Category Archives: Design

Smithsonian Folklife Festival — Catalonia on the Washington Mall

I went down to the Mall last Thursday to check out the Catalonia section of this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Perfect day for it.

Just a few hours earlier, the Mall had been filled with tens of thousands of people watching the Fourth of July concert and fireworks, but by morning, every trace of them was gone. The Park Service is really good about clean-ups.

This Human Tower Team, Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls, can trace its history back more than 200 years. At the Festival, they gave a small sample of what they do. Here’s a video of a somewhat more impressive performance:

Of course I went for the food. I had Catalon Pa Amb Tomàquet, which is garlic and tomato toast, with Serrano ham. Lousy picture, great sandwich.

When US troops arrived in Europe after D-Day in WWII, Europeans were impressed with the height of Americans soldiers. Things have changed since then, especially in Scandinavia and Holland, where the local teenagers now tower over typical US visitors.

The only place in Europe where I’ve ever felt taller than most of the residents was in Spain. I thought about that as I watched the dance of the Associació de Geganters i Grallers d’Oliana.

Powders for street décor. They’re used to create “carpets” like this one:


The image at the top of this post is from the Folklife Festival’s website.

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Yet Another Video Game I’ll Probably Never Play

I’m not a Gamer. I don’t own a PlayStation or an Xbox. But when I see something like this 8½-minute trailer for an upcoming game called Death Stranding, it makes me wonder what I’ve been missing.

No firm release date as yet, but it’s supposed to come out sometime this year.


Watching this reminded me that we’ve come a very long way from Pacman. And that reminded me of Marcus Brigstocke’s wonderful defense of video games against the charge that they’re a bad influence on children:

The Art of Duane Hanson

Haven’t done one of these “the Art of…” in quite awhile.

After lunch at 701, I walked a few blocks to the American Art Museum. The museum shares a building with the National Portrait Gallery, and has a beautiful enclosed courtyard, which is the perfect place to read, or write, or just hang out after a meal.

There’s one objet in the museum’s collection that always surprises me, no matter how many times I stumble across it: Duane Hanson’s “Woman Eating”.

Hanson’s life-sized, fiberglass figures are so realistic you wonder why a museum guard doesn’t tell them to “move on, because you can’t do that here.” The American Art Museum adds to the fun by periodically moving “Woman Eating” from place to place, so you never know where she’ll turn up next.

Woman Eating

Woman Eating


From Other Collections

Here are a few more images of Hanson’s works, gathered from around the Web. Only two of the figures in these images are real live people. They’re easy to spot.

David Bowie is Almost Over

After a phenomenally successful five-year, five-continent, 11-city  tour, the Victoria & Albert Museum’s David Bowie is exhibition is coming to an end. The show, now at the Brooklyn Museum, closes on Sunday, 15 July 2018. There are still tickets available, but the remaining weekends are heavily booked.

Unless you already have a ticket, you won’t be able to get in tomorrow, 20 June 2018, because it’s a very special day.

Here’s a little background to explain why:

According to Billboard, “…when the exhibit first premiered at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in March 2013, expectations were low. ‘No other museum had booked it for the tour,’ co-creator Victoria Broackes confessed, ‘and we’d published 10,000 copies of the catalog. There wasn’t a lot of optimism that it was going to be a rip-roaring success.'”

“Rip-roaring success” is an understatement, as David Bowie Is became the V&A’s fastest selling show. More than a year ago, it became the most visited exhibition in the V&A’s 166-year history.

And tomorrow, it will welcome its two-millionth visitor.


To celebrate, someone will be designated as Visitor #2,000,000 and will receive a signed lithograph of a Bowie self-portrait, a limited edition of the David Bowie Is book, a pair of Sennheiser headphones, and a premium subscription to Spotify.

With more than 180,000 visitors,  David Bowie is is the best-selling exhibition in the Brooklyn Museum’s history,

Look. This is a flat-out amazing exhibition. If you have a chance to see it, GO. You won’t regret it. If you skip it, on the other hand, you’ll never forgive yourself. Those 2,000,000 people are going to be talking about this show for the rest of their lives, and when they find out you didn’t see it, they’ll be relentless in their ridicule and scorn.

