Thursday, November 26, 2009

Slutty Pilgrim is a Monarchist!

Black patent Pilgrim shoe by Roger Vivier, with a platform and 4 ½” heel. Buckle is embroidered with “God Save the Queen” and R.V., $1125.

The Pilgrim shoe was first recontextualized when Catherine Deneuve wore the original Roger Vivier design in her role as a prostitute in Belle du Jour. Today's version has a platform and an almost 5" heel, so the sinfulness is built right into the shoe. Leave it to RV, to once again play with the Pilgrims by invoking allegiance to the very monarchy whose rule they fled.

Perfectly ironic footwear for Thanksgiving, yet practical enough for pole-dancing.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Of eBay and Empires

Awesome animated graphic of the rise and fall of world empires from 1800 by Pedro M. Cruz. I did a double take when I saw this because it looked so much like the "found palettes" I'd been collecting from eBay. It's a category I think of as "graphic cousins" or "visual homonymns"--they have visual similarities, but little in common beyond that. If there is a word for this phenomenon, I'm not aware of it.

Visualizing empires decline from Pedro M Cruz on Vimeo.

Fisher Price records

Enamel skillets

I tried to come up with possibilities for what the word might be, and started googling. "Homograph" is already taken and refers to words that have the same spelling, but whose meaning can only be known from the context in which it is used. "Homoglyph" is also taken. It refers to two characters or sets of characters that appear very similar and can often appear identical. Examples are the numeral zero and the letter "O", or the letters rn and m. "HOMO pict" has somethig to do with chemical bonding. "Homopict" has to do with another kind of bonding.

When I tried working with “icon”, Greek for "image", I found out that "Homicon", is an annual convention for fans of Homicide: Life on the Street, while "Homocon" is short for “homosexual conservative” an oxymoronic political identity. Google assumed there was a space missing in "homoicon", so I was taken to an art essay in the Independent, Arrows of desire: How did St Sebastian become an enduring, homo-erotic icon? “Sebastian's appeal to gay men seems obvious. He was young, male, apparently unmarried and martyred by the establishment." "Homoiconic", however, is a word used in computer coding. According to Wikipedia, "Homoiconicity is a property of some programming languages, in which the primary representation of programs is also a data structure in a primitive type of the language itself, from homo meaning the same and icon meaning representation."

Alas, being at a loss for one word, has caused me to use many.

Rubber Stamp Catalog

One of my vintage ephemera finds from Buenos Aires.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Do You Know Where You Are?

It’s Geography Awareness Week and to celebrate, National Geographic has invited all 100 U.S. Senators to draw a map of their home state from memory. The contest was inspired by Senator Al Franken’s performance at the Minnesota State Fair, where he drew the entire map of the U.S. freehand. So far, Senators of only 11 states have risen to the challenge.

Which is really too bad, since Geography is in serious need of awareness in this country.

The 1987 Joint Resolution establishing Geography Awareness Week reported that “20 percent of American elementary school students asked to locate the United States on a world map placed it in Brazil” and “95 percent of American college freshmen tested could not locate Vietnam on a world map …”

The continuing trend of geographic illiteracy was confirmed in 2002, when Americans age 18-24 scored second to last of nine countries in a National Geographic/Roper survey. That’s when it was revealed that 11% of U.S. citizens interviewed couldn't locate the U.S. on a map and almost a third couldn’t identify the Pacific Ocean.

The most recent survey, in 2006, reported that “… results show cause for concern.  Six in ten (63%) cannot find Iraq on a map of the Middle East, despite near-constant news coverage since the U.S. invasion of March 2003.

Senator Franken's impressive freehand map-drawing skills, got me thinking about the gorgeous antique globes covered in slate like this one at the Paris Hotel Boutique. These late 19th –early 20th century classroom fixtures were used to teach geography and geometry. I came across a brochure from globe producer, A.J. Nystrom & Co. of Chicago, and here’s how they described the product’s value.
Most phases of Geography and Spherical Geometry may be presented more clearly, and their truths more permanently impressed in the pupils’ minds with the aid of a slated globe. The actual use of the chalk or slate pencil by pupils on the globe takes advantage of the strong memory value of muscular action.

To be sure, the “memory value of muscular action” is something we’ll never get from Google Maps or from an iPhone app. Which makes me think that maybe what’s really needed in this country to get back to Geographic Awareness, is a clean slate.

Here’s a DIY version using chalkboard paint.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pillowcase Talk

Is it just me, or was anyone else loving those fabulous pillowcases covering the heads of Taliban terrorists on the front page of today's New York Times? I clicked and moused-over the image, but alas, no hyperlink to a retail venue.

Don't they read their own paper? In a November 8th story on the the "dismal ad climate" for magazine ad pages, they report that "InStyle’s pages were up 4.7 percent for the December issue versus a year ago."

Let's just say that there's more than one way to monetize all those freeloading readers ...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Money Counts

A friend brought back these rupee coins from India recently. Great example of "show don't tell." What's not so great is the reason--literacy rates in India. The rates vary tremendously between genders, classes and regions. Overall literacy for men is 76%, while the rate for women is 54%. Regionally, the rates vary from a high of 91% in Kerala to 47% in Bihar.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


These all came up in the same auction the other day. The randomness of this confluence struck me as some kind of mad-libs/haiku ...

Woolen waterfall
Tahitian flower smiling
Lenny Bruce for sale

Cold War Modern

Visit the V&A online to see how the Cold War shaped design from 1945-1970 on all fronts. Below, a sign from Berlin, late 1940s.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Consuming Communism

Here’s how the Berlin Wall has been faring on eBay …

Sold for $11.50--cool film noir graphic on this unopened boxed fragment.

Sold for $76.00--one of the more tasteful mountings.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Les Trois Musiciens: The Prequel


I'll admit it. I'm in a yellow phase. Have been for well over a year now. I still love orange, and will not be giving up my mid-century orange fiberglass chairs or Heller plastic any time soon, but I've moved on to yellow. So when I saw this version of Les Trois Musiciens, which sold on Wednesday night at Sotheby's for $5,000,000, it just knocked my socks off. It could just be a matter of my current color bias, but the black and white treatment of the musicians with the solid yellow background is so fresh and contemporary. It's got that altered-b&w -photo look of Baldessari or an iPod ad. Check out the 1945 version of the painting at MoMA. It looks quaintly "modern" by comparison.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Gray Matters

Basements. All big buildings have them. Subterranean symphonies of meters, pipes, metal and concrete--and gray. Lots and lots of gray.

They all manage to be oddly familiar ...

and creepy at the same time.

In this particular basement, I couldn't help thinking about ...

Giorgio Morandi ...

Brice Marden ...

and Edwin Dickenson.

These three painters know a lot about color --

and a lot about gray.
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