Monday, May 31, 2010

I was told there'd be pie (there's a gadget for that)

Ah, cherry season is almost upon us. (and I am not talking about June brides. Seriously, you guys. Jeez.)

I think most of us opt to rinse, eat and spit (another June bride joke and I’ll punch you in the neck). Because the fruit is soooooo difficult to pit, we are deprived of so many more ways to appreciate the cherry.

To kitchen fiends, the answer is obvious. But to this particular gadget fanatic, I just found my answer last year. And it is my second most favorite kitchen tool. There are a lot of different designs but I think this is the cleanest look.

Mine is grey, made of hard plastic and plain old ugly. When I bought it, there wasn't another choice in the store and I didn't have the patience to look around for another. It does work well, yet I am hoping it breaks soon.

The OXO version looks like overkill but I should probably do a comparison. Will let ya know.

Last summer I was cutting up fruit for a salad and one of my guests, AM, asked what she could do to help so I handed her a colander of cherries and the cherry pitter. Because the design of the tool itself is shaped like the job it is supposed to do, it sort of had implied instructions or “the system image” as Dr. Donald A. Norman (Emotional Design) would say. And I believe AM enjoyed the chore because I think I remember hearing a “wheeeeee”.

It is a lot of fun to work with because cherry pits go shooting off everywhere. I wouldn’t call it a design flaw. Wheeeeeeee! But you can learn to aim them into the bowl if you like.

She liked the tool well enough to buy one for herself and she also buys it as a host gift. Not one to be beyond borrowing the ideas of others, I too bought one for my next-door neighbor, MY, as a thank you for “a welcome to the neighborhood” dinner party. I also included the small colander, a tea towel and re-usable shopping bag (all from Broadway Panhandler). Apparently cherry pie is her husband’s fav and I was able to make the job just a little bit easier. Yay me.

It is also called an olive pitter and yes it works for olives but not so well with all olives. Kalamata, yes. But cerignola olives, no.

The cherry/olive pitter can be found at Williams-Sonoma, Sur la Table and Broadway Panhandler.

And then there is the ultimate cherry pitter. Hee!

Friday, May 28, 2010

A girl can dream...


If I could, I'd have floor-to-ceilings on one wall in every room.
(when i originally wrote this post, i didn't realize that the site updates regularly, so check out the archives)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ooooooooh shoes. There I said it.

They’re shoes. Or are they arctitecture? Or are they sculpture? I know that must seem ridiculous to most guys and the gals who don’t love shoes. How can anyone seriously elevate shoes to the realm of art? But no surprises here …I don’t really care.

My first foray into shoes as sculpture began with a shoe by Robert Clergerie that I found on sale when I was at a conference and not attending the lectures. It was sculpture. So beautiful. So simple. I had to have it.

Bad pic but they are fan-TAS-tic. The band is black suede and the heel base is brushed steel, finished with a rock hard piece of plastic heel that can withstand Manhattan streets. Question was and is, do I wear them (they are extremely well constructed and comfortable) or do I use them to separate books on my bookshelf? Plain and simple, they are sculpture.

That shoe made sure that my head was turned any time I saw something that looked like mid-century sculpture.

Then I found this at a store called United Nude, in the neighborhood that is now called NoLiTa. My heart skipped a few beats when I saw these:

It was based on the Mobius strip and someone made it into a shoe. As I sat down to write about the shoe that started my love of shoes as sculpture I found this story about the guy who designed this one.

Nephew of Rem L. Koohaas, Rem D is also an architect in his own right. I just love that he brought his design sensibility to shoes. Just look at this...

I might need these. They have a new store on Bond Street (why didn’t I know about this? Thank you NY Mag for letting me know what is going on in my own ‘hood)

Here is another Robert Clergerie shoe that I love and wear frequently. Believe it or not, they are extremely comfortable.

I think these examples distinctly put some shoes in the category of sculpture. But I don't really think of sculpture as something worn. As they have a functional purpose, does that put them in the category of architecture?

