate it, New York city hosts more amazing opportunities for fun than a person can take in in a lifetime. I had a fantastic time dancing for hours with a great guy one recent Saturday at the Edison Ballroom in midtown. The sounds of Joe Battaglia's Big Band that we danced to were smoooooooth. 

Food at the Edison Ballroom is amazing and the service solicitous. It was a stormy night when I went, traffic was horrendous and all the garages were full. The contrast of a great time, once landed, was that much better.

November 21, 2008

Girl Power

Hugely successful and hilarious relationship advice book “He's Just Not That Into You” might not be what you would expect from the no-punches pulled title. Even Autumn (the kitty) loved it, as you can see, although like many of us females, you can tell she found the information thought-provoking, in some ways distressing and also illuminating.

He's Just Not That Into You

The essence of the book is that women deserve better treatment than what they are often getting in modern relationships, primarily while dating but also applied to lackluster marriages. Comedian author Greg Behrendt and co-author Liz Tuccillo wrote for Sex and the City, which had an episode that spawned this book. The book is laugh out loud funny and written in a great style. But the serious message is not to accept less than you know you deserve and that if you do, you are keeping yourself from the greatness that waits for you. It's a very pro-female book. And while women might sometimes treat men badly too in relationships, it is a uniquely female trait to be overly solicitous to men who have not earned that honor.

Countless examples that most women will relate to of guys who say one thing and do another are given, such as a guy saying "Oh, wow, we really have to hang out," and then never calling or only calling last minute etc. etc. The book says not to give this guy another thought but just to move on whereas lots of women will ponder and agonize over why he would have said he was interested and then not act on it. This book is like having a blunt parent who adores you telling you, "Honey, that is just not what you deserve. And don't you already really know it too?" Once you pick up on the concept, it truly is freeing and you do feel empowered to only have great relationships in your life. Some traditional dating beliefs are espoused, such as that men need to pursue women and not vice versa. Almost all relationship experts agree on this point, powerful modern free-thinking women notwithstanding. This is great reading for any women you care about who aren't in fantastic relationships.

October 10, 2008

Grace of My Heart

Grace of My Heart is a killer song by Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach and a brilliant movie by director Allison Anders from 1996 that traces the roots of modern music from New York's 1950s Brill Building up to the 1970s.

Grace of My Heart

Illeana Douglas stars as Denise Waverly aka Edna Buxton in Grace of My Heart

Unique and masterful actress Illeana Douglas stars as a female singer/songwriter in an era that champions only guy grouups initially. She becomes a songwriter and the story follows her life through different musical eras and personal highs and lows. A music lover's dream, all the music for the movie is original and written by people who were either performing during the times and in some cases their children (Louise Goffin, daughter of Carole King and Gerry Goffin). Larry Klein, producer and ex-husband to Joni Mitchell, produced all the music and has a small part as a record producer in the film. Other stars include John Tuturro and Matt Dillon, both giving stellar performances. One of my all-time favorite movies and soundtracks. (Note stellar singing by Kristen Vigard.)

In the superior commentary by director Allison Anders, she notes that Ileana Douglas' lipstick and nail polish in the scene above were created to match the 1960s recording studio sound baffling exactly — the type of design touch that makes this movie a thrill to watch as well as to listen to.

September 18, 2008

Progress

Bramwell is a BBC series from 13 years ago (1995) that explores the courageous life of a female doctor in 1895 named Eleanor Bramwell.

Bramwell

This series is captivating. I defy anyone to say that progress has not been made after taking in this series. No matter how dire our current world, we have made strides we usually take for granted. A female physician was extraordinarily rare in 1895 and was frowned upon. It was said that women had smaller brains and weren't equipped to be doctors. Diseases were shushed, operations were undertaken with risky anesthesia (a miraculous invention in itself), racial divides were enormous and squallor and sickness were rampant and misunderstood. A highly recommended show for historical interest, perspective and great period settings.

September 12, 2008

Visionaries and Pioneers

Igor Sikorsky was a pioneer in the development of the helicopter and is the founding father and namesake of the firm Sikorsky Aircraft, my client.

Sikorsky Aircraft

Sikorsky is one of the leaders in modern helicopter flight and development. They carry out dramatic rescues and supply the military with much of their aircraft. Sikorsky is one of United Technology Corporation's seven firms, all of whom produce impressive equipment. The UTC corporation companies are an intelligent group, exceptionally so. Having worked with them for several years now, Sikorsky places extreme value on learning and education. They pay for employees' continuing education of any kind and encourage employees to take whatever courses they might be interested in, both internally and externally, including advanced degrees. Igor's seeking spirit continues in the people who work in his firm today.

August 25, 2008

Eye Contact

Been thinking a lot lately about relationships and what makes them work well or, in other words, what is a “well designed” relationship.

Eye Contact

People who look others directly in the eye, without flinching, and enable you to feel that you are in that moment being seen and listened to are keen. I was reminded of this likable trait by something I heard today. And since I've been doing a lot of thinking about people lately, what with refreshing summer gatherings, both business and social rendezvous, I was struck by this comment — direct eye contact is a great thing. As much as we need each other, we are often scared and uncertain and avoid this simple unspoken means of communication. Go for it.

July 31, 2008

Sonia Delaunay: Living in Color

Sonia Delaunay created dazzlingly colorful paintings, textiles and household items.

Colorful art of Sonia Delaunay

Sonia Delaunay was initially a painter but became increasingly attracted by color itself and designed fashion and other items, including a great deck of cards. Robert Delaunay, her husband, also created compatible beautiful paintings, viewable at the Guggenheim here in New York. Another great husband/wife meeting of the minds. They must have been incredible inspirations to each other.

Perhaps one of the first really modern designers, working in the early decades of the last century but active until her passing in 1979, Sonia unleashed her wild colors on dresses, cutlery and created the first neon sculpture. She was friends with great artists and supported by many art movements such as the Surrealists, Dadaists and Futurists. She collaborated with Coco Chanel and Sergei Diaghilev. Her fluid movement from everyday items to “high” art appeals to my sense that art should trickle into all aspects of life, making existence richer, more fun, more intense, more thoughtful and more colorful.

July 27, 2008

Blue Hydrangeas

blue hydrangeas

 

 

 

Artist Marisa Repeta painted this dreamy image of Blue Hydrangeas with beautiful color interplay. See more.

July 5, 2008

Picasso Face II

Autumn might be a partial reincarnation of Pablo Picasso.

Picasso Face II

Wednesday night at an informative seminar at Tekserve, Manhattan's best Mac store, I saw the great Apple ad poster on the right above featuring Picasso and — I know I'm a little obsessed but — I thought that Picasso looked a lot like Autumn, the kitty. It makes sense; they are both maniac geniuses (and I don't use that word lightly). And this is after having made the post below, previously calling her “Picasso Face” — note yellow swatch on Picasso painting separating the profile and head-on view and on Autumn's face down the middle too.

Picasso Face

So she is both muse and spirit of the creator; pretty good. If Autumn wasn't such a perfect name for her, I'd rename her Picasso. I guess it'll just have to be a nickname.

June 28, 2008

Experiencing Books

There is an interesting project called “Field Tested Books.”

Books You've Experienced
Compiling people's impressions of experiences they had when reading a certain book — the way a song brings back a time and place where you heard it — is this project's focus. I'm going to cheat and give you an example, since apparently most of the contributors are such superb writers, it's astonishing. Here's a tiny excerpt from Ben Karlin's contribution. This snippet isn't about the book he experienced (Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead) but is just great writing that made me laugh out loud. His humor totally fits my mood of the day.

“The story of Lot’s wife is one of the most resonant in the Bible — since all she had to do was not look back, and she wouldn’t have been turned to salt. But isn’t that just like a human, to not do what they are told? To look when they are supposed to turn away? Humans. What are you going to do about them? Turn them into salt, I guess.”

