DAY ONE

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WELCOME, writers, editors, and publishers! Come on in! WELCOME readers!

A note is a trace, a word, a drawing that in a gentle flash becomes part of the thinking process.  It is a flexible mental move generating space for the possible.

“Notetaking encompasses witnessing, drawing, writing, and a diagrammatic thinking; it is speculative, manifests a preliminary moment, a passage, and acts as a memory aid.”

Source for the above:  I found the quote, and that above (paraphrased) in a catalogue for architects, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Spring 2011, in reference to dOCUMENTA (13) EXHIBITION: June 9–Sept. 16, 2012.

 

 


TALIESIN: Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Shining Brow” (Welsh) in Wisconsin

Taliesin, built by American architect Frank Lloyd Wright in his homeland of Spring Green, Wisconsin, near Madison, shone from the brow of the landscape, something like a crown. For him, Taliesin was imbued with hope and a homecoming freedom to the man’s soul. In this peaceful rural setting, we on tour understood more about architecture’s paradigm shift from Box to Prairie School visiting the genius architect’s “Shining Brow,” a structure put into the landscape, a home of many levels built from native sandstone, built into, not on, a beloved hill in the ancestral valley.  Frank Lloyd Wright (FLLW) built a house to increase the happiness of nature in one of his favorite places as a boy. In this home was hope for a life of unconventionality. Under influence of his mother, Anna Lloyd Wright, he came to build in the place where his grandparents had emigrated from Wales seventy years earlier.

We toured the grounds and structures on a warm June day in 2015, we dozen together. We were an intergenerational group, many with cameras, restricted to outside shooting. After four hours of touring, the human warmth of the 600-acre estate built from the work of its own valley’s laborers was palpable. So was its architect’s truth, and the developing American history of the first half of the twentieth century. Taliesin is indeed a treasured place in the world.

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Taliesin was to be a combination of stone and wood, just as they met in the aspect of the hills around about. Its color like the flat stretches of sand in the river.

Taliesin was to be a combination of stone and wood, just as they met in the aspect of the hills around about. Its color like the flat stretches of sand in the river. “The whole was low, wide, and snug, a broad shelter seeking fellowship with its surroundings,” said Frank Lloyd Wright.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s intellectual power, natural charisma, his being self-taught in skills of farming and building, not trained to pursue a certain sweep of established practices . . .   these traits enabled the unique twists in the built structure combined with nature’s beauty, precepts that his mentor Louis Sullivan promulgated.

Readers of this post, what follows are tour notes scratched down in a four by five thin booklet, I standing and listening with gratitude to finally be where I was. Narration was by Brian, a three-decades-experienced describer of the architecture and points of personal interest of Frank Lloyd Wright’s 600 acres and the inhabitants.

Note #1  Out of the shuttlebus, we viewed the architecture design school, a sandstone building termed Hillside School. The structure once had a gymnasium, now a theatre, and wore the date 1903. The only such cornerstone adorns this building:

Frank Lloyd Wright, being Welsh, preserved a strange-spelling language by using the initials FLLW, as seen on this unique stone. Later cornerstones became red tiles. just a few. tiles

Frank Lloyd Wright, being Welsh, preserved a strange-spelling language by using the initials FLLW, as seen on this unique stone. Later cornerstones were red tiles, just twenty-one in all. They meant “FLLW approved.”

Can you imagine how thrilled members of this group felt entering the first building of the grandest Taliesin tour? Our narrator described the structure as a co-ed boarding school named Hillside Home School. It was said to have once accommodated 150 learners. Standing in the Assembly Room, we learned that FLLW’s grandfather saw to it that a phrase from the poem “Gray’s Elegy” was inscribed on the stone wall. Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Graveyard” is said to be the supreme example of eighteenth-century graveyard poetic expressions, i.e. a somber and thoughtful view of life.  I include the stanza carved into the stone wall: Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield, Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke; How jocund did they drive their team afield! How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke! These words bear evidence to FLLW’s Welsh heritage. Born in him was a sensitivity for the beauties and grandeur of nature. This poem, say critics, heralds lowly folk, which matches a strong take-away message of this tour–  FLLW built Taliesin with the labor of farming folk of Spring Green. He got the quarrying, stone masonry, carpentry, electrician work, and more done by members of the community, some of whose laborers possessed similar skills as did FLLW, practical skills of the farm. Of course, his enormous talent encompassed design, drawing, music, construction of  homes, fireplaces, and furniture.

HILLSIDE, built for architecture students when FLLW was about 35 (b. 1867), with influence from Welsh grandparents. Inside on a stone wall, grandfather inscribed a stanza of "Gray's Elegy" and grandmother, on a wooden beam, a verse from Isaiah of the Old Testament.

HILLSIDE, built for students when FLLW was about 35 (b. 1867), with influence from Welsh grandparents and his mother. Inside on a stone wall, grandfather inscribed a stanza of “Gray’s Elegy” and grandmother, on a wooden beam, a verse from Isaiah 40 of the Old Testament.

Today this building houses work stations for architectural students seeking a master’s degree. Their place for drafting was referred to as the “Abstract Forest” for its dense collection of heavy structural V-shaped braces. The space was a forerunner to the Johnson Wax Building that FLLW designed.

Our tour moved in this building to include having a seat in the theatre of 120 chairs. Both a curtain like no other and a favorite quote by Walt Whitman burnished this most interesting space:   Wisdom . . . something there is in the float of the sight of things that provokes it out of the soul. The colorful stage curtain, made of cotton, canvas, and string, was designed by FLLW but put aside for many years. The name of the curtain was “View of the Valley in Abstract, Late Summer.” Mrs. Wright, Olgiavanna, Yugoslavian last wife, eventually recruited interns to sew his design and hang the curtain as a surprise. When FLLW analyzed what the students had produced, he arranged for a few changes, such as more gold cloth and more vertical bands of black. Apparently the many blocks of green cloth pleased him. The theatre welcomes patrons for performances by the Bach Dynamite Dancing Society and also hosts the Unity Chapel Concert Series.

