Tech Pleasures

A day in New York museums, and for the most part, the architecture and technology interested me more than the art.  Could have been my mood, but I was more charmed by Frank Lloyd Weight’s building at the Guggenheim than the dreary retrospective of Alberto Burri and uninspired Photo-Poetics.  I can show you more poetry from a cell phone camera.
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Inspiring view in the Guggenheim

My long-awaited visit to the Cooper Hewitt didn’t disappoint.  What fun the ‘pen’ is.  You get the fat, two-tipped device at check-in.
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One end allows you to draw on interactive boards around the museum.

You can see my minimalist genius here.  Some people (read children) were creating meticulous designs.  So it’s possible!

The other tip of the pen selects objects for your own collection, coming complete with text, for later delight.

Once I got the the trick down for making the wand scan easily, thanks to a helpful guard, I filled my basket really full.  Before leaving the museum, I then dropped the pen in a plexiglass case.  The pens are collected by a museum employee who downloads the images to a folder on the website that’s all mine.  And there they all were when I visited the website later!

New meaning to the game I typically play–what one object would you take home from this exhibit or museum?  No reason at the Cooper-Hewitt to stop at one.  Perfect for those of you who live in small spaces or lust after being a collector, but are on a budget.

Masdar Mosque (unbuilt), 2009

Masdar Mosque (unbuilt), 2009

Short red contoured cylindrical form reminiscent of a child's toy top; shallow bowl-shaped seat; pointed base, causing form to sit at an angle.I went nuts for the exhibit of Thomas Heatherwick.  If only the yacht or mosque were brought to fruition.  Every design is worth a study, and videos sometimes demonstrate the magic.

Like Spun the chair here.  Love it, although I think I’d be very dizzy.



Don’t miss the glass bridge and expanding furniture and the Learning Hub.  Seriously, every one is worth a slow look.

Boat (not Yet Realized), 2011

Boat (not Yet Realized), 2011

Indigo-dyed wrapper patterned with stitched resist. The field has a checkerboard layout of alternating design squares, one containing a pyramid-like shape of stacked lines, and the other a sunburst or snowflake pattern surrounded by dots. End borders have a simple dot pattern. The lines are created by overcast stitching, the dots by simple tie-dye.

African indigo-dyed wrapper

Since I’ve been weaving, I was really attracted to the textiles and patterned papers.  African, and especially the collection of French rococo wallpaper of the Hewitt sisters.

Arabesque with two scenes: one of hunting party of three on horse, the other of landscape with architecture; surround of acanthus scrolls and floral swags. Printed on joined sheets of handmade paper.

Arabesque on handmade paper

Cabinet on stand with floral marquetry veneer. Cabinet fronted by two large doors with brass lock plates that open to reveal twelve small interior drawers, each with brass pull, and one cupboard door with brass lock plate, all veneered with floral marquetry. Long narrow drawer in cornice molding on top. Stand has long narrow drawer with two brass pulls and one lock plate, supported by six scrolled legs with curved stretchers and bun feet with metal casters.

Cabinet on stand with floral marquetry veneer, c1675-1700

And the teapots, fans, bandboxes, inlaid furniture, jewelry, and birdcages the sisters collected.  I like their taste.
Green painted wooden frame with metal wires, modeled after the Rialto Bridge. Intricate wire scrollwork; four doors; two feed cups; hinged panel at either end for removal of trays (trays missing).

Rialto Bridge Birdcage

How about this?  Braille wallpaper.  I was mesmerized and really wanted to touch!
Seemingly irregularly placed red flocked dots which form letters of the Braille alphabet, spelling out the "listen and record" process used in creating this design.

Spells out the “listen and record” process used in creating this design

Okay?  What one object would I bring home?  It would have to be something practical for my small space.  So how about a radiator cover?
Black cast iron radiator (b) in the form of a podium surmounted by an arch forming a niche for a standing draped figure (a) of a woman- the goddess Hebe- holding a Greek drinking goblet in either hand (d,e). A composite entablature is surmounted by a Doric cornice crowned by a semi-circular tympanum. The podium base is decorated with bas-reliefs of columns alternating with Greek vases surrounded by drapery at the lower level and repeated scene of a griffin and man pouring liquid into a bowl in the upper level. The arch itself is decorated with bas-reliefs of rosettes and scrolls on two supporting pilasters with fluted capitals. The tympanum has a bas-relief of an eagle clutching a staff from which springs ribbons bearing "Stratton" and Seymour". Stars decorate tympanum, following the semi-circular curve. Radiator stands on four detachable scrolled legs (f/i). The fender (c) is comprised of grille work formed by scrolls, acanthus leaves and rosettes. Flat circular flue key (j) with stylized foliate handle fits on pipe behind tympanum.

