Archive for October, 2009

Is Defacing Books Shameless and Repulsive?

Friday, October 30th, 2009
defaced library book, The 3 Faces of Eve

defaced library book, The 3 Faces of Eve, Islington Library

I have an embarrassing confession to make. I don’t get the theater. I can’t get past the idea that grown adults are up on stage “acting out”. I have remarkably pedestrian taste in theater. Foe example, I loved is Nicholas Hynter’s revival of Carousel. I make an exception for Joe Orton’s work. Between 1964 and 1967, Joe Orton helped reinvent the British theater with a working class attitude. He was the toast of an ‘alternative British intelligentsia’. His plays, Entertaining Mr. Sloane and Loot were commercial and critical successes. Unfortunately, Orton’s success as a playwright and his increasing celebrity led to a breakdown of his relationship with his lover of more than a decade, Kenneth Halliwell. In August 1967 Halliwell, suffering from severe depression, murdered Orton before killing himself. His suicide note referred to the contents of Orton’s diary as an explanation of his actions: ‘If you read his diary, all will be explained …’

Years before Orton achieved success he spent time in prison for defacing library books. I don’t approve of this action, but some of the covers are hilarious. I would much rather read The 3 Faces of Eve if one of Eve’s personalities were a cat. And the compendium of the theatrical family, The Lunts redesigned with the Lunts represented by Christmas bric-a-brac is wonderful. He also defaced the flyleaf descriptions for the books, making them sound far more interesting.

Please note: racy copy below

Replacing the original copy in the flyleaf of ‘Clouds of Witness’ by Dorothy L Sayers:

defaced flyleaf

defaced flyleaf, Islington Library

When little Betty Macdree says that she has been interfered with, her mother at first laughs. It is only something that the kiddy has picked up from the television. But when sorting through the laundry Mrs Macdree discovers that a new pair of knickers are missing. On being questioned, Betty bursts into tears. Mrs Macdree takes her down to the police station and to everyone’s surprise the little girl identifies Police Constable Brenda Coolidge as her attacker. Brenda, a new recruit, denies everything. A search is made of the women’s barracks. What is found is a seven inch phallus and a pair of knickers of the kind worn by Betty. All looks black for kindly P.C. Coolidge. What can she do? This is one of the most enthralling stories ever written by Miss Sayers. It is the only one where the murder weapon is concealed not for reasons of fear but for reasons of decency. Read this behind closed doors.

Joe Orton

Joe Orton

defaced library book, The Lunts

defaced library book, The Lunts, Islington Library

defaced library book, Secret Chimneys

defaced library book, Secret Chimneys, Islington Library

defaced library book, Death Takes a Partner

defaced library book, Death Takes a Partner

On Being Downwardly Mobile

Thursday, October 29th, 2009
recent Melmac purchase, detail

recent Melmac purchase, detail

At 4:30 a.m. on January 17, 1994, the Northridge earthquake shook the Los Angeles basin. My house ended up with a couple of broken windows, but no structural damage. My dinnerware did not survive. All of the Russell Wright Iroquois Casual plates were rocketed from the cabinets and slammed into the opposing kitchen wall, leaving dents where they hit. That morning, I decided to embrace plastics. Mr. McGuire says to Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, “I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? Plastics.” He was right. Now there are good plastic dishes and bad plastic dishes. I found a remarkable set of avocado colored bowls in Tokyo, and another set of baby blue bowls in Paris. A good resource is, unsurprisingly, ebay under Melmac. Don’t buy anything used, it’s gross. Other people may have licked the plates or cut into them. I only buy the “in the original box, unopened” dinnerware. Much of it was purchased in the 1950s and 1960s and then left in a box in the back of a cabinet. This set is a recent find. I’m guessing 1969, 1970. I love the turquoise and green color palette, and the vaguely Mexican motif. It’s rather psychedelic and hints at macrame and rust colored sofas. I know that chefs want food presented on beautiful plain surfaces, and that this is wrong, wrong, wrong. But my typical meals of turkey burgers, chili, grilled chicken and steamed vegetables look fine to me.

a tiny bowl, cup and saucer, and plate, melmac

a tiny bowl, cup and saucer, and plate, melmac

Not the Betty Ford Center

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009
Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, entrance

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, entrance

During my term as AIGA president, I discovered that I had three favorite tasks: calling people to tell them they had been awarded the Medal, meeting chapter leaders across the entire country, and picking the spot for the annual board retreat. Now before anyone gets in a huff about AIGA board members living high on the hog, this retreat is on everyone’s personal dime. It gives the board a chance to sit down and do some hard work together. As a California grown president I felt it was important to have our retreat in Palm Springs, just like Presidents Ford, Nixon, and Reagan. I chose the Parker Hotel. Formerly Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch and Merv Griffin’s Givenchy Resort and Spa, the Parker Palm Springs is a smallish hotel designed by Jonathan Adler.

I’d seen the Bravo reality show, Welcome to the Parker, and I thought it would be too chic-alors, and hip. I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, there were the standard Hollywood types who were very hip and groovy, but the Parker staff was down to earth and friendly. Nobody frowned at my madras shirts. In the end, I felt bad that I chose a beautiful sunny spot, and then forced the board to sit in a dark meeting room all day. But we finished each day with some quick time at the pool, and making s’mores and marshmallows by the fire pit in the evening. Being very trailer trash, and needing to save money, I smuggled in a bag of liquor from the local supermarket. Hey, the drinks at the bar were expensive. It was only slightly embarrassing to be mixing my favorite cocktail, Rum or Bombay Gin with Fresca while we toasted the marshmallows. The always elegant Debbie Millman now has the heavy responsibility (I mean this, it’s true) of the AIGA presidency. Debbie has good taste and is a well-raised person and I’m sure she will move the board away from Albertson Grocery runs for Fresca.

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, guest room

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, guest room

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, the fire pit where the s'mores happened

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, the fire pit where the s'mores happened

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, cafe

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, cafe

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, pool. I need the pagoda umbrellas.

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, pool. I need the pagoda umbrellas.

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, lobby

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, lobby

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, front desk. I love big keys.

Parker Hotel, Palm Springs, front desk. I love big keys.

Song of the Islands, Na Lei O Hawaii

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Recently, someone asked me what my favorite television title sequence was. There are many wonderful examples, The Rockford Files, Wild Wild West, and now Mad Men. But, come on, the winner, hands down is Hawaii Five-O. The theme song alone, composed by Morton Stevens and covered by The Ventures should make it a favorite. The quick cuts, freeze frame action, and high-energy camera work are miraculous. Reza Badiyi, a television director who also created the Mary Tyler Moore montage, created the sequence. For those Waikiki aficionados, Jack Lord is standing on a balcony of the Ilikai Hotel. For anyone out there who thinks the other Hawaiian crime show, Magnum P.I. was better. No, it was lame.

Let’s Make a Pit

Monday, October 26th, 2009
Eero Saarinen, Miller House, 1957

Eero Saarinen, Miller House, 1957

One of the stories in David Sedaris’ Naked is about his Greek grandmother. At one point, she is moved into a high-rise complex for the elderly. Sedaris describes his visits:

I enjoyed pretending that this was my apartment and that Ya Ya was just visiting. “This is where I’ll be putting the wet bar,” I’d say pointing to her shabby dinette set. “The movie projector will go in the corner beside the shrine, and we’ll knock down the dividing wall to build a conversation pit.” “Okay,” Ya Ya would say, staring at her folded hands. “You make a pit.”

When I read this, my first thought was of the conversation pit at the Miller House in Columbus, Indiana. Eero Saarinen designed the house in 1957, Dan Kiley designed the ground-breaking (no pun intended) modern landscape, and Alexander Girard designed the interiors. Of course, the house is a masterpiece of modern architecture and design. The interplay between the sleek and hand made folk art is remarkable, and the breakdown of the interior versus exterior space is elegant. But, I can’t stop thinking about that pit. When you are in there do you see everyone’s shoes when the move out of the pit? Does it promote licentious voyeurism from the ground level up? Do you set your drink on the floor/edge of the sofa? I ponder these questions. And there is something about conversation pits that screams “Key Party.” Maybe I won’t dig that hole in my living room.

Eero Saarinen, Miller House, 1957, from exterior

Eero Saarinen, Miller House, 1957, from exterior, Photographer Ezra Stoller. © Ezra Stoller/Esto

Eero Saarinen, Miller House, 1957, the pit

Eero Saarinen, Miller House, 1957, the pit

Eero Saarinen, Miller House, 1957, dining room

Eero Saarinen, Miller House, 1957, dining room

Eero Saarinen, Miller House, 1957, hall

Eero Saarinen, Miller House, 1957, hall

Miller House exterior

Miller House exterior