03 November 2010

Alessi and the Philadelphia Museum of Art

When I was a kid, from time to time we'd pile into the station wagon and cruise down the Schuylkill Expressway, cross the Walt Whitman Bridge and visit our cousins in New Jersey. I enjoyed those drives and the highlight every time was how Philadelphia's Center City pops into view as you turn a bend in the highway. Just before that though, a museum I grew up calling the Parthenon in the Park rises on a bluff above the Schuylkill (it's pronounced skoo-kill) River.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art rises above the Fairmount Waterworks --photo via Flickr

The Parthenon in the Park is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the largest and best art museums in the US and it sits in the center of Fairmount Park, the largest urban park in the world. That museum started me on a lifelong appreciation for art. It was in that museum that I saw for the first time works by Rembrandt, el Goya, Caravaggio and the rest of the titans of western art. It was in that museum too that I first saw a Picasso, an Ellsworth Kelly, a Warhol and I first learned to draw the connections that link the modern to the ancient.

So it was with great surprise that last week I got an email from my friend Kevin who alerted me to a new exhibition that's starting this month at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It's no secret that I love all things Alessi and yes, they're an advertiser. But what a great surprise to learn that the Philadelphia Museum of Art is mounting Alessi: Ethical and Radical from November 21st through April 10th, 2011.

Alessi has been busily revolutionizing industrial design since its founding in 1921 by Giovanni Alessi. Beginning in the '50s, Alessi started commissioning works by the great designers of the day. By that same time, the Alessi company had come under the direction of Giovanni's son Carlo Alessi.

Bombé Tea and Coffee Service (1945). Designed by Carlo Alessi. First produced in chrome-plated and silver-plated heavy brass, later in stainless steel, applewood. Image courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Building on the work started by Giovanni and Carlo, Carlo's son Alberto Alessi has brought the company to what it is today. Under Alberto's watch, Alessi has brought in for collaborations such luminaries as Achille Castiglioni, Michael Graves, Greg Lynn, Alessandro Mendini, Ettore Sottsass, Philippe Starck and Robert Venturi.

Sketch (1979), designed by Richard Sapper. Espresso coffee maker sketch. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Alessi archives. Image courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

(1979), designed by Richard Sapper. Espresso coffee maker. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Image courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Different from any other modern manufacturer, Alessi has offered its collaborators absolute creative freedom and technical support in a series of radical, experimental projects, whether or not the results could ever be brought to production.

Sketch by Michael Graves. Kettle with handle and small bird-shaped whistle. Image courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

(1985), by Michael Graves. Kettle with handle and small bird-shaped whistle. Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gift of the designer. Image courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Alessi: Ethical and Radical includes objects, drawings, videos, and photographs that demonstrate the company’s unique approach to design and unique way of working with its designers.

If you are in or near the fair city of Philadelphia at any point in the next five months, please go see this exhibition. I am toying with a return trip to my homeland and this exhibit just about clinches it. If you find yourself in that part of the world, everything you need to know about the museum in general and this exhibition in particular can be found on the Museum's website. If you go, let me know. I'd love to hear some impressions of Alessi: Ethical and Radical.

02 November 2010

A Blog Off post: what makes me laugh

The following post is part of a biweekly blogospheric happening called a Blog Off. In a Blog Off, bloggers from all walks of life write about the same subject. The topic for this Blog Off is: What makes you laugh? Blog Off topics are left vague intentionally so that participants can run freely with their musings. If you'd like more information on the Blog Off, check out the website. At the end of this post will appear a table with links to all of the participating blogs and that table's repeated on the main Blog Off site. So excuse me while I take a break from my niche (again) and throw it all out there.

I have a good sense of humor. I think so anyhow but when this topic came up I had to really think about what it is that makes me laugh. For starters, and as the cartoon above suggests, The New Yorker makes me laugh. I've been reading that magazine for more than half my life and it's never failed to make me think and it's never failed to make me laugh.

New Yorker cartoons and indeed the whole magazine require that its readers have a pretty specific frame of reference. Getting the humor makes me feel smart and I like that. So smart is an important quality in the things that make me laugh.

I think it's that combination of thinking and laughing that has all the ingredients I need to be amused. Slapstick humor's usually lost on me and please please please don't make me sit through anything involving Ben Stiller or Jim Carey.

One of my new-ish internet finds that never fails to leave me in stitches is My First Dictionary.

My First Dictionary takes its lead from the children's readers I grew up with but the similarities stop there. The vocabulary words have a definite adult slant and the examples usually involve some kind of horrrific situation told in a sing-songy way.

I love the absurdity, irreverence and menace of My First Dictionary. So add those three qualities to smart in what makes me laugh.

I first saw the movie Citizen Ruth in 1996 when it was in limited theatrical release. It was an absolute fluke that I ended up seeing it in the first place and Citizen Ruth has become one of my favorite comedies of all time.

The genius behind Citizen Ruth went on to make three more films and Alexander Payne's film work forms the back bone of my movie collection.

After Citizen Ruth, Payne made Election in 1999.

Election starred Matthew Broderick and a then-unknown Reese Witherspoon in a little film about a high school student council election that no one under the age of 30 can possibly understand.

His next film, About Schmidt, came out in 2002 and starred Jack Nicholson and Cathy Bates. About Schmidt is about growing old and relies on the absurdity of aging for its humor.

His latest, Sideways, came out in 2004. Alexander Payne won the Oscar for best writing, adapted screenplay for the movie.

It took the idea of the buddy picture, the road picture and two ammoral anti-heroes and came up with something all together new. It's as if id and ego go away together for a weekend and it's brilliantly hilarious.

So smart makes me laugh. Along with absurdity, irreverence, vague menace and real life. Plenty of other things make me laugh too. I love to sit around a table after dinner and laugh with friends. Kevin, Brandon, JD, Bob, Rick and a handful of others never fail to keep me in stitches.

My nieces and nephews make me laugh and the fact that there are 22 of of them is funny in and of itself.

All in all, humor for me is something I have to be in front of to recognize a lot of times. It's difficult for me to list the things I find humorous. Much harder than I thought it would be when I found out about this topic a week ago. Try it some time. To that end, what makes you laugh?

There's a table that will appear magicially with all of the participants in this week's Blog Off. Check back through out the the day to see who's weighing in on this weighty topic.

01 November 2010

Join me for four Social Media seminars that start this week

image via

Beginning this week, I am joining forces with CEA Marketing in Clearwater to host a series of social media seminars. These seminars are geared specifically to small and mid-size businesses and offer four, separate classes covering the various aspects of how these businesses can get started and be successful from the start. Join me in presenting these seminars is CEA Marketing's Kelly Bosetti.

The first seminar is this Friday, 5 November and it runs from 8am to 5pm. The first seminar starts with an introduction to social media in general and then goes on to explore and discuss Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.

The second seminar will be Friday, 19 November and it runs from 8am to 5pm. The second seminar in our series will cover LinkedIn, YouTube, Blogs, Flickr and Groupon.

The first two seminars make up our introduction to social media curriculum.

The second two classes are our intermediate and advanced social media curriculum. That starts with out thrid seminar. The third seminar will be held Friday, 3 December and it will run from 8am to 5pm. The third seminar discusses advanced strategies, generating a profit and building a fan base.

The fourth and final seminar will take place Friday, 10 December and it too runs from 8am to 5pm. The fourth seminar will discuss strategies to track results and further engage your audience.

Each seminar costs $150 but there are price breaks as follows.

The first seminar costs $150 and if you register for the first two the combined total is $250. That covers the entire introductory curriculum.

The third seminar costs $150 and if you register for seminars three and four at the same time, their combined cost is $250. That covers the intermediate and advanced curricula.

If you want to register for the entire series, that costs $400 and represents a $200 savings over registering for the four seminars separately.

You can find more information and registration forms on our seminar splash page here.

If you're in the greater Tampa area and you're wondering how to get in on the social media revolution, here's your chance to learn about it from two seasoned pros. This is hands-on, practical training and participants are urged to bring a wireless-enabled laptop so we can started being social during the class itself.

Feliz Día de los Muertos

So yesterday I admitted that I don't get the appeal of Halloween. Bad me.

via Flickr

On November 1st however, Mexico hosts a holiday I could really get behind. It's el Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

El Día de los Muertos takes the idea of the Roman Catholic All Saints day (which is also today) and merges it with the democratic impulses of All Soul's day (which is tomorrow).

Setting aside a day out of the year to honor my dead loved ones? Sign me up.

HBO remade Mildred Pierce; I'm withholding judgment

One of the greatest films ever made was 1945's tour de force Mildred Pierce. Joan Crawford had been let go by Metro Goldwyn Mayer and this was her first film for Warner Brothers. It netted her the only Oscar of her long and distinguished career.

Mildred Pierce is the ultimate film noir murder mystery. Under Michael Curtiz's direction, the movie's stellar cast wallows in 1940s glamor. The set design, the lighting, the wardrobes and yes the story are a compelling and fascinating watch. Joan Crawford could chew on scenery like none other and her larger than life portrayal of Mildred is matched line by line by Ann Blyth's over the top characterization of Mildred's horrific daughter Veda. Throw in Zachary Scott for beefcake and Eve Arden for comic relief and it's a winner all around.

Mildred Pierce was adapted from James M. Cain's 1941 novel of the same name. In order to get the film made, Warner Brothers altered the story pretty significantly. They downplayed the sexual carryings on and played up the violence. Cain's novel is as much about the Depression and Prohibition as it is about they dynamics of a hard working mother and an ungrateful daughter and neither of those topics get touched upon in the Warner Brothers film.

Over the weekend, I learned that HBO has remade Mildred Pierce as a five-part mini-series that will premiere in the spring of 2011. The cast looks interesting and there was enough material left out of Cain's novel to make a brand new Mildred Pierce. Kate Winslett play Mildred and it will take me a while to get used to seeing her as such I have to admit. Guy Pearce plays the penniless playboy Monty and that's some great casting.

What give me hope for this movie is that it's being directed by Todd Haynes.

Todd Haynes made 2002's Far from Heaven, a movie I say is the best film of the 21st century so far.

With Far from Heaven under his belt, he proved that he can handle a period piece. And how. Wow, that movie is as beautiful to look at as it is devastating to watch.

So I'll be curious to see what Kate Winslett does with the character of Mildred Pierce and even more curious to see what Haynes does with Can's novel. What ever happens, get ready for a 1940s revival to counter the current craze for all things Mid Century Mad Men.