December 6, 2009

do those poor bastards even know it's christmas?

I'm not really into traditions for the most part. Not religious, skipped my graduations, opted for a commitment ceremony over a legal marriage, kept my name, don't do dishes, windows or 9-to-5 --you get the gist. But when it comes to Christmas, this atheist likes to adhere pretty closely to certain time honoured traditions. Like real trees, peppermint bark, mashed potato cookies, brussel sprout souffle, advent calendars and John Denver and the Muppets. Come December first, it's game on.

Being a child of the '80's this little ditty always gets its fair share of play (preferably on vinyl). As a tween, while I cared about the the socio-political message of the song, I confess I was probably more interested in the fact that Bono, Sting and Paul Young all appeared on screen together than anything else.

Listening to it today, I can't help but cringe at the patronizing and embarrassing lyrics ala "there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas" and "tonight thank god it's them instead of you" but like most traditions, this one is best not subjected to too much analysis or deep thinking. You just got to go with it. Enjoy.

November 23, 2009

Boggis, Bunce and Bean

"... One fat, one short and one lean.
These horrible crooks,
so different in looks.

were none the less equally mean."
Roald Dahl. Wes Anderson. I'm so excited.

That's saying a lot considering my general disposition these days.

November 20, 2009

beard weather

Around these parts, we're months past sweater weather and well into winter's subzero grip which calls for an arsenal of practical but puffy, lumpy and clunky cold weather wear. Imagine my happiness when I stumbled upon this beauty last year.

Quirky, original and warm? It can be done. I bring you the beard cap by Icelandic textile design collective Vik Prjónsdóttir.

The cap is modeled after the traditional Icelandic lambshed hood (think balaclava) worn in winter by sheep farmers who have to make long treks through bitter winds and snow between their barns and neighbouring farms.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case with original and inventive designs, the beard cap has fallen victim to a host of cheesy, cheaply made knock-offs. If you love it, give the designers the props they deserve and get an original. I just picked one up for my sweetie's birthday at Scandinavian Grace. They carry many other incredible textile designs from the marvelous Vik Prjónsdóttir collective like the baby seal pelts and regional blankets.

November 15, 2009

road worthy

Like so many things made for kids, car seats seem designed to be hideous. Practical? Ok. Safe? To be sure. Easy on the eyes - not so much.

Enter the Cosco car seat circa 1960/70. Fortunately we were thinking ahead and snagged one at the SF Deco and Modernist Show a few years back.

Small profile - check.
Streamlined design - check.
Easy on the eyes - check.
Eames inspired contours - check
Safe - one can't have everything.

October 25, 2009

if you can't beat 'em ....

. . . might as well join in the fun. Happy Hallowe'en.

Bloodbath shower curtain (designer unknown).

Adam Arber's Roadkill toys: racoon and weasel.

Liquid Bookmark from Kyouei designs

September 27, 2009

hello, elloh!

I have a sort of love-hate relationship with Etsy. So many knock-offs of other people's original designs and hundreds upon hundreds of cookie-cutter versions of cutesy, fadish, here-today, forgotten-tomorrow stuff made from the same tired patterns and fabrics. If you have the patience though to sort through the crafty crap, there are some real original gems to be found.

Case in point the marvelous drawings by elloh (aka ellen lohse) paying tribute to an eclectic assortment of pop culture, literary and cinematic favourites from yesterday to today.

Just arrived in my mailbox this week is this sweet homage to two of my most favouritest people - Charles and Ray Eames.

There's so many wonderful prints to choose from, it was hard to pick just a few to show you. Check out her etsy shop for other gems including odes to Flight of the Conchords, the A Team, various Hitchcock movies, Willy Wonka, the Darjeeling Limited, Mary Tyler Moore, To Kill a Mockingbird and on and on.

Don Draper AND Han Solo!!!

Nobody puts baby in a corner!

Breakfast at Tiffanys

September 19, 2009

still life with egg

Meet my latest Wehringer. Oh happy, happy day.

September 11, 2009

why i can never again set foot in scottsdale arizona


Jennifer Williams
DOB: 4/9/65
Fraudulent schemes, burglary

Let's hope no future employers stumble upon this.

