Ingenuity and Als ik Kan

Ingenuity can take so many forms, and I encountered several today in my adventures in New Jersey.  The Canal Day celebration in Historic Waterloo Village gave me the impetus to finally make it to the Stickley and Automaton Museums.  What ingenuity all.

That bell-shaped think is the elk shoulder bone for the hoe

That bell-shaped think is the elk shoulder bone for the hoe

I started by touring the recreated Lenni Lenape village on the same grounds as the Waterloo Village, getting a sense of their ingenuity.  An elk shoulder bone becomes a hoe.  Clay becomes the longhouse.  If you’re looking for a gift for your mother, look no further than a long, flat stone.  It makes a wonderful griddle.  The Three Sisters take care of the Lenni Lenape.  Beans, corn, and squash are the Three Sisters.  Corn grows tall and strong, beans give a hug, and squash can go a long time without water.

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Canal Day turns out to be an opportunity to see the rescue of a mostly intact historic village, left to fall to pieces.  Recent state money gives this place a chance, and I have my fingers crossed.

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Smith mansion needs repair

I arrived early, so didn’t have to fight any crowds at the festival, which included a pontoon boat ride on the canal.  The village is at the midpoint of the 102.5 mile Morris Canal that opened in 1831 and stretched from the Hudson to the Delaware River.  Great shortcut for moving goods through the early Republic, so fortunes were at the ready.

One fellow, Smith, owned the smithy, the hotel, the general store, and the grist and saw mills, so basically the entire village.  He showed off his wealth by building a Victorian-style mansion, see above.

1870s chic modeled by Miss Sharon

1870s chic modeled by Miss Sharon

By the Civil War and its aftermath, the town was booming.  Sharon Kuechelmann told me how the Smith women would want to be seen in the latest fashions.  You can see the gorgeous dress she’s wearing, advertising her seamstress skills.

I didn’t realize that Singer had been around since 1851.  The better story comes with the ingenuity of Elias Howe, Jr., who patented an interlocking stitch accomplished on a machine.  When he didn’t have much luck selling his invention in the US, he went to Europe, and found all kinds of patent infringement, including by Singer, upon his return.  His successful suit resulted in an award of $25 for every sewing machine sold by all the makers, until the patent expired.  There is some justice in the world.

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Miss Sharon at her beloved White Rotary

Singer became the thing because, when sewing machines could cost $100 and the average annual wage was $500, how could anyone afford a machine?  Singer initiated the installment plan, like the first credit card.  Still Sharon prefers her White Rotary, less temperamental.  It sews like “greased glass,” she tells me.  it will sew any weight or thickness, even carpet, compared to a contemporary plastic model.  The vintage works much better.

Note the pin cushion along with the Mary Potts iron

Note the pin cushion along with the Mary Potts iron





And here’s the Mary Potts iron.  New to me, as I don’t believe in ironing, but the Mary Potts makes a lot of sense.  She invented the removable wood handle.  So now, you can heat up your four or five irons on the fire, all at the same time, and attach your cool wooden handle and work right through all the irons you got hot.  Pretty clever time saver, Mary Potts!  Perfect for cotton, not so great for polyester, as you can’t control the heat on a Mary Potts.  Keep that in mind when you’re ironing, but still, pretty ingenious.

Gustav Stickley was clever, too. His simple craftsmen furniture answered a need after a typhoid epidemic.  Turns out, the streamlined furniture was easy to keep clean.  Very appealing.  He had a hit on his hands, and along with clever merchandising–the catalog–he created beautiful and affordable furniture that made him a wealthy man.

2015-07-25 12.24.54Not far from Waterloo Village is the Stickley Museum, the house and 650 acres Stickley intended as a boys school–his way of giving back.  There, students would get general education, yes, but also learn a craft.  They’d never be without a way to earn a living.  Great idea, except tuition was $1000 per student.  Yes, really!  Mr. Stickley was none too clever with money, as evidenced by the outrageous tuition, so he never got the school going.  Instead he moved his family into the house he designed and built, while continuing to commute into Manhattan for his showroom, store, and restaurant.

