23 March 2015

Magical Björk

Björk  from the Vulnicura cover shoot by Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin.

Yesterday was my birthday, and I spent it in Brooklyn being mesmerized by Björk.

One of seven sold-out New York shows, Sunday’s performance was at the Kings Theatre, a recently renovated former movie palace from 1929 that is gorgeous and the perfect setting for this brilliant performer.

Björk was accompanied by her co-producer Arca (Alejandro Ghersi), percussionist Manu Delago, and Alarm Will Sound, a 15-piece chamber band (loads of strings). Dressed in a white ensemble and sporting a headpiece of quills that obscured her face, she swayed across the stage, moving her hands and arms in rhythmic response like a ballet dancer.

The first set was comprised of six songs from her new album, Vulnicura, beginning with “Stonemilker” and ending with “Notget.” While Björk sang, “animated notations” were projected onto a screen above the stage. The combination of sound and visual was almost hypnotic. I haven’t purchased Vulnicura yet, which in a way turned out to be a good thing as I got to experience the songs for the first time live.

After an intermission, Björk returned to the stage, hair down and wearing a short dress, to sing two more songs from Vulnicura along with songs from her other albums including “All Neon Like” and “Come to Me,” a personal favourite (although I could have done without the video of two snails mating). She rarely spoke save for an occasional "thank you" or "gracias" and to introduce the musicians on stage. For her final encore she sang “All is Full of Love,” which aptly describes how the audience felt about 

I didn’t take any photos of the show. There were signs posted on the doors asking the audience not to at Bjork’s request because it was distracting and that she wished us to enjoy being part of the performance, “not preoccupied with recording it.” And that is exactly what I did.

21 March 2015

The End of an Era

Man Men returns next month for its final season and there are celebrations going on in various cities including New York. Tonight I went to the Film Society of Lincoln Center to see "Mad Men: The End of an Era," a conversation with the show's creator, Matthew Weiner, and Jon Hamm, January Jones, Christina Hendricks, and John Slattery, moderated by Chuck Klosterman.

My terrible photo taken from the back of the orchestra at tonight's event.

Jon Hamm may be the handsomest man I have ever seen in person. He was also very funny (and wore red-striped socks). John Slattery told a hilarious story about filming the infamous scene where he wore blackface. January Jones was gorgeous and spoke the least but got in one good zinger.Christina Hendricks explained how the Joan walk came about (tightness of the dresses) and at one point left the stage and returned with drinks for her and Jones. And Matthew Weiner told tons of stories like how his son, Martin, came to be cast as Glen and how he wanted to give his characters things to do while delivering their lines but didn't want them to walk and talk like in The West Wing

The evening included screenings of clips that each of them had chosen. The first one up was from Mystery Date from Season Five (above). Weiner picked it because he had always wanted to see it screened in front of an audience. It's classic Mad Men and a great example of the humour on the show. The event served as a reminder of not just how brilliant the show is but how sad I'm going to be saying good-bye to the employees of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.

Mad Men returns to AMC on April 5, 2015.

18 March 2015


In 1968 photographer Julian Wasser was sent by TIME Magazine to shoot a young Joan Didion at her home in Hollywood. The resulting black and white images of the author—staring directly at the camera, cigarette in hand; with her daughter, Quintana Roo, on her lap; in her new Corvette Stingray—remind us (as if we needed reminding) that Didion has always been cool.

The Danziger Gallery currently has an exhibit of these images including outtakes and contact sheets (I always find these so fascinating to look at). The show closes on March 21, so get over there if you can. 

For more information about the exhibit, visit here.

17 March 2015

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Glencar Lake and Ben Bulben, County Sligo, Ireland. Photo from here.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! As I've done in the past, I'm going to celebrate today by sharing with you a poem by my favourite poet, W.B. Yeats. The Stolen Child is set in county Sligo, Ireland where Yeats spent his childhood and where I studied his poetry one summer many years ago. 

The Stolen Child

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake, 
There lies a leafy island 
Where flapping herons wake 
The drowsy water rats; 
There we’ve hid our faery vats, 
Full of berrys 
And of reddest stolen cherries. 
Come away, O human child! 
To the waters and the wild 
With a faery, hand in hand, 
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. 

Where the wave of moonlight glosses 
The dim gray sands with light, 
Far off by furthest Rosses 
We foot it all the night, 
Weaving olden dances 
Mingling hands and mingling glances 
Till the moon has taken flight; 
To and fro we leap 
And chase the frothy bubbles, 
While the world is full of troubles 
And anxious in its sleep. 
Come away, O human child! 
To the waters and the wild 
With a faery, hand in hand, 
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. 