Well, the top pair of Clergeries may have to go into the more rarified category of art because I really don't want to risk destroying them. The orange Mobius shoe may go there as well because they are so poorly constructed that they tear the bloody hell out of my feet and cannot be worn without a host of ugly band-aids.(LS can attest as well. She has the same shoes)

The next shoe post will be on just plain old beautiful shoes.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Oh Hel(vetica)

Where to start? How about not quite the beginning? A few months ago, I attended a lecture at SVA given by Gary Hustwit, the director of the documentary film: Helvetica. I wanted to see the film for quite sometime and I wish I had seen it before I heard him speak. I would have appreciated the lecture that much more.

But first let me begin with the same forward apology I did when talking about street art. I am not a graphic designer and I never studied type. So there. But even at my level of appreciation, there is a lot to say about Helvetica. Barely scratching the surface here.

Anyhoo, I have since seen the film and cannot recommend it enough because for one reason...

“The film looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which celebrated its 50th birthday in 2007) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives.” (Go here for more)

According to the doc, “The aim of the new design was to create a neutral typeface that had great clarity, no intrinsic meaning in its form.” It was meant to allow the words to house the meaning rather than the typeface making a statement.

However, there are definitely occasions when the font can and should overtake the words.

Go to callmequell for a quick history of Helvetica and a nice POV. The writer also links to a 2006 NYT article written by Douglas Coupland who points out:

"I think the most common set-decorating error in films these days can be reduced to one word: Helvetica. I’ll be watching a World War I drama, and there at a train station in the background is a sign saying ”Ypres” in 200-point Helvetica Bold. Movie over — at least for me. Once I see Helvetica in any pre-1957 movie, all I can think is that the art director was so clueless he either used Helvetica in a historical drama, or hired someone stupid enough to do so, and never double-checked the work."


From my friend, LM (a very big deal in the world of print):

“Though I’m sure a lot of designers may consider Helvetica to be a cop out and pretty vanilla, I think of it as a fail-safe. When I don’t have time to explore different typefaces I can always count on Helvetica. It’s almost always appropriate because it’s incredibly versatile. It’s very chameleon-like. Depending on the setting and use it can look timeless and sophisticated (say, in a museum). Or it can seem very basic & utilitarian (subway signage). Or fun and friendly. Helvetica in black all caps (serious) has a very different feel than in orange upper & lowercase (playful). Tight or wide letter spacing can also change it’s personality. Plus it comes in a huge range of weights and styles; from black to ultra thin to oblique, etc...

A lot of faces have only one personality. For example Trajan looks reserved and classic. You just can’t make it look otherwise.

Typefaces come & go. Some are incredibly popular for a while then fizzle out. Look at Tiffany and Cooper Black, two typefaces that were very popular in the 70s, but they’re both so distinctive that you can rarely use them today without seeming retro. Whereas Helvetica just keeps going...and going...and going.... throughout the decades.”

I also love that the font elicits reactions from people who otherwise wouldn't be concerned with such things.

For a while Helvetica was the default font in the email systems of many corporations. Fine with me. But I noticed that as people were able to personalize their messages, quite a few of them (mostly outside of the creative services departments) rebelled and chose another type face to show that they

thought about type,

had a creative spirit and

were rebellious enough to reject the corporate font.

They were (perhaps unbeknownst to them) participating in the anti-Helvetica movement. Most of them chose Arial or Verdana. Which both seem to be slightly derivative of Helvetica. (now is the time to remember that I did not study type)

Maybe we all choose a type that we feel reflects us in the same way we choose what we wear.

Helvetica Neue has been my font for, oh let’s see, maybe 15+ years. To me it is Helvetica Refined. Oh yeah and I am all that. Hee!

Friday, May 21, 2010

On the receiving end

Ah the “hostess gift”. It is a wonderful tradition but the term is so damn archaic, so Neanderthal (“Here’s a lovely pink spike for your club, Noomby.”) that it does a great disservice to the act and to the article given. Historically, the gift is presented to the hostess by a female guest. Therefore single men get off the hook and hosts get screwed. It was meant as an advance “thank you” for all the hard work she put into the event. Guys, you get squat.

I really hope that times have changed enough that we can all, boys and girls alike, lose the “ess” in “host” and give a gift to the person(s) having the party without the act being a chick thing. Ok? Ok.

That said, there is an incredible range of useful and fun gifts you can bring. In this climate, I especially emphasize useful. There are a number of things to keep in mind when considering what to bring. Always best is to consider the hosts. Do they like car wax? How about light bulbs?
Please keep in mind the relative clutter in the person’s home. Do they really need more stuff? If not, stick to perishables such as good olive oil or items that will deplete in time. Be sure, if you choose items like soap or candles, that they are of fairly good quality. Irish Spring is probably not the best choice. Santa Maria Novella has really great stuff for both men and women.

I know I can always use paper cocktail napkins (hmmmmm what does that say about me? Shut Up!)

Now let’s get down to some fun (and useful) stuff.

This $35 juicer from the MOMA Design Store is one of my absolute favs. In addition to all the wonderful qualities that I ranted about in an earlier post, it is the perfect size gift for those whose kitchens are spatially challenged.

If they have room, a 2-cup Saki set is nice or this set of 3 brilliant lamp shades ($15 MOMA DS) I recommend going to Crate and Barrel and buying 3 very inexpensive wine glasses with a broad bowl base which can comfortably house the tea lights. While you are there you can also pick up a bag of tea lights so that the gift is complete.

The Rabbit wine cooler is wonderful because it folds flat and will store well in the freezer.

And finally who doesn’t need one of these?


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Don't fence me in

This is fantastic.

(thanks go to The Daily What)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tag, you're it

Banksy's in NYC now.

Update (BTW i don't think it's a dis. i think these guys are talkin' to him) hee!

The Birds and the Bees

I have a superhero in my backyard. I also have a spy and a thief.

My superhero wears a black cape with white epaulets at the shoulder and a black mask. His unitard is a bright orange and the boots are yellow. He sometimes hovers upside-down. He is very brave.

My spy nervously hovers and glances furtively. He stays close to my left shoulder. They say he is waiting for a female. Not sure what she looks like but I am sure he will when he sees her.

My thief is the best of them all. He has a rakish black mask that is shaped like the boy wonder, brown hair that spills out behind where the mask is tied. His cape is grey and his unitard is a white that spills into a light yellow. He usually hangs out with a gang (Mr. White,Mr. Orange and Mr. Brown) but today he is just hanging with the Mrs. Nice man.

We also have a fierce hunter and some ugly hangers-on.

We do have the requisite robins, sparrows, swallows, seagulls, cardinals and other birds I can’t yet identify (perhaps another bloody Mary will help and yes I am writing this on Sunday for a Monday post)

It is a pretty action packed backyard. Or maybe the bloodies are just working their magic. Fantastico!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Save the Date

If you are in NYC on May 18, 2010.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Why do I always seem to do battle with myself every time I start to work on a post? (you shut up. no, you shut up) I find myself ready to make a pronouncement then realize I haven’t thought things through thoroughly. Soooooo here we go again…

This post is about logos and originally I was going to come out (swinging) and saying: FLEXIBLE LOGOS ARE THE BEST LOGOS. ALL OTHERS ARE BAD.

There may have been flexible logos before, but MTV definitely made the flexible logo part of their identity. Their ever-changing mark signified forward thinking, playfulness, and a reflection of the culture of their audience. The logos were often wonderful expressions of graphic design, possibly crossing the line into art.

Go here for a nice compilation of the MTV logo:

Be sure to check out the MTV logo story where you will find:

"The next, and probably most revolutionary part of the story came when they were asked to come up with the "corporate colors" for the logo. The decision was made that there weren’t any, and that the logo should always change. Knowing that many animators, designers, ad agencies, etc. were going to be working with the logo made them think how, just like rock music always changes, the logo should also. This was a concept that had never been used on a logo before. The "M" and the "TV" could be made of any colors and/or materials."

There were obvious rules. The big “M” always stayed in the same font family (ish), the font of the “TV” never changed and the size relationship to one another didn’t change nor did their placement. After that, let the fun begin. What we were given was a character unto itself. It had a personality and an attitude. While there were many animated logos, you never saw the NBC Peacock spit tar into the CBS eye.

When I was running The Movie Channel, we always had fun with the logo. When promoting a specific movie, we often animated it into the actual footage for the promo’s end page. When we shot original footage for the network, we would place the logo on any and all spherical and disc-like surfaces (dog toy, cocktail napkin with drink ring). Both the MTV and the TMC logos were for entertainment networks and I think the logos had the obligation to entertain. (NOTE: as soon as i find copies of the TMC logos. i will re-post)

But I think we are meant to take comfort in certain logos that don’t change very much or if they do, they evolve. The fact that they remain the same signifies (falsely or not) stability. Banks tend not to change their logos drastically. Government offices don’t try to hip up their logos. These institutions mean to convey a solid presence. Again, falsely or not.

Or my favorite...
I find comfort in the relative stability of Barney's.

(chase, mobil, pbs and barney's logos courtesy of Chermayeff & Geismar)

As my friends know, I am starting the MFA program in Design Criticism at SVA in the fall. Like MTV, the “D-Crit” department has an ever-changing logo. The “D” and the “Crit” remain the same. They are separated by an “X”, a crosshatch, an intersection. Placed under the intersection are still images rapidly cut together. The images appear to be objects, events or concepts that have been previously critiqued or may be critiqued in the future. It is important that the logo remain ever changing so that viewers see a never-ending range of topics relevant to the program. Go here for a peek.

No, you shut up.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Collecting Intelligence

Just finished an essay on book collecting by Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) called “Unpacking My Library”. While I own a good number of books, by his standards, I could never be called a collector. For Benjamin there were 2 types of collectors. No, let me take that back; there is the acquirer of books and then there is the collector of books. The acquirer will purchase luxury editions and libraries with no real love for their content; he has purchased the bibliophile’s version of the trophy wife. I had a friend, RP, who had 6 different copies of Lolita in his library and has never read the book. I was baffled.

The collector has deep passion for each leather-bound book or even cloth-bound book. The collector will read the books that can withstand handling and if not, it goes in the glass case. However the collector knows the title is worthy because he will have read a different edition of it. This collector is cognizant of its quality and worth.

Ok, so I am not a collector but I do think I have the same passion for books, as does Benjamin. He mentions that the act of buying of a book gives it its freedom. It rescues the book from a lonely shelf and transports it to the hands of a lover.

If I am not a collector of books then you can call me a collector of stories. And I believe that just by reading them, I, or any reader, have given these stories their freedom. I love to look at all the books in my library, both read and unread. The ones that have not yet been read remain under figurative lock and key until it is their turn. Make no mistake, I also do care deeply about how they are packaged. It is rare that my book covers are not interesting or of some good quality.

One of my absolute favorite books is my paperback copy of Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey with its spine so broken, it is held together by scotch tape. So no, I don’t have any editions that are worth much of anything but I do have some titles that are worth the world.

(this is the copy that i bought in paris) Hee!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Please to enjoy

And now, back to our regularly scheduled blog.

absolutely beautiful

thanks to PJ for finding this.

(and apologies to NK for not crediting him earlier on the things he found for me. hee)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Female Design

(I apologize for the f-bombs but this puts me over the edge.)

As I read this I could barely breathe. A “nick”? “down there”? Really? Really?


Are you fucking out of your minds? ARE YOU FUCKING OUT OF YOUR MINDS?

I know this is coming from a “good place”, that it is meant to prevent future female genital mutilation. But you are not stemming the tide.

For FUCK’S SAKE. You are cutting little girls.