Note #2  There are three Taliesins– I, II, III because of two fires. The first fire was lit by a deranged gardener who had been terminated. Seven people died in the fire. The first Taliesin stood five years. The second fire, lit by lightening, devastated the eleven-years-standing Taliesin II. Again, as in the first fire, the merciless winds, FLLW exclaimed, carried the flames to a dozen places burning up the living space but not the office, place of creative genius. Local lore has it that it seemed God was dissatisfied with the architect’s character and personal life, but not his work. In rebuilding after each fire, the Courtyard  increased. The Carriage House, where horses could be watered and cared for, was moved further back. Taliesin III has 3,700 feet of courtyards, after five decades of development. FLLW stated that Taliesin would never be completed, and freely took risks to change elements. Changes were welcomed if they were governed by the concept of “Implicit Diagonality.” Our narrator said that a new term is needed, a simpler term.

In the brochure about the tour, one can read that red was FLLW’s favorite color. He wrote of stones turned red, dyed by fire and reused. He said a richness had been added. The chosen red is a Cherokee red, the color of ironstone, as trims the house and is shown in the barns for Guernsey cows, horses, pigs, and chickens. Only Guernseys were put on the estate. Being tan or brown, they colored the landscape harmoniously without dotting it, as would black and white animals.

Red was said to be Frank Lloyd Wright's favorite color. The red on the barn today is brighter than the Cherokee red, or Ironstone seen on the house.

Red was said to be Frank Lloyd Wright’s favorite color. The red on the barns today is brighter than the Cherokee red, or Ironstone seen on the house.

Note #3  Inside the Architect’s Residence we saw the table upon which FLLW drew the famous Fallingwater Home built in Pittsburgh. The drawings were produced in three hours, just before the buyer arrived to seal the deal that had been arranged on the telephone. According to Brian the narrator, this true story evidences that the design was completely finished in the mind of the genius architect. All that remained was the “downloading” onto paper once the opportunity for the sale presented itself.

Taliesin contains seventeen fireplaces. FLLW called them strong, quiet, rectangular rock-masses from the outside, bespeaking comfort within. Some burn vertical logs, something unusual and beautiful. So much work to cut logs, then carry them in and light fires– this  was a factor in the decision to establish Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona, where interns and others in service could winter, returning to Taliesin Main during warmer seasons in Wisconsin.

Taliesin houses seven concert grand pianos of Bechstein brand. FLLW’s father was a piano teacher, and young Frank received so much music. All his architectural creations were like music to him. Our narrator placed much emphasis on the musical turn of mind FLLW possessed. In the short heyday of the estate when noted architects and literati gathered, some of them also musicians, the piano, violin, and cello sang of Bach, Beethoven, and Handel. A delightful piece of plywood furniture, never seen before by this tourist, had a purpose– it positioned four seated players facing in, their wooden music stands built in. The structure was a circle. Our narrator stated that one, the last one, was built for Lady Bird Johnson, former first lady, and that she eventually donated it to one of the Smithsonian Museums.

Many large Asian statues and many wall-hangings, notably a Japanese masterpiece by Tan Yeng from the late 1400s, adorned the living space. A quote from a book purchased in the gift shop after the tour (Taliesin, edited and photographed by Yukio Futagawa, 2002, Tokyo) addresses the curiosity about the many statues:  “If the eye rested on some ornament it could be sure of worthy entertainment. Hovering over these messengers to Taliesin from other civilizations and thousands of years ago, must have been spirits of peace and good-will? Their figures seemed to shed fraternal sense of kinship from their places in the stone or from the broad ledges where they rested. For the story of Taliesin, after all, is old:  old as the human spirit. These ancient figures were traces of that spirit, left behind in the human procession as Time went on, and they now come forward to find rest and feel at home. So it seemed as you looked at them. But they were only the story within the story:  ancient comment on the New.”

Note #4  It seems to tour-goers to be true that Mr. Wright likely enjoyed life at Taliesin III with his young wife Olgivanna Lazovich Hinzenburg, of Montenegro and Yugoslavia, pupil of the philosopher Gurdjieff. We imagine they spent their days in the harmonious and subtle shelter that was the third edition of Taliesin with their daughter Iovanna. A surprise is born! A late change comes– 1953! FLLW acquires steel trusses that were part of a freight vessel on Lake Michigan. A highly unusual long jut is built into the house exterior off a living-room balcony. A steel truss, a lengthy I beam girder, it is supported in the middle by a stone pylon and named the Bird Walk; it was the wife’s idea. This disturbing walkway would in no way be thought of as an abomination because of the “form follows function” genre of architecture. Its reason for being? It was the site for seeing as birds in the treetops see, a lesson in perspective. FLLW stated of his beloved Taliesin that it would never be finished and that it had no inharmonious discrepancy. A nature-loving couple, happy at home, a workshop home, a home with a school wherein architects learn from the master to take risks, this is the unique Taliesin.

