Upcycling: Shabby Chic On Steroids

Thanks to a tweet from the RE Store, Bellingham, Washington’s purveyors of reclaimed household and building materials, I came across a project by Brooklyn, New York brothers-builders-designers Evan and Oliver Haslegrave that takes the Shabby Chic style of interior design and cranks it up to eleven.

Perfect for this installment of my Upcycling series!

Transforming a space that had been empty, save for the bathroom, into a home, the Haselgraves pulled out all the stops, using a wide variety of reclaimed materials, including copper pipe, lumber, molding, windows and doors, as well as choice antique store finds scattered about. (My personal favorite is the croquet mallet chandelier. See below.)

While I have to admit that it’s all a bit too shabby for my taste, meaning I prefer a more refined design in my own living spaces, I can’t help admiring their having taken an idea and an approach and totally going for it like this.

Here are some more images (via Design Sponge):

R.I.P. Doc Watson

Another great one gone. So sad.

It’s been a rough several months for music elders, starting with the loss of Earl Scruggs in March, then Levon Helm in April, Duck Dunn two weeks ago, and now the amazing guitar genius: Arthel “Doc” Watson.

As usual, there are plenty of formal obituaries out there, so I’ll just touch on what Doc Watson meant to me.

The first recording I ever owned of old-time country music was Doc’s 1975 album Memories. I obtained it in the mid 1990s, at almost that exact same time I met some neighbor musicians, two banjo players and a flatpicking guitar player, all of whom were into old-time country and bluegrass music, and so began my immersion in that particular brand of American roots music.

I still have lyric and chord sheets of about half the songs from that Memories album, I pull them out whenever I’m jamming with my old-time friends, and another song Doc did, Way Downtown, on the 1972 Will The Circle Be Unbroken album, is my go-to tune for when it’s my turn to lead a song and nothing else comes to mind.

Doc was a true virtuoso who could play with lightning speed, but also with achingly beautiful subtlety, as in the contrasting clips below. That he was blind since the age of one is almost impossible to believe, and at times reason enough for someone struggling to learn the guitar to just give up.

Thanks, Doc, for all of the wonderful memories and music.

The Privatization of Space Missions & The Death Of A National Compact

I have to say, coming across the following two headlines on the very same day really stunned me:

From Wired, part of their This Day In History series:

May 25, 1961: JFK Vows to Put American on Moon by Decade’s End

From the Los Angeles Times:

SpaceX capsule captured by space station crew in historic mission

There can be no more definite symbolic nail in the coffin of the Kennedy-era Apollo program than the news today that the first privately-built spacecraft has successfully docked with the International Space Station. And while the last Apollo mission happened nearly 40 years ago, the program lived on in the sense that publicly-funded NASA remained the only operator of U.S. space missions for so long.

On this very same day in 1961, JFK challenged the American people to come together in support of his lofty goal, and it truly did require the entire country’s participation, from taxpayer dollars to votes that kept legislators and executives in office who supported a national space program.

And, as I was growing up, like millions of other Americans, I was captivated by the media coverage of the Apollo missions, and later the earliest space shuttle missions. I watched the coverage with a sense of ownership — “Mom, Dad, we put a man on the moon!” — and it was the only thing that ever stirred feelings in me that in anyway approached a sense of patriotism.

In stark contrast, the news of the first private ship to dock with the space station leaves me feeling alternately apathetic or sad.

Baz Luhrmann’s “Gatsby”: The Colossal Vitality Of His Illusion

There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams–not through her own fault but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion.

- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

When I learned months ago that audacious filmmaker Baz Luhrmann was working on a movie based on one of the greatest American novels of all time, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, I was filled with deeply mixed feelings.

On one hand, I’m a fan of Luhrmann’s. He’s a gutsy, no-holds-barred visionary, willing to push the boundaries, to take risks.

I was a pretty solid Shakespeare traditionalist throughout my time concentrating in the Bard at Rutgers in the late 1980s, preferring stage and film versions of the plays set in the time period originally established by Shakespeare. And yet, Baz Luhrmann’s 1995 William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet changed everything, opened my eyes to the seemingly infinite possibilities available through the art of interpretation.

On the other hand, The Great Gatsby is a deeply special book to me, quite possibly my favorite of all books, a book that was, when I first discovered it in high school, undoubtedly the catalyst for my eventual pursuit of a degree in English.

It was the first book that I ever read cover-to-cover in one sitting, a phenomenon I’d previously thought neither desirable nor possible. I’ll never forget how I was given a copy of the book by a dear Humanities teacher in 12th grade, a man who opened me up to great literature, art, film, and music, whose teaching methods greatly resembled the Robin Williams character in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society, and I was so excited to read this book after his passionate introduction to it in class that as soon as I got home I dug in, refusing dinner when it was offered, turning page after page, basking in the gorgeousness of Fitzgerald’s prose, and, upon completion, I closed the book, embraced it against my heart, amazed by the story I’d just read, and the seed was planted that I would someday be a writer of some kind.

