Saturday, July 30, 2011
Thursday, July 28, 2011
As is customary, during the month of August the theatre remains dark. We will reopen on September 5 with the peepshow entitled: 5 COOL AMERICANS. Our blog will be featuring weekend visual treats provided by guest writers and a series of remixed vintage treats. If you not already done so, please sign up for email notifications, so you can enjoy all the additional fun.
PS: Got a call from Bernice, our editor who has been on vacation in Syracuse. It seems that I keep missing the typos, as well as forgetting to water her potted plants on the window-sill. Last evening's visual treat devoted to the Victory Garden had two boo-boos in the narrative, which were: 'also means less of the grocery budget gets to stay at home,' should have read: 'also means more of the grocery budget gets to stay at home.' Also, 'Not to mention the pickers and pickers who endure something just short of chemical genocide,' should instead read, 'Not to mention the pickers and packers who endure something just short of chemical genocide.' It stands to reason that behind every writer, there sits a sharp editor.
Posted by Shane at 8:25:00 AM
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
I am shocked and saddened at the death of Amy Winehouse; it seems quite surreal that all that remains of this particular individual’s life are the images we experienced electronically, shared moments in the attendance of a live performance, or the singular bewitching voice which pierced through our consciousness thereby forcing us to understand her—as well as our-- need to feel, to risk, to love, to live. Brilliantly and mischievously, she made not being good, devilishly good. She will be missed.
She will be simultaneously missed and remembered for both on and off stage performances; there is no denying her incredible talent, yet lately this had been clouded by public incidents of the loss of control attributed to drugs and alcohol, both poisons to which much caution must be attached. It is argued that the substances (or the base materials) in themselves are quite benign, and only in application does any danger arise. I find much merit in this assertion, and apparently so does the Duchess of Northumberland who created The Poison Garden within Alnwick Garden near New Castle, reputedly the most beautiful garden in Europe. Designed by Jacques and Peter Wirtz, it features beautifully landscaped grounds, architecture, and waterfalls. Themed gardens include The Ornamental Garden (the country’s largest selection of European plants), The Cherry Orchard, The Grand Cascade, The Serpent Garden, The Bamboo Labyrinth, and The Poison Garden. A press release reads: In the intriguing Poison Garden, behind locked gates, guides share tales of deadly plants. Myths and legends are uncovered, along with facts from science and history. The Garden features many plants grown unwittingly in back gardens and in the British countryside, as well as many more unusual varieties. Flame-shaped beds contain belladonna, tobacco and mandrake. The Alnwick Garden has a Home Office licence to grow some very special plants; the cannabis and coca which are found behind bars in giant cages.
In addition to the more obvious miscreants such as monkshood, poison oak, and nightshade, many of our favorite garden plants if accidentally swallowed, can also be quite fatal. Some of these are the boxwood, lily-of-the-valley, columbine, foxglove, oleander, the common ivy (in addition to being invasive, quite toxic) and many others which may be easily seen at www.thepoisongarden.co.uk.
Enjoy today’s visual treat; the peep-show continues tomorrow with The Victory Garden.
PS: New York Magazine’s Nitsuh Abede offers an insightful and beautiful essay on Amy Winehouse at the following link:
Kind and wonderful persons in my life have made me quite aware of the challenges faced by many individuals in our society. The blind and visually-impaired and the manner in which they negotiate through the maze of obstructions, hazards, challenges, and limitations--as well as biases and prejudices on the part of others-- has always interested me. Probably the idea of losing my eyesight fills me with some fear, and as an artist and writer I strive try to understand how the lack of information provided by the sense of sight forces optimization of the other senses, which for the simple reason of survival must move quickly to complete a person's individual consciousness vis-a-vis the perceived world outside our body. Vision provides the brain with information of a large object moving towards us, this combined with the sound of a angry car's horn and compounded with the feel of a swoosh near our arm, as does the smell of a car's running engine and burnt tire-rubber makes us quickly realize that we have wandered from the sidewalk and onto the road, and the sudden appearance of goose-pimples means DANGER. Thankfully, seeing-eye dogs, canes, braille signs on street-posts, walk signs equipped with sounds or voice commands now help to facilitate navigation among streets and paths. Nevertheless, I don't see how it could be easy for the blind or visually impaired, much less the sighted pedestrian, who must contend with other walkers, joggers, bicyclists, skateboarders, Segway cruisers, tourists, panhandlers, dogs on leashes, baby carriages, strollers and red wagons, delivery carts, sandwich boards, thrash-cans, newspaper-stands, information-kiosks, parked food-trucks, and a thousand other distractions which make for a challenging journey.