Walking Away From Taliesin The Home

With Trepidation, I Went To See The Film AMERICAN SNIPER

I wasn’t sure but I went to see this film anyway . . . by myself, a matinee, $8, the midtown theatre that serves wine (thought I might need some).  I have a military cognizance, and my husband not so much so.  My dad served as a US Army truck mechanic in India, drafted in 1942.  My husband’s dad had a deferment, and my husband had one also.   I have a film degree, and my husband does not.  All things considered, I felt the cultural stir about this film, and needed to check it out.  The controversy this academy-award-nominated film in six categories has generated may stem from the political right wing’s ruckus about patriotism.  Of course, that would stimulate the left wing to confront.  The political right wing may be behaving as a usurper of the film’s high value– the film is excellent.  It is long, two-and-a-half hours, and must have cost a fortune, blowing up sets, equipping so many actors with armaments, teaching actors how to be machine-gunners.  Watching credits roll, I learned that some of the filming was done in Morocco.  I can imagine that one of those Oscar nominations is for the set: the pale orange hues of a desert sandstorm, the stucco-looking structures having faint resemblance to a Tuscan landscape, the creamy American helmets capping crisp, green-streaked camouflage fabric, in contrast to dark colors of the opposing flowing apparel.  The giant white military Humvees powering through the towns stirred my heart through my screening eye.  A huge scary skull stenciled on a rotating shield atop them added a strange beauty to the shots.

One of the Oscar nominations is for best actor.  Bradley Cooper deserves it; I cannot imagine the role of Chris Kyle, legendary sharpshooter, better played.  Funnily enough, I can relate to the Chris Kyle character.  I too got narrow beliefs from my family and church.  Anyone who knows me or read my memoir knows I was steeped in Christian ethics.  I wasn’t a rodeo rider like Chris, but I am a Texas girl.  Cowboys and cowgirls were continual metaphors.  As a junior-high Eaglettes Captain, I wore white vinyl gauntlets over white gloves, and got fit and strong for marching in white boots across the Dallas football fields for half-time shows.  This is my take on the main character of AMERICAN SNIPER Chris Kyle:  he became a SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land) to express his gifts of mental strength and supremely developed physique to serve a desperate need his country had.  A quote from Coretta Scott King fits this character:  “There is a spirit, and a need, and a person at the beginning of every great human advance.  Every one of these must be right for that particular moment of history or nothing happens.”  Chris Kyle left the Texas rodeo scene as a thirty-year-old for sharpshooting in Iraq, committing spirit, mind, and body to the need.  Terrorists had penetrated his country.  They flew passenger airplanes into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.  The Chris character said that it was important to keep them out of Los Angeles, right?  You don’t want them in San Francisco or farther in, right?

THE CHRIS KYLE CHARACTER WORE A BASEBALL CAP AND PHONED HOME FROM A CELL DEVICE HE CARRIED WHILE PERFORMING SHARPSHOOTING The Chris Kyle Character Wore A Baseball Cap and Phoned Home on a Cell He Carried In closing, when we go to the movies, let’s call to mind the teaching channel that the movies provide.  We must also remember that each pair of screening eyes sees individually.  A powerful film means different things to different people.  To end this essay, instead of including the instigative quotes of the more “black & white” thinkers, I choose one from a seasoned linguist, one in his last years as writer and lecturer to university-oriented audiences of thousands, an academic renown for studying our country’s cultural wars, Noam Chomsky.  According to a January 29th article in The New York Times, Professor Chomsky was aware that Mr. Kyle noted in his memoir that he was fighting “savage, despicable evil.” Mr. Chomsky added, “We’re all tarred with the same brush . . . for largely keeping silent about official policy . . .”  He was particularly referring to the USA “global drone assassination campaign,” but not having studied this initiative, I am hesitant to close with that view.

A closing thought I like resembles the one I began with– if you feel an opinion heating up in you about this controversial film, go and see it.  Exercise a freedom, and do not lay aside critical mindedness; same way you treated your teachers.  Then, do what I did: write down your feelings about the character of Chris Kyle (b. 1974, d. 2013).  Mr. Kyle did not succumb to terrorists.  He did four tours and holds the record of kills among sharpshooters.  At home stateside, figuring out how to live as a husband, father, and giver of community service to veterans in hospital, he was shot dead at the hand of a disturbed veteran he had volunteered to help.  The newspaper article mentioned above addressed this irony with a ring of truth, “Are guns useful for self-defense?  Here was one of the most skillful shooters in American history holding guns, surrounded by guns, and was unable to protect himself.”  Oh, and one more from the producer, Clint Eastwood, “The biggest antiwar statement is what it does to the families left behind.”  I do not mean to present an antiwar statement, rather I mean to herald writing, and in writing, aiming small for the particular expression of meaning.

Reflections of a Group Tour of Memphis’s NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM

IMG_5379MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr., Strategizing With The President


This president seemed to be both adversary and strategist to MLKJr. in the fight for equal rights for all citizens of this country.

This president seemed to be both adversary and strategist to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the fight for equal rights for all citizens of this country.



Thanks to friend Meg for her suggestion to write this post.  Meg is one of about a dozen of us UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER folks who toured the world-renown, one-of-a-kind museum, THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM.  What follows is  a brief sketch of our experience.  For readers in far-away places who may not be familiar with Memphis, Tennessee history, we are the place in which the gifted and unrelenting  leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought bravely, risking his life time after time to gain equal rights under the law for all races, was assassinated.  In about 1968, Martin led a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge of Selma, Alabama for the right to vote.  He won that fight when President Lyndon Johnson signed into law an assurance that no potential voter could be hindered from registering.  This was a breakthrough, long-overdue, for Blacks who indeed registered and voted out of office White oppressor officials of Selma, and against Alabama Governor George Wallace, who maintained that the status quo was the way folks preferred things to be.  Martin fought further for the dignity of being human and the equality of all people under the Constitution of the United States.  Sadly, his work was divisive, disruptive; James Earl Ray assassinated Martin in Memphis April 4, 1968.  Martin stepped out onto the balcony of the downtown Lorraine Motel and took a bullet that detonated inside him.  Martin and entourage at the Lorraine were lodging at Mulberry and Huling Streets, perhaps the only hotel admitting Blacks at that time.  The Lorraine is now the site of the world-renown museum, having received millions of dollars from local corporations, after languishing for many years.

The Lorraine Motel is the Site of THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM.

The Lorraine Motel of Downtown Memphis, Tennessee is the Site of THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM.