September 8, 2009

who is john galt? (aka schizophrenic book club)

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the titles in my parents' book shelves. The Gulag Archipelago. Anna Karenina. Ship of Fools. Canadian Realist Paintings. Atlas Shrugged. For some reason, the last one seemed especially interesting. Maybe it had something to do with the cover. While I've gone on to read many of those titles in the intervening years, I never got around to Ayn Rand. Until I started watching Mad Men and my interest was re-ignited. Somehow between Cooper's recommendation and a brief internet search I got it in my head that the premise of the book is that all the artists and innovators, inventors etc agree to go on strike to prove to the world how useless everything would be without them. Well, 100 pages or so in and I'm beginning to realize, that's not quite what it's all about. Oh well, I'm committed now. Never let it be said that this left leaning socialist lover isn't open to alternate ideas.... wish me luck.

Maybe it has something to do with all the changes in the air in my own life, but my night table is definitely beginning to resemble something of a schizophrenic's book club these days.

In addition to Ayn Rand, I've been reading pretty much any Richard Yates story I can get my hands on. It all started with watching the film Revolutionary Road. His utterly unredeeming tales of suburban angst and resigned hopelessness have a kind of Mad Men feel to them.

Add to that Corinne Maier's witty and urbane call to arms No Kids: 40 Reasons Not to Have Children - a must read for all thinking people - parents or not - and Apexart's Cautionary Tales: Critical Curating and you have yourself a pretty good glimpse into my frenetic state of mind these days.

Oh, I almost forgot - just arrived in the mail is the latest work from my man Tom

September 7, 2009

spider lamp

I've been on the look out for this chandelier since I first saw it in hanging in Kollwitz 45 in Berlin last fall.

I'd begun to think it was a figment of my imagination but then I found it again at Unicahome.
Behold the amazing "Dear Ingo" light aka the spider lamp by designer Ron Gilad for Moooi. So awkward, yet so right. Sadly, at $3200US, so expensive too. Normally I'm not in favour of knocking-off design originals but in this case the temptation is strong....

August 14, 2009

hot tub

Today's favourite things posting would be a most welcome addition to our household - the fabulous Dutchtub. (Not to be confused with a dutch oven which is never greeted with a welcome.)

Normally, I'm just not a fan of hot tubs. I tend to run far far away from any vacation rental or hotel that boasts of one. (Shiver me timbers, just the thought of it makes me gag.)

The Dutchtub on the other hand is pretty darn irresistible. For more photos of this wood-fired marvel in action, check out the Flickr stream.

July 18, 2009

refined pallet

When you live in an isolated northern community, the search for art and design inspiration more often than not involves trips Outside and many an hour online. It's a rare treat when something fresh and innovative appears close to home - in this case, a few metres from my house.

For several years now Paul Gort has been working away in his studio outside of Whitehorse with a mission to bring modern design and quality craftmanship to the cabins and suburban boxes of the north. In a town where a place called The Country House is considered high style and The Brick the height of contemporary, Gort Fine Woodworking has had its work cut out for it.

This winter, in conjunction with the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, audiences south of 60 will have a chance to view a new Gort original making its debut at the Canadian Craft Federation's exhibition "Unity and Diversity", a celebration of the best of Canadian fine craft. If you're in the area next February, stop by the Vancouver Art Gallery and check it out.

"Pallet Table" is from Gort's new line of studio furniture pieces aimed at reclaiming the concept of fine craft by taking the temporary and cobbled together forms and vessels so beloved by do-it-yourselfers and reforming them into objects of enduring and unique beauty.

"The Pallet Table reintroduces audiences to the ubiquitous shipping pallet. Found in alleyways and dumpsters across the land, the lowly pallet is seen primarily as a vessel for transporting goods or by do-it-yourselfers as a source of crude material to be reused for makeshift purposes. My reinterpretation stays true to the familiar form but is finely rendered using solid black walnut and traditional hand-crafted joinery as a direct challenge to our perceptions of quality and longevity."
To check out more of Gort's designs visit him online.

July 14, 2009

surrealist soup tureen

There's nothing I like better than an object with a sense of humour. For a couple of years now I've been coveting and drooling over the topography soup tureen from Japan's Kyouei Designs. It combines three of my favourite things in one: surrealism, tureens (thanks to Astrid Lindgren's children's classic "Emil in the Soup Tureen") and soup.