Please do not confuse this with circumcision which is supposedly done for health reasons or whatever. When they cut little girls, it is only because they are afraid the girls will experience sexual pleasure later on in life. There is NO practical purpose.

I can’t breathe.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

'Tis better to give...

Re-gifting or re-giving is the act of taking a gift that has been received and giving it to somebody else, sometimes in the guise of a new gift. (wikipedia)

The practice of re-gifting is frowned upon/taboo in polite circles but occurs regularly in most. I, of course, have NEVER re-gifted. Hee. But if you look at it differently, it is morally and ecologically sound to re-gift. Let’s say you receive a sweater that looks like the microscopic cross-section of a paramecium and it doesn’t happen to be your style. It is far better to give that sweater to someone whose taste it suits than to add to the ultimate waste in the world by buying another one just like it for a different relative with questionable taste. Now there are two paramecium sweaters floating around the world when there could have been just one. And think of what happens when both of those sweaters start falling apart in about 6 months with the synthetic fiber having a carbon half-life of about 5,730 years. If you don’t know anyone who might be interested in the sweater, you can re-gift it to a local charity. Morally sound.

Or you can be evil like me who re-gifted a lot of t-shirts designed by a reprehensible person to all the homeless people who hung out in that said person's neighborhood. Or maybe that is just creative re-gifting.

There is, however, a wonderful item that changes the dynamic in a fun way. It is the gift that expects to be re-gifted.

Next time you go to a party, bring the wine in the Built wine tote and leave it behind so that your host will have something to put her wine in when she goes to her next dinner party…and so on.

Last winter TP brought 2 of them over. A few weeks later I took one of them over to LM and MM’s house (to which they replied I would be seeing it again when they next come to visit). The second one we took over to LO and RS’s house last Saturday (to which LO replied she would be bringing it back over to TP. I doubt one has found its way back home so quickly).

The reason it can be re-gifted is because it really isn't the gift in the first place. It is just the wrapping. The wine is the gift.

Therefore, when the Built tote is the gift itself, you may not re-gift especially when it is the beautiful one given to us by our niece, GK. This one will only be going out to the deck and back.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Well, Looky Here.

UPDATE: Sad news on a Melbourne Banksy wall from reader Mike

Let me begin first by saying that I know next to nothing about street art. I am a fan, but still, a layperson. When I was preparing to write this post, I went around the neighborhood (east village and Noho), snapped some pics, planned a brief outline of the discussion and then I started reading.


The more I read, the more I realized how much I don’t know. The thoughtfulness, passion and scholarly writing by the fans and critics humble me.

(By the way, there are a lot of Banksy and Shepard Fairey discussions right now. Just to get you started.)

I doubt I’ll get any serious street art writers/bloggers reading this but if you are, stop right now. I will only piss you off.

So much of the street art has become my local outdoor wallpaper. And like wallpaper, the more you see it, the more immune you get to the details. Because I became so used to it, I stopped seeing it. But when the art started to be sanctioned, I began to pay attention again; probably due to the expansive scale and exceptional intricacies not afforded to the artist on the run. The Haring reproduction on the Deitch Wall (Houston and Bowery) was the first piece I noticed in 2008. Then, of course came Os Gemeos and now Fairey (see 4/28 post).

We all watched with great curiosity the building of the Cooper Square Hotel (more on the building in a post on EV/Noho architecture later) as it was destined to do battle with its surroundings. They hired four graffiti artists to paint one side of the building in order to make the building feel like part of the neighborhood. While many neighbors complain about absolutely everything, I think the gesture is fantastico.

And just last week Shepard Fairey remade the wall of the Cooper Square Hotel. Yes this street art is sanctioned (and this can even be called corporate) so it can’t be called graffiti but the temporariness of it does give it some cred.

Here are some fine samples of what we have come to expect from the art in my hood.

Having these guys around brings comfort when so many some of the big pieces like ESPO and REVS have disappeared.
thanks for the espo pic

The street art discussion will continue on future posts. Fantastico!