Saturday, February 27, 2010

Squandering my kids' inheritance...

...for this weekend consisted of:

a very early George Nelson bubble lamp ($40 Craigslist)

a Mid Century chrome Lightolier sputnik chandelier with giant smoked glass bubble shades(ummm, should I say this? sticking out of a trashcan on the way to pick up said bubble lamp)

a complete and perfect Niels Moller rosewood dining set (you heard me!)

a very vintage orangey-red leather upholstered Eames RAR rocker for Herman Miller (it was one that Herman Miller gave to an employee when they had a new can tell because it had a tiny brass plate affixed to the back with the baby's name on it)

By the way, does anyone know how to date those things? Besides the first year production Zenith chairs, there's no internet info on how to determine date of manufacture (oh, except for the sticker that has the date on it which someone rubbed away right on top of the date). Please share what you know...

So you're never without an umbrella

Cold? Tired of being inside? Want a free, immediate gratification decorating project to lift your spirits?

Print this free downloadable/printable image from a Spanish art installation on some good photo stock or paper stock (max size to retain good resolution is 11 x 14).
Pop it into the $3 IKEA frame that you KNOW you have lying around somewhere (or just swap out the old wedding photo....that was ages ago).
Stick it on your bathroom, nursery, or kitchen wall.
Kick up your've just re-decorated.

image via OhBrooke

Friday, February 26, 2010

Literary Leanings or How to Pick a Book Without Oprah

"Have you read anything good lately?"

How hard can it be to wander into a Barnes & Noble and find something interesting, perhaps even fascinating, to read? Turns out, it's pretty dang hard. First, there's alot of crap. There just is. The "New in Paperback" table sitting in the center of the store is the literary equivalent of a giant Doritos display in the middle of the grocery store on Superbowl Sunday. It's not there because Doritos taste the best, or because they are made with integrity, or because they are good for you. It's there because a big company wants to sell you their crap. And in the long run, crappy novels just don't satisfy, do they?

I think we call such books "beach reading", which, when accompanied by a giant bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, can provide a nice, semi-conscious day of reading and making sure the kids are still floating-and-not-because-they're-dead-oh-my-god-I-can't-tell-are-they-alive-phew-they're-o.k.-get-your-butts-over-here-you-scared-me-to-death-you're-way-too-far-out-I-could-never-reach-you-in-time-way-out-there. I hate the beach.

And publishing companies know that you choose with your eyes. Did you know that? It's kinda like how organic apples look all mangled and ugly but taste super good and won't make you grow a third boob, but the shiny-perfect apples are the ones everyone wants even though they taste like apple-flavored sponge. You know about the book/cover/judge thingy by now, so don't ignore it. Lots of "books" are really just book-flavored paper.

I'm not going to recommend specific books, but if you'll let me, I can change how you choose your reading materials forever. Not even kidding.

The laziest method I can offer is actually quite good. NPR (that's right, hipsters!) has a show called "You Must Read This". So, I think the intent behind the show is mostly obvious. Contemporary authors discuss and recommend a book that most affected them, inspired them, changed them, or informed their writing, character development, style, etc. What I love most about this is they are not necessarily the books that the authors "liked" the best, and this illustrates an important point about choosing books: You don't have to "like" a book for it to impact or transform you, any more than you have to "like" a historical incident for it to have altered history. In fact, it may repulse, offend, or scare you, but change you nonetheless. Be open to this idea.

This is one of the blessings of an Arts & Letters degree. You are forced to acknowledge and deal with styles, genres, and authors that wouldn't be sought out voluntarily. It's like being teamed up with a stranger, and you must work out some problem, some issue together. You're free to reach your own separate conclusions, but in the end just see if you don't have a greater appreciation for another's point of view or experiences.

My second recommendation for finding good books is slightly more complicated, but far more interesting. Did you ever dream of attending Harvard? Oxford? This year's winner of the "Number One Party University" title? Doesn't matter. Pick a university and go to their website. Look up the Arts & Letters department and read the bios of the staff. Professors are into some really, really weird stuff. Pick the person who most interests you. Click on a class they're teaching and download the syllabus/reading list. Try to follow the reading schedule exactly, and stick it out with the books that you don't particularly "like". Professors organize their units around themes, so try to see how it fits into this theme, or expands your understanding of the time period or genre. Heck, download their lecture slides. If you need password access, email them directly. Professors aren't, by nature, rule makers or followers. You will learn so much more about history this way, not necessarily because the books are historically factual, but because literature reveals so much about the fears, preoccupations, and psychological makeup of a specific time and place.

