The Art (and Science) of Shaving

Tuesday, July 26, 2011 2 comments
I bought myself a safety razor last week because I thought it looked cool. However, when a gal has 20/1000 vision (or worse) without contacts and has been shaving her legs for two decades with less care than a child going at a bowl of cake batter with a spatula, "safety" is the last word I would have recommended. 

Here is a scientific attempt at more precise shaving techniques - but even more terrifying! The British Pathe guys shot this at a research center in Isleworth, Middlesex, England in 1959 - and luckily, the camera crew stuck around to capture some ladies who got to (less perilously) test out shampoo.

(His arm is wired so they could measure his strokes. Seems that someone could have just counted instead of trying to electrocute the guy. But their research - that I highly question - showed that a man removes an average of SEVEN meters of hair each time he shaves!).

Great Grandma's Sex (Ed) Book

Friday, July 22, 2011 3 comments
A couple years back, I wrote about my great grandmother's amazing career as the first female medical illustrator in the U.S. - and her later roles helping sort out the juvenile justice system in the U.S. Along the way, she managed to pen the first - and maybe only - sex ed book written from the perspective of the fetus (the fetus being my grandma's older brother, who was in great grandma's tum when she wrote it). I finally got my hands on a 1926 edition of How I Came to Be, the autobiography of an unborn infant - but you can all read and download it from the folks at Google Books who managed to scan the Boston Medical Library's 1916 version (they got theirs in 1917 - so cool!).

Her husband also had a bit of a wild professional path. Before becoming a surgeon who lectured about things like recurrent nephrolithiasis he was head coach of the UNC football team (1907)!
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Thursday, July 21, 2011 2 comments

You could store a baby in most of my purses, so it was a huge leap of faith for me to purchase a comparably miniature Edie bag from J.Crew. No - you can't cram in an iPad or an entire year's subscription of W magazine, but it sure holds all my necessities - with room to spare. It's also really nice to have a shoulder strap for once. 

But almost more importantly, this post is meant to show off the ridiculously fun Super 8 iPhone app! Yeah, yeah, there's Hipstamatic and ShakeIt and Instagram and Camera Bag for the still photos, but Spielberg and crew are letting us make our own little vintage movies. Now your totally mundane activities can be captured and made to look like the opening credits of The Wonder Years. You just shoot a bunch of clips - and then "develop your film" and it makes a little movie! So fun.

I also shot this one while hanging around New Haven Union Station yesterday. (It's actually much cooler than the purse one).
The Perils (and Virtues!) of Prince Street

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 8 comments

Prince Street is proving utterly perilous. Like a Bermuda triangle, er, straight line, of impulse buying fits. A couple years back, I decided it would be good to get a bit of exercise and walk from Grand Central home across the Williamsburg Bridge. I bought a Prada purse on the way. There was the Louis Vuitton trunk purchased on a coffee run this spring. And two weeks ago, it was this Hermes H Hour watch on a stroll to the 6 train. NOT GOOD (but SOOO GOOD!). 

The thing is - these are some of my favorite purchases of all time - mostly because I'd coveted the items for years and then found them waiting for me, like holy grails unveiled, at prices I could swallow at consignment shops and sample sales. 

The watch came from A Second Chance, this incredible shop filled with so much vintage Chanel that Coco or Karl might even be envious. The exterior is painted a frightening color of hot pink, so I'd been walking past it for years, thinking it was some no-name version of Claire's Boutiques. I couldn't have been more wrong. The Prada bag was from INA - which is always fantastic (as is the men's shop next door - I went for a coffee with a friend and talked him in to a pop-in. He left with three Ralph Lauren herringbone tweed blazers).

(AND I thought it would be fun to update the watch a bit, so I replaced the tan leather Hermes band - which was really great - with this gator one from Central Watch at Grand Central. They've got loads of beautiful lizard and croc/gator ones - as well as more nylon stripes than you can imagine).
Callin' All Southern Craftsmen (and Craftsladies)!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 1 comment

Garden & Gun Magazine is calling all butchers, bakers, candlestick makers (and any others who make and manufacture their own products for consumption, sport, fashion or home somewhere below the Mason-Dix).

