Clarity, vision, and brilliance: A Mother's Love, A Tuscan Holiday

There is an intensely beautiful work, a short story by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, in the February 2008 issue of "Vogue."  It has one of my favorite new sentences of all time...

"We didn't have many things, but she is warm and we were happy." 

To have written this, about her mother, conveys such immense love...and in such a concise manner. It seems that Lisa has brilliance, vision, and clarity: gifts that her parents, surely, have passed on to her. I look forward to more remarkable work; I think we are seeing just the beginning of a wonderful career (and life!).


The Whole Kithouse and Cabana

Kithouse, Cabana, Backhouse, Shed:  I did some research on these a while ago (around the time I was planning to pitch a permanent porch/tent in the backyard...have the design completely laid out & ready to go...see early April "Summer Camp" post for quick musings on this. Personal reality check: summer camp in the backyard will probably have to wait 'til next summer).

Anyhow, this blog post from Dwell really covers the bases, and highlights several of my favorite links (found whilst looking for porch/tent inspiration) to backyard sheds and shelters.  Also, see Shedworking from the U.K.: absolutely fabulous.  Don't miss this amazing Beach Hut monument in Barcelona, either.  Sweet.

Imagine there will be more on this later, as I am currently extraordinarily enamored of this concept.  Hope to throw a few Boathouses and Lanais in, too.


Purple Onion Cafe: Los Gatos, California

Run, don't walk, to the Purple Onion Cafe on Main Street in Los Gatos.  

(Additional option: ride your bike...it's just off the trail...)

Lisa's Coconut Cake:  Best. Cake. Ever.

Steve's Sandwiches and Salads: To Die For.

Also:  coffee from heaven, good newspapers, delightful ambiance + 
lots of other fabulous sweets and savories to tickle your taste buds.


(Sorry, don't mean to be pushy, I just feel very strongly about this...perhaps this sort of behavior is why my sister called me "the girl with the definite opinion.")

Bliss and the Right Brain

Seems, at the moment, that all roads keep leading back to TED, which I had never heard about until a few weeks ago.  Here's a fascinating rumination on the possibly temporal nature of left-brain dominance in English speakers. Even has a soupcon of nirvana thrown in.

Good stuff, courtesy of Dr. Taylor.

Nam Le: The Boat

This looks like it is a must-read, if only for "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice." Wonderful article by Michicko Katutani in NYT

Nam Le, it seems, has written the story that had to be written.  Growing up, after my father came home from the war, I marveled at the trials of the Vietnamese "Boat People," (as they were called by the evening news), and it was clear, to me, that many of these men and women and children must be heroes. 

From my cushy little suburban perch, comfortably (albeit not without the trials of the middle-American high school student) ensconced in Northern Virginia, it seemed apparent that the world needed, one day, to truly remember and honor to these heroes, and the nightmares they lived through.  

I have always hoped that someone would tell the story--the right way--and pay the appropriate tribute to those who escaped (or did not) the horrors of that sad, turbulent time, so that generations to come might rightfully pay homage to those who lived (or did not) through it all.  

Seems that Nam Le has done just that.  Seems that "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice" is the story, told the right way.  Seems like we should all begin to recognize that there are heroes in our midst.


SIWINY: Supposing I Was In New York... The Lucid Truth

My greatest folly, when the children were much younger (kindergarten-ish) and I could go to bed at 1:30 and get up at 5:30, for months on end (and I wondered why I fell asleep at traffic lights, with the back of the van rocking and rolling behind me...books, toys, children, noise...and still, it was a moment of rest, being at that traffic light)...anyway, back to the folly: it was to have the New York Times delivered to my doorstep (actually, driveway) long, long before it was in every Starbucks and on every screen. It was folly because, in truth, we absolutely did not have the extra $24.95 a month (or whatever it was) to spend on something so frivolous. ($24.95 used to buy a lot of pasta & canned tomatoes.) Now, please understand, news is not frivolous, but--at the time--the San Jose Mercury News was a lovely little paper (and it would get even lovelier, before bubble burst and all changed) and it cost only pennies, because we live in a tiny little burg in San Jose (which is, sort of, just down the street from San Francisco, above photo). But the New York Times was where I wanted to be, every morning, at 5:30, with my Mr. Coffee coffee and my cute husband leaving for work and the kids not quite up yet, so that there would be an hour of peace....

{Disclaimer: my kids will find the part about getting up at 5:30 a.m. very hard to believe, and even more impossible to remember (they weren't up yet, right?), but I am still married--26 years on June 5th--to the cute husband, who can provide verification.}

Anyhow, the whole reason I got into this nonsense is to tell you that, for more years than I care to remember, I have had a "to do" list of what I would be to doing if, and certainly it would be a hard act to pull off if I actually were, but just if--supposing I was in New York--what would I be doing this week? Hey. A girl can dream, right?