Eat your Doritos, if you must. But eat your mangled apples, too.

And to the serious readers out there: Let me do you choose your next book?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mid Century with a twist of hippie

I like most things in my life with a twist of hippie. Especially in Mid Century interiors, I think the ethnic/rustic/organic/hippie twist breathes life into what can otherwise quickly become a sterile design museum. Don't forget that the Beatniks, civil rights protests, women's lib, environmental activism (Rachel Carson's Silent Spring came out in 1962), and fascination with travel and foreign culture (and Afro-Cuban-Latin jazz) were happening concurrently with the Modernist design movement. Don't think that these social issues weren't creeping into design and the way people lived. They were pretty funky.

My very conventional grandma had giant macrame owl wallhangings and handmade stained glass hanging in every window. And, she would put on her Afro rumbas and scat sing while assembling some cream of chicken soup dish with a cigarette in one hand. Okay, she also had a room for her wigs, BUT, a "War is not healthy.." poster hung above them.

In our area, there are a number of phenomenal Mid Century homes that are still owned by the people who commissioned them in the 50s and 60s, and I always love to see how they live with their modernist architecture and furniture. Typically there are a lot of ethnic rugs, art, and sculpture collected over many years of travel. Rather than an encyclopedic "who's-who" of Mid-Century design, they mix a few important pieces with handmade items from their own experimentation, or from friends and travels abroad. Sometimes their amateur art is ugly as sin, which is somehow even more endearing. Some clunky green blob of clay that they made in their own pottery studio out back is sometimes just the right complement to the visionary wood-and-glass angles of their home.

Although a little too spartan for me, I love the warm vibe of this house tour (last two pictures). And the MCM-hippie-ethnic-industrial Ace Hotel in Palm Springs has been calling me with its siren song (top three). In the words of Tina Fey, "I want to go to there."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Golden Girl

Today was an emotionally-drizzly-with-chances-of-showers-and-unexpected-sunshine day. Yep, all over the map.
A.M. date with grandma and some of her elderly cronies. Sunshine. One of her friends, an old Southern belle, said about her grandaughter (a mother of four), "I told her she needed to do something about that, because whenever a sperm passes by her eggs hold out their arms and say "Come to mama." " Sunshine...the brilliant kind that only emanates from their simpler, surer era.
Distressing news about my estranged little sister...that always ends in showers. Once I was alone, I pulled over by the post office and tore off a violent poem of hateful protest against her demons. Only, who to send it to? So I offered it up as my prayer. This leaves me a skinless, quivering mass of nerve-jelly.
And then, a generous note from a reader. Sunshine.
Friends, some things aren't in our power to repair. Even more reason to act, and act quickly, when it is. Be generous to your loved ones. Be forgiving. Apologize. Humble yourself. Be heroic. Do what it takes. Don't let go.
I love you, M.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The grass is greener...or is it red?

I've always had this kind of "grass is greener" inner conflict between light, spare, modernist design and dramatic, layered, colorful spaces.

I think it's partly because I imagine that if I lived in white rooms with just a few simple pieces of modern furnishings, maybe I would become as clean, simple, and spare as the rooms around me.

Maybe I would have a sleek blond ponytail and get up early to jog and apply stain-remover to the family's laundry (which they would have already sorted and neatly placed in my all-white laundry room). Maybe I would have the grocery shopping done by 9 a.m. and miraculously my dog wouldn't shed all over...heck, I guess I wouldn't have a dog. Maybe the design would have transforming powers and my life would be sort of a Nike-ad-meets-Dwell-magazine fitness/perfection marathon.


But more likely, I would paint the walls one by one, and I would slowly drag home more and more antiques and kooky thrift-store paintings. My curly red hair would never adjust to a sleek ponytail, and I would abandon the early-morning runs for very late nights in bed with my motley stack of reading materials and scraps of paper with poems and the beginnings of novels on them. The grocery shopping would not be done, and I would have to fall back on my famous "something from nothing" pasta dishes. The dog would come back, because we love him...and he would shed. The laundry would be clean, but not stain-free.

