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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

 

 

 

 

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blue James T sitting

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.

 

 

shops milan dela spiga

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.

 

MARNI 67th Street by MARNI

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.

Painters, photographers, and law enforcement officers have shown a lot of interest in capturing just one side of us, a side of us we don’t usually see.

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Portrait Paolo Uccello (1397 - 1475)  Roundel with Head, ca. 1435

Italian artists working 500 years ago and more gave us some of the most arresting one-sided portraits we will ever see.  Up top, that’s  Federico da Montefeltro giving his wife Battista Sforza the eye, courtesy of Piero della Francesca.  And that beautiful face in the round frame belongs to an unnamed Florentina painted by Paolo Uccello (1397-1475).  More here

 

Portrait Fra Filippo Lippi (Italian Renaissance painter, c 1406–1469) also called Lippo Lippi, Portrait of a Woman with a Man at a Casement

Here’s a lady caught at the window by Fra Filippo Lippi (c 1406–1469).  Her eyes don’t quite meet his, and maybe that’s the story here.  From this nicely gathered collection of side portraits.

 

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Moving up the road to France and a bit closer to our time, we found this lovely drawing by Jean-Joseph Bernard, 1785, at Vanderbilt University. Just pen and ink with watercolor on paper.

 

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Staying in France for a moment, here is a carved profile of an homme who from this angle seems both aristocratic and capable of beating somebody up.  Image found here

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This group called Portraits of Lawgivers lives in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol Building. Each of the men depicted is a person who, some say, contributed to the laws that now underlie the US justice system. We think that’s Hammurabi up there.

 

Portrait Sargeant Madame_X_(Madame_Pierre_Gautreau),_John_Singer_Sargent,_1884_(unfree_frame_crop)

Madame X, as she came to be called, was an American in Paris in the 1880’s who did well in marriage, generated much gossip, and attracted the attention of painter John Singer Sargent who asked if he could paint her.  She said yes and the resulting portrait of her, with her gaze averted stage left, was judged just s bit too, you know.  Despite the averted gaze and the “X” everyone recognized the woman in black as “that woman”.  See her here now, at your leisure.

 

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Jumping ahead to modern scandalous celebrity, getting your “mug” shot shortly after an arrest, profile on one side and full face on the other, is  almost a rite of passage for film stars and musicians of the last 70 years or so.  Mr Hendrix got out of the Toronto jail soon after and went on to play another day.

Portrait Man Ray of Lee Miller IMAGE-ONE-T

20th century artists like Man Ray rediscovered the power of the sidelong view even when no crime had preceded the shot.  This is Lee Miller in his Paris studio. Some of course thought it a crime that a woman this beautiful could also be a talented, brave, and prolific photographer.

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Isn’t she lovely, actress Billie Dove.  We don’t care what she’s done.

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Audrey Hepburn photographed by Yousaf Karsh and, bless her, she turned just a little toward us.  From Boston.com

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The silhouette was not just a fad, it was an obsession at a certain point.  If you hadn’t been caught from the side on black paper with scissors well you just hadn’t arrived.  This nice example from England found here

 

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Many got the whole damned family scissored and pasted. This is the Sturge Family, ca. 1820 presented in the collection of the Library of the Society of Friends (The Quakers)

 

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Some silhouettists snipped black images of everyone they met, apparently.  Here’s a book of hundreds of them at the Smithsonian Institute

 

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Back to where we started, in Italy, this must be counted among the most beautiful portraits ever produced, and it is amazing how much it conveys while only showing us one side of this woman’s story.  Her name is Giovanna Tornabuoni, and she died in childbirth.  Painted posthumously by Domenico Ghirlandaio about 1490. She now lives in a museum in Madrid and was recently the star of an exhibition there reported here.

 

portrait Johannes_Vermeer_(1632-1675)_-_The_Girl_With_The_Pearl_Earring_(1665)

Much as we love the profile portaits we found, we are very very glad that Jan Vermeer (go here) coaxed this lady to turn toward his canvas and to us.  Perhaps the gift of her gaze is all the more powerful because we have been deprived of it.  Maybe that’s the power of the profile–to increase the appetite for more of her face.

 

 

 

 

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