Our tour guide was knowledgeable and exuberant.  He was an older African American whose passionate storytelling pulled us into the fray, starting with life-size models of chained slaves brought to the Americas to increase wealth of plantation owners and continuing to the centuries-later burned-out Greyhound Freedom Riders bus.  After touring the room with exhibits about the Civil Rights Movement gaining footing, a footing that was a nonviolent strategy rooted in Mahatma Gandhi’s success in gaining India’s independence from England, we visitors had our attention drawn to Malcolm X, a leader planting the seed of Black entrepreneurial necessity, turning from White institutions, a “Black Power” strategy that did not embrace nonviolence.

Malcolm X Embraced A Different Approach From MLKJr.

Malcolm X Embraced a Different Approach Toward Advancing Blacks That Countered the Nonviolent Peaceful Demonstrations Led By Martin Luther King, Jr.

 The walls of the museum presented us with the rise of and demand for Black arts and literature, termed “Black Is Beautiful.”  This visual art was so engaging that it was easy for me to fall behind the tour group.  Thus I had both a group and a single experience.  The advantages of group touring are obvious: one gains so many details from the storyteller and energy for extensive exhibits requiring hours. Going singly would have the advantage of focusing on a particular slice of the history of African-Americans, from the beginning of slavery in 1691 through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s to the present.

In Selma, Alabama, Applicants Attempting To Register To Vote Were Humiliated.

Young Protestors Coming Of Age To Vote

SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE FACES

ICONIC RAISED FIST SIGNIFYING BLACK POWER

ICONIC RAISED FIST SIGNIFYING BLACK POWER

Coretta Scott King, Widow  of Martin Luther King, Jr.  She died January 30, 2006.

Coretta Scott King, Widow of Martin Luther King, Jr.  She died January 30, 2006.

 

MEMPHIS PULLED OFF SOMETHING FANTASTIC FOR WRITERS!

Seventeen or more sponsors made this incredible weekend for writers, wherein noteworthy big-house published writers showed us the ropes.

Seventeen or more sponsors made this incredible weekend for writers, wherein noteworthy big-house published writers showed us the ropes.

In my own hometown of my small city by the majestic Mississippi, those of us who write, collect books, know publishing, and otherwise have a passion for literacy experienced an opportunity of a lifetime.  We met Newberry-winning author Vance Vawter (Paperboy, Random House), author Amber McCree Turner (Sway, cover designed by SHREK artist of Dreamworks, + Circa Now, both by Disney Hyperion), and Barry Wolverton (Neversink, Harper Collins imprint).  They told me things I wondered about:  getting lucky with finding an agent after perusing Children’s Writers Market, that editors think globally and thus ask for removal of words and phrases easily misunderstood, and wait patiently for six months after submitting pages of a finished manuscript.  The three panelists, together with moderator Julie Lester, agreed that big-house publishing is a strange business.  Authors submit to guidelines precisely.  Authors must realize the agents talk among themselves (this is scary)!  In addition, a good tip came:  a would-be agent who asks author for up-front payment is not “real”– an author’s agent payment comes through the publishing house when author’s first installment is paid.

McCree Turner’s chosen genre of “magical realism,” defined by her as the fine line between fake magic and “this side of heaven” magic, segways the thoughts in this essay to Daniel Wallace’s hour-and-a-half talk.  In his easy demeanor with us listening, he chose to deal with an author’s ability to follow what comes unconsciously, what continues to interest, what keeps on continuing (obsessively).  For example, Wallace discovered a passion in himself for glass eyes.  He noticed more interest in these than any other thread possibility for his novel, except for perhaps his relationship with his father.  He has collected 75 of them, and passed one around in our session.  The obsession with glass eyes appealed to filmmaker Tim Burton, who cast Albert Finney as amazingly big-imagining storyteller, mixing things magic with things real. Jessica Lange  was cast as his wife, together with Ewan McGregor and Billy Crudup, popular actors of many known roles. I watched BIG FISH The Movie (2003, Columbia, rt 2 h 6 min) on Amazon, and am beginning to understand more from Daniel Wallace.  It will be fun to scan through the book in my hand.  What do you think . . .  Is it true?  Some say, “The book is always better than the movie.”

 

Three Nights In City of “Big Shoulders,” The Windy City

The Aon is the third tallest building in Chicago, within walking distance of Millennium Park

The Aon is the third tallest building in Chicago, within walking distance of Millennium Park

Chicago is the second largest city in the country, if you speak from history and don’t mention that johnny-come-lately western megametropolis that has outgrown the City of Big Shoulders. Travel to the great city of Chicago has prompted me to write. Hubby and I spent three nights there vacationing in late June. For a vacation highlight, after Millennium Park and The Art Institute, we chose the AIA-designed Architectural Boat Tour down the Chicago River, having first, early in the morning of our boat tour, doing our spin mini-workout in the hotel’s fitness center two levels down. Dear readers, come with us now, in present tense, as we are perked, motivated, and ready for the rave-reviewed Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise, boarding at noon.

The Chicago “First Lady,” a member of the river’s finest fleet, is our safe, US Coast Guard-inspected vessel. We have a knowledgeable volunteer architect with a good personality and a nice summer fedora as our narrator. I am at the ready with my ballpoint to snag on paper any unfamiliar architectural terms I hear. “Cladding” and “pediment” I know, but I jot down “dark recessed spandrels,” and “chair effect.” I was also off and running to the bar and back. Thus I am very busy, sipping iced raspberry-flavored gin lemonade, listening to the brilliant narrator, and spotting the first buildings depicted on the excellent brochure received with ticket purchase. The narrator, introduced by the ship captain, varied his presentation slightly from the brochure’s pictures of skyscrapers rendered in six major delineations of architectural styles. The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) docents are one of the most respected volunteer groups in the world, receiving hundreds of hours of training about Chicago architecture and history.  Our guide seemed to be interested in Beaux Arts period, not listed, as are these: 1) Early Warehouse of 1910, 2) Historic Revival, taking hold by 1925 with the Chicago Tribune Building as the amazing example, 3) Art Deco of the next two decades, (may overlap with the Beaux Arts category), and 4) Mid 20th Century Modern, under the indelible influence of Mies van der Rohe who believed “less is more.” Noteworthy eye-catching twin towers of this era are Marina City, a multiuse complex.  It has semicircular residential balconies above high-rise parking, and was completed in 1967 by Bertrand Goldberg. Continuing the genres depicted on the brochure: 5) Post-Modern of the 1980s, whose architects believed “less is a bore,” and 6) Contemporary, as evidenced by Chicago architect Jeanne Gang’s Aqua at Lakeshore East Building completed in 2009. That same year, Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill built the Trump Hotel and Tower of over 90 stories.

The Chicago Tribune Building, 1925 is an example of "Historic Revival" architectural style.

The Chicago Tribune Building, 1925 is an example of “Historic Revival” architectural style.

Entrance to Tribune Building

Entrance to Tribune Building

The Tribune Building embellishment at front entrance is unique, as are other embellishments from around the world.

The Tribune Building embellishment at front entrance is unique, as are other embellishments from around the world.

I could not possibly write all of the many anecdotes that amused us as we cruised down the Chicago River for 90 minutes, but I will mention a favorite building of mine that was next door to our Fairmont Millennium Park Hotel: The Aon, third tallest skyscraper in the city, first constructed with Italian Carrera marble cladding for about $120 million. During the first year or so, to the building’s insurers’ regret, it was realized that the marble could not withstand the Chicago winters, and it was removed. The second cladding was done with North Carolina white granite for about $80 million.

I also liked the skyscraper built next to Chicago’s tallest. The tallest is the former Sears Tower, renamed Willis Tower, at a height of 1,451 feet, built by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. The pretty pink building with blue glass, next to the Willis, was described as wearing a tiara. She is affectionately referred to as “Pink Lady.”

Pink Lady Stands Next To, in Contrast To Chicago's Tallest Skyscraper, Willis Tower, 1,451 ft./442 meters.

Pink Lady Stands Next To, in Contrast To, Chicago’s Tallest Skyscraper, Willis Tower, 1,451 ft./442 meters.

Lastly, 333 West Wacker Drive, a 1983 debut in Chicago of Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects, represents “contextualism,” and is a favorite of the area said our narrator. It presents a curved, shimmering, green-tinted façade flowing in harmony with the river’s hue.

A curved building, 333 West Wacker Drive flows in harmony with the river's hue.

A curved building, 333 West Wacker Drive flows in harmony with the river’s hue.

Skyscrapers evoke emotions. As I walked past a favorite, the third tallest, the perfectly pristine minimalist Aon Building on the way to explore the Millennium Park, Art Institute of Chicago, The Gage Restaurant, and Potbellies for lunch, my widening eyes scanned the thousand plus feet of the clean, narrowed rectangle’s creamy surface. The overall effect is one of immaculate grooming and unsurpassed excellence of “punctum,” a word for the artist’s way to penetrate an image.

Chicago, I love you, and yes, I would move to live in you, if I am not too old to change from a smaller Southern city to the “second” greatest American city (Chicagoans do not like becoming third after Los Angeles that outgrew them). Chicago, you grew from an onion- and garlicky-smelling swamp the Native Americans lived close to but apart from to a grand urban place. Chicago, you became the meat-packing and mail-order giant of the New World. You launched the muckraking novels of Upton Sinclair with your industries needing reform. Montgomery Ward, the retailer, started the first catalog in 1872 to benefit farmers needing supplies. He coined the phrase “money back guarantee.” Chicago, your river, Chicago River, had to be reversed to overcome its toxicity spoiling the drinking water from Lake Michigan decades back. Current Mayor Ram Emmanuel, in his fifties, announced that in his lifetime, the river will be free of pollution. Our guide told us that the mayor belongs to the most elite fitness club in the world, the East Bank Club, Barack Obama’s club. He said the club was built, in times past, to turn its back on the river, so toxic the river was. Times have changed, and the structures across the river from East Bank Club now face the river, no longer toxic but somewhat polluted. The culture of Chicago embraces and appreciates the continuing potentiality of the Chicago River. Developers, taking their cues from San Antonio, Texas, have begun their own River Walk for tourists. Each new construction is required by ordinance to include a walk-by design. This is an inspiring city. Chicagoans know how to change, problem-solve, think up good, democratic for-the-people plans and complete them. Chicago, you are a complete, huge, vibrant, attractive urban community.

Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) (architecture.org) offers education in design of buildings on a 90-minute boat tour.

Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) (architecture.org) offers education in design of buildings on a 90-minute boat tour.

Aqua Building, hotel and residences, designed  with wave-like balconies

Aqua Building, hotel and residences, designed with wave-like balconies

 

 

A STORY TO RENEW FAITH IN PUBLIC GOODNESS

A Chicago Getaway being a road trip, I decided to pack my computer in hopes of getting the typing done while I was documenting Chicago travel with my husband. Here is how the writing/typing went:  Today is Day 3 of the Getaway, and I am watching hubby sleep. He deserves a long morning sleep, not just because he loves to stay up late, but on this particular day because he rescued me from a seriously inconvenient potentiality. Here is the story; it will renew your faith in public goodness:

I left my beige, lightweight-polyester fanny pack on a resting bench in Tenza Piano Park outside The Art Institute of Chicago. I had the fanny pack to be able to carry only essentials– driver’s license for ID, a credit card and cash, a lipstick, a Kleenex, and a ballpoint. The fanny pack wasn’t perfect, and I had to hold a small camera, so I bought a perfect lightweight tote for over the shoulder and deposited the fanny pack into it. Exhausted from a full day of viewing, three hours before lunch, then another three hours after, we exited the Art Institute. I lay down and used the fanny pack for a pillow. Still tired, needing a cool drink of water and also planning for a gin and tonic for revival before dinner, I got up and walked toward hubby to depart the area. I was a definite Grumpy Cat until we did find a cool bottle of water for sale from a vendor. Then we sat for a while watching young acrobats show off in a groomed public-art area dotted with metal statues. The statues were wonderfully engaging in that, of all the dozen or more, their demeanor was depressed. Most individuals entering the area felt the engagement, went to them, put an arm around them, or sat on their laps. One person rested his hand on the statue’s thigh seated next to him. I also felt drawn to the standing statue close to where we were sitting, and so I stood beside one, mimicking his posture.

 

A Public Sculpture Needing A Friend To Stand Beside Him

A Public Sculpture Needing A Friend To Stand Beside Him

After that pleasant rest, we walked on our “last” legs toward our dinner destination, agreeing that a drink in an ancient and accepted hotel, Hotel Congress, would be where we would order the gin and tonics, which we did begin to enjoy. Thus, about an hour had passed since departing Tenza Piano Gardens, and I dug into my lightweight carrybag bought at the museum, and immediately realized the silly undersized fanny pack had gone missing! My second realization was that the contents, my life essentials, of the missing fanny pack were now available to whichever “finders-keepers” type had picked it up from the bench! Note: Here is one reason why a girl needs a bloke—he immediately set out to the careless spot, never thinking twice about our fatigue level. In just a short time, he called to say, “I’ve got it! You are a lucky girl!” Lucky indeed I was, and totally surprised. This was a grand shared moment. Good ol’ Chicago people of public life. No needy thief had selected my silly tan headrest left on the bench in the garden! Chicago, I think I love you.

REGARDING COLOR IN ROOM DESIGN

 

What Six Favorite Colors Would You Fill In?  Yellow, Blue, Red + Green, Orange, Violet?

What Six Favorite Colors Would You Fill In? Yellow, Blue, Red + Green, Orange, Violet?

Taking time for literary effort in the midst of a bathroom remodel, I put down design thoughts, in preparation for selecting just the right paint for a bathroom’s walls. The bathroom is an upstairs, five- by five-foot personal space.  The tile is laid down on floor and shower walls, and it strikes me as statement tile, as in a statement piece of jewelry, now that I see the many tiles together.  “Statement” in jewelry means that the piece attracts other people’s eyes to the wearer, or has power to evoke emotions, i.e., it is not an everyday ornament.  My tiles make a statement because they have “movement.”  The thirteen- by thirteen-inch porcelain tiles, not shiny but more like very fine-grit sandpaper, are cream colored and sport tan and grey veins running through on the diagonal.  My tile-layer man headed the veins, some effused, more cloudlike than threadlike, all in the same direction.  Imagine how busy my small room could have stated itself had he done otherwise!

Tile having been laid, it is time to decide on wall paint color.  This is a big decision.  I believe the pleasure found in a living space is a result of the harmony of colors and structures amalgamated.  To help me find where to start, I scan through a several-years-old Architectural Digest.  One can count on design inspiration from that magazine.

A quote from the late Baroness Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, the “Queen of Paris” as the press of decades past was fond of calling her, appeals to my design preferences for layers of texture, subtle contrasts of many related colors, and the inclusion of some lustrous metal and solid black:  She said, “I love mixing things together—they always end up in harmony.”

A Medium-sized Pot With Interesting Shapes

A Medium-sized Pot With Interesting Shapes

A Turquoise Not Calling Attention To Itself

A Turquoise Not Calling Attention To Itself

Of course the amount of living space available at her supreme level, wherein the entire globe was her shopping mall, she was probably thinking of ancient materials in 17th-century paired or grouped statues, giant Grecian urns, or tapestries sold from the Massif Centrál of her beloved France, the Netherlands of her birth, or exotic foreign places.  Her station in life gave access to opulent, rare, or exquisitely handcrafted objects and furniture, textiles fringed or tasseled, Indonesian batiks, and more.  Her eponymous style of décor, le style Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, is unvaryingly associated with wealth and richness.  I encourage my furtherance in color insight with the following quote for the day, also copying it to my talented cousin in design, Robbie Hansen, who has helped our family live with good design:  The Baroness said of a newly built chalet, “When I saw it, I said to myself, Now you’ve got to do it up.”  She called in François Catroux, never far from her in such ventures, states the magazine article, and said of him, “I think a designer, no matter how gifted he is, can’t do a thing unless he has a strong personality to deal with.”

The Architectural Digest: The International Magazine of Interior Design, Collector’s Edition, May 2004, where I found the above quotes, has helped me understand what I am looking for in my five-by-five personal bathroom—a comingling of visual excitement presented by my tiles, together with a cream-colored showpiece that is my Ronbow vanity with black-granite top.  Add the unexpected solid-black recessed mirrored medicine chest (yes, these once common then disappeared cabinets are back), and the cozy comfort of a pale  straw-colored, thickly painted wall.  But, wait a minute, there’s a world of change out there, and I could take a risk . . . perhaps I’ll finish with a mid-tone deep grey purple, inspired by my cousin’s dining-room walls.  Admittedly hers are much taller walls, loaded with gold sconces, Egyptian or Roman vases, and an exorbitant chandelier.  Or maybe I’ll search out an Indonesian batik shower curtain for the end splash.  However the outcome,  the big decision of what color to paint the walls has put me deeply involved in the world of color. I am learning, and it reminds me of being in young love—you feel the vitality of being alive and able to select and finally commit.

Purple is a highfalutin color.  It is marketed as causing an intuitive mood.