One of these days I'm going to cave in and make it mine all mine.

June 24, 2009

..and there's always music in the air

Finally made it through all the bonus features on the Twin Peaks Gold Box Set. While pretty comprehensive, including this little ditty would have been the ice cream on Norma's cherry pie. Can't have everything.

June 17, 2009


I've been a little distracted -- ok a lot distracted --lately which has led to shameless neglect of the green things in my house and around the yard. The other day as I slunk by the big wilting ficus in the loft, I swear I heard him hiss "J'accuse"! Oh dear, if only I had a few of these IV pots from Vitamin Design, my asparagus fern might still be talking to me.

10 cc's of h20, stat!

May 17, 2009

for the love of awkwardness

When it comes to portraits or any artistic genre really, I couldn't be less interested in "pretty". I'm particularly suspect of anything purporting to be unstaged, natural, or candid as (to my mind) those images tend to be the most infused with artifice. I like a good staged narrative. Highly posed, unapologetically constructed, these images expose the uncomfortable truths that we might not care to reveal about ourselves.

Here are a few examples from some of my favourite photographers:

Jeff Wall's "Mimic"

Tina Barney's "Jill and Polly in the bathroom"

Nic Nicosia's "Like photojournalism"

Recently though, my sister tuned me into a hilarious new website devoted to (unintentionally) awkward family photos that give new meaning to the word uncomfortable. Simply put, you can't make this shit up.

A few selections from the website.

"Family tree - even the tree thought this one was awkward"

"My two dads
- feel free to use your calculators for this exercise"

"The closeness of you - when you're madly in love..."

There's one image on the site for which there simply are no words. Even I hesitated to post this one - "The Wonder Years" . Yikes.

April 24, 2009

the lost season

It's snowing heavily outside. Again. (still?) I've been re-reading a number of my favourite books lately and came across this passage in Hemingway's " A Moveable Feast". Feels eerily familiar today.

" Sometimes the heavy cold rains would beat it back so that it would seem that it would never come and that you were losing a season out of your life. This was the only truly sad time in Paris because it was unnatural. You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason. In those days though, the spring always came finally but it was frightening that it had nearly failed."

April 6, 2009

from russia with love

Today's favourite things posting goes to this incredible pictogram letter Charles Eames sent his daughter Lucia and her family describing his visit to Russia. From the Eames archives.

Get it, charred l's? Took me a while!

April 5, 2009

a few really good things

I've said it before - I really like things. Beautifully crafted, cleverly executed things. In general though, I think most of us have way too many things. Cheap, poorly designed, throw-away things. Things for-the-sake-of-having-things things.

The last few years, I've tried to apply the "generation test" to potential new acquisitions. How long will this last and will my kids or (if they're not blessed with their parents' impeccable aesthetic) will someone else's kids value and use this years from now? Doesn't matter whether it's a toy or a book or a planter or a sofa, the same test applies. I also try to go for vintage or pre-loved items wherever possible - generally, if something is still around and looking beautiful after all these years, it means it was made really well and will likely be around for some years yet.

Granted, this philosophy does usually mean spending more money than you would on the here today,toss it tomorrow version.

When I find myself faced with the dilemma of spending what seems to be a lot more for the quality item, I think back on a piece of advice I was given years ago. When we lived in Toronto, I used to love visiting Yank Azman's stall at the Harbourfront Antique Market. Yank's shop was filled to the brim with beautiful, exotic and weird things from centuries past. Crocodile valises, first editions of literary classics, pith helmets, elephant foot humidors, you name it. I used to drool over a fine first edition of Out of Africa but being a broke recent graduate, couldn't bring myself to make the purchase. Yank told me that sometimes you just have to buy the thing when you can't afford it, because by the time you can, it won't be around or accessible. He told me the story of how back in the 80s he had a chance to buy a lifeboat from the Titanic - he passed thinking he couldn't afford it. Fast forward a few years and the release of a certain cheezy blockbuster, and well, that seemingly pricey investment was looking like a bargain. Granted Yank was speaking from more of a collecting and investing perspective versus pure longevity, beauty and value which is where I'm coming from.

