Size Matters?

No doubt you’ve been following our hard-to-avoid political theatrics on display at state primaries and caucuses. You’ve listened to campaign trail rants and debate shouting matches. And on the eve of tomorrow’s primary in Florida, you’ve witnessed violence and dust-ups. You’ve noticed a lot of talk – yelling – about bigness, from the gaping mouth of Donald Trump, the candidate with big bucks, super-size ego, tall order insults and alleged anatomical largesse.

Nothing small about the man, except his notion of taste. I was reminded of this character flaw, just one of many, right, when hearing about “The Polish Brigade.” That’s the gang of undocumented workers (from Poland) corralled by the Trump people in 1980 to demolish the old Bonwit Teller building, below, on Fifth Ave. to make way for the architectural clunker known as Trump Tower.

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Just compare the two. Erected in 1929, the BT building was first known as the Stewart & Company store. Designed by the architects Whitney Warren and Charles Wetmore, traditional Beaux-Arts creators of mansions and clubs, it had an entranceway that was a “stupendously luxurious mix of limestone, bronze, platinum and hammered aluminum,” according to The New York Times. It was called “a sparkling jewel in keeping with the character of the store,” noted American Architect magazine at the time. “At the very top of the facade were limestone relief panels of two early naked (and therefore controversial) women brandishing large scarves, as if dancing,” The Times tells us. Check them out up close, above, during Trump’s demolition derby.

According to the paper, Trump had promised the limestone reliefs of the dancing women to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which wanted them for its sculpture collection. But they never made the trip up Fifth Ave. The workmen jackhammered them to bits. What caring follow through by the business man!

Now take a gander at the dark, soulless Trump Tower. What can you say about it?  That it’s ugly? Check. That it lacks any notable architectural detail or historical import? Double check.

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This whole out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new led me just  a skip up Fifth Ave. where sits another venerable retailer, Bergdorf Goodman which has been at that location since 1928. Now the building is one of the backlogged properties The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission is deciding the fate of. To grant landmark status to or not.

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Talk about historical significance. First off, think what originally stood there: the 1883 Cornelius Vanderbilt II mansion, the modest dwelling below, designed by George B Post and Richard Morris Hunt. Then realize had the city’s landmarks law been passed not a century ago, but just a few decades earlier, the Vanderbilt mansion would almost certainly be with us today.

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Long may BG stand and just a few reasons why it should:

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*Home to those classic lavender boxes with the fashionable ladies striding across the covers which I remember from my grandmother’s closet

*Launching pad for the designer Halston, first known for his millenary. Here, Halston adjusts one of his chapeaus.

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*Set for Barbra Streisand’s 1965 show on CBS, “My Name is Barbra.”Below, Ms. B struts in GB’s fur department. Loved it!!

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BG’s too pricey for me these days, but boy is it fun to window shop and browse its storied aisles.

Extremely Loud: All the Noise that’s fit to Tweet

Edvard Munch's "The Scream," pastel, 1895

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” pastel, 1895

The Boston manhunt for the two suspected bombers at that city’s marathon last week was Twitter’s blazing moment in the sun with legions of Twitter folk  boasting how much faster they were than the “old media.” Faster, but better?

That’s the question  James Gleick puts out there both in his piece in New York magazine’s cover story, “The 21st Century Converges on Boston,” and in what he tells Maureen Dowd in her column in today’s New York Times, “Lost in Space.” Gleick is a former editor and reporter for The Times and an author of several science and technology books including “The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood.”

“The Internet is messy, pointillist, noisy, often wrong,” he tells Dowd, adding, “There’s no perfect trust in cyberspace. There are not only millions of voices, but millions of masks. You don’t know who’s who.” Or who’s delivering the truth or pushing fiction and passing it along as fact.

It’s heartening to read that Gleick still calls himself “an old-media guy, because the information that matters sometimes comes the next day or the next month, when there is time to digest and interpret.”

Many are voicing concerns about the increasing complex challenge of  ferreting out accurate information on the

The Vineyard Haven Public Library, a stone's throw from our house. Lucky me.

The Vineyard Haven Public Library, a stone’s throw from our house. Lucky me.

Internet. Yesterday, I heard Maureen Sullivan, President of the American Library Association,  speak about the future of libraries.

Previously, Sullivan has noted “the difficulty those we serve have in achieving information and media literacy” in our ever-evolving “socially networked environment.” She echoed the same concern about “discerning fact from conjecture”  yesterday.

Today’s libraries are more than just a place to check out books, they provide research tools and agenda-free guidance in Internet searching, aiding  seniors and students alike with librarian expertise to set the facts straight.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…

Beauty Queen or gargoyle...Who's the judge?

Beauty Queen or gargoyle…Who’s the judge?

Who’s the fairest of them all? Well, depends upon whom you ask, according to Dove, the brand which produces women’s soaps, shampoos and deodorants. In its online video, which has become an internet hit (realbeautysketches.dove.us), a forensic artist asks women various questions about their facial appearance and draws a sketch based on their answers. The artist’s  second sketch, of the same woman, is based on how someone else describes her. In every duo, the second sketch is more flattering than the first.