So, this week, I would: breeze by the Noguchi Museum to see
"Design: Isamu Kenmochi and Isamu Noguchi," especially since the exhibit closes on Sunday.

And I would run quick, like Carrie Bradshaw carrying her Manolos' (my kids will find this even harder to believe) in one hand and catching a taxi with the other, to see "The Eccentricities of a Nightingale," at the Clurman Theater, because a.) Charles Isherwood says it is, indeed, "the rare staging of a Williams play that delivered his poetry and his emotional power intact;" b.) it closes next Saturday; and c.) this is something not to be missed: "Mary Bacon's performance as Alma Winemiller, the minister's daughter with a soul fit to burst, rivals anything I saw this season for complexity, delicacy, and lucid truth." (Charles Isherwood). That's what I'm after. Lucid Truth. (Please note: I shall slip my Manolos' back on before entering the theater.)

And then (because I had all the time in the world, this being only a dream) I would swing through the Jewish Museum to see "Action/Abstraction: Pollock, De Kooning and American Art, 1940-1976" (thru Sept. 21), run to the MOMA to see "Take Your Time, Olafur Elisson" (thru June 30), after which I would--channeling Mr. Elisson's karmic quietude--do a walking meditation straight to "The Genius of Japanese Lacquer: Masterworks by Shibata Zeshin," Japan Society, thru June 15.

Does that leave me time, in my dreams to catch Mapplethorpe's Polaroids at the Whitney? OMG. I hope so.


Thoughts on a Shinto Office Armoire, from Gump's, and Suze Orman

Okay, I'm sitting here thinking that the Shinto Office Armoire in the new Gump's catalog would probably solve all my once and future problems.  Right.  It is lovely, and it looks so very invitingly elegant and supremely organizational and awfully orderly.  Things you want to be, right?  Well, things I always wanted to be.  And then I sort of begin to remember that there never has been (nor, do I finally--truly--understand, will there ever be) something I can buy that will make all of those dreams come true. And then I sort of wonder why it is that we all keep buying these things, or wishing to, which leads me to ponder how many hours women (and men) like myself spend, in their entire lifetime, thinking about/looking at the things we can buy to make our lives better.  And not buying them.  (How many hours do we spend not buying, daydreaming, supposing we should all have perfect homes unmarred by stacks or snacks or sticky-fingered people who usually happen to be under four feet tall?).  Equally alarming, perhaps, is the other thought: how many hours (and dollars) have we spent buying, and not quite figuring out that it's still not going to make all those dreams come true?  It's enough to make me want to set up my own personal hotline to Suze Orman.

It's all rather exhausting, on the whole.  A bit bewildering, also, since it prods me into admitting how much of a consumer I think I am not but I really am. 

Thank God the Shinto Office Armoire is almost $4,000 (and you have to wait 2 to 4 weeks for delivery, which always seems so long, doesn't it?  Except for the fact that it will reside in your now amazingly perfect little home office for the whole rest of your life, probably...).  Wait.  4K?  The numbers alone jolt me back into reality, and lightning fast calculations remind me that four thousand dollars is around six months' rent (give or take a few dozen burritos) for a college student (we have three in our family), or a year's tuition to a decent preschool in this area, or enough to feed a small family for many, many weeks (or months, depending on the circumstances).

Goodbye, sweet Shinto Office Armoire, and thanks for all daydreams. It was fun while it lasted.  


Wherever You Go There You Are

"How you set out 
on an adventure will
 pretty much dictate
 how you continue."


Neurogenetics: Your Red and My Red may Really be Different than Their Red.

A few weeks ago, there was a remarkable article in the Science Times (NYT, 29.04.08), in which Dr. Arno Motulsky was interviewed.  As a teenager in Germany, Dr. Motulsky spent years trying to emigrate to the United States, and--like Walter Gropius, see Bauhaus idolatry below--he was fortunate to be able to do so:  in his case, the window between staying and going boiled down to a mere 10 days.  "If my visa had taken any longer," he recalls, "I wouldn't be here...I would have ended up in Auschwitz, like most of the people I left behind."

It's a good thing, for all of us, that he got here.  

In 1957, Dr. Motulsky asked a question about the negative interaction of two drugs with a set of enzymes produced by certain human genes that "set off a revolution in research."  What does this have to do with design?  In the simplest terms: the good doctor goes on to discuss how one of his new projects relates to human color vision, and a recent finding that "the same exact red color is perceived as a different type of red, depending on a person's genetic makeup."  Amazing, yes?

"Q. What's the point of knowing this?"

"A.  It's exciting to learn that because of heredity, different people can see the same thing differently.  I think this may prove useful in studying more complex brain functions.  
If this were 20 years ago, I'd focus on neurogenetics. 
What's going on in the brain, that's the last frontier."