The rooms would not transform me...I would transform them. That's just the way it is.

top three pics via Elle Decor, bottom two Kelly Wearstler for Maison 140 Beverly Hills

You're probably a hipster if...Mondays

You're probably a hipster if.....

you've bought the best yoga mat on the market,
yoga pants made from organic bamboo,
a subtly hip yoga bag,
and you really like the idea of yoga,
you don't actually DO yoga.

You'll want to see the rest of the "You're probably a hipster" list HERE.

image from yogadawg

Friday, February 19, 2010

I'd like to talk to you!

Dear Qatar, India, Lisbon, Pamplona, Iceland, Cambridge, St. Louis, Tel Aviv, Liguria, Lombardia, Sony Pictures, Portland, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Department of Defense (uh oh), San Francisco Ballet, Bronx and Brooklyn,

Hello, all! There's only one thing I would love more than seeing you here, and that's hearing from you! You're welcome to comment or drop me a line any time. Even the Department of Defense're making me nervous but I'll bet you have some fascinating things to say!

Your friend,

photo from here

Shiny happy coffee tables

via Domino

Lucite table over patterned rug=brilliant way to maintain the sightline and visually expand the room. Don't worry-it doesn't have to be zebra. It could even be sisal.

This one is by Charles Hollis Jones (SOLD, NO LONGER AVAILABLE), who just had a reception and lecture at the Palm Springs Modernism week (I believe at Design Within Reach?)

And it's baby and toddler friendly; untippable, no pointy edges.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

More HAUS Music

When a band describes themselves as "ghettotech" I believe you've just got to check them out. Welcome to the sound-factory that is WARPAINT. It just doesn't get any better than this acoustic version of their gorgeous song Billie Holiday, performed in an alley.

Give it a sec to load, and enjoy. Peace out!

Click here or above.

p.s.: is it just me, or does the guy look VERY happy where he's at?

Keeping Time

Now that the youngest member of the family has been given his own room (R.I.P. my private office) and has also simultaneously entered that pre-pubescent, dingy, "where am I and what time is it?" phase, I'm on the look-out for a clock that meets his Mid-Century-meets-rock-and-roll aesthetic.

I think I missed the boat on the George Nelson Omar the Owl's hands-down my top choice, but I'll have to force it upon someone with a younger child. At around $150, it's in that "try and justify it as an heirloom your child will keep forever" category. If you're not averse to good knock-offs, they can be had for around $30.

In an entirely different price range is this rad "bespoke" clock from Aspiral. Instead of hands, the spiral turns slowly throughout the day and the little balls move, and then hourly drop through a hole to begin their journey again. You know when anything is "bespoke" that you'll have to marry rich or just enjoy it from afar (prices starting at around 350 British pounds). Guess which one I'll be doing?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ebay Previews

Available in my store on Thursday, February 18th:

A huge 15-piece Mid-Century platinum barware set, with fourteen glasses and a tall, sculptural, tapering drink pitcher

A monumental piece of 1960s California Mid-Century studio pottery

A set of 1960s Mid-Century platinum argyle bar glasses

A set of rare 1960s porcelain London/Paris cups/mugs (wouldn't these make the raddest wedding present for a couple who came from these two cities?)

and more!

Now available CLICK HERE

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Men in My Laundry

One morning several years ago my phone rang. Back then, I probably had to pick up the phone with my foot, knock it to the floor, and poke the "speaker" button with my big toe, since during that time, if I was conscious I was breastfeeding and managing a toddler tantrum. I remember clearly the sounds on the other end of the line, though. A gurgly, choking sob, and then the words, "the laundry..." Imagine the way Marlon Brando says, "the horror, the horror!" in Apocalypse Now and you get the picture.

It was my friend who had managed to have herself four boys in a row. Yep, laundry's a...bummer.

Now, this is not an aspirational blog. I'm not gonna presume to know more about laundry than you, or tell you what products to use. In fact, I just fished dead leaves and bugs out of the bottom of my Costco vat-o-detergent so I could do one more load before I had to go out and buy more.

The week I decided to "sprinkle" our laundry with lavender oil, we all looked like we had been eating greasy pizza, very carelessly.

And, during the Great Clothesline Experiment of '07, my son asked me one day if I could buy him a new gym uniform that "didn't hurt". I almost severed a finger while folding the bathtowels. Yes, our laundry had all the softness and comfort of failed papier mache projects.