Kind and wonderful people have made the journey throughout a garden very pleasurable for the blind and hearing-impaired by the establishment of gardens especially designed to stimulate the senses of smell, touch, and hearing. Access throughout the gardens are designed to allow easy access to touch and smell the plants; signs and information plaques are printed in braille; headphones also provide a recorded commentary as to the description, usage and origin of individual specimens; three-dimensional maps or legends are available for the visitor to touch and mentally recreate the layout of the garden (prior to entering the Zen rock garden in Ryoanji, Toyko a miniature model is located near the entrance, which allows the blind visitor to feel the location and shape of rocks, and the famous garden's overall layout). The sound of being outdoors is especially cultivated to allow the visually-impaired visitor to experience nature through the sounds of birds, water features, and musical wind-instruments. A list of gardens specially designed for the blind and visually-impaired can be easily found through an Internet search, or by visiting www.perkins.org, where detailed information is provided for gardens located in Pittsburg, Cleveland, Glendale, Seattle, Little Rock, and Fort Lauderdale.
Kind and wonderful people such as ourselves can make a difference by a small contribution to any of the organizations dedicated to preventing the loss of sight; these range from the Lyons Club, the Society for the Prevention of Blindness, Blind Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Foundation for the Blind, the National Foundation for the Blind, and the European Blind Union, and many others. Better yet, each month volunteer a few hours to helping someone else and see your best self emerge.
PS: Besides anything written by the incredible Helen Keller, A Natural History Of The Senses by Diane Ackerman gloriously explores how 'sense-luscious the world is,' and a joyous book to have for everyday inspiration.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Last week we experienced the hottest days of the summer so far; even zinnias and straw-flowers, two of the sturdiest heat-tolerant annuals and proven summer stalwarts, showed signs of duress. I confess to having a tentative relationship with annuals of which I find some to be a tad riotous; at times the Carmen Miranda color hues are sometimes difficult to integrate into the soft palette offered by pink phlox, white roses, Wintergreen boxwood, lace-cap hydrangeas, and the softly rounded mounds of spirea--all much favored by my employer. Although nothing can quite compare to the intensity of color offered by French marigolds, petunias, geraniums, rex begonias, and coleus, especially when the continuous heat has driven the remainder of the garden into shutdown-mode.
Duncan at Merrifield Gardens wisely notes: it is not the plant, it's the placement, so give it a second look; over the years I have become more relaxed and skillful at container gardening where the afore-mentioned annuals, as well as bacopa, nemesia, verbena, angelonia, as well as caladiums and elephant-ears tucked into colorful glazed Vietnamese, Chinese and Italian pots, or vintage cement planters, provide interest at strategic spots such as entry-ways, balconies, foyers, along pathways, or on pedestals. Combined with Swedish ivy, hostas, hellebores, ferns, ornamental grasses, and herbs, container gardening offers big bang for the buck, as well as greater ease in watering, feeding, and maintenance. Gorgeous glazed container-pots (deeply discounted) can now be found at Merrifield Garden, Meadow-Farms Nurseries, HomeGoods; and for the discerning aesthetes in our group, the high priestess of garden antiques, Barbara Israel (at www.barbaraisrael.com) offers the finest in statuary, pots, and antique furniture.
