Monday, July 30, 2012

Michigan, July 29th

Regular posts resume next week because I'm travelling. I had forgotten how beautiful the Midwest can be in the summertime. Last night, we took a stroll through the grounds of Cranbrook, and every vista was more enchanting than the one before. 
(Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, 2012.)

My brother drove over in his 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible and I jumped behind the wheel before he quite knew what was happening. It felt good.

Isn't the speedometer completely fabulous?


Monday, July 23, 2012

It's (Not) Going to Cost You

Ten of my favorite summer discoveries, exactly half of which won't cost you a brass farthing to enjoy.

1. Free chic. My friend David Netto has a new website. Check out the section called "The Notebook", filled with mementos and anecdotes from his too-fabulous life. 

(On the left, a card from the VIP room of the legendary nightclub. On the right, fifteen year old David in front of the windows he designed for Diane von Furstenberg's Fifth Avenue boutique!)

2. Not free, but also chic. Antique brass distressed knobs from Bosetti-Marella. Just ordered 24 of the one on the left, already have the two on the right in my kitchen. Love this line.

(Here, herehere.)

3. Free house tours. For Downton Abbey fans with time on their hands, a meticulous record of England's lost country houses. Gone but not forgotten.

(Aston Clinton House, demolished in 1958. HERE.)

(Lambourn Place, pulled down in 1938. HERE.)

4. Not free, but just as fun to tour. Have you ever in your life seen tents like these?
(FieldCandy tents. From top, "Men Only", "Fully Booked" and "Animal Farm." HERE.)

5.  Free wisdom. Want to be a better photographer? (I do.) "What's In Your Kit?" tells you exactly what kinds of cameras and lenses your favorite pros use to take their photos.
(Find out what's in Alice Gao's kit HERE.)

6. Not free, but there's no question this book will fire up mental sparks. I read it and felt wiser immediately.

(Here or here.)

7. Free visual brilliance. This could be my favorite historical art archive ever. Click on a letter and prepare for a time suck.
(Compiled by Chris Mullen in a most satisfyingly idiosyncratic manner. Here.)

8. Not free, but these brilliant wallpapers by Marthe Armitage will haunt your waking moments. (They do mine.)

(Chiswick House. HERE.)

(Alphabet. HERE.)

(Manor House. HERE.)

9. Free culinaria. Food blogs I swear by.

101 Cookbooks.

My New Roots.

Green Lemonade.

My friend Lucy's Ladles and Jellyspoons.

10. Not free, but is there a more clever way to tell them you made it with love?
(Biscuit stamp. Here.)

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Joy of Creation

There is an immeasurable happiness that comes from creating something.
(Kauai, 2004.)

And it doesn't matter if you're an artist or not.
And it doesn't matter if anyone else likes it or not.
And it doesn't matter if you ever show it to anyone or not. 
(Cuzco, Peru, 2007.)

* * * * * 
"Create what?" you ask.
Oh, you know exactly what.
That thing you keep telling yourself you'll do if you can ever find the time.
That thing that makes your heart skip a beat before you shove it clear out of your mind.

* * * * *
There's a million reasons why you keep putting it off.
Chief of which is probably that you think you don't have the time.
But -- news flash! Time is all we've got.
It's the only thing being alive guarantees us.
Just time.
And it runs out.
(Kauai, 2004.)

* * * * *
Maybe you've been putting it off because that little voice in your head always persuades you otherwise.
Then turn the music up louder.
(U2 at the Rosebowl, 2008.)

* * * * *
Or maybe you know what you want to do but you've been putting it off because you live in a small town and you can't find your tribe. 
That excuse has now officially expired. 
As a friend recently said to me, "The genius of the internet is that now there's a classroom for everyone." 
(New Delhi, 2007.)

* * * * *
What we're after here is not the creative end result but the creative process.
I arranged a bunch of wildflowers in a vase the other day and the bliss from those fifteen minutes lasted until bedtime.

Because when you let go and create something, lots of good things happen:

1. You experience freedom without judgment.
2. You connect to yourself.
3. You gain confidence.
4. You feel like time is expanding. (Imagine that!)

* * * * *
I'm not going to tell you how to do it.
That's entirely your affair.

Balzac wrote best after midnight wearing a white robe.

Before starting a novel, Somerset Maugham would read Voltaire's "Candide" over again. 

Winston Churchill's daily nap was a non-negotiable part of freeing up his brain.
(Cabinet War Rooms, London.)

What are you going to do?
How are you going to do it?


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Less Than Zero: An Adventure Story

The moon was full.
It rose over the water and settled determinedly in front of the beach house like a glowing reminder.
(Stinson Beach, Northern California. July 3rd, 2012. 
All photos by LBG.)

Not that we needed one.
Our alarms were already set for 5:15 am.
(Why? Excellent question.)