But, I do have a certain unique perspective to offer on you may not have considered before. For instance, did you know that each load has a unique personality? Oh yes, I've identified several here at our house. It's really dependent upon what tumbles out when you open the dryer door.

For instance, there is "the Executive". He likes to throw a lot of money around and make sure his expensive pens and important business receipts get a good washing. Oh, and those plastic points that keep his shirt collars stiff? You'll be stepping on those for days. Have you met the Executive? I'll bet he's been to your house, too.

Another frequent visitor to our laundry is a real Bad Boy. I call him "the Artist". Chalk, crayons, permanent's not the medium that's important, it's the message, man. And the message is that someone will be needing a lot of new clothes when the Artist pays a visit.

And finally, I always look forward to the new treasures that "the Collector" brings with him. Rocks, video game cartridges, avocado pits, granola bars....the Collector is as interesting as he is indiscriminate in his collecting.

Now, some of you may be asking, "Why doesn't she just empty out their pockets?" To which I respond in a really bad British accent, "Not bloody likely!"

Who visits you in the laundry room?

I'm in love with Harvey!

Harvey Faircloth, you are hot hot hot!
You are everything I had in mind, and if my mind could make clothes, you are the clothes it would make. My hands can make clothes, but they sew two sleeves into one armhole and then they pick up the phone and ask Mom to come fix it.

Yes, your clothes DO have a plucky, pioneering spirit inpspired by bookworminess and pictures of your grandmother eating cucumber sandwiches...I can see that. And your batwing sleeves and capelet dresses are just the pluckiest ever.

I have just two requests: 1) please start selling online because the people who love you do not live in Venice Beach and 2) start sponsoring bloggers who will even agree to wear your clothes inside-out so people can see the tags. Thank you.

Monday, February 15, 2010

You're probably a hipster if....has a winner!

When she wrote to me about "corn plastics" and using "upcycled rice bags" for her groceries, I knew this was the girl for us. And as evidenced by her crafting, yogurt-making, (occasional) veganism, this girl is a real, live, professional hipster. I think I might challenge her to a "cheap-off" to see who can come up with the best thrifted outfit for $2.95 or less. She'll win.

She's adorable, she's smart, she's crafty, she's dedicated, she's......SARSHA!

(If you want to see the rest of the list, go here)

And SARSHA says that you're probably a hipster have an urban chicken coop!

I was this close to adding that to the list myself, since the coop-lust has reached fever pitch amongst the hipsters here. I was going to ask what y'all thought of this Stepford Wives chicken coop, the Eglu. I hope they don't sue me, but aren't coops supposed to be made from scrap wood and chicken wire (thus the name)???

Well, if you're trying to raise little Stepford chickens, this is the coop for you. You'll probably push them to be the best and enroll them in too many after-coop activities. Eventually they'll rebel and let their feathers grow out...they'll start hanging out on the wrong side of the coop with unpedigreed chickens. You see where this metaphor is going?

Have a cool chicken coop you want me to post? Send me your pictures. I'd love to see what you hipster chicks and chicken are doing.

In with the (vintage) new....

I have some gorgeous new pieces available in my store, and will be working diligently to bring you even more throughout the week! Join the blog and add me as a "favorite seller" on Ebay to get previews and updates on new items. I'm also working on planned discounts and giveaways for blog readers, so be sure to come back regularly!

See everything that's currently available here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

In defense of the indefensible

A reader wrote to say that he/she felt this article I wrote was "very judgmental".
You're right. It is an indefensibly judgmental collection of semi-autobiographical experiences, impressions, observations, and deeply felt opinions about the right of children to experience an innocent childhood. I inadvertantly erased your comment, wherever you are SEB (on the Upper East Side, no doubt), but I thank you for it. It afforded me the opportunity to analyze my opinions and my work to make sure I want to stand behind them. I do. Criticism is such a useful tool for self-examination.

Moller on my mind

picture from Wharfside Danish importer

I've got a surprise for you! A set of four signed/stamped authentic Mid-Century Niels O. Moller chairs in teak, with rope seats, and in the rarest form of all Moller designs....these are the Holy Grail for Moller collectors. The same set is currently available on an elite site (which shall remain nameless) for $7,450! YIKES!