The formal front entrance

The formal front entrance

Soon his working farm there was generating vegetables, fruit, eggs, and cheese for the restaurant, carted to the city seven days a week.

The house and land were meant as Stickley’s own Utopia, and he did wander in the woods each day after working in New York.  He had a communal dream of a Craftsman Village.  But money literally doesn’t grow on trees, or in fields, and five years after moving in, in 1916, Stickley went bankrupt.  The end of the dream.

The house and land were sold for $100,000, and apparently, oppressed by that dark interior that was so Stickley, the new owners whitewashed the log walls.  It took the restorers five years to remove that whitewash and resurrect Stickley’s vision of bringing the outdoors inside.  Each window is framed like a picture frame, with views that change seasonally.  No art adorns the walls and isn’t needed with the captured nature.  The color palette of brown, gold, and green was deepened by the lighting strategy of using 20 watt bulbs to simulate candlelight.  I can tell you, on this bright day, the current 60 watt bulbs still make for a dim interior.

It is evocative though of the Craftsman style that is Stickley, a man as obsessive about details as Frank Lloyd Wright.  He dictated the color palette, all the furniture, and its placement in his four daughters’ bedroom they shared.  But they must have tolerated it because they had their own private bathroom–a happy luxury!

I liked how each room, long and narrow, was multipurpose.  One featured the library, parlor, and sitting room.  The other the dining room, serving area, and the Inglenook for relaxing, all in one.  The furniture was all available for sale in his catalog or the showroom.  An Eastman Chair went for $58.50 in the catalog.  Today?  Shwew!

I liked the high-backed ‘settle’, which I guess was meant to settle into, in front of the fire, with the high back holding in the heat.  The $3 per year subscription to Craftsman magazine came with a free set of blueprints for a Stickley house.  Seems like a good deal to me!

It was Stickley’s shop mark Als ik Kan, or All I Can, from either the Dutch or Flemish, that spoke most to me.  As good a mantra as I can imagine–to do All I Can.

Als ik Kan is completely in evidence in the Guinness Collection of Automata and music boxes at the Morris Museum.  Call me enchanted.  You know I love old windup toys.  These are the creme de la creme.

2015-07-25 14.07.42Our demonstration started with a bit of chronology.  Although music boxes had been around for centuries, only royalty could afford them.  By the early 1800s, clock and watch shops got into making pipe or barrel organs, so that now a great mass of wealthy people could have music on demand.

Here you see the drum or barrel of the organ, the brass cylinder, that has pin holes meticulously drilled in by hand, generally by women. Hand cranking operates the bellows that rotates the drum over a steel-toothed comb.  Got that?  I can tell you, this London-made music box still sounds great, 200 years later, with its pipes, triangle, and drum.  Take a listen:

The sound can be altered with the stops.  So by “pulling out all the stops” (get it?), you get full sound.

Innovations continued, so that the size decreased, and elements were mass produced bringing the price down some.  By the 1880s, this German disc music box cost $285 at the time.  Still a lot of money.

Still using a windup start, now we have a punched metal disc.  With “all the bells and whistles.”  Guess who got an idea from the removable discs?  Yes, Thomas Edison, and the phonograph goes a long way to putting the music box world out of business.

Not to worry.  By 1900, you could get an organette, widely available by saving your soap box tops or for $3.50 in the Sears Roebuck catalog.  Top of the line?  $15.

2015-07-25 14.41.19The French have a different idea.  They produce one-of-a-kind, competition, living dolls.  Yes, automatons were popular for the elite of Paris from about 1850 to 1900, and collectors vied to get these unique pieces.  The makers were from clock and watch stores, no longer competing with factory-made, music box manufacturers.  Now they vied to top each other with popular motifs like street performers, magicians, animals, ‘exotic’ foreigners, royalty made into monkeys, and fairy tale figures.

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Some had music, some not. But each is a work of art in and of itself.  I was mesmerized by each one.

Here’s a modern automaton that shows a bit of how they work.  For those of you watching “Humans” this summer, you’ll be interested in the fact that these figures, these living dolls are precursors to robots.


Which takes us to the most intricate of robotics.  Here’s an 1890s trapeze artist.  All the ‘energy’ runs up a rung of the ladder to the shoulder.  Pretty incredible.

And the sketch artist, who turns his book to us to show us what he’s done, then proceeds to sketch you.

The tour wrapped with a look at some of the larger Fair Organs and learning how they work by peeking inside.  This Limonaire Brothers organ, with 115 pipes, is only 5′ across.  One in a private Connecticut home is 30′ across.  Yikes.  Still, you can tell how loud this one is.  To work outside, the punch roller is replaced by the sturdier, thick punch card book, featuring only one song.  Now electric, the organ works by feeding the book through to read the punch card.  Now start thinking computer.

I know the video is dark, but hopefully you get a sense of just how fun this and all the other wonders of this day were.  Ingenuity is everywhere.  Als ik Kan.  A call for us to do All We Can to create and bring our genius to the world!


Time on the River

I highly recommend this experience, so want to give you a heads up.  Last year, I went on the river cruise on the Connecticut River to see the incredible swallow migratory patterns that happen at sunset.  You may remember one of my pictures that is now being used in the promotional materials.

How fun is that?  Not as much fun as going on the cruise yourself.  So here’s the information, in case you can make it.


Boats are available on two dates only. Sunday, September 13 and 20 4:30pm-8:00pm

On the Connecticut River, witness one of the most spectacular avian happenings with the Tree Swallow concentrations that can be found each year. During fall migration, thousands of swallows congregate on the lower Connecticut River and at sunset settle in on a giant communal roost. Birds come from as far away as 25 miles and converge at dusk, often creating a ballet of synchronized flight before settling down to roost.

Join Connecticut Audubon Society naturalists aboard Essex Steam Train and Riverboat’s Becky Thatcher as we journey first by train and then by boat to see the spectacular, awe-inspiring display. Enjoy picturesque scenery on the train ride to the 70-foot Mississippi-style river boat. Food and a full bar are available onboard including ample seating, three decks, and restrooms. Tours are approximately three and a half hours in length. Fee: $40. Eight years and over, please.


Go Set a Watchman

Don’t let other people’s biases take this book away from you.  I think it’s wonderful.  The last line may be the best close of a book I’ve read in a long, long time.  Go Set a Watchman is a true bildungsroman.  Scout comes of age.

You may not like what you read.  You may not agree with the reasoned justifications provided by three different, central characters.  By the end, you may not agree with what Jean Louise does.  But I think you’ll be so glad you read it.

Me?  I wanted to dissect so many sentences.  To compare them to what I knew of To Kill a Mockingbird.  To think about how an author responds to pressure to change her story.

Actually, I think Watchman may be a better book than Mockingbird, so burdened with the confused narration of adult ideas put in a six-year-old’s mouth and a digressive, tension-shattering style.  This one is clearly from the point-of-view of a young woman and gives us a leisurely stroll into Maycomb, before building tension that doesn’t stop.

I have no problem reconciling Mockingbird’s Atticus and Watchman’s Atticus.  As he and Uncle Jack clearly state, Scout had mixed her father up with God.  Well, so did America.  Atticus is a man living through a confusing, pressure-filled time of change.  The points he makes Scout face in herself and in her country are not easy–for her, for him, for us.

If we are really so post-racial today, we wouldn’t have had the tragedies of the past year.  So don’t be afraid to read about cognitive dissonance–how one man faces himself and his community and makes choices.  He does the same in Mockingbird, maybe in a way you can more easily applaud.  But what Atticus does in Watchman is no less believable or genuine.  Perhaps it’s even more true.

For this man can believe one thing for himself and still value justice, still fight injustice.  Do you hold any contradictory beliefs or values?  This book makes you consider yourself, too, if you’re willing.  Who are we to judge a man of his time from the lens of our own, without walking in his shoes?  This book asks you to walk in Atticus’s shoes.

And while the kerfluffel is all about Atticus, the book is really about Jean Louse.  About her growing up, finding her identity, discerning who she can be in relation to a father she idolized and a town she nostaligized.

Read it for it’s laugh out loud, hilarious recollections that aren’t in Mockingbird and the cast of characters as quirky as any from the golden age of Southern literature.  It’s a page turner I read in a few short hours, even as I lingered over idea after idea, sentence after sentence, of Jean Louise wrapping her head around a new reality.  Read it for that, too.

Watchman gives us an honest assessment of race in America, putting Scout in the cherished role of heroic-thinker that Atticus claimed in Mockingbird.  She just doesn’t have her edges polished yet.  I loved every page, laughed, loved, and got sick with Scout, and am ready to talk about it all with anyone who dares.


Outer Island

On a sultry, misty morning, the ferry (read motorboat) left Short Beach in Branford to wind through the Thimble Islands to the furthest island out into Long Island Sound, simply called Outer Island.  Friends of Outer Island is sponsoring art classes all day on the island, and I’m glad our photography class was early.

The poetry of the swelter hopefully is in evidence here.

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Back on shore, Short Beach was starting to get crowded.  This looks like a William Merritt Chase painting.

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A slide show for more:

Bridges over placid water

2015-07-17 10.57.28Your intrepid blogger braved the early morning start to walk through the construction battle zone that has raged for years in New Haven:  the confluence of 3 highways (including the evil I95) over a tiny, placid river called the Quinnipiac.  The massive bridge needed to make all this highway havoc come together spaghettis over the Q River, and the construction that started in 2009 to improve the chaos will finally wrap up late next year.

Although this could be interpreted...

Although this could be interpreted…



Given the opportunity to try to understand it all, I joined a meet-up group of hearty souls, some with much better understanding of engineering that I could ever have.  But I reveled in the photo ops.  The detritus.  The equipment.  The patterns.  I hope you enjoy as much as I did.

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I asked about the noise working on site and was informed that the traffic makes worse noise than the equipment.  Regardless, the geese don’t seem to mind a bit.


By the Sea

This summer, three Connecticut museums are featuring maritime-themed exhibits, totally unplanned but wonderfully summerish and coincidental.  Today, I had the pleasure of joining one of the curators, Ben Colman, at the Florence Griswold Museum.  You know how much I love to dig into paintings, so I’ll share a few stories here.

This show features paintings from the permanent collection, but predominantly from the Museum of the City of New York, one of my old stomping grounds (where I worked with the Currier & Ives collection).   Ben shared that these paintings give us a window into attitudes toward nature and human-made landmarks, ironic perhaps in paintings about the sea.  First, almost all the paintings celebrate the new technology of steam sailing, whether as a paddlewheeler, ferry, or steamer.

By 1827, about 20 years after steam-powered shipping changed New York forever, the competition was fierce, both for business and the tourist trade.  Steam ship lines were competitive and needed something sexy to attract customers away from rivals.  You gotta love James Alexander Stevens who created an on-board art gallery, long before galleries and museums ever existed in America.

Basically, he commissioned 12 paintings on panels (apparently sturdier than canvas and could withstand rough sailing) for the main cabin of the Albany.  These panels would inform passengers of key sites along the way up the Hudson that they wouldn’t want to miss.  An early, graphical tour map, if you will.

Not-yet-famous Thomas Cole contributed, as did Thomas Birch, with two surviving panels in this show.  Awesome.  In this View of New York Harbor from the Battery from 1827, you might make out Staten Island, Sandy Hook, and Castle Garden at the entrance to the harbor, sites passengers would have seen as well.

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Lots of sailing ships.  Maybe you can just make out the steamer in the rear.  The future is coming.

How much fun the oddball sites are, too, where today, we go, “huh?”  Like Youle’s Shot Tower by Jasper Cropsey, known for his luminous landscapes, but here a darker, early work from 1844.



What the heck is a shot tower?  Well, this would have been one of the tallest landmarks around, so was quite notable.  A screen would have been placed at the top of the tower, 175 feet high, then molten lead poured through the screen.  The lead would drip through the screen (yes, really), and those drips would then fall 175 feet (yes, really).  By the time they landed, gravity and force would have shaped the lead into shot, or bullets.  Shot towers were essential for early defense.

Here’s the backstory, as if that wasn’t enough of one, that I love.  Cropsey and his colleagues would have gotten their training in Europe, often on what was called a Grand Tour, visiting key sites and for artists, studying in ateliers in Paris and beyond.  Romanticism was the fashionable style, and artists searched for the poetic, the moody, the mysterious, the intense feelings.  In Europe, this meant castles, ruins, historical subjects.

Well, the “wild west” of the American art scene didn’t have any castles.  The shot tower would have been a close substitute.  Note Cropsey’s moody lighting and rich color scheme, evoking a sense of grandeur for what would have been a recognizable necessity, but not particularly an structure of architectural repute.  Fun, eh?

I also like Michael John Boog’s Hell Gate from 1888.

Hell Gate

There’s a lot going on in this painting.  First, note the triangular tower in the mid-ground left.  That’s an arc tower.  In an early form of electric lighting, the tower was built in 1884 for arc lights, which put out incredibly bright beams from each of nine arcs, acting like a lighthouse.  Only problem, the beam was blinding.  Geez.  Substitute one problem for another.

So why do you need a lighthouse-type arc tower there in the middle of that placid scene?  Because it took two dynamite blasts to get it that way.  Talk about your tourist attraction.  Apparently 100,000 turned out to watch the confluence of three bodies of water get dynamited into submission.  Known as a serious sailing hazard since the 1600s, the point where the Harlem and East Rivers converge with Long Island Sound created whirlpools that deviled sailors.  The Dutch word for whirlpool apparently sounds a lot like what the English eventually called it, “Hell’s Gate.”

By the 19th century, sailing was central to moving New York’s economy, and dangers couldn’t be tolerated.  One blast apparently calmed things down, and a second worked on removing the rocks underneath.  This painting shows the view from the Queens side, post blasts, looking at the remaining rock outcropping.  Fisherman might have been the only sailors to complain, as the bass apparently were gone with the booms.

Lest you think sailing was all fun and wondrous sites, there was steerage then, too, particularly for the 200 or so passengers who would endure cramped quarters below for 41 days on a packet ship crossing the Atlantic.  Packet ships carried packages and people, notably from Old Lyme, CT through New York, to London, on a regular schedule.  Sixty affluent passengers could have a state room, but as John Rolph shows in this engraving from 1851, most people would escape the hole for fresh air on deck.

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How much easier daily marine life was for the fisherfolk.  I love this elegant, c1845 painting by Victor Audobon, son of John James, who painting with the same bravura as the Hudson River School, but was never one of the club.  See that same sweep of landscape, dwarfing people as they scuttle about their daily business, here wrestling with fish.  Ah the sea, land, and sky.  Perfect for a summer reverie.  Can’t you just smell it?





On the eve of the publication of Harper Lee’s first manuscript, supposedly found in a safety deposit box, comes another potential classic discovery.  William Inge, the playwright known for “Picnic,” Bus Stop,” and “Come Back Little Sheba,” has a dusted-off play being performed for the first time at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.



“Off the Main Road” stars Kyra Sedgwick and Estelle Parsons, leading a solid cast, together telling a tightly-wound story about a closed microcosm of people, each trying to figure out who they are in relationship to themselves and the cluster.  At its core are 3 women–mothers and daughters.  Their experiences, thoughts, and reactions are grounded and relatable (something I admire when a male creator can accomplish this about women).

No one character is just this or that.  Even the bad-guy is presented in a nuanced way that makes him human, not a type.  With this roundness, the final choice by the Sedgwick character is believable, although you might disagree.  I was neither surprised nor saddened by it.  It seemed inevitable to me, because Inge put the character in a place where she had to make that decision.  Can you tell how hard I’m working to avoid spoilers?

Nothing particularly surprising happens in this play, but the intimate tension is palpable and in the quiet theater, each revelation is accompanied by audience gasps.  I kept thinking how little has changed in the 50 years since the play was written, even as ostensibly women’s choices and roles have.  Inge seems to have touched on something that transcends the period and its social types.  The production has an honesty on issues we think about more readily today, but may have been too raw for 1966.

This rawness may be why this play ended up in a drawer of a renowned playwright.  The program notes offer another explanation–he was out of favor.

It’s a well-crafted play about the truths between people and the twin poles of self-insight and desire.  If you are a classic theater lover, keep your eyes open for this one.  I think it’s less dated and mannered than other Inge works and will be around for a long time to come.


Oklahoma, up close and nightmarish

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Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College

Unlike any version of Oklahoma I’ve seen is the current production at Bard College’s Performing Arts Center.  Yes, the voices are beautiful, the dialogue the same, and most of the songs are familiar.

But this go round, the performance is naturalistic.  No program (until the end) to distract you with any life beyond this moment.  Described as “stripped down” and “unsentimental” by the director, the approach allows “Hammerstein’s blazing, diamond-cut words and Rodgers’s soaring melodies (to be) laid bare for us to discover as if for the first time.”

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Our crock pot of chili and in the rear, the fixin’s for the cornbread

In Act 1, the dress is contemporary, and the songs are sung with a cowboy inflection.  “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'” becomes a waltz that Curly sings while strumming his guitar.  He starts by sitting on the picnic table that I shared, while Aunt Eller mixes up the cornbread we’ll eat at intermission.  The chili cooks in crock pots in front of us all.

The actors stay in the same space with the audience throughout the show, all as us as one.  We are part of the Oklahoma Territory.  When Will starts singing about KC being up to date, you might be startled when he starts to dance with the girl right by you.  The dancing is only the most natural, not high falutin’ at all.  At the barn, it’s square dance.  No leaping over tables or show-stopping tap.  No ballet in the dream sequence.

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The band, right in front of me

Ado Annie is a young girl in a halter top and cut-off jeans, cowboy boots, and hair in a side braid.  She tries to explain herself, how she cain’t say no, a capella, her bell-like voice all wanting, before being joined quietly by the six-piece band that includes a banjo, mandolin, and accordion.  She’s just a young girl, not a joke.  Laurie is like her mentor.

The pace moves so fast there’s no time to applaud between songs.  When Laurie and Curly warn each other with the don’t’s in “People We’ll Say We’re in Love,” the singing is so intimate and sweet, we become eaves droppers.  Curly sings tenderly, right into Laurie’s ear, as if only she is supposed to hear.  But we do, too.

Laurie and Curly in an intimate moment

SPOILER ALERT–don’t read past this point if you have any intention of seeing this show.

The biggest shift for me comes with poor Jud.  And here, he is to be pitied.  Longing to be noticed, much less loved, he has a solo I’ve not heard before, “Lonely Room,” an operatic lament sung with soft anguish.

But not before Curly bewitches him with “Pore Jud is Daid”.  A kind of gay trance is created by the staging. First, they talk to each other in complete darkness, showing us what the smoke house Jud lives in is like.  Slowly, as if our eyes acclimate to the dark, we begin to make out the forms of the two men, (actually clarified by projections), sitting very close together, singing the song.

Yes, Oklahoma is about two love triangles, but in this production, the attractions among Curly, Laurie, and Judd are unsettling and completely believable.  With the song in the smokehouse, Jud and Curly are close enough to kiss.  Laurie isn’t blatantly repelled by Jud.  Her attraction to Curly seems ambivalent.  Perhaps this is the actress, who plays the part very low key.  But the attraction isn’t as straight forward as usually played.

Act 2 opens with just the dream portion of “Out of My Dreams.”  And what a nightmare it is.  The music mashes together completely discordant versions of the songs from Act 1.  Laurie stands still in ghostly light.  Curly and Jud both sing “I Cain’t Say No!” to her.  How can anything be right for Laurie, if this is the dream that shows her what she really wants?