Purple is a highfalutin color. It is marketed as causing an intuitive mood.

ANOTHER DISNEY BIG FILM: Saving Mr. Banks

The Disney production group has had a pretty good idea.  I wouldn’t say SAVING MR. BANKS ranks with the best films I’ve ever seen, but I can say that this movie was sublimely acted by Emma Thompson (Helen Goff, alias P. L. Travers), and Tom Hanks (Walt Disney), performing at the peak of their craft.  Paul Giamatti of the film SIDEWAYS played Ralph the limousine driver for Mrs. Travers in Los Angeles when she came to (not) sign the rights to the Mary Poppins book from London.  I liked seeing Bradley Whitford of the TV series West Wing as top team member in the collaboration between Disney Studios and Mrs. Travers.  The film was directed by John Lee Hancock and is rated PG.

This film was recommended by my brother-in-law who let on that I would be watching a story unfold about the Mary Poppins’ author’s life and some cruelties in it.  We mentioned the recommendation to two friends, and they also had a desire to catch it on the big screen, given that the “serious” “must-see” film TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE starring Chiwetel Eljiofor had left our area.  All four of us felt engaged and amused throughout the approximately two hours, and praised the work of Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks.  We had a bit of a feeling of wanting to see MARY POPPINS again on the big screen, even though the dancing penguins were flat cartoons in that old flick.  Anyone who has seen MR. POPPIINS’ PENGUINS can attest to the amazing upgrade in film technology comparing the two.

What I liked about Mrs. Travers was:  her look that fit her achievements as a famous author of inspiring children’s books, a reined-in look of thorough organization and the public reserve often thought of as “keeping up appearances.”  She had brown curls never straying far from her head, black eyeliner– no smudging, and a slightly downward-to-the-right lipliner mistake.  Her skin-toned, not-sheer hose over thin calves, and her pencil straight skirts called out, “all business and things appropriate.”  She said to her driver when she was starting to warm up to him, “You’re someone who asks a lot of questions, and you do not limit yourself.” To which he responded, “Two.”  I liked Mrs. Travers’ leadership style.  It is one I could have used as a teacher to succeed longer in my classroom career.  She knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that she would retain the rights to the production of her beloved Mary Poppins, a children’s savior popping in under a magic umbrella out of thin air.

 

 

 

Review of THE LONE RANGER (Director Gore Verbinski, 2013)

As an eight-year-old, I watched The Lone Ranger on the early, small TV screen. From the big screen, the “silver” screen, fifty-seven years later, comes Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger starring Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as John Reid, the masked man.

Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer as The Lone Ranger

The reviews were right– this is a crazy pieced-together quilt of a film. It is easy to become restless watching it for its lack of a clearly told narrative with a beginning, middle, and end. But looking back on my viewing experience, I feel that this film, a comedy, contained all the humor anybody involved in the making of it could muster. Crew and actors obviously had a great time with this piece. It had plenty of scenes resembling slapstick. “Slapstick” stresses farce (satirical/patently ridiculous events) and horseplay. Believe me, with the white Spirit Horse who communicated truths to Tonto, and launched the career of lawyer John Reid as The Lone Ranger, brother and son of Texas Rangers, you will see plenty of “horseplay.” The white horse told Tonto John was back from the land of spirit and could not be killed.

"Hi ho Silver, away!"

“Silver,” Mount of the Masked Man

Johnny Depp, of Edward Scissorhands, Whatever Happened to Gilbert Grape, Pirates of the Caribbean, Chocolate, Nick of Time, and much more, must have had a great time in the role of Tonto. And Armie Hammer must have as well in the role of Lone Ranger. Their vibe was terrific as partners, both reluctant heroes. If not for “Spirit Horse’s” ability to discern a man, a good man, come back from the other side of existence (satire), neither would have had his job of riding for justice and fighting for law and order in the Wild West. Their attempts take place in the early part of the 1900s when railroad barons dreamed of an iron-horse empire. Moreover, the precious metal silver, transported in trainloads of nuggets, is a character in this film. “Silver,” as we who watched the show in the 1950s know, is the horse’s name, given the white Spirit Horse at the end of the film. Comanches and US Cavalry fight in this film. Tonto is long ago an outcast Comanche, a boy who made a fatal error and caused great destruction to his tribe. The raven-carcass headpiece he wears, quite dead (more satire), signifies “spirit.” Tonto feeds it corn kernels. I didn’t get this during the screening, but I came home and wrote down themes, one regarding the raven-carcass headpiece, and now I understand:

A person must feed his/her spirit. At times, the spirit may appear to be dead. Jerk its head up. With consistent feeding, the spirit does cover your thinking.

What follows are a number of other themes that erupted as I continued to think about how  such a crazy piece of work could get produced. Thus, you could say I came a bit late to the fan club of the producers’ and director Verbinski’s THE LONE RANGER of 2013.

Themes Treated in the Movie– Even an Indian tribe can term one of its own a mental case. (The Comanches ousted Tonto and laugh at him.)

If someone chooses a partner for self-gain, the choosing partner behaves loyally, looking after the chosen mate. (Tonto has no hope of survival but for the Spirit Man he teams up with.)

Trading objects can solve worry and alleviate uncertainty between two individuals. (Tonto believes this down to his marrow and never fails to give back when he takes, even while holding on under a moving train.)

Nature out of balance can produce cannibalistic rabbits, that same kind of bad, murdering gunslinger, and a cursed silver nugget. (Attack scene by rabbits, and human eating human organ, thankfully off screen)

Truth and justice are more often than not traded for empire building. (Outlaws, those of good spirit, do better for the world than corrupted big-wigs.)

A woman with a big gun determined to shoot straight, living in community with gunslingers, may have lost a leg in the process. (She saved the day with just the right angle on her shooting leg.)