So, how worried am I, despite my fondness for Baz Luhrmann’s work, that this sixth attempt at a Gatsby film (five theatrical, one TV) will trample on a piece of fiction so dear to my heart? Will the movie capture the “colossal vitality” of Luhrmann’s, Fitzgerald’s, and Gatsby’s respective illusions, or will it be a “foul dust”:

No – Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams…

Well, judging by the first trailer available (see below), I certainly wouldn’t say that it’s an outright abomination, nor would I even go so far as Bryan Hood at ARTINFO.com and say that, “There’s nothing in the clip to promise any substance…”

By all historical accounts, the Roaring Twenties were very much like they are shown in this brief glimpse, and so Lurhmann isn’t really manufacturing anything here. If you disapprove of the focus on the decadence on display, then you’re starting off where character/narrator Nick Carraway ends ups, disillusioned with New York and it’s seeming, “first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.”

After all:

…[Gatsby's] heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most grotesque and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night. A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the washstand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor. Each night he added to the pattern of his fancies until drowsiness closed down upon some vivid scene with an oblivious embrace. For a while these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.

Visually, you can tell that Lurhmann’s taking enormous pleasure in all of the lush Art Deco detail, and that, it seems to me, is exactly as it should be.

So, put me down in the cautiously optimistic column. I mean, what’s the worst that can happen? The movie could suck big time, but the book will always be the great, virtuosic romantic work that it always has been.

My Latest High Fidelity Moment

Back in January, I wrote a post titled I Lived High Fidelity Before High Fidelity Was High Fidelity, about how I and a couple of friends of mine, friends I’ve had since we were in high school together, have been strikingly similar to the three primary male characters in the book High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby, and the film based on the book, by Stephen Frears, since WAY before the book was written.

(I’ll wait while you read the post from January…hint, hint, nudge, nudge.)

So, I was sitting at work yesterday, when I received an email from one of those friends, an email that set off our latest High Fidelity moment, an exchange I felt was entertaining enough to share:

Keith: WFUV is playing R.E.M.’s Belong. Holy Crap!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What a brilliant song. I haven’t heard it in forever, plus a couple days.

Me: There I was, happily listening to Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde album, but upon receiving your email, Keith, I immediately had to open Spotify and start playing Belong.

LOVING it!

That Out Of Time album was the peak of R.E.M.’s so-called “sellout” phase, which started with the previous album Green, but I never considered them a sellout.

Yes, their music became much more Pop than Rock & Roll, but it was some of the best Pop music out there in a sea of crappy Pop music.

The only song that I really still don’t care for, is Shiny Happy People, and I guess I’ve heard Losing My Religion too much on the radio, so it’s hard to fully enjoy that one.

Mike: I completely agree! I’m listening to the album now and am loving it, yet the two songs I don’t like are Losing My Religion and Shiny Happy People. I actually don’t dislike the latter one, I just don’t need to hear it. But I’m not a fan of Losing My Religion. How that became the single for the album makes no sense to me.

Me: Ok, I’ve moved on to other songs and I’m on my third time through Country Feedback

Fucking.Awesome.Song.

Keith: I’m listening to Belong the rest of the day. I don’t have time for the remainder of the album.

Mike: Everyone knows that listening to one song 10 times saves a lot more time than listening to 10 songs one time. It’s the time-song continuum.

Me: I would challenge you on your theory, doctor.

The time-song continuum is, indeed, a very real phenomenon, but I assert that it functions in a manner opposite to the one you describe.

My Theory of the Time-Song Continuum: Listening to the same song 10 times consecutively actually uses up more time than listening to 10 songs, one time each.

Argument: Any song that compels one to listen to it 10 times in a row is a song of great power, a song that resonates on a quantum level, a song that actually draws the listener into another dimension, whereby the listener loses all connection with the dimension they normally exist in, and while in that other dimension the listener’s functionality, and by extension their productivity, by the time they’ve listened to the song approximately three times, has been brought to a state of inertia.

Upon completion of the 10th listening of the one song, the listener inevitably finds him/her self in a state of disorientation, followed quickly by the receipt of an email from his/her supervisor, requesting to meet on the subject of a mounting backlog of work.

With all due respect,

Dr. Long Strange Trip, MST (Master of Space & Time)

Keith: Dr. Trip, I had to read your message ten times just to start to understand it.

And now, the R.E.M. song, Belong, that started it all off: