Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Hallowe'en.

For the ancient Celts the medieval Goidelic festival of Samhain, starting on the 31st of October, marked the end of the harvest, the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half". It was celebrated over the course of several days and had some elements of a Festival of the Dead. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. People and their livestock would often walk between two bonfires as a cleansing ritual, and the bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames.

It was believed that during this time the veil between our world and that of the dead was at its thinnest and the ghosts of the dead were free to walk amongst the living. To guard themselves from these often angry spirits the people would wear masks to scare off the ghosts. And there you have it, the humble beginnings of one of our most beloved holidays.

My favourite element of Hallowe'en is the origins of the jack-o-lantern, which is taken from the age old Irish tale of Stingy Jack. According to the story, Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form. Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree's bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.

Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," and then, simply "Jack O'Lantern." In Ireland and Scotland, people would make their own versions of Jack's lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. I just love that story.

I do hope everyone has an enjoyable Halloween. Just remember to done your scariest mask to keep those ghosts at bay and be sure to keep that jack-o-lantern lit to fend off ole Jack....don't say I didn't warn you.

Trick or Treat!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday morning classics.

So we find ourselves in week three of our special month long All Hallows' Eve editions of Sunday morning classics. Thus far we have heard Charles Gounod's "Funeral March for a Marionette" and J.S. Bach's "Toccata & Fugue in D-minor BWV 565". Today's selection is another that I am quite sure everyone has heard at one time or another for it has been used in numerous, numerous movies and television shows.

The piece for this third Sunday of October is from Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana", the first movement Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi, or  "O Fortuna" as it is better known. As a whole Carmina Burana covers a wide range of topics, as familiar in the 13th century as they are in the 21st century: the fickleness of fortune and wealth, the ephemeral nature of life, the joy of the return of Spring, and the pleasures and perils of drinking, gluttony, gambling and lust.

The clip I chose also has the second movement, Fortune plango vulnera. This is partly because I like it and secondly because the clip itself shows a wonderful example of how the opera was intended to be portrayed.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sunday morning classics.

So perhaps it is not still exactly "morning" here in Chicago (late night...don't ask), but that is no excuse not to act as though it is. If you recall from last Sunday's classic entry (here) this month my selections will all have a darker theme to them, in keeping with the quickly approaching All Hallows' Eve.

Today's piece is one I am sure everyone has heard several times. It has been used in many movies through the years, countless television episodes, haunted houses or really at any time one wants to give the feeling of danger or foreboding to a situation. Toccata & Fugue in D-minor BWV 565 by Bach is perhaps the most famous work for the pipe organ. While generally attributed to Bach there have been many music historians and musicologists over the years who have shed some doubt on his composing the piece.

I choose this particular video for Toccata & Fugue in D-minor because of the beautiful old pipe organ in it, I think you'll like it too.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

One Fifth, fabulous and feminine.

A couple of days ago I wrote a post about the new Brookfield collection from Ralph Lauren (see it here). In said post I mentioned that there was another collection, One Fifth. While Brookfield is masculine and refines, One Fifth is feminine with a bit more flare to it, with a very Art Deco feel.

One Fifth is quite lovely with black and gold dominating the collection. While not entirely taken with Art Deco design myself (much to my wife's chagrin) there is an inherant sense of elegance here. But one would of course expect nothing less from Ralph Lauren. Here are a few of my favourite images and pieces from the collection.

A wonderful upper west side
The Indian Cove Lodge Fauteuil Chair is just a perfect little piece.
Not a huge fan of tons of black but this definitely works.
This almost encourages something debauched  to happen on it.
My absolute favourite piece from the collection, the One Fifth Trunk Bar. It's a bar, it's a trunk, it's covered in crocodile embossed leather and fitted in brass...what's not to love?
Here kitty, kitty, kitty...come to daddy.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Brookfield, the amazing new collection.

Ralph Lauren Home recently introduced their new Fall 2011 collections, Brookfield and One Fifth. Both are amazing in their own rights but I can easily say that Brookfield is my favourite, actually its one of the best home goods collections I've seen from anyone in some time.

Brookfield is masculine and refined to perfection. Almost better than the pieces themselves are the rooms they put together to showcase here they are.

Bar cart, check...equestrian paintings, collection, check...Love every inch of this room!
Bedford Leather Buckle, yes please.
So excited that they have a bombe chest in this collection.
This is where I will write my great American novel, "Tweed & Scotch, An Interior Designer's Tale."
 The Brookfield Tub Chair would be the perfect place to sit and read my novel.
Stevens, I think the '72 Château Haut-Brion for dinner, thank you.
I would literally eat ANYTHING if it were served on this stunning place setting.
Wake me in the Spring.
 But first a bit of light reading.
It's never a bad idea to close with a beautiful bouquet in a beautiful vase.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday morning classics.

So we find ourselves here in Chicago with unseasonably warm temperatures for over a week now, more is the shame as I had brought out of storage all my wools, tweeds and flannels just the week prior. It has given me the time to have a few alterations made to a few pieces so there is that I guess.

But I digress, we are here this morning for one reason, the sharing of some wonderful classical music. Today's selection was inspired by my having caught the last part of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds the other day. The selection isn't exactly in the movie but you will understand the significance once you hear it, especially at the 45 second mark. The piece is Funeral March of a Marionette by Charles Gounod which was written in 1872. This will be the first in a special series of "Sunday morning classics" for October where I will share a piece each week that has a darker theme to it to help put everyone in the right mood for Halloween. I hope you enjoy this work.

P.S.   Oh yes, as a bit of side trivia, I am actually related to Mr. Hitchcock on my mothers side of the family.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fare thee well Mr. Jobs.

As everyone knows by now, Steve Jobs passed away yesterday, 5 Oct. 2011. I wanted to offer a tribute to the man who changed in so many ways the way we interact with technology, how we view it and what we expect from it. Mr. Jobs endeavored under the ideology that form and function were equally important and thus shared with the world a range of products that are both beautiful and extremely useful. So much so that our world comes to a complete halt when said product(s) turns up know what I mean.

So, for my tribute I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at Mr. Job's life and the milestones that have made part of our modern world possible.

Day one: Steve Jobs (right) with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak on the day they founded the company. They are seriously working the "Errol Flynn and a hobbit" look that was all the rage in '76. Note the intense glare and moustache: pre-requisites for any serious geeks looking to take over the Valley.
The Alan Sugar years: After the biggest stock increase in history made the two Steves super-rich, they were now real businessmen. And, as any MBA will tell you, that's shorthand for "a snappy 1980's power suit and the eradication of all unsightly facial hair, please."

Jobs, PI: As time marched on, the moustache made a comeback (one can only feel  that he was taking his cues from one Thomas Magnum)- rumours that he was going to ditch Silicon Valley for the San Fernando Valley proved unfounded. Jobs also begins pioneering the flannel look that dominated geekdom for years.

Out in the cold: After being ousted from the company he founded in 1985, Jobs (once again sans moustache) went on to start another computer firm, NeXT. His frosty mental state is perhaps reflected by the austere attire: a moody, sleek black suit that showed he meant business - and is weirdly reminiscent of a French politician or a character from a Fellini film.

Back from the wilderness: Reinstated as the boss of Apple, Jobs 2.0 (shown here in 1998) emerged from hibernation with woodsman beard and hamster cheeks. Perhaps he refused to shave until he was able to drop the title of interim CEO. Perhaps he'd just been watching too many Grizzly Adams episodes. Note the arrival of the signature black shirt and blue jeans combo; the classic Jobsian fashion statement.

Star Trek style: With the funky-looking iMac (I had one of these...was not a fan) bringing lots of attention his way, Jobs clearly decided to opt for a futuristic sartorial style. (cue jokes: "Beam me up!"). However, the banded collar white shirt and dark suit combo disappeared quickly - perhaps returned to the wardrobe department of a low-budget science fiction movie?

The veteran: With Apple's success firmly secured, Jobs adopted what can only be described as a war veteran look. Lean and mean with close-cropped hair and shadowy stubble, he pimped himself as a technology ninja. Here, for example, he is demonstrating one of the 327 ways he can kill a man with an iPhone.

The Messiah: 27 Jan. 2010, Jobs descends from on high as both Moses and God to give the world the commandments he has inscribed within this all powerful tablet. Commandment 1, thou shalt have no other tablets before me. Commandment 2, thou shalt not covet my competitors technology.

Fare thee well Mr. Jobs, your vision and passion will be missed.
(1955 - 2011)


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Autumn leaves.

Autumn is truly the most beautiful time of year, the falling leaves, the brisk weather and colours of gold and fire cast upon the ground. I find myself outside much more this time of year, I also tend to be wrapped in tweed the majority of the  time and my scotch intake tends to increase as there is nothing better to fend off a chilled evening air.

I have also always been quite fond of the poetry about the season, many great writers have put pen to paper in their attempt to describe it. As such please allow me to share a couple of my favourites. Please enjoy.

Autumn Song by  Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1883)

Know’st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the heart feels a languid grief
    Laid on it for a covering,
    And how sleep seems a goodly thing
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?

And how the swift beat of the brain
Falters because it is in vain,
    In Autumn at the fall of the leaf
    Knowest thou not? and how the chief
Of joys seems—not to suffer pain?

Know’st thou not at the fall of the leaf
How the soul feels like a dried sheaf
    Bound up at length for harvesting,
    And how death seems a comely thing
In Autumn at the fall of the leaf?

Les Feuilles mortes by Jacques Prévert (1945)
More popularly known as Autumn Leaves, this poem was written as a song first sung by Yves Montand.

So go out and spend some time enjoying the season...and have a scotch for me.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Design Harvest 2011.

(Johnson Cranberry Harvest by Jonathan Eastman)

Over the weekend Kristina and I made our way to the second annual Design Harvest in Chicago's west side design district. The weekend long event has an Autumn harvest quality to it complete with great folk/country music, bails of hay and cider...and even a bit of hard cider if you like...I liked.

The Harvest brings together several local showrooms, design vendors and designers to show new wares and offer tips for design problems in a pleasant crisp Autumn setting. We went to the first Harvest last year and I can say it has happily grown in size since then.

I was able to get a few pictures before my bloody iPhone decided to get an attitude then completely die on me.

Sanctified Grumblers performing. I'd never heard them before but really liked them.
I was able to find a video of them to give you a feel for what the music for the event was like.
A vignette inside the tent by Revision Home (an interior design favourite in Chicago)
At the vignette by The Painted Lady, a great shop, the name always make me think of the Elton John song "Sweet Painted Lady". I loved the bulldog statue (not for sale though, damn them).
Yes please, thank you very much. We went for the Pinot Grigio....I highly recommend.
From inside Post27, hand embroidered Chinese, love, love these. Seriously considering going back for them.
Inside one of my favourite design shops in Chicago, The Find (sorry, no website...I know right.)
You may not have need of an inkwell but this would look great on any mans desk.
These little masks are wonderful, this picture does them no justice.
And speaking of masks, these are the coolest / creepiest ones I have ever seen (you can just see the face painted on them). They are old Odd Fellows ritual masks, for what I've no idea but I am fascinated by them.
A fabulous little cabinet that you will not get to see the rest of as this is where my iPhone gave out on me.

As an added bonus to the day I ran into Max Wastler, the gent behind the very popular blog All Plaidout, one of my favourites. It was my first time meeting Mr. Wastler and was most grateful to have had the opportunity.

All in all a lovely afternoon out on a beautiful Autumn day.

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