June 26, 2008

More Eyeball Jazz

Jim Flora, the artist mentioned yesterday, deserves plenty of air time.

Jim Flora angry pedestrian This angry pedestrian cracks me up. The website that has been created to honor his work is exceptionally beautifully designed. Flora's mixture of action, humor, style, color, childlike fantasy and lots of music imagery is right on. He was a successful illustrator in addition to creating dozens of album covers. He also designed many children's books, which is one of the first things I wondered, as his style is perfect for it and reminds me of the children's book illustrators who have been my favorite designers since I first became entranced with graphic design and started working in the field, such as Richard McGuire.

Jim Flora illustrations

T-shirts with some of his great art on them are available. Fine art prints of some images are also available and worth owning.

June 23, 2008

The Island of the Color Blind

Oliver Sacks is probably my favorite living nonfiction author, although his stories have the action, drama and intrigue of a good thriller. He is “An investigator of the mind's mysteries, in a class by himself,” says Publisher's Weekly.

Books by Oliver Sacks

A few of Oliver Sacks' entrancing books:
The Island of the Colorblind
, Migraine, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

For anyone who doesn't know his work, Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who writes like a poet. Some of his books, all true stories, have been made into movies, such as Awakenings, starring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro, directed by Penny Marshall and At First Sight, starring Mira Sorvino and Val Kilmer. Dr. Sacks' brilliance and impact is because he is a scientist who looks at his subjects like an artist, thereby allowing developments and conclusions that others might miss.

The Island of the Color Blind focuses on the tiny Pacific atoll of Pingelap, where Dr. Sacks traveled, spurred on by reports of an isolated community of islanders born totally colorblind. Dr. Sacks set up a clinic in a one-room dispensary, where he listened to these achromatopic islanders describe their colorless world in rich terms of pattern and tone, luminance and shadow. The adage that “when one door closes, another one opens” happens neurologically also. People with extreme limitations in one area often seem to develop or be granted extreme capabilities in another area. Apart from the innate intrigue of the subjects Dr. Sacks covers, his studies provide profound awe at the depth of the human spirit and appreciation of the scientist's acceptance that people are not just a set of physical facts.

Speaking of islands, Oliver Sacks used to live here on City Island. It said on the back of one of his books, "Oliver Sacks lives on City Island where he swims and grows ferns.“ It was, in fact, one of the three things that introduced me to City Island and made me curious what such a place in the midst of New York City could be. Alas, he had already moved off when I moved on.

Oliver Sacks' latest book is Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. It “examines the extreme effects of music on the human brain and how lives can be utterly transformed by the simplest of harmonies.” I can't wait to read it. Also worth reading are Seeing Voices and A Leg to Stand On, one of my favorites.

Books by the fascinating Oliver Sacks

If you believe that there is inherent value in people, you will like the writing of Dr. Sacks. If you are interested in unusual neurological occurrences, you will like the writing of Dr. Sacks. If you are an artist who knows that the unseen and the seen are two sides of a coin, you will like the writing of Dr. Sacks. If you enjoy a good thriller, stories with surprising conclusions, you will like the writing of Oliver Sacks. In short, if there is anything in which you are interested within the depths of human nature, you will find Oliver Sacks' tales well worth your time.

June 22, 2008

The Other

20th century philosopher and theologian Martin Buber wrote I and Thou, which I read and loved in college, presenting insightful thoughts on how we encounter other people (and God). He discusses empathy, seeing from the other's point of view, trying to think from the inside of another person and to get outside yourself. It made a powerful impact on me and I think about it often.

I and Thou Now, I've found another book that takes this concept into the context of romantic relationships: Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages. While Mr. Chapman's book is intended for practical application (call it self help if you want) and Buber's is considered a great scholarly work, I see interesting crossover.

Five Love Languages

 

 

 

 

 

 
The Five Love Languages asserts that there are five primary ways people “speak” love and that knowing the primary way of your loved one is the key to a successful long-term relationship. Conversely, not knowing the primary love language of your mate is as frustrating and relationship killing as if you didn't speak their verbal language. The author believes that this is why so many marriages fail. It's a good metaphor.

The five primary love languages are:

  1. Words of Affirmation (affirming the other person's worth to you in regular simple statements)
  2. Quality Time (doing things to be together and create shared experiences)
  3. Gifts (tokens of thoughtfulness; can be free)
  4. Acts of Kindness (favors that mean much more to some people than the time they take)
  5. Physical Touch (the interaction of human touch and physical closeness)

Within each of these primary “languages” are countless “dialects,” so, for instance, if Quality Time is a person's primary mode, their preferred method of conversation could be needing to be listened to — i.e., as opposed to more active discussions. The nuances are complex but the idea is simple and powerful and explains — and could solve — a lot of relationship problems. Mr. Chapman, who is a long-time marriage counselor, says that rarely if ever do two people in a couple share the same primary love language; that is not what matters; what matters is finding out what language your loved one speaks and learning how to speak it, which will not come naturally if it isn't your primary one.

An example he gives is Bob and Tracy. Tracy likes symphonies and Bob grew up listening to country music on the radio and would be very happy never to go to a symphony in his life; he think symphonic music is elevator music. However, Tracy's primary love language is Quality Time and she loves to go to the symphony. So Bob willingly goes to the symphony throughout their marriage. Bob never learns to love the symphony, although he comes to like it more but he sure learns how to love Tracy.

I think this approach could work with friends as well as mates. Grasping how your friends are focused and learning to “speak their language” can only lead to more harmonious relationships. Only thing is it's relatively easy to figure out your mate's primary language once you think about how they've acted over the time you've known them. People you don't know as well may be harder to figure out. You can ask, though. No reason it needs to be kept a secret.

June 20, 2008

Designing a New Life

The Delancey Street Project

What's an even bigger challenge than designing a successfully balanced and beautiful piece of furniture, a well-functioning piece of equipment, a building or a whole city? I would say it's designing a new life. The Delancey Street Project helps people do exactly that and has helped thousands of people for over 30 years through the courageous and inspired vision of founder Mimi Silbert.

Delancey Street Foundation

Two of the six gorgeous locations Delancey Street has acquired all through the efforts of its own work. Pictured here are their New York and Los Angeles properties. Below: founder Mimi Silbert with her dog, Amnesty.

Delancey Street Founder Mimi Silbert“We are a community where people with nowhere to turn, turn their lives around.”

Delancey Street is one of those places that gives you hope. Hope for individuals considered lost causes. Hope for the world. Hope for your own problems and those of the people you love. Delancey Street welcomes criminals considered past being able to be helped and 14,000+ times has aided them in turning their lives around.

Similar to 12 step programs in several aspects, while life at Delancey Street is hard work, it goes against some usual consensus on how to turn failure into success. The program doesn't focus on “why” someone has been a repeat criminal; instead, it simply allows them to do things that help them change.

Delancey Street puts people to work. They have an upscale restaurant, a thriving moving company and several other extremely successful businesses, all run by people considered the bottom of the work rung and economic ladder, who have come to them as a last resort. They own six gorgeous properties at this point. Their businesses, run 100% by their residents, bring in millions of dollars of revenue each year. Proof once again that anything is possible with focus, determination and a sprinkling of grace.

June 16, 2008

Fake It Till You Make It

“Fake it till you make it” is an approach advocated by 12 step programs and other smart people.

Change or Die

The intense admonition above is the title of a powerful book by Alan Deutschman. Mr. Deutschman wrote for Fast Company, among other publications and knows a lot about what makes companies successful or not. Focusing on several astounding people and businesses, the book discusses what it takes to initiate and stick with profound change, in a company or an individual. The first scenario is about heart patients, who are often told that if they don't stop doing what they're doing (eating the wrong foods, being overweight etc.), they are literally going to die. Mr. Deutschman discusses how fear and threats really don't motivate people, even when the fear is of dying in a short amount of time.

So what does actually motivate people? The author summarizes what works to create profound change, which he says is to “Relate, Repeat, Reframe” — a little hard to hold onto but it captures the concepts needed for 180 degree change. Examples of lifelong criminals becoming millionaire businessmen and many inspiring stories are covered. We've probably all had an occasion where we've begged someone to do something good for them and it doesn't matter. Begging doesn't work. So if you or a loved one is having a very hard time changing in an important area, this book is a great gift.

The Happy Hypocrite

“Fake it till you make it” is mentioned in Change or Die as one step that can be part of a successful path. Fantastic writer and illustrator Max Beerbohm's grown-up fairy tale from the 1920s, The Happy Hypocrite, is all about faking it till you're making it (hence the title). You can find the full text online and read it in an hour or so. My parents used to both quote this story to me whenever I felt really blocked. It moves me to tears because while the story is a fairy tale, the message is the same as Change or Die: that your life is at stake with the decisions you make and that you can be who you want to be, no matter what, no matter where, no matter when. You can buy an out of print copy of this masterpiece still.

June 8, 2008

Eye Opening

Small portraits of a lover's single eye were carried by people in the 18th century.

Eye Portraits

 

 

The eye portraits were symbolic of “keeping an eye” on a carefully guarded love, as well as a warm reminder of the person's presence. The watchful eye suited jealous suitors, male and female. These paintings were tiny and set in lockets, brooches, rings or small boxes. Eerie and cool both.

June 3, 2008

Tenacity

Tenacity is a trait I admire. The Oxford Dictionary defines tenacious as:

adjective
1
holding firmly to something.
2
persisting in existence or in a course of action.

Tenacious Doggie

Longer definitions give rise to further musings. Dictionary.com says tenacious means:

1.holding fast; characterized by keeping a firm hold (often fol. by of): a tenacious grip on my arm; tenacious of old habits.
2.highly retentive: a tenacious memory.
3.pertinacious, persistent, stubborn, or obstinate.
4.adhesive or sticky; viscous or glutinous.
5.holding together; cohesive; not easily pulled asunder; tough.

When talking to a man who owns a company that I do a lot of work with today, I told him he was tenacious. He held onto a client recently and wouldn't let go, despite numerous reasons to. They fumbled, they were uncertain, they were unclear, they were confusing and much more. Yet he held his ground. I am in awe and yet I know I would have walked away, even though I believe I will try hard to make things work. It made me think about what we all want from work and from life. To me, work has to be rewarding as well as a success in the eyes of the client. I want both. To only be successful for the client is ultimately not enough for me and to only be rewarding for me defies the whole point of providing a useful service. Still, I love tenacity and strive to have more, as it appears that the rewards are great.

May 26, 2008

Petaholic

Autumn is an “easy” girl and has her way with pretty much everyone who visits.

Jodi and Autumn

Here she is “allowing” my friend Jodi to pet her endlessly. Most visitors say something like, “Yup, cats love me,” in response to Autumn's enthusiastic rubbing, licking, rolling over and purring. And Autumn does love them all. She's a petaholic. I like the way she's sticking her legs straight out in front here; she looks like a leaping reindeer. But she's not going anywhere as long as Jodi keeps up the massage therapy.

May 24, 2008

Fine Furnishings Bloom in Rhode Island

Red Elephant Gallery, which carries my rugs in their online store, calls home base Bristol, Rhode Island. They sell beautiful handmade designs ranging from striking affordable jewelry to tactile-friendly goblets and more.

Items available at Red Elephant Gallery

Above, from Red Elephant Gallery: copper and brass wine glasses by Morningstar and pewter handcrafted salad servers by Michael Michaud

Red Elephant Gallery is a great place to find gifts (and things for yourself) because items are unusual, beautiful, often functional and reasonably priced. You usually won't find their offerings at larger design resources. Speaking with Karen, the owner, today, she told me about another furniture fair that may be a welcome opportunity to display my new rug line: the Fine Furnishings Show, which takes place annually in Milwaukee and this October in Providence. I am excited to learn about this potential showcase, which introduces diverse designs for the home. There's a lot of talent blooming in the design world. After attending ICFF last week, it's nice to know that more lies in wait. I'd love a trip to Providence and it looks like there's one in my future.

Fine Furnishings Show in Providence

Above, bench by Todd Ouwehand and large sideboard by Frank Procopio

May 23, 2008

The Calling

What is your calling? Do you feel compelled to be the best tennis player, doctor, accountant, magician, scientist, artist, lawyer, crossword puzzle solver, computer programmer, dancer or expert on the effects of the same food eaten for 200 days straight? Or do you wonder if you have a calling at all?

What is your calling?

Passion, which is akin to a calling, is a fascinating thing to me. I love people who feel passionately and my gut tells me that even if a passion is fleeting, the momentum it carries will lead to good things (assuming it's not a self-destructive passion, which is a whole other direction). Where does this fire come from? And how do you honor it when you feel its call? I think one key is not being afraid to stumble because stumble you will, no matter how talented, how smart, how graceful or gifted. And in the stumbling, you will learn a lot and it will set you on your right way. I'm beginning to think that being great and failing are almost the same thing. How curious. Curious and curioser — so says Alice from Wonderland, who, as we know, had a lot on the ball.

May 16, 2008

“Websites for You
and Your Best Friend Too”

This has been my graphic design firm, Nonlinear nyc Inc.'s, ad campaign for about a year and a half now. These small ads appear in The Island Current (no website), our local paper that sells for $1 (the price is right) and gets read avidly by residents.

Nonlinear nyc Inc. Graphic Design

Nonlinear nyc Inc. Graphic Design and Communications

Nonlinear nyc Inc.'s mini ad campaign

A new ad will be running in the June issue, as seen bottom row, above left, plus a sneak peek at a future fourth in the series. It's fun to look at them as a group now that there are several. Designing ads, like any other specific item, has its own challenges and constraints. These have to be in black and white, I can only afford a small ad and what looks good on its own may or may not look good when seen in the context of a busy newspaper page. One tip someone gave me when I first started designing ads was to cut out your design and place it in the magazine or newspaper in which it will appear. You don't usually have control over the page on which they'll run your ad so you don't know if there will be white space or competing imagery right next to you. The people who lay out the papers have a hard job fitting all the ads in different sizes with clashing artwork in each issue. Nevertheless, it's a lot of fun to see yourself in print and it always will be, online media boom and from which I make the majority of my living notwithstanding.

May 15, 2008

Le Chat

To celebrate the jubilee (60 years of design!) of Pierre Paulin, manufacturer Artifort has reissued more of his amazing work. Le Chat chair is one such item.

Pierre Paulin's Le Chat Chair

From the offering: Paulin designed Le Chat in 1967. Its tense curves seem to leap from a single point. Drawn with a single stroke of the pen. Without hesitation. You can feel the power, the readiness to leap. But it also invites you to sit. It’s fully shaped to your body. Dynamic and restful. Artifort is re-introducing Le Chat, with a slight modification.

With a name like Le Chat (the cat), how could this brilliantly simple chair not be beautiful, playful, graceful, dynamic and restful all together?

May 8, 2008

Moving Through Space: Visionary Frank Lloyd Wright

Larger than life architect Frank Lloyd Wright had a chaotic personal life yet created soothingly organized architecture and designs.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum

Frank Lloyd Wright's dramatic Guggenheim Museum interior, designed when he was in his 80s

I popped his logo on the image above because as a graphic designer, it's something with which I'm so familiar and I love it. His architectural handwriting has been made into gorgeous typefaces by several prominent type foundries.

Frank Lloyd Wright's personal life created scandals in his time (wouldn't as much so now, although he wasn't an easy guy) but his driving passion for work outwitted and outlasted his personal turmoil. His life would be splashed all over tabloids today. He was a flamboyant and unique man.

Frank Lloyd Wright chairStructures should come out of nature, he believed, and blend with it and he accomplished this in a way no one else has done, almost like a poet to my mind. Although I find his continuous earth tones to be too monotonous, I still love much of the design, both architectural and in the countless other items he designed. He designed everything inside the house as well and a client had to conform to his dictates or they could not have his house. He designed furniture, tableware, lighting and even one hostess' dress. Numerous “in the style of” designs have been spawned by present-day manufacturers.

He went through long periods of disfavor but was most successful from age 70 to 90, a true artist in his approach to life. Asked how he could work so hard in his later years, he said he could shake the designs out of his sleeve and couldn't get them out fast enough. He hit his full stride at a time in his life when some people have "turned in.” One worker described him as “200% alive.”

His Imperial Hotel in Japan was the only building in the city that survived a massive earthquake right after it was completed. The building had been constructed of  non-standard materials and as an engineer, Wright had calculated that earthquakes were regular occurrences in Tokyo.

Here is a link to a beautiful new structure created 50 years later from an unbuilt Wright design. 

May 6, 2008

Self and Shadow

Conversations between dark and light, shadow and person take place visually and psychologically in the intriguing art of Nadine Gordon-Taylor.

Nadine Gordon-Taylor ArtAt left: “IMAX Shadow” in oil

Ms. Taylor places her own shadow in all her art, giving a new dimension to the work. I love the additional layer of the painted frame in the image at left, something she did in one series.

I had the good fortune to meet the artist at the Flat Iron Gallery this past weekend. She is as interesting as her art. I confessed that I love the images that show cats too and she told me about her cat, Matisse, pictured in the two acrylics below. She currently has five cats and I think one dog.

Technically adept, her work is influenced by concepts of how we hide and show our dark and light sides — very interesting and thought-provoking, besides being visually stimulating — a substantial creative journey.

Art by Nadine Gordon-Taylor

L to R: “99 & 100% Pure” and “To Sleep Perhaps to Dream” by Nadine Gordon-Taylor

 

May 3, 2008

Significant Type

What's in a typeface? Designers have heartfelt answers.

wandering into type


A documentary called Helvetica has come out. The title has made most people I've mentioned it to laugh, which indicates how many people are familiar with the Helvetica typeface, for one thing. If a movie came out that was called Baskerville, just as a random example, the title would elicit a blank response from most non-designers. Like the designers interviewed, I can go on a long road talking about type and have a strong view on Helvetica too. I'm of the “not” school. I love sans serif (without curly edges) type but admire so many other typefaces more (Futura, Univers and newer creations such as Agenda). What's really eye-opening about the film, though, is that it shows how ubiquitous this one face has become. 

Designers tend to be word conscious. Most graphic designers love the power of words; they are communicators, not just image creators. The iconic practitioners speaking in this film (Neville Brody, Paula Scher, Erik Spiekermann, Massimo Vignelli, Jonathan Hoefler, Tobias Frere-Jones and many others) made me realize that part of the clout (good and bad) of Helvetica is that you don't notice it specifically as type. It's purposely in the background.

One person pointed out that advertising lures people in by creating a mood first and then delivering its “sell” punch. Helvetica is unobtrusive so you may not know “what hit you,” aiding the sometimes subversive nature of ads and perhaps making mega corporations seem innocuous when they can be perceived as diabolical. This doesn't mean you can't play with it, as you can with any typeface. (I did my part above and incorporated part of the art from one of my rug designs designs inside the main word.)

“In favor” users love that it doesn't get in the way of a message. Artists who dislike it see it as lifeless, unimaginative and bland. It is used for hundreds of corporate identity systems; I love to create corporate identities but want them to have personality; the Helvetica solution is a cop-out, to my way of thinking. The movie shows countless varying examples of the type being used. It does a good job of covering contrary viewpoints, although I suspect creator/director Gary Hustwit falls in the “I like it” camp.

If you never thought about the power of typography, this is an eye-opening and amusing piece. And if you think about it all the time, as I do, it still opens your mind to some new and worthwhile ideas, many of which are complex and surprising.

May 1, 2008

Sultry Salsa in Brooklyn

Unexpectedly last night, I took a Salsa dance class in Brooklyn.

Salsa in Brooklyn So no one was wearing outfits like these nippers in class, which was a fun and motley crew of grownups. But still, the vibe is there. The teacher is spunky and awesome. My friend was taking the class and I drove him there. He said I was welcome to watch and I LOVE dancing so I thought I would. One thing led to another. The teacher, who is great at pulling people in, said I was welcome to take part. It would never have occurred to me otherwise, especially since my footwear of the moment was platform slides — so I took them off and did the class barefoot.

it's funny because I just read an article about the benefits of going barefoot yesterday. I think you can spin better with thin dance soles but having read this article definitely helped me not feel so weird taking a dance class in bare feet. All in all a great night's fun.

Go spin for yourself:

For Salsa Dance Classes call: 347-628-5883

Location: 259 Smith Street in Brooklyn

Private classes are also available. By the way, there are dozens of amazing! restaurants on this strip of Smith Street too. Savoia is one of them.

April 29, 2008

Personal Interior Design

Interior design is something about which I am passionate.

Color Addict Interior Design

At left: One wall in the living room of my apartment on the Upper West Side in nyc

Going through the process of updating my rug website and gearing up for business in that endeavor, I've added an interior design section to the site. Friends and colleagues have encouraged me for a while to do this. Interiors I've designed so far include my own and a couple for friends, okay, boyfriend victims if you must know. But they've gone over with much success and I've gotten comments from almost everyone who's ever walked into my places about loving the design. Comments come from incredibly diverse sorts of people too, men and women, kids even, construction workers, movers, painters, former cops, building workers, teachers, artists and all sorts of people. This has led me to believe that I might have something useful to contribute to this industry.

Besides my addiction to color and also texture, the main focus of my design approach when working with other people is to think about their lives. It's very much like graphic design in that you are adding your own touch to the work but it's the client and their goals that need to remain primary. With interior design, what's fun and rewarding is that, with my approach, you help the person see what makes them happy in life. I don't mean what objects make them happy, although those count too but what ways of moving through their places work for them. It's a psychological uncovering of many aspects of who they are. They might find out that what they thought they liked in terms of interiors doesn't actually make them happy or function well in their lives at all. They might be just copying something they grew up with and got used to, for instance. More to come.

April 24, 2008

Juicy Designs: Orange Slices

In addition to the Tulip Chair mentioned in the last entry, great designer Pierre Paulin also created the Orange Slice Chair.

Pierre Paulin's Orange Slice Chair

Pierre Paulin's designs are as fresh as their namesakes, created circa 1965. They are available in heavenly colors and top quality fabrics at hive modern. I dream of being able to furnish a place with lots of his chairs.

Tulip Inspiration

White tulips might be my favorite flower.

Tulips as Inspiration

L to R: white tulip, tulip sleeve, the Little Tulip stool by Pierre Paulin

Ironic that it's the white that knocks me out the most since their varied colors are also magnificent. The pristine white flowers with their brilliant green petals slay me. They look 1930s to me in white, with their dignified grace and elegance and they seem debonair, to go well with cocktails and an expansive nightime city view. Seeing similar design inspiration used with greatly differing results is fun and gets your design imagination going. When I saw the tulip sleeves above, very pretty, I remembered how much I love the Pierre Paulin tulip chairs. Available as a stool or chair, in a larger model and with an ottoman, the chairs do the flower justice.