A woman can love two brothers, and timing determines which one she marries. (A tiny touch of romance is included, and the lady is a gentle mother of a young boy.)

A young boy does not know what to do if receiving conflicting instructions (while pointing a gun). To shed increasing tension and avoid a catastrophic wrong choice, he turns and cries out to mama. The child did some good acting.

 

A Dead Raven On His Head and Black Streaks Drawn Down Cheeks Reminded Tonto of His Catastrophic Decision He Made As a Boy

Stuck in my mind is the strange beginning of this film. We meet a lovely brown-eyed boy dressed in a white hat and black mask. In sharp contrast, he, alone, spectating among the exhibits of a museum of natural history, meets a hugely wrinkled, ancient-looking Indian in a diorama. The diorama is titled “The Noble Savage.” This unexpected approach to the story of the Lone Ranger (you understand the old Indian better at the end), contributes to the montage effect of this film’s style, separate scenes cut apart and strung like diverse  beads on a strand of wire.

In addition, the tough-to-look-at early characters in the first filmic images are bad, bad  gunslingers with greasy complexions, tarter-tainted teeth, sliced and scarred upper lip, long, unruly scruff, filthy-looking heads of hair, and flasks of whiskey. Later, a couple of them seem to be transvestites. I don’t really get this, so I guess it was one of the many jollies or increasing ironies the producers enjoyed in the making of this pieced-together quilt of a long film (about two and a half hours).

In closing, THE LONE RANGER may have every joke that everyone involved in the work thought of, a definite overplaying of humor. An example is Tonto wearing a birdcage over his crow headpiece to protect against the cat that has gone missing. Tonto is departing from the saloon girl’s salon. She has a noteworthy leg, an ivory, rifle-shooting leg with scrimshaw work all over it. Her leg is excruciatingly sexy to soldiers in the cavalry who do not know about the rifle inside. They want to touch her leg. Did I explain the strangeness? Can you see how this is one of the craziest movies you will ever see? No wonder movie-goers held back on this one, based on critical review. I wonder . . . would I be able to make it through a second screening? I loved the Dolby sound. I can hear the trumpet call and galloping strands of “The William Tell Overture” as a great-looking guy in a form-fitting black leather mask atop an amazing white horse ride down the desert slope . . . “Da da dum, da da dum, da da dum dum dum . . .”

2ND-TERM INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED STATES PRESIDENT, BARACK H. OBAMA

President Obama has increased in wisdom, from insights that disappointments bring, after four years in office.

President Barack Obama is one of seventeen presidents of the United States elected to a second term. January 21st is a holiday designated to honor the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968. The eloquence and passionate grain of voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. created discourse and action for civil rights. He will never be forgotten. Many Americans felt it apropros that our first black president be inaugurated for his second term on this day, January 21st, 2013. President Barack Obama is only half black, the offspring of Barack Hussein Obama of Kenya and Stanley Ann Dunham of Seattle, Washington who met at the University of Hawaii. His parents are obvious factors in the president’s commitment to the equality, dignity, and civil rights of every individual. In his inaugural speech, Barack

emphasized the old values of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” for each citizen. He emphasized that his oath of office is not that different from each citizen’s civil duty to country, that of serving country responsibly.

Merlie Evers Williams, widow of Medgar Evers, read a very long prayer enriching listeners’ thoughts

Merlie Evers Williams opened Inaugural Events with prayer.

toward the new administration spanning 2013 to 2016 under the leadership of Barack Obama. She is a gifted writer who without a doubt can speak from a heart of her race’s loss, through her husband’s assassination in Mississippi.

An openly gay young poet, Richard Blanco, read his original poetry that simply and warmly carried listeners’ thoughts to today’s ordinary concerns, commonplace concerns of people at work, notice of small elements of nature, horror of our country’s recent mass shooting in an elementary school, and more.

A hispanic clergyman of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Rev. Luis Leon, pronouncing the benediction, perfectly captured the positivity and possibilities of this inaugural moment for Barack’s second term.

Columnist Mark Shields speaking to Gwen Ifel on the evening news of PBS described Barack’s inaugural-day demeanor as “a happy warrior.” Mark’s cohort, columnist David Brooks, said Barack as a politician may be more associated with openness, progressivism, or a new liberalism for the 21st century, and yet by his personal makeup and character, he is a most traditional man, a family man, and the personalities of his two daughters, particularly how they conduct themselves in public, is admirable and noteworthy, manifesting good parenting (and likely influence by their grandmother, Mrs. Robinson, who lives upstairs). Commentators say that Barack, not having a traditional early family life, found “home” by marrying Michelle Robinson.

Michelle Robinson, First Lady, with her husband, the 44th President of the United States.

Silpada Silver Jewelry: .925 is Highest Possible, Plus Lifetime Guarantee

Arrow logo ornaments fine pieces.

Silpada’s “Arrow” gives added delight to their fine jewelry.

The exquisite long chain of giant links, pictured below,

Beautiful long chain; can be doubled

Long and striking, this piece draws compliments and handling from other women who also want to own it!

and hollow filigree bracelet (inspired by a Tiffany design), represent the fabulous pieces in the Silpada line. I am privileged to own them, and am also the proud owner of beautiful Silpada earrings, a couple of which are also pictured.

Inspiring and Beautiful

One of the most beautiful bracelets by Silpada, inspiring and versatile.

I recommend this line of fine jewelry, founded by two women in Kansas. If you are looking to buy quality and interesting designs tooled by artisans from around the world, jewelry manufactured at fair-trade value, buy Silpada.

"Retired"

Beautiful earrings, now retired, that evoke compliments

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One Pair for Everyday; One Pair for Dress Up

Silpada’s Wooden Earrings weigh next to nothing. Wear them all day easily. One pair made of wood on hooks; One pair studs structured substantively with cubic zirconium crystals front and back