Square dancing in the barn, “The Farmer and the Cowman”

Periodically, the naturalistic tone is shattered by the use of a mic, which I think is a big mis-step in the production.  But as that takes us out of the drama and tension building, nothing prepares us for the ending.

Damon Daunno (Curly) and Amber Gray (Laurey) star in director Daniel Fish's experimental retelling of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!

Reprise of “People Will Say We’re in Love” but at a mic by the band

At the wedding party, Jud doesn’t burn down the barn, but instead comes to the newlyweds.  He asks to kiss the bride, which Curly permits.  Jud kisses Laurie on the lips, gently, and one of her arms embraces him.  Then Jud gives Curly a gift.  Curly opens the box to reveal a gun (Curly has sold his saddle, his horse, and his gun to win Laurie’s box lunch at the social).

With no words, but in my mind, the echo of “Pore Jud is Daid,” Curly takes the gun and shoots Jud.  Both Curly and Laurie in wedding white get sprayed with blood. What was Jud thinking?  Is this the inevitable gesture to Curly, that he allows the cowboy to fulfill the promise of their song together?

The town folks, never changing a word of the script, enact the way a community closes around an insider, Aunt Eller especially, forcing an acquittal of Curly in the moment, despite one legal authority’s objections.  Jud is dead, and the girls can mourn him, as the song promises.  Laurie seems stunned, as the show closes with a rousing rendition of “Oklahoma!”  Ignore the ugly and sing, seems to be the message.  The future is bright.

But how can Laurie have a happy marriage to a man who unambiguously murders someone she has some kind of complicated feelings for?  The state may be made up of communities that protect their own, but on the micro level, this marriage has to be doomed.

Jud’s death, so easily dismissed in most productions because he is one-dimensional gross and his violence is so incongruous with the fluffy take on most of the material, here rises to the level of tragedy.

How could I feel good leaving the theater?  I had just witnessed a tragedy and miscarriage of justice.  I noticed many people smiling–the final song calls for a Yippee-yai-eh.  But the theater doesn’t permit children to attend the show.  Its intent is clearly to disturb our comfort with the traditional rendition of Oklahoma.  I’ll certainly never think of this show quite the same way again.

Laughing with MAD

As ever, the Museum of Arts and Design is fab fun.  Today, between Parts 1 and 2 of the majestic Wolf Hall, I had time to see the mannequin exhibit.  You think you’ve seen it all, right?

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Designer Ruben Toledo created these mannequins for Ralph Puccini to display jewelry and accessories.  I guess someone decided the figures are pretty fantastic, too, and deserve their day under the lights.

The workshop for assembly

The workshop for assembly

2015-07-05 16.37.16I laughed at the 1988 “Birdland,” first understanding it as bird-brained.  You know, the fashion industry.  Not to be confused with “The Nile,” which references Ancient Egypt.

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You know I loved the plus-sized gal, a compact (to my eye) size 16.  Here’s “Birdie” (what is it with these birds?) from 1999.

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Another new show at MAD features mid-century and contemporary women artists.  Vivian Beer combines two of my favorite design forms of shoes and chairs –well somebody has to! — with “Anchored Candy No. 7” from 2014.  Yes, that’s automotive paint in hot red.



And Eva Zeisel’s “Belly Button Room Divider” out of ceramics from 1957 did it again. Another belly laugh with MAD.

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Caught my eye,

the contrast of the quiet observer and the manic mannequin:

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and the mannequin in architecture:

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July 4th sightings

At the Hindinger’s Farm, strawberry season draws to a close, and the goats have a playpen…

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And the post office got the day off…

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Actually, this first Branford, CT mail delivery vehicle is now retired.  Burt Shepard carried the mail in this horse-drawn wagon, made by Studebaker, from 1902 to 1923.  He then used a truck to deliver the mail until he retired in 1933.  His grandchildren donated the Studebaker to the Branford Historical Society.

After a wonderful potluck dinner, we celebrate with a bang and the fireworks over East Rock…

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Happy Fourth!