This is one party you shouldn’t miss.


If you’re unfamiliar with New York, it might be helpful to know that the Brooklyn Museum is a 45-minute subway ride from Times Square. It’s a straight shot, no transfers trip on the 2 and 3 lines, and the Brooklyn exit is at the Museum’s entrance.

Here’s a “Know Before You Go” video from the Museum.


All photographs in this posting came from the New York Times online.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the One Night Only Screening

The National Theatre in London captures some of its finest offerings and makes them available for very limited runs—usually just one night, with possible encore performances months or years later—at selected theatres around the world. I’ve seen perhaps a dozen of the shows.

The one that impressed me most was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the National Theatre’s adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel of the same name. The play won seven Olivier and five Tony Awards, and even by the monumentally high standards of the Theatre, it was dazzling. I saw it when it was first screened, in 2014, and called it one of the high points of the year.

The play follows Christopher, a boy on the autism spectrum, as he tries to solve the mystery of who killed his neighbour’s dog. The staging at times puts us inside Christopher’s head, as he navigates a sometimes overwhelmingly perplexing reality.

And now it’s coming back: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is returning to selected international cinemas this month. But you have to act fast. Most of the shows are scheduled to run on Tuesday, 12 June 2018.

Sorry for the short notice.

To see if it’s playing near you, check the listing on the National Theatre’s website.

Where to Spend the Summer — Two Very Different Summer Rentals

Looking to spend some time out of the city this summer, but tired of old standbys like Martha’s Vinyard (if you’re a Democrat) and Mordor (if you’re a Republican)?

Here are a couple of options that will give you so many stories that your “What I Did Last Summer” paper will practically write itself.


Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum

Lizzie Borden took an axe,
And gave her mother forty whacks;
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

Maybe she did; maybe she didn’t.

The jury needed only an hour and a half to acquit Lizzie Andrew Borden of the axe murders of her father and stepmother in 1892, but no one else was ever prosecuted for the crime.

The Fall River, Massachusetts, house where the murders took place is now the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum. You can reserve Lizzie’s bedroom itself for $250 a night. It shares a bathroom with the John Morse Room—available for $275—where Abby Borden’s body was found. 

That website, btw, is a delight, and well worth a look.

Earlier this year, the owners of the B&B bought Maplecroft, the house that was Lizzie Borden’s post-trial residence. She lived there for 34 years, until her death in 1927. They plan to open it as another B&B this summer.


Marilyn Monroe’s Summer Cottage in the Hamptons

If you’re not into sleeping at famous crime scenes, and if you have a lot of spare cash lying around, how about this: The East Hampton windmill house that Marilyn Monroe shared with her third husband, Arthur Miller.

You can rent it for the full summer, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, for $55,000. Or you can lease it for a full year for the bargain rate of $68,000.

According to the New York Post, “Monroe — who fled California for New York in 1954 when her marriage to Joe DiMaggio ended — prepped for her role in the 1959 film Some Like it Hot at the cottage. She was regularly seen driving around town in her Thunderbird convertible.”

Monroe isn’t the house’s only famous former tenant. Other celebrities who have rented the cottage over the years include Ralph Lauren, Terence Stamp, and Kurt Vonnegut, all of whom, I’m willing to bet, rarely got through an East Hampton party without dropping the line: “I’m renting the Marilyn Monroe windmill house for the summer.” Being able to do that is surely worth $55,000.

The Streets of Brussels

…or, really, the streets of almost any preserved Old Town in any city in Europe. They’re narrow, uneven, and winding, with rarely a straight line in sight, and they’re lined with buildings that were built to a human scale. Streets like these have the character that comes from playing a key role in the lives of innumerable people over the course of hundreds of years.

Traditional paving like cobblestones can sometimes make walking a little difficult, but you’re walking through history.


Street Scene

Most of the historic district in Brussels is pedestrianized. When people talk about an idealized “Living Downtown”, they’re probably imagining something like this, near the Place d’Espagne:


First Signs of Spring in Brussels