“A chair should be more than simply functional. It should be friendly, fun and colorful.” — Pierre Paulin

April 23, 2008

Elephant's Memory

Elephants are large-brained creatures and are reputed to have good memories, besides being really cute. When I was a kid, I used to repeatedly make elephants in Shop class (aka woodworking class).

Charles & Rae Eames' Playful Elephant

The Eames Plywood Elephant is considered a legend by collectors. Only two prototypes were produced in 1945, both of which were subsequently displayed in an exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art. Charles and Ray Eames were fascinated by these gentle giants.


While I really love my Shop class elephants, I have to admit that they weren't quite as cool as the charming and graceful Charles & Ray Eames elephant pictured above. For my non-designer friends, the Eames are a famous design couple (Ray is the woman) who worked mid-century and whose furniture and useful accessories are adored for their beauty, chicness and smart functioning qualities (lightness, comfort etc.). I had never seen their adorable plywood elephant before but they did delve into toys and other fun accessories besides furniture. Plywood is famous for its grace, beauty, flexibility and strength in fine furniture design and came into its own in that era with new construction techniques.

Another example of a couple who worked passionately together (my ideal), design doesn't get any better or more imaginative than lots of the pieces turned out by the Eames, whose masterful creations are still considered the height of modern interior design. See many beautiful Eames designs at Design Within Reach, Hive Modern and The Vitra Design Museum.

April 22, 2008

The Man with the Blue Guitar

Sasha the Kitty with Blue Guitar

The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.

They said, "You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are."

The man replied, "Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."

And they said then, "But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are."

— Wallace Stevens, from The Man with the Blue Guitar

Wallace Stevens, Pulitzer Prize winning 20th century poet, wrote an incredibly long and intriguing poem called The Man with the Blue Guitar. My father told me about it when I bought the gorgeous cobalt blue Parker Fly guitar partially pictured above. This blue guitar has much significance for me. First of all, Parker Fly guitars are amazing. They are lightweight, made of materials that weigh next to nothing and yet resonate like fine wood. Secondly, they are gorgeous designs. Thirdly, when I first found it, I had dreamed of a guitar in this color. Then I met a few musicians in a row who played cobalt blue guitars and the fact that there were more than one of them at the time meant a lot. So my father told me about this poem by the artist, Wallace Stevens. When life imitates art this way, it is reassuring, funny, touching and significant. We need to pay attention to such things and listen to what they are trying to tell us.

Above: Sasha with the Blue Guitar

April 21, 2008

Color Optimism

New client Liz Ward creates stunning mixed media collage paintings with colors that elicit extreme optimism to me.

Liz Ward, "Bliss" It is such a pleasure to work on her site handling her images. I often say how much I love graphic design work because it exists not just to be "art" but also to communicate. While that is true, art like Liz's communicates to me emotionally at a glance. Many of her works are available as high-quality prints and greeting cards so you can share in this beauty without forking over your whole bank account.

 

Image: Bliss © Liz Ward Art, Mixed Media
(note kitty contributing to woman's bliss)

April 18, 2008

Go to Bed

These colorful, fanciful and funny sculptures, all supporting a bed theme, are by artist Jane Kaufman, available for purchase through Greenjeans in Brooklyn, NY (highlighted yesterday).

Jane Kaufman Bed Sculptures

L to R: Flower Bed, Day Bed, Bedtime Story

Part of a show on small quilts called Under Cover sponsored by Greenjeans this February–March, these adorable sculptures remind me a little of Maira Kalman's illustrations too (see recent entry). They tell a story as well as being pretty to look at. Art that gets your imagination going is so healthy, I think. It's like turning on several burners at once and really making a feast. 

April 17, 2008

Visual Jazz

Romare Bearden's art is filled with color, light, life, music and cats. He is one of my favorite artists and one whose approach fascinates me. His definition of visual jazz is:

“You put down one color, it calls for another. You have to look at it like a melody.” — Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden, Of the Blues

Above: Of the Blues: Kansas CIty 4/4

Bearden is known for collage paintings and subjects often show the relationship between music and visual art. There's a gorgeous children's book with his illustrations called "I Live in Music." Bearden also loved cats, as is evident in this great portrait. He was an avid reader and wrote his own books and articles. Turns out my father knew him, which makes sense given their great minds and artistic interests.

Artist Romare Bearden Loved Cats

Above, L: The Artist with One of His Very Comfortable Cats
Above, R: Of the Blues: At the Savoy


A Craft Store Grows in Brooklyn

I've been frequenting a pretty little high-end craft store in Park Slope, Brooklyn called Greenjeans, run by Amy Shaw and Jae Kim (wife and husband; I love it when couples work together).

Some of Greenjeans' Wares

Some Greenjeans products I really like: maple cutting board, original toy animal, scented soap

Greenjeans carries an eclectic and selective mixture of jewelry, toys, artwork and housewares. All are made in the U.S. by hand, a requirement for their merchandise. Amy and Jae quit their corporate jobs to start the store a few years ago — more power to them. I found them while looking through Park Slope and am very glad I did.

More Greejeans Brooklyn Goodies

More nice things: graceful earrings, chic metal evening bag, toasty handmade socks

Taking a drive down to the store for an unplanned outing is a reward for me. The part of Park Slope in which the store stands is a bit at the edge of what I'd known previously. The store is located on 7th avenue between 15th and 16th streets.

Fanciful Greenjeans Angel SculptureSmall casual restaurants and stores dot the area in Brooklyn and although the main section has gone well past emerging, outer areas are still stretching their legs. It's like boutique shopping, which I have always found more satisfying than department store shopping, although naturally the selections are more limited. Today, with online shopping resources so grand, you can have the best of both worlds. Go online when you're driven to find something specific and go strolling to a store like Greenjeans for the pure pleasure of it. Amy and Jae, you'll be seeing me again soon.

 

April 16, 2008

Art for Your Eyes and Mind

Artist Maira Kalman has an interesting approach and took part is a wonderful blog art/story series sponsored by The New York Times.

Maira Kalman Illustration 



I feel a kinship with her, as I care about words as much as images. Her beautiful artwork is enhanced by the fanciful and thought-provoking little tales she winds around them. A well-known artist, Ms. Kalman has created numerous covers for The New Yorker.

She has also designed very successful products sold at the Museum of Modern Art, among other places, such as the umbrella with the sky on the inside. Sky Umbrella

 

 

 

 

Stay Up Late by Maria Kalman

She has published many children's books and has another book forthcoming from her blog column called The Principles of Uncertainty, from which the image above left is taken.

At left, one of the artist's children's books — I love the title, as anyone who knows me would understand. 

Below, one of Maira Kalman's great covers and a whimsical photo of the artist.

 

Maira Kalman Cover and Photo

 

April 8, 2008

Fear or Faith — Stake Your Claim

Human / angel stories are often funny and poignant.

AngelA, the Movie

Through good luck, I found the movie, AngelA, an unusual and deeply touching, stylish flic by director Luc Besson. Highly recommended — original in approach: part film noir, science fiction, morality tale, buddy story, romance. In fact, I like it so much, I just want you to see it.

April 7, 2008

Reaching Out

While watching a movie tonight, there was one scene that cut through to me. The heroine of the movie, who has been a concert hall singer in the late 1800s and so has performance moxie, helps a good, selfless character, who is giving his first speech and falling on his face. Seeing him floundering, she bounds up on stage beside him, where he's been speaking sheepishly into the floor and goads him into the passion he feels about his subject. The speech is a rip roaring success.

Our Better Selves

This exchange was the one that rose above all else for me in a film about a very different subject. It shows what people are capable of when we care. The heroine stepped outside of herself and gave of herself for this decent guy, as he had done before. I wish us more moments like this in our lives, both as instigator and recipient. If you step outside yourself and look, opportunities are lying in wait.

April 3, 2008

Going to the Dogs — and Cats

I've been going to the dogs — and cats — lately.

Going to the Dogs and Cats

Photos L to R, by talented photographer clients Jay Ward and Audrey C. Tiernan

They say you draw to you whatever you love so I guess I am drawing fantastic animal-related clients to me because I love animals and have a bond with other people who love them too. The dog photo above is one in a portfolio by a primarily music-focused recent client called dogbrain Music. Jay Ward creates music by and for dogs, as well as human music. The photo at right is also by a new client I am so pleased to be working with, a superb photographer named Audrey C. Tiernan. She happens to also love cats and has two, Slugger and Pistachio, so you will undoubtedly get to see more sublime photos of these creatures as we complete her site. Going to the dogs — and cats — has never been a better idea.

April 1, 2008

Freudian Slip

While talking to my friend and client, Andre, today, we were laughing about things said in certain circumstances without realizing the double entendres they held.

Freudian Slip

All my life, I have had the propensity to say things I didn't realize were risque in all sorts of settings. What can you do? They're out of your mouth and you can't take them back. Andre made the comment, "Freudian slip," and it made me think what a great caption that is. Here's Freud, great mind of psychology, who also tells us that a lot of what we say, do and think is about sex and yes, I make that type of "slip" on a regular basis in my life. I think it's beyond Freud, great mind that he was. I think it's God's sense of humor. I have always thought of God as a sort of tongue-in-cheek personality, laughing at our little ways. I think God gets a kick out of seeing us squirm when we put ourselves in compromising positions, whether trivial or serious. I think She has a heart too and cares about us but still leaves us to our own devices to basically sink or swim and cracks up when we make fools of ourselves, in a light or important setting.

March 30, 2008

Jazzy Update

Weep is the name of my jazz band. I put the project on hold a couple of years ago because I wanted to focus on design work. However, keeping my graphic design business afloat has kept me from concentrating on much else. So now it's time to fight those barriers and get on with things. The Weep website has been updated, I am glad to say, as it was in sore need.

Jazz Band

A recent project with a musician led me to think about it more again. We all deserve the wonderful addition that great music brings to our lives, whether as listener or performer.

March 14, 2008

Design Great Verner Panton

By now almost everyone has seen the ubiquitous Panton chair designed by the venerable Verner Panton.

Verner Panton, the Great Designer

Even if you don't know the name, which design afficianados will, you have seen the chair in lots of catalog layouts and even in movies (it appears in Woody Allen's fantastic movie, Sleeper, as a future icon, in his predominantly white future). It's also in the permanent collections of many museums.

The Gorgeous Panton Chair

Doesn't he look like someone you'd like to know in the picture above? I have one of these gorgeous chairs in a limited edition fuchsia color from Design Within Reach — absolutely comfortable and beautiful. For those of you who care, besides its cool S shape, this chair is famous for being made from a single piece of injection molded plastic, is incredibly resilient and can be stacked, used indoors and out, fits with casual and sophisticated decor. Lots of cool design isn't comfortable but this is!

“Choosing colors should not be a gamble. It should be a conscious decision. Colors have a meaning and a function...”

— Verner Panton

Since its inception, the chair has been updated with even more resilient plastic and although vintage editions are pricey, the current model can be had for $245. A great source is hive modern

Designers like this got me hooked on mixing modern sculptural furniture with antique, gorgeous wood pieces. As I was taught in my religion major classes, ”The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” That applies to mixing old and new styles and to the Panton chair, whose parts happen to be just one single piece of polypropylene. I love it! 

“Most people spend their lives living in dreary, beige conformity, mortally afraid of using color. The main purpose of my work is to provoke people into using their imagination and make their surroundings more exciting.”

— Verner Panton

February 27, 2008

William F. Buckley, Jr. — My Hero

Sometimes there is a person, a friend, a celebrity, unlikely though it may seem, who speaks to you as if from your own heart but with clarity you can't usually muster up for yourself. This person seems to know secrets to existence, to love life, to understand its hardships, its revelations, its brilliance, its comedy, its sadness and to bear all with dignity, humanity and humor. To me, such as man is William Buckley, Jr. I suppose true celebrity is to aspire to such a role in someone's life and thereby merit celebrity.

William F. Buckley. Jr.
Mr. Buckley in his office at the National Review in 1965. Mr. Buckley's winningly capricious personality, replete with ten-dollar words and a darting tongue writers loved to compare with an anteater's, hosted one of television's longest-running programs, "Firing Line," and founded and shepherded the National Review.

It's hard to summarize what William Buckley means to me. To me, his is the kind of life one aspires to, filled with so many varied things of real value and I wonder if people always value these same things properly. He stands for freedom of expression. He represents fairness of intellect and living. He means you can have fun and be scholarly both, one not canceling the other out.

Buckley is famous for having friends with whom his ideas were diametrically opposed, his political ideas, that is. This has confused people since he was famous for his strong conservative ideas. He was onto the secret of life being more than just the surface, more than just ideas, important as they are, more than any one thing; he was onto its soul.

In addition to his political career, in which my own interests do not lie, William Buckley wrote a series of captivating detective novels, with a colorful hero named Blackford Oakes. He was married to a socialite, who must have been quite a woman, Pat, and so had his hand in the upper crust of New York social life.

William F. Buckley, Jr.

When I was a tiny kid, there was a girl in my class whose mom worked for Buckley. My own mom, who was a Buckley type in brilliance and diversity but a Democrat, was fascinated by Buckley and liked my classmate's mom too. My mom told me that Buckley was this unusual man with many different aspects to his life and even at the age of five or so, it stuck in my head and made me curious about this guy.

Excellent sailor, prolific, adept and varied writer, noted politician, witty man, social figure, individualist — a truly great man. I cannot stop weeping for the world's loss.

January 17, 2008

Art and Personality

Last evening, I attended a book reading at Patelson's Music House by Stephanie Cowell, author of the historical novel, Marrying Mozart.

Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell

Book cover art for Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell, available in 7 languages

The novel is a fictionalized tale of Mozart and his relationships with the four Weber sisters, one of whom he marries but with all of whom he had in-depth and loving relationships. The personal stories had to be embellished and imagined, as there is limited historical information available, although Stephanie Cowell did much research to ensure realistic imaginings.

I first met Stephanie at a holiday party this December. She used to have the day job (yes, even while being a successful published author, she had to keep another job) that my friend now has taken over. Patelson's was an apt setting for Stephanie's reading because it is a revered mainly Classical music resource and Stephanie bought her first Mozart score for Figaro there at the age of 12.

This excellent interview with Ms. Cowell will likely make you want to read the book. From reading this probing interview and from hearing Stephanie speak last night, it fills my mind with thoughts about how the personalities of artists interact with the world and the people with whom they live and love. As an artist myself, who has known and loved many artists, both brilliant and struggling (as Mozart was both), this story captures my curiosity about what is eternal in personalities throughout history. The potentially emotional topic of what is "owed" to a family is much discussed too.

November 25, 2007

Critter Blessings

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill is a film (also a book, a separate project) that documents the life-changing relationship between a flock of wild parrots living near Telegraph Hill in San Francisco and a man named Mark Bittner.

Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

A powerful and touching real tale, this is one man's journey that led him where he never expected. Anyone interested in the lives of animals, self-exploration or who has empathy for people whose paths are not always direct will appreciate this story. The documentary is beautifully put together, with sensitivity but not sentimentalism. The film won multiple awards and the book has been a New York Times bestseller. You will never look at birds the same way again.

November 21, 2007

Winston Churchill, My Cats' Favorite Celebrity

Having been captivated by what I've heard in bits and pieces about Winston Churchill, I am now learning more about him.

