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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
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.
His plays are what brought his name to the world.
Two photos above by John Haynes
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.
Samuel Beckett, born in Dublin, lived and died in Paris. Photo found here.
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:
Simone de Beauvoir, philosopher, writer, provocateur,and arguably, one of the primary creators of what we call feminism.
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.
Her series of memoirs, especially the first (Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter) are as full of humanity as they are philosophy.
Like Beckett, her life and her writing changed things for us and the influence continues.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Paris, the 1920’s, letting it loose, 24/7. Photo from here
Happy New Year. Go play
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.
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
But for all the contradictions, we can’t stop smiling at this little gang of kidders.
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.”
Is this him?
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?
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!!!
Play on fellas. Do you know “My Funny Valentine?”
Everyone should live alone–at least for a while, we think. It teaches you how to take care of yourself and your cave. It will make you a better roommate when the time comes. If you make the choice–or it is made for you–to live on your own, you mostly have to make do with a place designed for two or three or seven. Unless you get lucky.
A few designers have, luckily, turned their heads to solo living. Above dwelling (“close to transportation”), is in Tokyo (of course) and is a solo abode designed for a 60-year-old woman above a tobacconist shop. Architects : Hideshi Abe / Avehideshi Architect and Associates. Photos by Hiroki Kawata. Viewed at dezeen here
The cost of land being what it is, the building has a small foot and lots of stairs to climb–beautiful stairs in this case, so take your time.
This drawing shows where the living quarters (or eighths) are, but how the solo householder has arranged it all is her secret.
Nor is this little lady telling us how she arranges her life and her bonnets inside this tiny red place. Chances are it’s either neat as a pin or a spectacular mess.
If you want some space around your home alone, here’s a nice little cube among the trees and rocks to call your own.
This is a tiny onesy tucked right into the woodsy countryside for the winter. Fits right in (“Maybe I should have the Birches over for hot chocolate”). Seen here.
Back to the future, this prototype for one is designed to supply food, energy, heat and oxygen to its occupant. Its maker calls it Oogst 1 Solo. Sadly for us, no mention of it providing wine and potato chips. Seen at polychroniadis on tumbler.
This is Piiri house, mostly wood, just for one, good for thinking about where you are and where you aren’t.
And if you aren’t yet sure where you want to live, consider the mobile option. This one in Lego colours folds up into a trailer and folds out into different rooms. More here
Mmmm. Designed for one, maybe but surely occasional sleepovers are allowed. APH80 tiny home designed by the Spanish design team at Abaton,
Once you start looking, it turns out there are more people than we thought, professional designers and just plain soloists, who have considered the uni-dwelling:
Blob VB3, Designed by Belgian architectural firm, dmvA above.
A bit of a cliffhanger, by Front Architect
These little fellas help us get our act together all day, until we undo them in the dark. While we dream, they wait, wide eyed, for the start of a new day. For most of us, it’s a kind of unacknowledged mutual dependence, like those birds that live on the backs of rhinos. We know they’re there, but we act as if we don’t.
Of course, some people are different, and some of those people are not at all indifferent to their buttons.
These are the pint sized offspring of London’s Pearly Kings and Queens, who gussy up their plain clothes with as many pearl buttons as they can. The results are fabulous, fun, and a little tragic, like much of life for those on the lower rungs of London living. More recent pics in this article.
Truth be known, while we often admire displays of a great big bunch of stuff, we are generally more partial to those who celebrate the individual unique thing, be it a bungalow, a backless dress, or a button.
Aaaww, look at that, cute as what it is.
And this one, well now we are way beyond cute into the country of art and design. This has an idea, and this was executed with skill and craft. It’s from the collection of the National Button Society! Along with more, below:
This black glass button is as stormy as a Canadian winter sky or a late-night argument that just won’t end.
The above nifty trio, each a fine bright thing, live in the Pennsylvania House Museum, which is not in Pennsylvania, apparently.
But buttons aren’t just a North American pleasure. Look at the above fistful from Birmingham, the one in England.
These gems up there, from here, tell us that button making and button wearing was once something special. Today, we think we are the most interesting people who ever walked the face of the earth, but how many of us pay any attention to our buttons? Maybe that will change. There is lots of encouragement…
This great little book is a catalogue for an exhibition/celebration of buttons in Paris at the Mona Bismark gallery Many were from the collection of Loic Allio, who has his own book (hard to find and pricey). First seen here.
Some have been woven from cloth, many more punched from mother of pearl shell
A few made it to the vest of the little emperor himself and left their mark.
Coco Chanel knew her buttons and put her mark right there, out front, in classic fashion below seen here
Of course, it’s really a question of style and personal taste, whether you go plain above or bravura below.
The thing is you have a choice, it’s up to you. Don’t leave it to chance.
This is one of the oldest buttons ever found. Simple, yes, but made with care, not like any other. See its story here.
If you want a bit more history to go with the eye candy, Slate has this. And if you want to shake up your daily life just a little, go to your closet and check your buttons. Are they YOU? Well, you can change that.