A few years ago we were (again) broke students living in Vancouver. We spotted this iconic Hans Olsen for Frem Rojle dining set in a second hand store on Main Street. Though we absolutely couldn't afford it, we got it anyway. Designed in 1953, this is still a much coveted set. You'll find write ups about it all over the internet, at listing costs of more than double what we paid.

A thing of beauty really is a joy forever. The fewer and finer things you have, the more likely you'll actually use and appreciate them.

March 31, 2009

unknown legend

I don't quite know why all my favourite movies seem to centre around the "dysfunctional family forced to spend time together" motif but add Rachel Getting Married to the list next to Squid and the Whale, Interiors and Margot at the Wedding.

Only Jonathan Demme could think to weave in this Neil Young cover - a cappella no less. Tunde Adebimpe, I think I love you.

p.s. apropos of Jonathan Demme, I've been listening to a lot of Talking Heads these days.

March 22, 2009

stolen apples for karen blixen

The most interesting retrospectives and compilations (for me) are those that contain contact sheets, sketches, letters, diary excerpts etc - anything that reveals something "secret" or that offers an insight into an artist's process. In trying to get my own creative kick-start at the tail end of this seemingly endless winter, I've been going back through my notebooks in search of a scribble or half-baked idea to get me started again. (The truth is I know exactly what I should be doing but since it involves a fair amount of work, I've been lazing about hoping something easier falls into my lap.)

During today's prolonged procrastination session (or research as I like to call it) I came upon a quote I jotted down from one of Karen Blixen's many notebook and diary entries on display at her home in Denmark.
"To imagine the possibility of something actually happening one needs imagination of the finest and rarest sort."
Considering the source, it's both inspiring and daunting.

Check out this 1973 super 8 film by Derek Jarman. "Stolen Apples for Karen Blixen" is both inscrutable and familiar.

March 14, 2009

death in a nutshell

My brain is wired in such a way that I'm driven to distraction by pretty much anything rendered in miniature. Miniature furniture, mini household accessories, mini liquor bottles (I blame Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone for that one) salesman samples, what have you, I love a mini. I also have a bit of a thing for the macabre. The macabr-er the better.

So you can imagine how the discovery of this book a few years ago sent my synapses a-twittering. "The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death" is a luscious series of gruesome miniature murder scenes beautifully photographed by Corrine May Botz.

The morbid dioramas and photos would have been enough on their own to earn this book a place on the top shelf. Reading about the creator of these finely rendered crimes scenes, Frances Glessner Lee, put it in my favourite books hall of fame.

"Frances Glessner Lee was a brilliant, witty, shy, intimidating, and, by some accounts, impossible woman", reads the opening line. Talk about my kind of person! Born in the late 1800's into a wealthy Chicago family Glessner Lee yearned to put her finely tuned intellect toward some greater societal purpose. Stymied by smothering parents, social conventions of the day and a mismatched marriage, Glessner Lee spent her youth waiting for the day her life would begin. The wait paid off. She managed to shed her marriage in the early 1900's and after the death of her parents, found herself the beneficiary of a sizeable fortune. Since she wasn't able to attend Harvard as a young woman (her parents forbid it), she did the next best thing later in life - she used her inheritance to establish the Harvard department of Legal Medicine to train law enforcement personnel in forensic investigation. (The original CSI.) Using her skills as a miniaturist, she designed a series of meticulously crafted 1:12 scale crime scenes to train investigators.

Lee earned quite a reputation as a forensics instructor and became the first woman to become a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Definitely someone I'd love to have at a "5 dead people dinner party".

Glessner Lee shown here at work on a diorama.

The models currently reside at Maryland Medical Examiner's Office in Baltimore, putting that city on my list of places to visit. (well, that and the possibility of a Jimmy McNulty sighting.)

March 12, 2009

birdhouse for your soul

The other day while window surfing I came across these modernist birdhouses inspired by the Case Study house program. It got me thinking that if I were reincarnated as a bird, I'd definitely want to find myself nesting in the Richard (Neutra) or the Ralph (Rapson)

. . . versus say, one of these holy homes by designer frederik roije. Though I must say, that side by side they do have a certain appeal.