Winston Churchill Great Sayings

A dashing young Churchill and a quote by him that helps me laugh in hard times

My reasons for being intrigued by the man are more for his inspiring and witty statements and the unusual aspects of his life than for his seminal role in British and world history. However, as a person is the whole of what they are, I have become more interested in his political actions as well. For instance, Churchill foretold the Nazi threat when English politicians and citizens ignored the seriousness of Hitler's insanity.

Churchill is inspiring in many ways. Descending from an aristocratic family, he was the absolute bottom of his class repeatedly as a very young boy. He loved his foreboding parents but they didn't have much time for him. (His father, Randolph, was a climbing successful politician and his mother was a beauty, whom Churchill adored but who was distant to her children.) Slowly but surely, he ended up first in his class in many subjects. Born two months premature, he coped with uneven health throughout his life (childhood scares, a later heart attack and stroke) but lived to be 90. He overcame a speech impediment. Churchill confronted depression most of his life and called it his "black dog." He drank alcohol daily but wasn't considered an alcoholic and won a bet that he could abstain for a full year.

Serving as Prime Minister of England twice (in the 1940s and 1950s), Churchill was passionate about painting and took it up professionally in his 40s. His paintings are good enough to be in the permanent collections of some of the world's most prestigious museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was a prolific, great writer and mostly earned his living that way. He won a Nobel Prize for literature. As a politician, he was known for — and annoyed people by — changing his mind. (So I guess it's not just "a woman's prerogative.") Maybe that's what they mean by a man needing to "get in touch with his feminine side." :)

Winston Churchill Inspirational Sayings

Churchill loved cats and brought his cat to cabinet meetings (I love a man not afraid to love his cat). His ginger (orange) cat, Jock, is written in his will to be taken care of and maintained with his estate and now Jock III happily resides there. I have also heard that Jane Austen was Churchill's favorite writer and that he recognized her uncanny ability to portray the personalities, foibles, prejudices and nuances of people. I am in accord with him about cats and Jane Austen.

November 2, 2007

Yes, I Really Can Fly

For the first time in a while, I went out in a costume on Halloween:

Halloween

In case you can't tell (duh), I'm a wood nymph. I had gotten this costume that I love, complete with (working) wings for a party two years ago that never happened. So this year, I just thought, I'm putting it on and going some place. That place ended up being Union Hall in Brooklyn, which I mentioned a few entries back as having fun and good-looking bocce ball courts. Well, did we ever have a good time (my friend and I). The place was very full but because it's so big, there was still enough room to walk around without it getting uncomfortable. It was like being in a party at a beautiful mansion. The costumes were fantastic, from Marie Antoinette to Clark Kent to pirates to many original oddball combos that were hilarious — lots of great wigs with huge hair — the inventiveness was satisfying. Everyone was friendly and you could easily talk to strangers because the costumes were a good introduction. About a fifth or so of the crowd wasn't wearing costumes and even that was fun, making it an odder and more eclectic scene. It was a perfect party and I'm so glad I went out. I'm definitely doing this again.

September 15, 2007

11 Kitties on a Houseboat

This week, I visited a houseboat that sits in the down-to-earth waters of the Bronx, NYC. This particular vessel houses its human couple and at least 11 feline companions plus one hospitable pooch.

Dale Eggers and Neil Corwin, mosaic artists, live here. I met them because they have a studio here on City Island. Their houseboat is 10 minutes from the island and I am now designing their mosaic work website. Their art is enticing and their feline family is too. Besides their own cat brood, the houseboat slip fills in as home to many semi-feral but lovely creatures, such as Tabatha, seen below, chicly coordinated with the rusty background on which she chooses to recline.

Outdoor Kitty Tabatha

Photo by Susan Farley

September 7, 2007

The Real Deal

Last night, I heard the Dave Liebman Band play at Birdland in Manhattan.

Dave Liebman Band

Dave Liebman and band members, L to R: Anthony Jackson on bass, Mike Stern on guitar, Dave Liebman on sax, Vic Juris on guitar, Marco Marcinko on drums and Tony Marino on bass — photo by David Sokol

Felt like poetry. Sounded like a breezy day. For any music afficionado, this is great stuff. My boyfriend studied sax with Liebman and went to college with drummer, Marco Marcinko, who is now my favorite drummer. I design the website for Euphoria Studios, owned and operated by David Sokol, where these great musicians sometimes rehearse. Dave took the excellent photo above. So there was quite a bit of small world cooperation. I don't like going into the city much these days (I'm in City Island, about 45 minutes to midtown) and the noise and hustle bustle isn't my thing any more, surprisingly to me. But this type of art at your fingertips is exactly what the city is famous for. And famous it should be.

Birdland is a very nice club too. The service is genteel and friendly. The sound balance last night was excellent. All in all, just what New York has been acclaimed for for a long time, though much else in the city has changed. A night well spent and the kind of experience that renews your faith in the creative spirit.

This great sax playing calls to mind one of my rug designs at left below, titled Sax, inspired by my sax-playing honey, shown here next to another design called Think, inspired by the Abstract Expressionist artists, both available at Katie's Modern Rugs

Katie's Modern RugsKatie's Modern Rugs

September 2, 2007

Tex Avery's “Red Hot Riding Hood”

1940s animator Tex Avery's “Red Hot Riding Hood” deftly mimics human foibles through exaggerated cartoon characters.

Wolfie Hot on the TrailRed Hot Riding Hood

Cells from “Red Hot Riding Hood” with an excited Wolfie and a provocative Red 

The short starts out to tell the “Little Red Riding Hood” tale with typically drawn characters. The cast starts complaining that the story has been told this way a thousand times. The narrator relents and unveils the risque new version “Red Hot Riding Hood.” Red is a sexy lounge singer, Wolfie is a debonair “dog” and Grannie is a hot-to-trot after-hours club owner. Red is based on several leading Hollywood glamour girls of the time (Betty Grable's body, Heddy Lamour's hair, moments of Katherine Hepburn's voice). Wolfie wants to devour Red but Red fends him off, liberated as she is; Grannie wants to devour Wolfie and cartoon hijinks ensue. Cute and silly, the cartoon still represents a morality tale of sorts. Wolfie is overtaken by his passions and dies trying to conquer them. Poor Wolfie.

September 1, 2007

Lenny Bruce's “Thank You Mask Man”

Voiced and written by Lenny Bruce, the animated cartoon, Thank You Mask Man, follows the adventures of a masked hero. Mask Man's fans are trying to thank him but he keeps galloping off so they start to get mad. Then he decides to bask in their adoration and misses helping out on a crime. Then he decides to check out homosexuality and the fans are grossed out. It's very cutely drawn.

Thank You Mask ManThank You Mask Man by Lenny Bruce

Stills from Lenny Bruce's co-created (with John Magnuson) hilarious animated film “Thank You Mask Man” from the 1960s

Lenny Bruce strongly shaped what we consider funny today. Leading comedians George Carlin and Richard Pryor credit him for influencing them. Lenny Bruce is famous for being funny in a groundbreaking way (bringing in current events and ideas), for using obscenities, for having a six-month trial (for obscenity charges but having also upset authorities in the Catholic Church, the police and elsewhere) and for dying young (age 40) of a morphine overdose.

Lenny Bruce appeared on TV only six times. In 2003, 37 years after his death, he was granted a posthumous pardon for his obscenity conviction by New York Governor George Pataki. It strikes me as ironic to see the small button at the lower right corner of the YouTube screen: "flag as inappropriate." I agree that it needs to be there but it's funny to see it sitting there calmly below this Lenny Bruce cartoon, which no one would call inappropriate today.