Click here for more scoop on this year's Made in the South Awards. If you're the craftiest, you'll be featured in the magazine, win 500 bucks and get an online boutique at (which has some pretty great vendors, including NOLA's Aidan Gill!). 

Entries due August 1! Good luck!
A Sad, Sad Day

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 15 comments

Lachlan died today. For the second time. 

Porter and I have been struggling with a moth invasion for six months. Bags and bags of wool clothes have hit the trash. The salvaged wool pieces hang in ugly plastic bags in our closets. It's been terrible. And gross. But we thought it over. 

Then, last weekend, we took Lachlan, the merino sheep, off his wall. How we didn't think that moths that munch on spun, died wool might enjoy unspun, natural wool just as much is beyond me. Frankly, they love it. They cannot get enough. They devoured the entire top of his head. They ruined him. 

We'd had a couple deer (Denver and Michael Gregory) - but Lachlan was the majestic creature that sparked our taxidermy spree. Without Lachlan, there probably wouldn't be Daedalus or Icarus (the swans) or Mandela (the nyala) or even Cormack (the highland bull). Would the apartment have ever made it into The New York Times or ELLE Decoration? I don't think so. It was all Lachlan.

 We tried to salvage him from the devastation, but it was beyond repair (and we both were on the cusp of asphyxiation by moth ball). So, this morning, I grabbed him by his plastic-wrapped horns and put him in the dumpster. Thank goodness he was covered and I didn't have to look him in the glass eye.

We'll have remember him through the photos and this portrait (above) where I dressed him up and added a bit of red tint to his lustrous woolen locks. And we really have to do something about the lonely, empty oval on the wall where he once looked out over the loft. Goodbye, sweet Lachlan, goodbye. 
Acquisitons | Wodehouse, on "The Continent"

Monday, July 11, 2011 4 comments
Yesterday, I found these two P.G. Wodehouse paperbacks at the used book table adjacent to Washington Square Park (the renovation of which is absolutely beautiful and will shock anyone who walked through it 10 years - or even 10 months ago). Ironically, the design of these German paperbacks was in some way meant to cut down on the tendency to judge books by their covers, but I bought them mainly because I loved their covers (and I do actually love Wodehouse. Who wouldn't!?). They were published by Tauchnitz, the Leipzig-based printing house that dates back to the late 18th century for English speakers on the European continent. The best part: they explicitly say, "Not to be introduced into the British Empire or U.S.A."

Cy Twombly, In Context

Tuesday, July 05, 2011 9 comments

Never mention two words around me: Ken or Burns. If you do, I will launch into a diatribe about the failings of the American education system and cry out, "Why can't they just teach things in context!?! My god, give those kids some context - just like Ken Burns does!!!" 

Literature without historical context? Nice stories. Art and music without history? Just pretty paintings and catchy tunes. Calculus without physics? Freakin' confusing and charty. Spanish without plans for an amazing trip to Buenos Aires or Barcelona at the end? Pointless.

In high school, you might be studying Chinese imperialism while reading Gatsby and listening to Mozart. It's all taught in silos. You eventually piece things together, but it could have just been taught the fun and interesting way the first time around. Kids would be running around, pumping their fists in the air, exalting, "My god, it all makes sense!" Yes, I'm sure they would.

This context is absolutely vital for understanding modern art. To understand the war years and the aftermath is to understand Picasso's cubism and Pollack's splatters. But even with context, I never got Cy Twombly. He scribbled and smeared and I just didn't like it. Adding "Zeus!" to what looked like a preschooler's tantrum on canvas? That's not art, I told myself (while frustrated with my aesthetic narrow-mindedness). 

But then I got some very cool, seemingly local gossipy context in art history class at Washington & Lee University.

Cy grew up in Lexington, Virginia and his dad, also Cy (after Cy Young), was athletic director at the college.  The professor explained that Cy, the artist, was never understood by Cy, the jock, and that their tensions haunted him for much of his life. As much as he reeled from the fratty, macho environment of W&L and his home life, he actually poured it into his art. His gray paintings aren't just gray canvases with scribbles, the professor explained, they're symbolic of his dad's work, figuring out plays for the football team on a chalkboard. "My god, it all makes sense!!!"

I'd like to think that all those chalkboard paintings are all meant to show us all that there is no real playbook for fathers and sons - that it's all just a mess and you have to play the game anyway.

None of the non-factual parts of that tale may even be remotely true, but it did provide the context (faux or not) I needed to appreciate his art. Cy died today in Rome - his other more artsy home - at 83

Maybe for Next July 4...

Tuesday, July 05, 2011 No comments
For this month's Garden & Gun post, I thought it would be fun to plan a little 4th of July party in the spirit of the fight - not just the victory - of our revolution.  So, based on the scene they cooked up at the Smithsonian, I suggest throwing a party like George W. might have on the front for July 4, 2012 (because I'm posting this on July 5, 2011). Click here for the details!

Washington, the Mason

Monday, July 04, 2011 4 comments

The Virginia Masons broke off from the Pennsylvania chapter and started their own lodge - Alexandria Lodge No. 22 - on April 28, 1788. Under the new Virginia charter they named a Master: George Washington. On a hunt for a non-Peale portrait of the General, I came across these wonderful old postcards depicting the artifacts and history of the lodge and Washington's influence there. As told by the Washington (State) chapter, the story for each goes like this:  

This rare picture of General Washington in Masonic regalia, was painted from life by Williams of Philadelphia, in 1794 for Alexandria Washington Lodge, No. 22, A. F. & A. M., of Alexandria Va. of which Washington was then a Past Master.  It is probably the only authentic work showing him in advanced age.  the apron and sash worn in the picture were inherited by "Lawrence Lewis," Washington's nephew, who presented them to the Lodge in 1812, where they ate still preserved.

This collection of Washington relics is the property of Alexanderia Washington Lodge, No. 22, A. F. & A. M., and presented to the Lodge in 1812 by Lawrence Lewis, Washington's nephew; his wedding gloves; farm spurs; pocket compass; pruning knife; medicine scales; bleeding implements and many other valuable relics which have been presented tot he lodge from time to time by his relatives.

This Trowel has been used on many important occasions, the most notable being the laying of the Cornerstone of the National Capital (by General Washington) in 1793.  Washington Monument in 1848, and the Masonic Temple in Washington, D. C., by President Roosevelt, in 1907.

Ease view of "Old" Alexandria Washington Lodge, No 22; A. F. & A. M., Alexandria, VA., of which General George Washington was first Worshipful Master in 1788.89, showing Master's chair occupied by Washington when Master, also original desk, benches, etc.  The Lesser Lights were used at the laying of the Cornerstone of the National Capital and at Washington's Funeral.  On the wall to the left of Master's Chair is the Williams Painting of Washington, made in 1794 for the Lodge.

The Lesser Lights of Alexandria Washington Lodge No. 22, A. F. & A. M. Alexandria, VA., were used by the Lodge at the laying of the cornerstone of the National Capitol in 1763 and at Washington's funeral in 1799. The Clock was in General Washington's bed chamber when he died.  Doctor Elisha C. Dick, Master of the Lodge and one of the attending physicians, cut the pendulum cord and stopped the old timepiece at ten-twenty P. M., the exact time of his death.  Three days later Mrs. Martha Washington presented it to the Lodge.  Pendulum or weight with cord severed shown to the left of clock, hour glass to the right.

This Chair, the property of Alexandria Washington Lodge, NO. 22, A. F. & A. M., was occupied by General George Washington while Master of the above named Lodge 1788-9, and was in constant use for 117 years.  Now kept in a glass case and used only on special occasions such as installation of officers, for distinguished guests, etc.

(Happy 4th of July!)