Where the wandering water gushes 
From the hills above Glen-Car, 
In pools among the rushes 
That scarce could bathe a star, 
We seek for slumbering trout 
And whispering in their ears 
Give them unquiet dreams; 
Leaning softly out 
From ferns that drop their tears 
Over the young streams. 
Come away, O human child! 
To the waters and the wild 
With a faery, hand in hand, 
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand. 

Away with us he’s going, 
The solemn-eyed: 
He’ll hear no more the lowing 
Of the calves on the warm hillside 
Or the kettle on the hob 
Sing peace into his breast, 
Or see the brown mice bob 
Round and round the oatmeal chest. 
For he comes, the human child, 
To the waters and the wild 
With a faery, hand in hand, 
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.

15 March 2015


Almost a month has gone by since I've posted anything here. Without going into details, the past few weeks have been both busy and stressful with a lot of uncertainty thrown into the mix. I’ve been spending a good portion of my time contemplating my next move (running away to Paris to live in a garret and write is at the top of the list). As a result plans for posts that I wanted to write went out the proverbial window. There were the exhibits and gallery shows: Cubism and Madame Cezanne at the Met; Lincoln at the Morgan Library; Don Quixote tapestries at the Frick;  Marc Riboud’s photos of Asia at the Rubin Museum; and the gigantic Armory Show where I saw a lovely portrait by Moïse Kisling and a Robert Capa image from the Spanish Civil War. There was also a big Broadway show, On the Town, and Parallel Exit's delightful performance of Everyone Gets Cake. And, of course, movies.

Writing long posts take time so moving forward there may be fewer posts and sometimes shorter ones (a quick snippet and a photo or two) but there will be posts. I love sharing my thoughts about history and the arts with you and hope you enjoy reading them. In the meantime, be sure to follow me on instagram and twitter, and pinterest too (where I pin way too many photos of Frenchies and striped shirts). And if I wind up in that garret, I'll be sure to let you know.

PS: If anyone has any information about the photo above, please share. All I know is sitting around in ones lingerie, reading a book with a dog (even a stuffed one) seems ideal.

18 February 2015

The Lion Who Roared

Just another day at the office. Jackie the Lion recording his roar.

Throw up some soundproofing around the cage, bring in some technicians, get your star to face the microphone, and presto, you're ready to record your studio's mascot who, by the way, just happens to be a lion.

When it comes to studio logos one of the most iconic belongs to MGM. Featuring a Latin motto, "Ars Gratia Artis" (Art for Art’s Sake), and a lion who roars, it’s a familiar site to moviegoers. The idea for the logo was originally conceived of by studio publicist Howard Dietz for Goldwyn Pictures and then later modified for MGM in 1924; he is said to have chosen a lion in honour of the mascot of his alma mater, Columbia University. 

Although always referred to as Leo, there were actually five different lions over the years including Jackie (pictured above) who has the distinction of being the first MGM mascot to have his voice recorded.

Born around 1915, Jackie was destined to be in show business; both his mother and grandmother had been performers. After acting in a series of jungle films, he was chosen to replace MGM’s first lion, Slats, who was the only MGM lion not to roar (he simply looked around instead).

In 1928, Jackie would enter film history when MGM released White Shadows in the South Seas, their first “sound” film featuring a synchronized music track and sound effects including Jackie’s roar in the opening credits. 

The photo of the recording session implies that Jackie was well trained; it was said that he was very gentle and even once took care of some kittens who had wandered into his cage (true story or studio legend?). After this, Jackie would be used for all MGM black and white films until 1956. The two exceptions were when he appeared in Babes in Toyland (1934) and The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Jackie was a true cat with nine lives. During his tenure at MGM, he survived a series of incidents including an earthquake, two train wrecks, a sinking boat, an explosion, and a plane crash, the last of which resulted in Jackie being left in the Arizona desert (reportedly with supplies—sandwiches and milk) while the pilot went for help. These near escapes earned him the nickname “Leo the Lucky.”

Jackie retired from filmmaking in 1931, spending his remaining years at the Philadelphia Zoo where he passed away on February 26, 1935 from heart problems. Although he may be gone, his face and voice lives on in numerous MGM classics.

14 February 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

On this day devoted to couples and love, I can't help but think of my favourite screen couple: William Powell and Myrna Loy. They were first paired up in 1934 in Manhattan Melodrama and would go on to make 14 films together. They had an on-screen chemistry that was both electric and believable (off screen they remained good friends for the rest of their lives). This was never more apparent than when they played Nick and Nora Charles in six Thin Man movies. As the famed detective and his wife, Powell and Loy exhibit an ease with one another that is rarely seen on film. Their witty banter and obvious attraction for one another, not to mention the way Nora is supportive of Nick's sleuthing and love of a drink (or five), are why I adore them so much. So Happy Valentine's Day, readers. Here's hoping you find your own Nick or Nora.


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