Early the next morning we were going on a very special expedition, one that could only be done a handful of times a year. Thanks to a rare "minus tide" (one significantly lower than average), for an hour or so we would be able to explore caves, rock formations and miles of coastline usually hidden beneath the watery deep. Our friends who had done it before gave us an explicit directive.

"Wear clothes that can get wet." 

* * * * *
We were on the beach by 5:45 am. The sun was still behind the mountains but the ocean suffused the sky with an otherworldly shade of blue.

(Can you tell how freezing it was from this picture? Mark Twain got it right when he said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.")

On the shoreline, the waves had been pulled back like the sheet on a bed.

Things looked deceptively ordinary. From far away we thought this was just a big rock. 

Oh how wrong we were. Up close we discovered a magical neighborhood filled with a variety of life aquatic.

This little guy was even waiting with a friendly salute.
(Did you know starfish were so plump and robust? I didn't.)

And who knew sea anemones looked exactly like those drink coasters made from geodes?

There were a few tricky spots that required trust and a willingness to wade. 

What goes out must come back in. The water was rising. It was time to turn back.

We were just talking about how peaceful it was when we were privileged with a rare sighting.

A strange Yeti-like creature emerged from behind the rocks, crossed in front of us and disappeared into the ocean. 
(Undoctored photos of San Franciscus Hippius Nudicus.)

After that, everything paled in comparison.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Own a Piece of the Past

I've always harbored a design fantasy of covering a wall "salon style" with lots of interesting old black-and-white photographs. Unfortunately, most of the limited editions I drool over in art galleries and designer showrooms are beyond my budget and so my dream has remained unfulfilled.

Until now.

Recently I stumbled upon the most amazing website for vintage photographs and it's kind of changed my life and I swear I'm not even kidding. 

Look at this photo of Liz and Dick on their yacht in Sardinia in 1967. Was there ever a more glamorous couple? What would you say if I told you that I bought this original, one-of-a-kind photo (as in once it's gone, it's gone forever) for under $30? 

(P.S. All watermarks are from the website images. These marks DO NOT appear on the actual photos.)
(Collection of LBG. )

Here's the reverse side.  You can see the editorial comments, date stamp and the clipping of the article it appeared in. It's a fascinating little piece of history.

If you're wondering why all these photos are being made available to the public, here's the short answer: as newspapers finish digitizing all of their photo archives, they just don't have the room -- or the money  -- to keep storing the originals in huge temperature-controlled warehouses across the country anymore. (We're talking hundreds of thousands of images, by the way.) It's sad that these enormous collections are getting split up, but in a way, the newspapers are handing over the privilege of being custodians of the past to all of us. I don't know about you, but I'm honored.

Let's keep going. I want to show you some more examples of the kinds of photos you can find on the Tribune Archives. Here's Edith Sitwell, English poet and seriously fabulous eccentric. Of course I had to buy it. What more powerful example is there that glamour has no sell-by date?
(Collection of LBG.)

Here's Winston Churchill painting in the South of France. I love Winston. He is a total inspiration to me. As Boris Johnson said recently about him on NPR (HERE): "He was biblical. For anybody who's ever got drunk and regretted it in the morning, Churchill is a lodestar." 
(Collection of LBG.)

I searched "Charles Dickens" and found this incredible 1932 photo of a troupe of actors performing The Old Curiosity Shop on the anniversary of his birthday. 
 (Collection of LBG.)

I searched "London weather" and found this haunting photo of riders in the fog in Hyde Park in 1937...
 (Collection of LBG.)

...and this one of London girls camouflaging their smog masks with chiffon veils for a night on the town in 1953.
(Collection of LBG.)

And THEN...there's those crazy kids the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. I admit to being fascinated with them and not because I hold them in high regard or find them especially sympathetic. He was weak, she was ambitious. They had a great romance that turned into a great tragedy.

But oh, the stories that their photos tell. To me, the ones with editors' crop marks are especially interesting because of what they say about the Windsor's fluctuating social status over time. In the beginning of their relationship, it's usually the Duke who is highlighted for publication. People were captivated by the king who gave up his throne for love.
 (Collection of LBG.)

(Collection of LBG.)

But as time goes on, the balance of power shifts. Now it's Wallis who the general public can't seem to get enough of. And the Duke? He's not very subtly crossed out.
(Collection of LBG.)

(Collection of LBG.)

(Collection of LBG.)

Unless he happens to be wearing a killer pair of shades.
(Collection of LBG.)

(All photos were purchased via the Chicago Tribune Photo Archive.)


One Very Important Thing to Know About Purchasing an Archival Newspaper Photo:

When you buy a photo, you own it as a collectors' item. The copyright is retained by the newspaper who issued it. As it says on the website, "No rights for reproduction or commercial use in any form whatsoever are given or implied." In other words, don't be making copies or silkscreening it on a tote bag.


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