Black cast iron radiator cover with the goddess Hebe- holding a Greek drinking goblet

For the sheer pleasure of a seamless, pleasurable meld of good-looking objects and technology, add the Cooper Hewitt to your list.

Red Hot Mama

Sophie Tucker was the original Red Hot Mama and every hot moment is explored in the delightful new documentary Outrageous Sophie Tucker.  It’s new out in theaters in New York, and I saw it at the JCC.  So keep an eye out.

There are all the typical celebrity talking heads and accolades, but also surprising insights that came from a four-year study of her exhaustive scrap books.  She married three times and also had many female friends, implied as lovers.  As a Red Hot Mama, she sang about the sexual pleasures of being fat with all the innuendos the era could stand.

I was genuinely shocked to learn that she started as a ‘coon singer’ in black face, because that’s the only way she could get on stage.  She predated Bessie Smith and several other amazing black women singers from the 1920s who revolutionized the blues, singing in a jazz and (Jewish) blues style they must have known and emulated.

A star that made stars, she starred in the first film after The Jazz Singer, featuring Al Jolson, but she called it a “stinkeroo.”  Her second, Broadway Melody of 1938, launched Judy Garland with her generous helping hand.  She was friends with both Al Capone and J. Edgar Hoover, finding the human in everyone.

The documentary will make you smile, hard, toe-tap to her wonderful voice singing the American songbook, and admire a woman who made it alone when no woman could.  She established the American celebrity culture with her insightful marketing and pushed for racial equality and union rights.  Plus who doesn’t love a proud, big woman?  Here’s a sense of the film:


Revolutionary Stuff and Stories

We’re all starting to think early Colonial, big thanks, and bigger turkeys, but today I immersed in the end of the Colonial era, with the behind-the scenes tour of Revolutionary War stuff and stories at the Connecticut Historical Society.

You may have hea2015-11-21 14.10.47rd of Nathan Hale, wishing he had more than one life to give for his country.  He certainly could have used more than one.  This Yalie made a terrible spy, hanged at age 21.  George Washington had recruited Hale to carry messages behind the lines, but he was found out either by the British Major Roberts who pretended to be a patriot or by his cousin Samuel Hale, who exposed him.  I don’t know if this diary gives any clues to his cluelessness, but it’s there to be read.



Who wouldnCHS 1896.9.1‘t love the battle of the red’s?  This red coat belonged to Redcoat Munson Hoyt, a Connecticut loyalist fighting for the British.  The coat, as you can see, is in remarkable condition, given that Munson fought while wearing it.  After the war, he moved to Canada, taking advantage of the reward for his military service of a plot of land.  That didn’t keep him out of the new United States though.  He moved back to Long Island, where he met his wife and settled.

Somehow the bright red cloak of 22-year-old Deborah Champion not only retained its brilliance, but also didn’t get in the way of her spying activities.  Red is a color that catches the eye, a 2015-11-21 14.22.37notoriously bad choice for sneaking around.  But Deborah, who carried messages from her father to George Washington, apparently was all success.  Whenever she felt threatened, she could hide under a calash bonnet, also known as a ‘bashful bonnet’, with its broad hood, disguising herself as an old lady.  Of course, we all know that old ladies couldn’t possibly be spies!

Although Connecticut didn’t see a lot of battle action as the ‘provision state’ (supplying all of George Washington’s armies’ needs), some memorable battles did happen here.  In 1781, Benedict Arnold betrayed his home state and his mentor Washington with his insider knowledge.  He knew that the signal for an enemy ship along the Connecticut River was two cannon shots, with three for a friendly ship.

The hole on the right shows where he was stabbed.

The hole on the right shows where he was stabbed.

When a British ship was sited and two shots were fired, Arnold had the third fired as well, delaying the patriot army’s response.  Also outnumbered, the patriots lost the battle at Fort Griswold at New London.  Even though the patriots surrendered, fighting continued.  Imagine this vest on Colonel William Ledyard, who in the act of surrendering his sword, was bayoneted 14 times by an unnamed British soldier.  Yikes!  So much for a gentlemanly engagement of war.

The vest came to the Historical Society, blood and all, in 1841.  A diligent curator thought the blood stains would upset the ladies and had the vest cleaned.  All curators since have been turning in their graves and sighing, including the two interns leading our tour.  Still you can clearly see where the bayonet penetrated, making this soldier’s unjust fate all the more real..

Imagine the day-to-day life of a patriot soldier.  You had to “grab your gun and go” to war, bringing your squirrel-hunting rifle, or whatever was handy.  Wear any garments you had that might keep you warm and dry.  Not like the British soldiers who were outfitted in red coats and the latest armament technology–the flint-lock rifle.

Imagine marching with a gun as big as you are!

Imagine marching miles and miles with a gun as big as you are!

You would wear your shoes out marching, so that you’d be better off barefoot.  Your clothes would be in tatters.  Why?  Not only are you carrying a 10-pound rifle, but also your bedroll and all your supplies.  With malnutrition and disease limiting growth, the gun might be as big as the man.  That was verified by the tiny red coat on display and the 5’2″ intern with a rifle.

What a life.  It did help to believe in the cause.  In Connecticut, only 50% were patriots, while 20% were loyalists.  30% probably wanted to see who would win.

Phineas Meigs’ broad-brimmed hat

Phineas Meigs would never find out.  Ostensibly the last Connecticut soldier to die in the war, his hat made it to the Historical Society in 1859 and clearly shows the entrance and exit sites of the bullet that killed him.

Age 73, this private fought in the Battle of Madison on May 19, 1782, when the war was winding down.  Meigs left his home to respond to the alarm.  Armed British ships had been chasing a merchant vessel that sailed for cover in Madison.  The resulting skirmish left one British soldier and Meigs dead, the latter close to his own home.  Someone included his hat when returning his body home.  The family clung to if for 75 years.  It’s chilling to see in person, taking the war out of the history books and onto a real guy’s head.

2015-11-21 14.30.23Maybe one of the last things he would have seen would have been his regimental flag.  Here’s a remarkable flag that was “raised 1640” and still flew in the Revolutionary War.  Its red color suggests it was a state militia flag originally, then appropriated later by the patriots.  Betsy Ross didn’t make any kind of flag in time for the war.  That’s all myth, and another story.  But this flag is the real deal.  Its silken tatters are a reminder of the remarkable stories that make the past seem like just a moment ago.



Bonus!  Non-Revolutionary-War gowns being staged for an upcoming Downton Abbey exhibit

Bonus! Non-Revolutionary-War gowns being staged for an upcoming Downton Abbey exhibit


Men riding around on horses and hitting a ball.  Long breaks, where British people drink tea and make snarky remarks about everyone else.  Stamping down the divots in the turf.  That was polo for me before today’s Yale-Stanford match-up.

Stanford in red, checking out the arena before play

Stanford in red, checking out the arena before play

While Yale got stomped by the Stanford team, I feel the victory.  I learned that polo is not just a men’s sport, but according to the Yale women players in the stands with us, they don’t ever play co-ed.  “The men are more aggressive,” one said, also acknowledging my query about bruises.  Yes, the play involves pushing into your opponent, playing defense, as well as riding all out to hit a little ball with a mallet.

Yale was in blue

Yale was in blue

The object–to score a goal by knocking the ball into a marked area at each end of the arena, while riding full tilt.  It is definitely harder than it seems.  We saw our share of air-swings, balls once struck that sputtered and went nowhere, balls that ended up knocking around between horses’ legs.

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They bunch up during play

The rules have built-in forms of protection for players and horses, but these are so obscure that even the players don’t quite understand them.  Here’s one.  When a player hits the ball, that forms an ‘imaginary line.’  Yes, imaginary.  You, and the horse, have to envision this line that now you cannot cross.  If you do, foul!  The other team gets to take a foul shot.  This rule supposedly prevents collisions.

“But…,” I said, “but.”

“Yeah,” replied a player.

“It’s imaginary?  Then how…”


To make things more complicated, this imaginary line is redrawn every time the ball is hit, too.  Um, okay.

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The father of one of the Yale team, a polo player himself, explained.  “You just get it when you’re out there.  Some horses even get the line and know how to work it.”

