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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?

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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 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?

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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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Shopping, like a lot of things, can produce a smile and a sweet memory or it can make you grumble for days and hate yourself.  A lot of the difference lies in the attitude of you and me, the shopper.  But much depends as well on the shop itself, and the face it presents to the street. Above is a shopper’s street of dreams, Rue Manzoni in Milan.

 

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Still in Milan, where commerce takes place in settings suitable for an opera or the overthrow of the government.  The Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele is centre stage, a shopping mall where you and everyone else is part of a performance–comedy, drama, money changing hands, loyalties tested.

 

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Italy is more than Milan of course, and if you find yourself in Naples, for example, at the other end of the country, you won’t lack for chances to exercise your shopping muscles and the offerings may be quite different than Milanese high fashion.

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Above is a windowful of Neapolitan wood carved figures,  a product of this ancient city that can be found all over the world (e.g on the giant Christmas Tree at the Metropolitan Museum in New York).  Nicely photographed by this perceptive shopper.

 

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But its not just Italy that has a history and a culture of shops and shopping.  England too is what it is because of trade and traders, goods and wares, purveyors and shoppes.  our life as a shopper isn’t complete until you’ve treated yourself to London. This is Regent Street, a shop front done up by architects in 2013.

 

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This looks to us very English too, but it is in New York, via Copenhagen, albeit on “Prince” street. Nice job by Han Kjobenhavn, is a “playful” Copenhagen-based eyewear brand.  Fits right in and stands out all at the same time. Found here.

 

 

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Awwwwwww.  Cute as a box full of budgies. How much for those red lips, Mr Pucci?  This store is up on Madison Avenue in NY where they’ve been setting up shops to feed your eyeballs since way before there was QR code or a #.

 

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Still on Madison Ave, this fellow and his fluffy companion have, I guess, seen it all before, but those gals in the window seem to be looking at him with intent. Nice photo.

 

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If you want to join the show on Madison, you better have your act together, and this is just about perfect, we think.  Nicely done Ms Marni.

 

Paris Pencils

We’ll give the last spot to Paris, not the fashion houses or perfume shops, but this little stationary shop between the Marais and the river.  Mmmmmm.  Wish it was just around the corner.

With shopping, as with dining, the best moment is often before you take the first bite.  Give yourself an eyeful next time you go shopping.  It won’t show up on the credit card statement and it won’t wear out.

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