It is predicted that we will continue to experience 'climate change' and regretfully, this means that temperatures will rise. Any fantasies I may have had of growing lush beds filled with lupines and hollyhocks, like my friends in Connecticut, have been replaced by the pressing need to just keep the recently transplanted viburnum, witch-hazel, baptisia, Siberian irises, and rainbow leucothe adequately watered during the remainder of this summer's anticipated inferno. My peep Lowell and I are seriously considering the installation of a ' green-roof ' to his suburban town-house. His tiny front garden is doing beautifully and is fairly maintenance free as a result of using lots of native and drought-tolerant plants. We are both quite interested in cutting down on the cost of cooling his place in the summer; helping to decrease rain runoff and urban heat island effect; providing a habitat for wildlife such as birds, bees, and butterflies; transforming an ugly, flat cement roof into something beautiful with grasses, perennials, vegetables and herbs; and being able to relax outdoors in a private and idyllic setting. A recent National Geographic TV special about the roof-top garden installed at Chicago's City Hall was amazing. Photographs showed a green oasis amidst concrete/glass/steel towers, and hopefully this heralds a new beginning in smart, green energy. I pray that other cities follow Chicago's example as climatic temperatures rise, the price of transportation costs increase, and population density per square mile doubles in most metropolitan areas. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) posits that green-roofs insulate buildings, extend the life of the roof membrane, increase property values, and vastly improve urban aesthetics. I would love to see some of the federal buildings in the nation's capitol integrate green-roofs, which undeniably are more beneficial to the American people than the sharp divisions of red and blue.
Enjoy this week's peep-show devoted to unconventional gardens, and stay cool.
PS: New York's High Line (www.highline.org) is certainly a great step in the right direction. So is being the 6th state to recognize same-sex marriage thereby permitting over 800 same-sex couples to say I DO!!!
Posted by Shane at 9:29:00 PM
Thursday, July 21, 2011
I would not sing you to sleep.
I would press my lips to your ear
and hope the terror in my heart stirs you.
This week's peep-show is dedicated to the memory of Reetika Vazarani.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Monday, July 18, 2011
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Friday, July 15, 2011
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
The theme of this week's visual treat is 'Everyday Objects of Extraordinary Design,' and the spoon is our featured object today. It seems that yesterday's posting which was devoted to the mirror (or looking glass) surprised many new visitors to our blog, as well as some veteran peeps who may have been wondered at the quite liberal creative license I took in composing the narrative. I sincerely believe that acknowledgment and inclusion of our differences ultimately shapes the manner in which one's image in the mirror is initially perceived and then embraced.
In addition to being creatures of habit, we communicate and construct our world through our senses, of which vision/sight is critically essential (or we learn to depend on the other senses which for our continued survival must be honed to a finer degree of sensitivity for receiving and transmitting information to the brain). If we see someone like us, that makes us more comfortable, and if we see more of us happily integrated in the world, it stands to reason that we perceive the world as being accepting and nurturing of our individuality, our talents, our hopes and dreams, and the other little quirks that make us so special to our friends, family, and co-workers. Well, when this process is interrupted, incomplete, or unsatisfactory we all know what happens! Kudos again to the It Gets Better Project and Dan Savage.
My favorite email received in response to yesterday's posting reads as follows:
Fortunately the story of the spoon reads easier and with less issues to swallow. Excavations of Egyptian burial sites reveal many preserved examples of ivory/flint/slate/wooden spoons in various shapes. The Greeks and Romans were quite fond of spoons made of bronze and silver and especially loved decorative handles. Spoons dating from the Medieval times tended to be made of horn (cow and deer), brass or pewter. Once this instrument was inducted into the courts of the early English kings in the 13th century, it quickly became quite popular, second only to the knife. The spoon has remained a constant in flat-ware or eating utensils since, with few minor changes to its basic design of a handle attached to a shallow bowl and shaped/sized to the mouth.