I tested this idea out on the women players.  One’s eyes sparkled as she said,”Yes!  The good ones definitely know the line.”

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So you think everyone would want that horse, right?  Well forget it.  The Stanford team traveled across the country for 90 minutes of play (4 chukkers of 6 minutes each, with breaks), so they certainly don’t bring horses with them.  They ride the Yale horses.  And after 2 chukkers, the teams switch horses, to make sure there’s no favoritism.

The visiting players don’t know the horses, their quirks, other than what a handler will tell them before the match.  The players do have a few minutes to canter around the playing field, and that may help some.  There are four players per team, with 3 playing at a time, 3 chukkers each.  So the players rotate horses and teammates.  it’s a game that moves in all kinds of ways.

2015-11-15 12.32.16Oh, by the way, the rules are different when played indoors, as we saw today, versus playing outdoors.  Don’t ask.  These rule changes are too complicated for my simple-poloish mind.  They have something to do with changing which goal is whose after scoring, and, well, you probably have to go to Yale or Stanford to fully understand the rules.

Even so, it was just fun to watch the play, which became noisier as the competition heated up.  At first, the play was so quiet, we could hear the horses’ hooves when they shifted into a gallop.  Then the coaches started calling instructions, and whoops burst out with goals.  I think you’ll hear it all in this video:

Gentlemen to the end, the Yalies and Stanford victors shook hands after the final whistle.  It’s all good fun at the collegiate level.  The summer may call me to a professional competition, outside on a polo green.  I might even get out and do the divot stomp.

Cooling down after the match

Cooling down after the match

The closest I'll ever come to playing polo!

The closest I’ll ever come to playing polo!

Fresh thinking for government?

With presidential politics revving up, maybe it’s appropriate that I saw two political plays today.  Both offer a reminder of the personal cost of political leadership.

King Charles III,” a Brit transplant to Broadway, speculates on the role of the monarchy in democratic Britain and what would happen if that crafted balance were demolished.  Despite the cloying references to Shakespeare including the iambic pentameter verse, the surprises along the. way elevate this play almost to the level it shamelessly imitates.

Two characters attempt fresh approaches to living with, and opting out of, traditional leadership roles, both rebelling in the name of decency and common sense.  That is until the forces for sameness squash the forces for change.  That tension, I will admit, created a Shakespearean calculus.

Too bad for the abrupt ending that needed audience plants to signal.  Otherwise, the audience clearly would have waited for more.  Instead we were left with an unsatisfied craving.  Or at least I was.  The rest of the audience gave the typical standing O.  Stunned, I wanted to rebel!

The inability to rebel is at the heart of “First Daughter Suite” at the Public Theatre-that hot launching pad of new musicals (most recently “Hamilton”).  Whereas Kate (Prince William’s wife) protests being ‘plastic’ and does something about it, American women in the White House have had less choice.

Somehow Chelsea Clinton escaped the roast/opera.  Music mostly discordant and lyrics often laugh-out-loud funny, the political and life traps of being a woman in the White House from Pat Nixon to the Bush generations are the fodder.

Who can forget the competition between Julie and Tricia Nixon and Tricia’s White House wedding on a rainy day?  Poor Pat.

Amy Carter, who was tormented during the Carter years by the media, gets her own dream fantasy.  The dream is complete with a hilarious, diva-dancing Betty Ford, the too-sweet Rosalynn who assures her that boring, normal life is okay, and spiky Susan Ford who contends that first-daughter Amy will never be normal.   Like Prince Harry in “King Charles III,” maybe Burger King is the answer.

Maybe Chelsea was spared because of Hilary.  Maybe because the Clinton’s protected her from the media.  Maybe because she’s come into her own.

Or maybe there’s a different path now for women in the White House…

Artventures™ on amazon

Box frontThe last 24 hours have been a whirlwind.  First, a friend told me she bought Artventures™ on amazon…whaaaat?  I didn’t even know the game was posted yet.  Incomplete, missing pictures, the game was already selling.

Within a day, all the samples amazon ordered were sold.  Hooray!

So now we’re working out the bugs, images of the game are online, and the typos have been fixed.  Woo hoo!

Next, hopefully the mysterious algorithm that drives amazon will spark another order.  What a wild ride!

Thank you for your ongoing support, and if you ordered a game, I hope it brings you hours of delight and lots of laughs!