I plan on having the seats professionally re-woven prior to creating a formal auction listing, but you're welcome to contact me for a preview and to discuss an as-is sale. The frames are in showroom-quality condition, but the front edges of the rope seats have worn and require replacement.

Email me at and reference Moller in the subject line if you're interested!

Friday, February 12, 2010

I Am the Boss of You

Dear friends,

Are you still buried in snow? I feel your pain...I just had to put on a cardigan here in San Diego. It's a cruel world.

I'll be in Palm Springs this weekend, covering the Modernism Week just for you (and a little bit for me). Don't forget to check back for photos and juicy details.

I wish you a warm, safe, and peaceful weekend. Here are some suggestions for passing the time, should you need it:

READ THIS! The third Lonny Magazine is now online (you must know about it by now-the brainchild of fabulous, defunct Domino magazine editors, etc.) It is SOOOO good.

MAKE THIS! You think you don't like bread pudding OR pumpkin, hmmm? Get back to me about that after you've whipped up this beauty. And MAKE THE SAUCE, lazy bones!

LISTEN TO THIS! Ridiculously charming, sweet, and beautiful music. These girls either make me yearn for my own girlhood, or to have my own daughters.....can't tell which, but I yearn when I listen! Their version of Fleet Foxes' Tiger Mountain Peasant Song made me bust a tear duct.

WATCH THIS! So you like French men, French food, French country houses, important antiques, the elite world of auction houses, those mesmerizing creatures that are French children, and French men serving their wives food? Oh, and a kick-booty soundtrack? Voila! Someone put it all together into this incredibly charming movie.

I'll miss you my darlings!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

D.I.Y Speakeasy

Yes, I know. Anyone who has tried my Ebay links has noticed how empty my store is, and I am working to remedy that. I usually have a really well-edited selection of high-end, moderately priced antique and Mid-Century goodies to choose from. Don't despair....

Here's a little peek at something fantastic that's going up for auction tonight...the major component of your own at-home speakeasy: a set of four sexy Mid-Century barstools. I get requests for these a lot, because they're so hard to come by and contemporary barstools are so hideously ugly.

So, buy these barstools,

pour this organic vodka (yes hipsters, it's sustainably farmed by a co-op of growers)

into these vintage Georges Briard bar glasses

and put on this song by the Dave Brubeck Orchestra,

then call me when it's ready. I'll try to remember the secret knock for your speakeasy.

Barstools available here.

In praise of twelve-year old boys

It's not easy. He hit puberty early. At eleven his voice changed, he grew a foot, and he started needing to shave his upper lip once a week. He'll only hug me from behind now, so that I can't hug him back. When I drop him off at school, he jumps out of the car while it's still moving. When I pick him up, he jumps in and yells, "Go! Go! Go!" as if he's just robbed a bank. Sometimes I ask him if he's told the other kids he's an orphan, and I'm blowing his cover. I try hard not to be insulted.


the other day my son; my towering, deep-voiced little boy so painfully in flux between his new life and his old, proudly handed me a box. Inside was a blue velvet pouch with a pair of pearl earrings. They are beautiful. They are my favorite. It was the most spot-on gift I've received from a male, regardless of age. The card read, in part, "I guess I should give you a hug because I don't give you any." I took the hug and the pearls, and I keep them both close to me as a reminder that there's still a little boy's heart inside that changing body.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You're Probably a Hipster if...... can't decide what you like best about Zooey Deschanel; her "acting" or her "singing".

"You're Probably a Hipster" List lives on

The word around town is that Mondays can be hard for some people. I did not know that, and I'd like to help.
The "You're Probably a Hipster if..." list is meant to be a bit of a living beast, feeding and growing on our unabated sarcasm. So during the week, submit your best suggestions to add to the list, and on Monday I'll post the best from that week. This way, the fun will never end.

You can email me directly at

And just to get us re-started (and because I have unleashed a flow of sarcasm that just won't stop), stay tuned for a new addition.

If you haven't seen the list, or just want to jog your memory and are too lazy to scroll down, here ya go, ya lazy bum. Three direct barely have to move your finger.

Lost in Blogland

Have you ever started a blog crawl that took on a life of it's own, going off on tangents like a crazy professor so that, say, you start out here and end up three hours later on a Swedish real estate site, seriously considering a purchase ("I like bikes and universal healthcare, and I was going to name my son Otto...I'm sure I can learn to love herring")?