Over the years, the spoon has become quite stylized as well as specialized by purpose, and any able hostess/host/protocol officer/FOH manager can adeptly set a properly laid table integrating any of the following (spoons): bouillon/caviar/demitasse/egg/
ice-cream fork(spoon)/marrow/salt/ saucier/teaspoon/grapefruit/ ice-tea/measuring/soup/table/ tea/dessert/
Not to be forgotten are two expressions which come emotionally charged: Lucky bastard, he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Or, Afterwards, we spooned like lovers do, and slept the night away.
Enjoy today's visual treat.
PS: Jeff Judy at Federal City Caterers can answer any questions regarding the etiquette of table-ware or flat-ware. He sets a mean table!!
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
The humble lead pencil can be used in many ways other than to which it was originally intended, such as: chopstick(s), garden stake, sundial, a measuring device, instrument of torture/hypnosis/pleasure/
hygiene, a door stop, etc etc, but most importantly it is the primary writing instrument or art medium in the world, and its surprisingly simple construction is a narrow, solid pigment (usually graphite or charcoal or crayon) core inside a protective casing (usually wood). Invented sometime around 1550 in Cumbria, England. The design of the lead pencil (called lead, however it is graphite) has remained virtually unchanged, other than the addition of a eraser at the end in 1858 by Hymen Lipman.
As children, we all learned our alphabet by copying, memorizing, recognizing the sounds that corresponded to symbols that when compounded in a string of two, three, or four clumsily drawn markings meant objects that we had already encountered in our limited, cosseted existence; quickly we realized that d-o-g meant the gentle animal named Rex who greeted us at home with licks and wagged his tail in anticipation of treats, and c-a-k-e tasted good, more could be had by being good, and d-a-d liked it too. The sweet pleasure of reading and writing cannot be overstated, and indeed the ability to express ourselves, our thoughts and desires, our dreams and fears, is integral to the process of individualization, and central to the relation of the individual vis-a-vis society. Children, and later as adults, who have been denied the opportunity to learn to read and (w)rite sadly live in the half-shadows, ghosts as such, who cannot partake in the abundance of experiences normally available to the literate. In The Reader, actress Kate Winslet brilliantly portrays the bleak existence of Hanna Schmidt, whose great secret and shame is her illiteracy. Tragically, her choices are limited, her decisions perhaps questionable, yet her written farewell is entirely her own.
If one were to pause--exceedingly rare for quite a few of us in today's technology-driven world where the ANDROID, TEVO, GPS, IPAD, FACEBOOK, KINDLE, and a myriad of other devices help to regulate our very existence to the satisfaction of multinational shareholders, branding agencies and crooning portfolio managers, one could surely point out certain items that have resisted modernization, and for this the inherent clarity and simplicity of their design must yet again be lauded. Apparently in these times there is return on the part of a small groups of weary as well as wary individuals to the tried, true, and an older technology more sympathetic to the shape of human needs, and desires. Ashlea Halpern recently wrote of The Analog Underground in NY Mag (7.7.11) where, 'A new generation of digital apostates rejects zeroes and ones in favor of celluloid, vinyl, ink, paper, and the click-clack-ding-slide of a typewriter. It can be argued that for the purposes of convenience/efficiency/time-
management/personal gain/whatever, the rapid click of text keys and its almost instant delivery reigns supreme, yet the poetic motions of characters drawn on a textile surface is matched only by the murmurs of my beating heart upon receiving a love letter proclaiming undying devotion though eternity.
PS: Today's visual treat is offered on behalf of all educators who heroically, selflessly, and tirelessly teach each generation, and also to Ms Ebanks of the kindergarden school on Gaborel Lane in Belize CIty who instilled in me an enthusiasm of reading and writing for which I am forever indebted.