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Gotta thirst at the end of a day?  Well, there is no shortage of colourful, solutions to be concocted–by you yourself or by a licensed professional (image from here).   Cocktails are back.  Lucky us.

Cocktails in a row

The mixed drink for adults that goes beyond the quick and simple rye and ginger, rum and coke, scotch and water, tequila and tequila is very much in favour just now and shows no sign of retreating any time soon.

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It’s all about variety, visual panache, and finding the ONE for you.  You’ll find plenty advice, history, images, recipes, stories at your fingertips, e.g at cocktail builder  or imbibe.

Funny how things come and go.  Not so long ago, the thing to do was to keep everything simple, including your brain buzzing beverage of choice.  Open the bottle, pour a healthy slug, add something a child might drink, and repeat as necessary–or just make a giant jugful.

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But now, it’s all about multiple ingredients, hard to find, mixed in just the right proportion, requiring some care and skill, served in a special glass, beautiful to look at.

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They say the cocktail craze started way back before we let television in the house.  Almost a hundred years ago, people of means and money looking to fill the void between the afternoon nap and dinner decided the thing to do was to have friends over for drinks, real drinks, stiff drinks crafted with expertise made from hard-to-get components, just like their hats and furniture.

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Great design above by Beverley Nichols found here.

Invitation to a cocktail party circa 1925

Invitation to a cocktail party circa 1925

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Actually, the invitation looks more fun and interesting than the party (photo from here; you can acquire the invitation here)

Those who looked into it seriously say the cocktail hour was born sometime between 1917 and 1924, somewhere between London and America, moving inevitably from houses to bars, cafes, nightclubs, fund raisers…

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The bunch above are slurping their cocktails during prohibition in America, meaning you needed a password to get in and you had to lie to your mom when you got home. From this article.

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This crowd is on the town Berlin at a time when, it seems, nothing was prohibited (and just before just about everything was prohibited).

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Wherever you are, the cocktail seems to be best consumed in the presence of someone you think is swell.

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Or at least someone you used to think was swell.  This is a fine photo by Irving Penn was taken in Lima and found at this eye-opening site.

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Then again, some gals just like to put on their best cocktail hat and go it alone.

 

OK, so back to the here and the now.  Below is the bar at the Brasserie NYC in the one and only Seagram’s building where, we can tell you, you will not go wrong in acquiring a satisfying cocktail, New York style: big, quick, yummy, and served by someone who won’t make you feel like you don’t deserve this.

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If you find yourself near NYC or just thinking it, it would be a fine occasion to have a Manhattan cocktail.

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Recipe here; image from (yes) Booze & Yarn.

Wherever you are, spare an hour late in a day to seek out seat at the bar somewhere in your town.  Give the bartender a chance to try something new on you–or challenge him/her with something little known.

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At the r of l, our official cocktail is the negroni.

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Why?  it tastes really good in any season and any time of day, it only has 3 ingredients, and it goes very well with any activity, whether you are being quiet and reflective (wondering where you put that note reminding you to do something) or hosting a gathering of 20 friends and neighbours in celebration of the fact that you have 20 friends and neighbours. (Image above, History, and more from Swide)

Find your cocktail, find your reason to sip it.

 

 

 

 

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If you write, you know him and you owe him something.  If you don’t, you surely know his face. Above photo by Dmitri Kasterine

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Beckett reduced language to its bones while charging those bones with an intensity that carves deep lines in the head and heart.  Silence. Waiting.  This is how we spend most of our lives, but no one had the audacity and wisdom to try an make literature from them.  Until Beckett.

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His plays are what brought his name to the world.

Two photos above by John Haynes

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They gave him the Nobel Prize.  He did not refuse the honour, but declined to make a speech and did not attend the medal ceremony. Photographed by Richard Avedon.

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Samuel Beckett, born in Dublin, lived and died in Paris. Photo found here.

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Along with the gift of his genius for understanding us and putting it into words,  there is that unforgettable face–and head. Photo found here

His only rival, we think, as a writer of influence and a face of riveting attraction was this other famous resident of Paris:

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Simone de Beauvoir, philosopher, writer, provocateur,and arguably, one of the primary creators of what we call feminism.

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Her most influential book, the Second Sex, caused a sensation.  The Vatican disapproved harshly, all the more since Mlle De Beauvoir was born into a Catholic family in the French countryside.

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Her series of memoirs, especially the first (Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter) are as full of humanity as they are philosophy.

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Like Beckett, her life and her writing changed things for us and the influence continues.

Photos (from the top) found here, here, here, here, and here.

When we see these photographs now, we can’t help but recognize the unique, intense intelligence in these faces.  It’s there around the eyes and the mouth.  How could these heads not produce world-changing thoughts?

magnifique

 

 

 

 

All of us are born with more than enough imagination.  It is not exclusive to people who go on to write novels, paint pictures, make movies, design buildings, or start a fashion label.  Just look at any child under 10–look at what they are doing.

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F Carpenter Three children drawing on panels, Japan, 1909

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Middle photo, children drawing on panels, Japan, 1909 b7 “F Carpenter”. Top photo and lower one, kids on the street in New York, by Helen Levitt. Lots more here.

But if you ask people over 20 about their imagination and how they use it, you’ll find them frowning while they try to come up with something that won’t sound stupid.

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It seems that once we get it into our heads that we are grown ups, most of us abandon the inventive use of our imagination and only call on it when hankering for something we don’t have: a tropical vacation,  possession of a winning lottery ticket, a cigarette, a cheesecake, a white Christmas, dream girl/guy.

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Fine, but isn’t there something a bit more useful you could do with this amazing tool that takes you beyond the here and now and the run of the mill?

It doesn’t have to be the invention of an alternate reality or a re-imagining of the modern metropolis.  It could be your choice of an outfit for a walk downtown.

Like this inventive and still playful woman. The Japanese, bless their hearts, take their imaginations to the streets as a matter of course.

And they are not alone.

Above The Idiosyncratic Fashionistas of NYC, photo by NPR found here

More than anyone (as we at the RofL noted before) we have the amazing Bill Cunningham to thank for finding and photographing people who set their own standard every day in New York.

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These are people who wouldn’t be caught dead in some other persons clothes. Above from here 

But, hey, public displays of originality aren’t for everyone, of course.  And plain clothes have been the choice of some of the most imaginative humans who ever lived.

An undated photo of Albert Einstein at New York's Saranac Lake: A newly digitized letter from Einstein's personal collection reveals that the physicist once saved a former lover from the Nazis.

Mr Einstein at the beach, almost blending in, seen here

The point is: somewhere in all our lives there is an opportunity to do what feels right to us and what we strongly suspect is not what most people are going to do.

Don’t we have some sort of responsibility to do something, sometime, that is all our own, a demonstration of our DNA writ large?

All we need is the courage to let loose our imagination, our playful side, and put it out there.

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Start small, start with lunch. This is a sandwich, a baby grandwich.  Bravo, and bon appetite. After lunch, maybe go outside and paint the house, pushing yourself beyond taupe with charcoal trim.

Nice building, personalized, and you won’t have any trouble finding it again. It was given a lick of paint by Stanley Donwood, pen name of an artist and is the London office of XL Recordings. More here

Tired of hauling a spruce into the house or the landlord just won’t let you?

We all have an oceanful of ideas–some bright, some wacky, some spooky, some great–floating around in our heads.  Giving ourselves permission to dip into that ocean a bit more often would make the world a bit more interesting, don’t you think?

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Paris, the 1920’s, letting it loose, 24/7. Photo from here

Happy New Year.  Go play

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Thank you James Turrell, Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner, Henri Matisse, Joan Miro, Robert Motherwell, Pablo Picasso, Tom Burrows, Yves Klein, and back to James T.

All for you, blue.

If you want the music too here it is.

 

 

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Clowns tell us a lot about ourselves and our lives. The best of them reveal some sadness or strangeness or both while doing their best to amuse us.  The overall message is: you might as well laugh because, well, life isn’t always a piece of cake, sometimes it’s a pie in the face.

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clown toy crawling

Clown figurines of tin or ceramic seem to carry an extra layer of sadness and oddness after a few years.  Maybe there is a contradiction between what we see now and the smiles the little joker was meant to induce.  Crawling clown toy, 1900, from here

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But for all the contradictions, we can’t stop smiling at this little gang of kidders.

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According to Tracey’s Toys:

“The Rolly Dollys first appeared in 1902 and were produced through the 1920s in over 70 different styles. Some were based on advertising or cartoon characters like Buster Brown and Foxy Grandpa, while others represented children, clowns, police officers, and more.”

Foxy Grandpa??

Is this him?

clown cookie jar

All in all, the clown whether he is a comic actor, a circus performer, a tin toy, or cookie jar (above) has a long history and a continuing important function in human society.  Is there sadness underneath it all?  Is there misery and madness?

 

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Well…maybe.  But we all have a choice to see the soda spray bottle half empty or half full.  Is the whoopee cushion a cry for help?  Or just a perennial boyish prank.  We come down on the side of mirth.  Release the clowns!!!

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Play on fellas.  Do you know “My Funny Valentine?”

 

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