Still from Thank You Mask ManMask Man Character

More great stills from the original “Thank You Mask Man” Lenny Bruce cartoon 

August 23, 2007

The Right Underpinnings

Recently, I had occasion (a family wedding) to wear a glamorous bare dress.

BCBG Max Azria Dress with the NuBra Underneath
at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

A scientific wonder, the NuBra is a patented product that does what nothing else can, which is to support your boobs without straps of any kind. Kudos to Diana Limjoco at NuBra.net, who was incredibly helpful while I learned the new skill of stick-on boobs. With gorgeous super bare dresses, you can't wear normal lingerie. Wearing nothing underneath is not always an option, depending on the fabric and where you'll be going.

One pair was ruined before I got the hang of how to work with the NuBra. The key to wearing the NuBra is to have the skin where it attaches clean of moisturizer, which you can do by rubbing a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol over your skin. You also have to be sure to wash your NuBra with only pure glycerin soap after every wearing to restore the adhesive.

NuBra makes you a bit bustier than you are naturally, which most women will like. If you want to feel and look beautiful in a bare top, buy one from Diana at NuBra.net. Her prices are the best and her service is unbeatable. Now I can wear drop-dead gorgeous bare concoctions I couldn't consider before. Here's to great products that enhance our fun, design sense and looks.

August 21, 2007

Can Men and Women Be Friends?

When Harry Met Sally is a much-loved movie that addresses this question.

Can Men and Women Be Friends

The couple starts out not even liking each other but put into each other's path by fate. They form a bond, possibly partly because there is not pressure to do so. Years go by and they witness each other's trials and tribulations and a real bond starts to form. They end up realizing they love each other. I like this story and I like the idea. To me, this story backs up my mother's admonition that it makes sense to take it slow, become friends and then see if there's more. But I also happen to think men and women can be friends without the romantic angle. And in fact, right or wrong, I do have several good male friends as well as a boyfriend and the differences are clear.

I've always liked guys. I don't just mean lusted after guys, although I do that too. I have always had a lot of male friends. And I do think that there is often a physical spark that underlies part of the relationship but I do not think it always means that every straight male is just friends with you because they are hoping to score.

Can Men and Women Be Friends

I now have a boyfriend who agrees with me and we both have friends of the opposite sex. He is a very attractive guy. We both know that each other has enough to give to be friends with more than just each other.

Still, I encounter men who tell me that men and women can't be just friends and I sometimes begin to form friendships with men who confuse the situation due to no mixed signals. I'm not making pronouncements, just stating that in my preferred universe, which sometimes occurs on this planet, men and women can share the rich mixture of views, insights and chemistry (without sexuality always) they each have to offer and can make this life a richer experience as a result.

March 23, 2007

What is Motivation and Where Does it Come From?

The puzzle of what motivates different people captures my imagination.

Motivation

When I ask people what motivates them, they usually answer with an unilluminating "I don't know." Illusive as it may be, people the world over are inspired to do, create and be amazing things, despite enormous obstacles and the plain old pull of lethargy.

"The Pursuit of Happyness," a movie starring Christopher Jaden Smith and Will Smith, is about the real-life story of Chris Gardner, a millionaire stockbroker who was homeless and penniless while working to get ahead. The movie is inspiring and captivating. Chris Gardner has written a memoir of the same title for those curious to hear more.

What this brings to mind for me is where motivation comes from, for any of us. Why and how can one person push and push and eventually overcome terrible adversity while another can't get moving forward? Depression and drug addiction tease the spirits of many yet some people overcome these trials also.

Witnessing people in drug recovery, I have seen lives go from one extreme to another, overcoming odds. These stories are modern-day Prodigal Son tales. I have no answers, just clues and questions. The 12-step programs have helped people where no other solutions have. I am in awe of the power of these well-thought-through systems, the components of which include honesty, open-mindedness and willingness (their acronym is HOW) as well as a sense of a power greater than oneself, unfailing group support and a focus on the moment at hand. The heart of these programs provides keys for all of us, not just those battling to overcome substance abuse.

Still, I am nagged with the question of what motivates people. Color motivates me. Music motivates some of my friends. Wanting to help people can motivate, wanting to achieve riches and other sorts of goals can move us forward. But none of these things in themselves answers the question "what is motivation and where does it come from?" It's a burning desire to overcome the odds but how can you harness it when all seems futile.

One answer is faith. One reason for the great success of the 12-step programs is that they do not require anyone to believe in a specific God, however, they maintain that a sense of oneself as a piece of a bigger puzzle is key. One simply has to see that there are powers greater than oneself to feel humble. This state of mind seems to be motivational and necessary.

Thoughts on motivation and faith to be continued…

August 31, 2006

Capturing Life

Photo by Susan Farley

The summer has flown by. Fllllllpppp flllooppp -- there is goes. Luckily, it usually stays warm into the beginning of October so we'll be able to catch some late rays. Anyway, I love summer with its warmth, long sunny days, casual feeling. Here on City Island, we bask in the summertime and drink it in with special relish. I haven't made a blog entry since April because of being caught up with excellent work projects. One of those projects is a website for a richly talented local photographer named Susan Farley (website up within the month). Susan's specialty is people. She manages to capture people at great moments, with affection, insight and beauty. She recently took some photos of my picturesque boyfriend, David, and I tagged along. She snapped a few of us together and I prize them. Here is one. (Click here for larger view.)

February 3, 2006

Data Recovery & Human Recovery

Dear reader, I have been through a tough time. I had a computer disaster happen and my business and life revolves around my computer.

nonlinear nyc data recoverynonlinear computer designer

According to the life-saving data recovery company I worked with, DriveSavers, 90% of people don't back up. We are all fools. DriveSavers employs a crisis counselor because people are so distraught when they lose data, precious images and irreplacable records. I was one of these bereft people.

My situation started with forced software upgrading, where one thing led to another. You've got to get this to make that work and then that requires that. But in the process was human error too.

This experience can't help but make someone who looks for the meaning in things look for meaning. Was I trying to tell myself something? Did I need a clean break of some sort?

A bunch of people were praying for me. Anyone who has witnessed the power of prayer has seen amazing things happen. I believe that these people's prayers and good wishes helped my outcome. DriveSavers was able to get back my most important and my second most important file, the first of which was my address book with 1,450 names and details in it. They got back over a million, three hundred thousand other files! but one group of important files is gone and has to be recreated. I had all sorts of files that may never show up again, some of which aren't important, some of which I have hard copies of and some of which I will miss and can't recreate, such as personal notes.

This signifies change. You know change. You've met. You hear about resistance to change. How change is inevitable. The only thing that's permanent is change, said Jean Tinguely, the '60s kinetic artist I studied in college. So what else is new? But I also see miracles on a regular basis. Getting back my database was a miracle in my life. DriveSavers didn't even think it was likely since databases become fragmented once a drive is overwritten. But I've got it back intact. Numerous other data recovery companies said my whole drive was a lost cause.

I'm taking this to mean that after the suffering, I am entering a new and better phase, with backup policies in place but also with a renewed focus on what matters most in terms of work goals and life goals. THANK YOU to my friends and associates, whose power of prayer is stronger than any technology. And thank you to DriveSavers (especially Jeannie Harris, Bodhi Nadler and Scott), whose attitude is so wonderful that working with them would have been a pleasure no matter what the outcome.

October 29, 2005

The Elixir of Color

Objects that perform well and possess beautiful color, form and texture make doing things fun.


A chair should be more than simply functional. It should be friendly, fun and colorful. — Pierre Paulin

From kiddie airplane spoons to gorgeous grownup lighting, well-thought-out design improves our lives. To me, of all the aspects of design, color is the standout. Striking color changes your mood instantly. This blog is a poem to color as it winds its way through our world in its many incarnations. Did you also notice that color is free? No charge.