Apparently, company research showed that “only 4 percent of women consider themselves beautiful.”  The Dove folks go on to say that the campaign is an effort “to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety.” But what beauty standard does one go by?

The whole how-do-you-describe-yourself question brought  back  the frightening days of college dating, circa 1965 and my experience with Operation Match, a “computerized” dating service started by some math major at Harvard. Of course I filled out the OM questionnaire that was making the college rounds. In it, you answered 75 questions about yourself and another 75 about your “ideal date.” Those answers were fed into an IBM 1401 computer that would match questionnaires with similar responses.

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Days later, for the $3 subscription fee you paid, you were sent a computer printout with names, phone numbers, addresses and graduating years of six people. Like a fool, I was HONEST. Didn’t highlight my flaws, but certainly didn’t give myself a 10 for each category. Big mistake. No listing of six Adonises for me, simply the words: No Match.

Says who?! I did get a match and he’s sittin’ right here.

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Gatsby’s Cover Appeal

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Check out the last page of today’s New York Times Style Magazine. There you will find a sampling of the late Matthew J. Bruccoli’s collection of  covers of The Great Gatsby – foreign and domestic editions. It includes Francis Coradal-Cugat’s original cover art (right). We are told this collection is priceless. But Bruccoli, the scholar and F. Scott Fitzgerald biographer, said that he didn’t collect these iconic images to make a killing: “You don’t buy books as an investment. You buy them because it gives you pleasure to read them, to touch them…to see them on shelves.” Oh, how an e-book reader falls short! Baz Luhrmann’s very jazzy version of “The Great Gatsby” comes to the screen May 10.

Shipshape

Shipping Out

Shipping Out

More on The Voyage Out with Audrey…Had to wait until returning home to the Vineyard to unearth the Family Bon Voyage Album. The photos, alas, don’t show the glorious details of this beautiful ship such as the fine woodwork, the Art Deco flourishes. Check out that bedspread, the water pitcher next to it (below) and the pool’s light fixtures and tiles (bottom).

Oh, and that’s Little Me in pleats no less. Hard to believe that when I wore that dress on the return trip three months later, it actually hung from my shoulders with room to spare, even after all those “goûters,” the traditional snack that all children in France had  at 4pm (not sure if they still do). Ours consisted of a  chunk of baguette with a bar of chocolate in the middle.

Well, as we’ve been told, French women don’t get fat.

Pammi The Pudge

Pammi The Pudge

Checking out the pool with brother Tony

Checking out the pool with brother Tony

Ships Passing in the Night

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In the summer of 1957, as a chubby, bursting-at-the seams 9-year-old, I boarded the Queen Mary with my family headed for Europe. Little did I know that Audrey Hepburn was also a passenger.

Our paths crossed once, as I remember, when as a special treat I got to visit my parents and grandfather during the second seating in the Verandah Grill (right). My mother must have pointed out La Bella Audrey, seated with others nearby. Her neck was incredibly long, her hair up, just the way she looked in the print ads for Givenchy’s fragrance, L’Interdit, which launched the same year (below). She wore a pale dress, as pale as her lipstick, which reminds me of the one seen here in a picture taken on board (left). I must have gawked. It’s an image I’ve never forgotten.

Audrey is on the cover of the May Vanity Fair and  Audrey in Rome, by her son, Luca Dotti, will be published later this month. In the book with many previously unpublished photos of  Hepburn, Dotti reveals that his mother never thought she was beautiful. But everybody else did.

Why Write: Putting Pen to Paper

Old writing

Roaming the Selby Library in Sarasota, FL the other day, I spotted a book that stopped me in my tracks: Pedro Corrêa do LagoTrue to the Letter, 800 Years of Remarkable Correspondence, Documents and Autographs. “Every letter, even the most insignificant, is a touching relic of the person who wrote it – a tangible link that defies the passage of time,” he writes. “Holding it in your hands is unquestionably the closest contact you can possibly have if the person is no longer with us.” My sentiments exactly! And today, only a handful of schools in the U.S. teach handwriting. For shame! More on this later…

Here, from the book, a sampling of  handwriting from the past (starting from top left): Auguste Rodin’s “visiting card” with drawings, 1880; Alfred Hitchcock’s signed self-portrait, 1970; a letter from Russia’s Catherine the Great, written in French, 1795 (also background). The aérogramme from France is not from the book, but isn’t it also a “touching relic?”  Who sends aérogrammes today, letters or postcards for that matter? Me.

But wait, there’s still more. In June, at Sotheby’s you can bid on a collection of  William Faulkner letters. Love this: According to The NY Times, letters and postcards, circa 1925, that Faulkner penned from Paris to his parents and signed “Billy” often included his ink drawings. Priceless.

And this is pretty great – a guy named Harald is trying to create a font “that renders Sigmund Freud’s handwriting on your computer.” It’s his 4th typography project on something called Kickstarter. Check it out at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/201030759/sigmund-freud-typeface-a-letter-to-your-shrink?ref=NewsMar2213&utm_campaign=Mar22&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter. Thanks to my brother-in-law Bill for sending the item my way.