It's like one of those marathon best-girlfriend conversations that starts out with "hey, you want to go walking?" and ends up three hours later with the two of you having drafted the charter for a self-sustaining childcare co-op/pre-school/organic farm/winery/birth center that sounds, truly, like a do-able plan.

Right-me too. Actually, the winery/birth center may yet get off the ground. Like THAT wouldn't be popular.

Anyhow, inevitably on that blog crawl, you passed by something REALLY COOL and figured you'd come back to it, right? But three hours later, the path back is totally overgrown and as you try to re-trace your clicks you become confused and disoriented, bumping around in the dark and crying because nothing looks familiar. You're convinced that the REALLY COOL THING is lost forever, and the desirability of it begins to reach mythical proportions in your mind.

I know.

The other day I was trying to find this blog whose coolness had reached mythical proportions in MY mind. I recalled the general meaning of the blog's name, but not it's actual title, and here are some of the really weird titles I wrote down before I finally hit on it:

The Mother Who Couldn't Be Bothered
Devil-May-Care Mom
Lackadaisical Lady
Carefree Mom
Unflappable Mother
The Medicated Mom

Any guesses on the blog's true identity?

That's right....Nonchalant Mom.

Which has always struck me as being a kind of weird title. I mean, how does nonchalant parenting play out in real life? "Nonchalant Mom, your child is drowning!" "Oh, O.K.. I'll be there in a minute. Let me just finish this blog post"?

There IS no room for nonchalance in parenting...only fear and worry. Which leads me to believe that "Nonchalant" is just her pseudonym, and in reality she is.....the Medicated Mom.

I'm kidding, NM. I love your name. Mine's pretty nonsensical, as well. My ten-year old has taken to asking me if I'm writing on my "modern hoss" blog. I like your blog and your kids' clothes, as evidenced by my complete desperation to find it. Peace. And as a gesture of goodwill, our winery-birth center would like to offer you a 15% discount on your first visit. You're welcome.

Picture by early 20th century cartoonist Nell Brinkley

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Time to get out of the HAUS!

Chuey Residence by Julius Shulman

You know how every few years or so your favorite sit-com used to do a "Goes to Europe" episode or two? My personal fave was when Family Ties went to London so Alex P. Keaton could get into Oxford Univeristy, but Mallory found some way to be a stupid girl and ruin things. That Mallory. And Alex fought his corporate Republican tendencies and did the Right Thing. You can see this episode made some impression on my pubescent mind. Anyhow, it's strangely uncomfortable to see them out of their familiar element and the show inevitably sucks, but you feel yourself compelled to watch because it's a T.V. MUST-SEE EVENT (and it's as close as your little untraveled self is getting to Europe)!

Yeah, this is nothing like that.

But, I will be temporarily leaving my natural habitat here at MODERNHAUS to take the show on the road and attend the Palm Springs Modernism weekend with some friends (one is a photog who doesn't know yet that he's documenting it for us, and another is an architect who will help explain to us why "uninsulated glass box in blazing-hot desert" = genius architecture).

Oh, don't worry. I GET IT. The Mid-Century thing is so ubiquitous that instead of playing "slug bug" in the car, my boys play "scream really loud when you spot an Eames lounge through the window" as we drive through our neighborhood. When my dog barks, it sounds like he's saying "Eames! Lounge!" Yes, it is a cross-species affliction.

Actually, I'm really excited to see the homes after watching this movie, which both inspired me and filled me with self-loathing for the absolute lack of history-making accomplishments I've managed thus-far. There's still time-I am currently working on a free-form sculpture of empty coffee cups and wine glasses on my office desk. It's a statement about mankind's endless thirst for more. Precarious but beautiful. The crumbs of food at the bottom represent the earth that must support our selfish desires. Yeah.

So, I'm really excited to cover as much of the event as I can in one day, paying attention not only to what captures my interest, but what may interest you as well. Stay tuned! You never know what's going to happen when six straight people go to the desert in a mini-van.

Break Glass in Case of Emergency

I think this baby's picture could be used to revive people in cases where the defibrillator isn't effective (doesn't that sound like some wonky lie-removing machine a second-grader would invent?) Although once revived, they would inevitably say, "How old is your little boy?" Because some things you can always count on, one being that elderly people will never get the sex of your baby right no matter how obvious it is.
I would have posted the picture directly here, but mamas don't like it when you steal their baby's pictures.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Children of the Upper East Side

The creepiest words in recorded written history: "Photography and artwork in the family room include...a Warhol that Alexander bought in his teens." -Elle Decor regarding an Upper East Side family
Which is a clear indication that the children of the Upper East Side really need to get their freak on more.

My family and I were in New York City a couple months ago. One evening we finished up the museums and crossed through the north end of Central Park, walking down Park Avenue chatting about what we had seen. I was enjoying the voyeuristic opportunities that the darkening sky offered into the lamplit windows of the Park Avenue homes. I think that's a Picasso....look at that fantastic chandelier! Wow, wallpaper made from real money....

My eyes landed on a window occupied by two children; a little boy and girl. They sat perfectly still, staring out at the world as if they saw nothing but their own reflections in the glass. The girl looked like she had spent the afternoon trying to make her Madame Alexander doll regurgitate what she ate at the tea party so she wouldn't get fat. The boy was bleary-eyed from a day of pre-school entrance exam prep.
Something about them made me very sad. I feared that they might be quoted in Elle Decor one day, saying something similarly creepy and un-childlike about themselves. On impulse, I waved. At first they just stared, immoble. Which caused me to wave with both hands while sticking out my tongue.
I saw a blink and a tiny movement. They looked at each other. I don't happen on Park Avenue every day.
Girl tentatively waves back; a fingers-only wave, not the whole hand or arm. But it's all I need. I start jumping around like a monkey, making faces. Soon, they've pressed themselves against the window and are frantically waving back. Their faces are animated now. I move down Park Avenue this way, walking backwards and really dorking it up for them.
As I start to move out of sight, I turn and allow myself one last wave, two-handed, tongue out.

They are standing up now, pressed against the enormous picture window, arms splayed, as if they're trying to de-materialize and pass through, heads turned southward to keep me in their view until I disappear.
I can't save you, my darlings, I want to shout. But we'll always have this magical moment on Park Avenue.

It was getting dark. My family was a full block ahead of me oblivious to my heroism. My cape fell away; I was just me again. When I caught up, they were talking about the Met. Well, they were talking about what we call "the weapons wing" at the Met. I have real children, not wooden ones who buy Warhols (mine prefer Edward Hopper and Alexander Calder, respectively, but their collecting has taken a hit due to recent allowance cutbacks).

We hopped a Hansom Cab and clip-clopped through the silvery, frosted evening air of Central Park. Past a castle and lakes, the perverts and mimes. A whole fairytale unfolding daily in front of the captive children of the Upper East Side.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


print by Michael Schwab Studio

Do you like stories, my dears? So do I. Stay tuned tomorrow for a nice little short for which even you have the attention span!

Friday, February 5, 2010

"GIFTED" the Hipster Edition

These people aren't so different from you, so never be intimidated (NEVER! they can smell it!) Just like you, they want things that are classic (expensive), durable (expensive), and made in America (Brooklyn). When it comes to buying them presents, there's really a very simple formula to follow: if it looks way too simple to cost as much as it does, the hipsters will like it. If it is handmade, in limited editions, hanging in Eastern European design museums, and adopts school gardens, old musicians, or dying stars with every purchase, they will definitely, definitely like it.

So let's get started, shall we? Let's pick a gift for the hipster wedding.....

From top to bottom, left to right (that's right, just like in a book....good job!)

An annual membership to an organic CSA (What's that? A weekly or monthly box of organic produce delivered from a LOCAL farm!)

A French press for their organic coffee (because a lot has changed but hipsters still like coffee). This is my favorite version from La Cafetiere, in orange ceramic that will last forever.

Some nice, Frenchie-looking, understated, Baggu reusable shopping bags (but never, EVER bags that say "ORGANIC!" or "REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE" because this is NOT understated and NOT hip.)

Peter Bruegger moustache mugs....because I think we're ALL clear on how they feel about moustaches.

A simple, white Heath Ceramics bud vase (hand made, shown in design museums)

A Pia Wallen crux blanket (hand made, in limited editions, and in design museums..check, check, and check!)

A handmade return-adress stamp that shows off their newly-married status, because these people even expect bill-paying to be creative!

