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.

March 9, 2009

mattel modern

For the last couple of days, people have been forwarding me articles about Barbie turning 50, usually accompanied with a note that says "this made me think of you". Now where they would get the idea that I would be interested in such a thing I couldn't possibly say. I hate that crazy bitch and all her cheap plastic paraphernalia. Well, to be fair, she wasn't always that way. There was a time way back when when toy makers like Mattel, Suzy Goose and Deluxe Reading made some pretty beautiful things for Barbie and friends. As her hair changed from brown to bottle blonde and her boobs ballooned and her waistline grew concave, so did her accessories undergo the same cheapening process.

Among the best of the vintage best is the Mattel Modern furniture line. Introduced in 1958, (a full year before Barbie came to be) this line of made in japan, danish inspired mid century furniture is highly sought after 50 years on.

I guess we can always hope that menopause will bring her to her senses and inspire a return to the classic roots from which she came, but I'm not holding my breath. Happy birthday old girl.

March 8, 2009

the geezer in the mirror

You know winter has gone on far too long when you look in the mirror and discover you've turned into one of these guys.