Doesn't get much cooler than that, as far as I can see.


What do Julie Andrews, Francis McDormand, Holly Hunter and Gene Tierney have in common?

That there's a dearth of (living) mothers in almost every Disney movie is somewhat clear (when last I looked, which was, admittedly, long, long ago). Which got me to thinking, after another delightful & quick talk with a brilliant friend (with whom I've recently had some fascinating conversations)...where (in my humble opinion) are there movie mothers that are worth watching, again and again and again? Not just sainted, non-wire-hanger-bashing mothers, but rich, thoughtful, mothers - the good, the not-so-great, and the perfectly heartwrenching?  

So, for what it's worth, here are a few good mothers to watch...and I'd love for someone else to put their two cents in, someday...please feel free: this is just a start (a decent start, I hope)...

  1. Francis McDormand in "Almost Famous" (actually, Francis McDormand in almost anything)
  2. Holly "These are our salad days" Hunter in "Raising Arizona"
  3. Every single mother (and non-single mother) in "Gosford Park"
  4. Gene Tierney in "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" (just the thought of it makes me woozy with happiness and longing and that strange melancholy that the cinematography embodies)
  5. Julie Andrews, pre-motherhood in "The Sound of Music," skip-waltzing away from the convent in her heavenly, wooly trachtenware jacket, equally fab skirt, and sturdy shoes
  6. Ethel Merman in "There's No Business Like Show Business." (...am I remembering this right?  I had such a crush, at ten, on Donald O'Connor...can you imagine?)
  7. Holly Golightly, a.k.a. Lulamae Barnes (teenage mother to the children of Doc Golightly), in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (whew...am so happy about this, as Audrey wasn't a mom in "Funny Face," all-time best Audrey--and with Fred, at that!--moment in my universe)
  8. AH!  Mrs. Incredible....Holly Hunter, again!
  9. God, I wish Judy Garland had been a mother in "Meet Me in St. Louis"...does it count that she sang "Under the Bamboo Tree" with her little sister?  That was sort of motherly, wasn't it?
  10. Auntie Mame. Best mother a Patrick could ever have. Just ask Agnes Gooch...

photo, above, taken whilst blasting through 
Nuremberg in the 
summer of ott seven. baby and mother 
were guests at a glorious wedding...i was simply 
a passerby with a camera, in awe of color and moment...

Happy Birthday, Bauhaus

On this day, in 1883, Walter Gropius was born.  Without him, we wouldn't have had Bauhaus, those iconic modern door handles most of us take for granted (see photo of gray doors in the back corridor in Bauhaus Museum; most the photos inside this temple of Gropius are a little wonky, because I had a strong feeling--but I really wasn't sure--that maybe I was not allowed to take them...and there was a very stern, and definitely scary, Frau guarding the single door to the museum), and a bunch of other seriously good stuff.  

According to the current Wikipedia entry, Gropius really didn't draw much (great collaborative efforts with other brilliants ensued, surely, due to this factiod...which, for some reason, reminds me of Einstein's first wife, whom--I have read--helped a whole lot with his homework when they were married)...he barely escaped death in WWI... and he lost his only child when she was 18. 

And, to top it all off, he had to escape--under the false pretense of making a temporary visit to Britain--as the Weimar Republic collapsed under the weight of new horrors.  

If this guy could surmount all the obstacles thrown in his way, it should give the rest of us hope. 

Happy Birthday, Mr. Gropius.  


Rauschenberg, on the momentum of interesting ideas.

"Screwing things up is a virtue," he said when he was 74. "Being correct is never the point. I have an almost fanatically correct assistant, and by the time she re-spells my words and corrects my punctuation, I can't read what I wrote. Being right can stop all the momentum of a very interesting idea."


Robert Rauschenberg: "...you're born an artist or not."

I usually work in a direction until I know how to do it, then I stop...At the time that I am bored or understand--I use those words interchangeably--another appetite has formed.  A lot of people try to think up ideas.  I'm not one.  I'd rather accept the irresistible possiblities of what I can't ignore...
Anything you do will be an abuse of somebody else's aesthetics.  I think you're born an artist or not.  I couldn't have learned it.  And I hope I never do because knowing more only encourages your limitations."

"Robert Rauschenberg, Who Redefined American Art, Is Dead at 82."  NYT 14.05.08


"This isn't heaven...This is Cleveland."

Another Happy Mother's Day to the joyously visionary Joan Vigliotta: although this is not by James Marshall (whom you made us love even more, with all your wonderous words and pictures of yesterday aft.), it is still a baby.  It's also not in Cleveland: it's in Nurnberg.

We of Joy Look know where a bit of heaven can be found on earth: in Joan's dining room, stacked with books, annotated with post-it notes, abounding in love and the joy of literature...thank you, Joanie, for your vision.  It is beautiful beyond words.