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Pieter Bruegel, Flemish, born almost 500 years ago, was a miracle of a painter who gave us images we can still understand and delight in without a thick book or an expert.

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Most of his pictures have their origin in the Christian Bible, but if you never saw a Bible in your life you would see and feel the humanity of what is staring you in the eye.

And you would see the children, somewhere in the frame.

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You need to look, sometimes, for the children.  But they are almost always there, busy, preoccupied, stocky/stubby, lovely.

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This is a detail of the Census of Bethlehem

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Wherever you find them, these, Bruegel’s children are identifiable as today’s children, even if so much around them is bizarre.

Bruegel children

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Above, The Hunters in the Snow also known as The Return of the Hunters, is a 1565 oil-on-wood painting.

It is a quiet cold wonder in the palace of great art–thanks in part to those small boys and girls.

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Our heroes are by definition magnificently far above us in what they do and how they do it. If you take a moment to look at the heroes of baseball, it seems not so impossible that you too might someday do what they do.

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The costumes (simple, soft, comfy) and the main actions of baseball (swing, run, throw, catch, run, slide)  tell you how sweetly uncomplicated it all is.

For a kid looking on, enthralled, obsessed, it almost looks possible.  I can wear  a uniform like that. I can swing like that. I can feel it.

 

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At least that’s how it seemed in 1959, and we can hope that it is not far from the truth today.

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Of the many who played the simple game at the highest level, these two Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron, twin gods of the Milwaukee Braves in 1959, represented to the kid just about everything that was worth being if you were human–including approachability.  Yes, you could imagine them coming to your house and throwing the ball around.  Yes you did imagine it, over and over.

HOF Weekend 1967 Robinson w Aparicio 3530.2000_NBLAnd those Milwaukee heroes didn’t seem to mind that you also worshipped others, like these two Baltimore Orioles, Brooks Robimson and Luis Aparicio (1967).  Real heroes understand that.  They know it is not betrayal, it does not diminish them.

mickey-mantle-si2Mickey Mantle (the Marilyn Monroe of baseball ?(without the tragedy), seemed to understand that as well as anyone.  There seemed to be no envy in his rivalry with other players, no bitterness in his blazing competitiveness.

The best in baseball, at least in those days, always had time for the kid who worshipped them.

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Brooks Robinson, sitting down, taking time.  The kid is the batboy for the team.  The BATBOY! Baseball even has a JOB for a kid, a JOB among the gods, a job in heaven itself.

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What a game.

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This batboy became a Chief Justice in the Court of Queens Bench in Canada, but we bet he never felt more glad to be alive than right there, the boy in charge of the bats.

Found here

If you are lucky, there is a game going on soon near you, and if you are super lucky, it unfolds in a place like this bit of heaven.

nat baileyNat Baily Stadium, Vancouver, BC

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Puppets have been with us for a very long time.  Amusing us, sometimes scaring us or making us mad–and by “us”, we mean people of just about any age in any country. Small figures made of simple materials become actors in a play.  This is theatre the way we all like it. We laugh, we cry.   Applause applause.

The above 200-year-old puppet troupe, supporting cast to the beloved character Guignol, is from Lyon, France, found here.

But happily, puppets are as much a part of the present as they are a reminder of the past. Today, right now, puppet making and puppet theatre are as widely appealing and inventive as ever.

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This is one (of dozens) of small figures imagined and made by Canadian artist Geoffrey Farmer for a show called The Surgeon and the Photographer. Each is made of cloth and paper cut out of magazines and books.  Are they “puppets”?  They are to us, and the room full of them was, by a long shot, the best thing we saw in an art gallery in 2015.

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Above, Mr Farmer’s puppets on parade at the Barbicon in London in 2013. Happily, all these little people have been gathered in a book.

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Whatever their actual age, puppets seem to belong to a time all their own.  This lad, who is Italian and just waiting for the show to go on, is about 300 years ago.

This past August, many of the fine performances at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival featured puppets and puppetry of the highest and most hilarious order, the most absurd, unsettling, laugh-in-spite-of- yourself kind of stuff you’ll find in any theatre anywhere…

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Like Bruce, a sponge puppet, with quite a story to tell. Created by Australian company The Last Great Hunt

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And Foxy, one of the stars of Sing for your Life, a “Hideously hilarious taxidermy puppet cabaret”written by taxidermy performance artist (!) Charlie Tuesday Gates. Don’t look toooo close.

Puppet festivals thrive today in many cities–like Istanbul, below

The 18th International Istanbul Puppet Fest comes to town!

Chicago

Tehran

German, Spanish for Tehran puppet festival

France

Montreal   Festival Casteliers   Afternoon of a Foehn. 

So we encourage you to get off your hands and head out to a puppet show near you or way over there in Istanbul.  Near or far, the delight remains supreme.  We love these little creatures, don’t we?

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G. Farmer.  Mlle Puppette.  Enchantee. Merci.

 

 

 

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The world is (still) full of wild things, plenty of them pretty weird in appearance and habits.  Yet we humans have never been satisfied with nature’s menagerie.  Since way back when, we have imagined things even more wild and more weird. Like this unnerving critter photographed by Nhung Dang (spotted here).

 

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No surprise the Japanese have been heavily into conjuring up unusual creatures from the imagination.  There was a whole show of them in London.

 

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The USA can claim many  producers of eye-poppng imaginary animalia, sometimes under the banner of Folk Art, sometimes Outsider Art, sometime…Art.  This wild dog was here.

 

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And in the USA, there is no shortage of well produced, well attended shows featuring objects and  drawings of creatures who have never actually roamed the earth, but which are very much alive in the minds of some artist.

 

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And then there is England, which might hold the all time record for the number of its citizens who have turned their imagination and their natural skills to the rendition of new life forms.  The above drawing is a collaboration of two sisters born in the 1840’s with time on their hands and wonderful, playful minds.  Here’s the story.

 

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Kate Bradbury, a current artist from England, emerged late, blossomed quickly, makes things no one else could never dream of.  This is her  Angel.  More

 

 

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Let’s give the last word and image to the Asians. Eunmi Chun is Korean, and she makes animal figures out of dried intestinal skin and human hair (sometimes gold-leafed), beautiful forms sewn together, see here.

Wild.  Thing.  You make my heart sing.

Nature is the crucible, churning out an infinite variety of living things.  And still, some of us turn our heads and minds to the invention of things that, so far, never were.

Wild.

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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.

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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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