A vintage Polaroid camera and some new Polaroid film (because they like to take a lot of out-of-focus pictures of themselves)

There's really so much more, but we'll stop here for today. Oh, my phone's ringing. That Maggie Gyllenhaal...every five minutes, I swear!

Meet the hipsters

Please give a warm welcome to our newly engaged hipster friends, Pete and Erika! Pete and Erika have swept us backwoods SoCal dorks off our flip-flop clad feet with their East Coast cool.

How do we know they're cool? First, they look like a husband-and-wife Scandinavian folk-rock duo. Second, Pete knows that a suit should not, at present, hit his wrists or his ankles (a la the Sartorialist) and he sports it with confidence (even though most people around here just think he hasn't bought a new suit since he hit puberty). Third, Pete just moved from Brooklyn to be with Erika, so we can still actually SMELL the cool on him. They blog, they knit, they shop at the farmer's market, and Pete's a free-lance graphic artist if you need more convincing. And I believe Erika has some goat cheese-making in her future.

Seriously, though, they are two ridiculously creative, kind, and in-love kids and we couldn't be happier for them. As hipsters are wont to do, they are having a very non-traditional wedding at Freemans in NYC (taxidermy in your wedding photos is a current hipster MUST HAVE). But don't be intimidated by the idea of gifting the Petes and Erikas in your life. It's really quite simple. Stay tuned for the first of many editions of the new MODERNHAUS series, "Gifted". Hosted by Maggie Gyllenhaal when she's done at Independent Lens, but until then, hosted by me.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

You're probably a hipster if.....

photo courtesy of the Sartorialist

I have some adorable hipster friends. And they tolerate me even though I am a little too enthusiastic about EVERYTHING and this makes me very NOT COOL. (I tried to be all "hey" and short texting and stuff, but the enthusiasm always comes bursting out, and I might do sometimes truly unhip like sweat, laugh really loud or, god forbid, TALK too loud at some quiet and hip location like my own living room or a noisy bar and really embarrass them. I can always make up for this by paying the check-that can sometimes buy me weeks of their continued tolerance).

It reminds me of a recent 30 Rock episode, when Jenna was trying to keep herself young so she could keep playing teenage roles. She came into work texting and smacking her gum and said to Liz, "OMG, that's totally tandem!"

Except the word is "random" and that's pretty much how retarded I am at being hip (I pronounced that rapper's name as a fully articulated "Fifty Cents" for a really long time).

So for all of you who are wondering out there (because sometimes it's hard to tell...I mean, sometimes I confuse the homeless with the hipsters because they have that "not trying" thing going for them, too), I'm compiling a list so you can figure out which side of the fence you (or a loved one) fall on. Feel free to submit your own suggestions. By the way, if you ARE wondering then you are definitely NOT a hipster, because wondering is too much like trying, and once you start trying, you are definitely not hip.

You're probably a hipster if...

you consider listening to Cold Play your "guilty pleasure"

you've been to Portland (Oregon), Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, or all of the above (and if you live in these places, you invented hipster and are not reading this. You are in Bosnia opening a bespoke menswear boutique, because Bosnia is the "next big thing" and only you know that)

you touch screens, not keyboards

your bands sound like social networking groups for animals (Cat Power, Grizzly Bear, Band of Horses)

you didn't listen to Journey the first time around, but are now totally into the band b/c of the T.V. show "Glee"

you knit and you're a guy

you've never owned a truly crappy car-you would rather walk than litter the urban landscape with a used Hyundai

you're on the genotype diet, are vegan, or you collect food allergies as a hobby

you have NEVER carried your groceries out of a store in plastic thought that became illegal the moment Obama was sworn into office

you listen to more NPR than your parents

you never talk about your work, unless it's creative because otherwise it's just temporary until you become a professional craft brewer/goat cheese maker/organic farmer

you're a guy or a girl and you're in love with Maggie Gyllenhaal

you mentioned how much Food, Inc. changed your life more than twice this week

you propose to your girlfriend with a ring made of sustainably harvested materials, packed in a box made from old barns (in this case you are also Pete, and sweet)

you've discovered it, loved it, and gotten over it by the time I know what "it" is (and you give me a small, pitying smile when I try and turn you on to "it")

Stay tuned tomorrow for a thrilling gift-giving guide featuring some real live hipsters and the wedding gifts they will approve and acknowledge with their handmade letterpress thank you notes!


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