Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Plastic Trash Makes Serious Art

When my friend Mari Seder suggested we go to the opening of a new exhibit at the Fitchburg Art Museum—an exhibit entirely devoted to plastic—I was dubious, but it turned out to be full of funny and serious art that inspires visitors while addressing the subject of how our plastic trash can threaten the environment.
The infamous pink plastic flamingo was invented in 1957 by designer Don Featherstone for Union Products in the Fitchburg/Leominster area of Massachusetts, so it was not surprising that a flock of flamingos greeted the many visitors to the opening of “Plastic Imagination” on September 25.
 Inside we found enthusiastic crowds of all ages as well as the ten artists who contributed to the show.  Dominating the lobby, hanging from the second floor ceiling, was “5 Gyres, All in the family debris” by artist Lisa Barthelson, who built it specifically for the show, using only bits of plastic culled from her own family’s discards.  “It’s an ode to the plastic gyres which are clogging our oceans into this horrifying plastic  stew, while celebrating all the plastic that has come through my house,” she said. 
 It was part of her “family Debris Series” which also included this beautiful Mandala, made primarily of toothbrushes, contact lens containers, peanut jar caps and other plastic throw-aways—all used by her family.
Lisa also created this “dis-carded armor” made up of her family’s old credit cards and other plastic cards like the ones that clog my wallet.
 Here is Lisa (right) talking to Mari in front of an installation called “Shell Symphony”  by Margaret Roleke, which is made entirely of plastic rifle shell cases. 

 Roleke uses plastic toy soldiers in her art and is often sending a message about war, as in “Barbie Lives in a Police State” and “White War”, but she says her art is also  evolving into ideas about popular culture and consumerism.

 The curator of the Fitchburg Art Museum, Mary Tinte said, “This show, hopefully, is an invitation to come explore and tap into the wonders of plastic,  but also allows us to grapple with… how we’re walking the fine line between its necessity and usefulness and how  it…makes our lives better, but on the flip side, how we might need to address the pitfalls of how we are consuming it in such great quantities.”

 “Yellow Barrel” by Tom Deininger weighs nearly 300 pounds.  Here it is from afar and close up.

And here’s his “Mt. Rainier” seen from far and near.

A history of the plastics industry was provided at the exhibit. It began in Leominster in the 1800s and the area still includes more than 70 successful plastics companies, some of whom helped sponsor the exhibition. In the 1800s many businesses in Leominster made hair combs from animal horns, but when the supply of horn was dwindling, and an early form of plastic was discovered, the machines for horn items were converted to using plastic.

Here is one of the vintage advertisements I saw on the wall—“Tupperware. Best thing that’s happened to women since they got the vote.”
On one wall is a pink flamingo holding a bag of plastic pieces with the message: “Have you been inspired by the artwork you saw today?   Purchase a bag of plastic ‘stuff’ in October and November at the Museum’s front desk for a refundable $5.00.  Take it home and make a fabulous sculpture or wall hanging.  Bring your creation back to the museum for an exhibition on December and we’ll return your $5.00.”

I didn’t purchase the bag full of plastic ‘stuff’, but I did decide I would take a good look at all the plastic detritus that comes into our house before throwing it out (yes, we do recycle!) and will try to turn some of it  into art, instead of trash.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

After My Nails Fell Off...

You may have read my blog post in late July called "Rocky Start to a Greek Vacation"in which I describe getting a really bad case of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (also called Coxsackie Virus) from my grandkids as we flew to Greece for our family vacation.  It hits children, usually under five, and goes away quickly, but in adults it's worse.  The Greek dermatologist that I saw warned me "In a week your nails will start to fall off."  (My American dermatologist, when I got back, thinks that I had another virus already in my system by the time I was exposed to HFM Disease-- Certainly my immune system was compromised by all the bustle getting ready for the trip and the worst-ever 9-hour flight during which neither kid slept.)

I discovered that there are so many things you can't do when you have no nails--button your blouse, put on jewelry, pick up things like coins, even turn the pages in a book. But stick around--this is a story with a happy ending.

Starting last weekend we have a whole lot of parties coming up--back-to-school party, baptisms, birthday parties around the pool.  I couldn't face last weekend's "welcome to college for incoming students from Greece" party when my hands looked like something from "The Mummy Returns."

So I went to my friend and manicurist Mary Ryan from "Nails At Panache" who put on a set of false nail tips (but with no acrylic.)  This is what she says she does for girls going to the prom who don't want permanent nails.  Naturally it was difficult gluing them (with resin) to the bumpy surfaces of my nail-less hands. They don't stay on long, but would last through the party, and now, when they fall off, I just super-glue them back in place.  (Yes, Eleni, and I'm taking Biotin every day.)

It made such a difference --to me, if not to onlookers--and everyone had a good time last Sunday.

Mary is a good friend who--through the years--has given me her famous Pumpkin Roll recipe, taught me how to use my smartphone, attended our baby showers, and given me the confidence to attend my own party.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Remembering Sixties Fashions and Mad Men Days

I posted this over four years ago and forgot about it, but then son Chris and his wife Ruth referred to it--they're researching the Sixties and Seventies for a TV show script--and I thought it was pretty funny, so I'm re-posting it.
                                                                                       Megan on Mad Men
As the reaction to Mad Men’s season premiere last Sunday proves, today’s younger (than I am) generations are fascinated with the lifestyle, the fashions and especially the presumed decadence of life in Manhattan in the 1960’s.
For those of us who lived through it, the show brings nostalgia, bittersweet memories of youthful foolishness, and frequent hilarity at anachronisms that slip by, despite the dozens of people on the program who are working to make every ash tray, cocktail shaker and plaid blazer authentic to the period.
I was 19 and in college when the 1960’s began.   In the summer of 1963 I graduated from the University of California,  Berkeley (English Lit.), and entered Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism in the fall for a year-long Master of Science program.   My first job after graduating was in public relations at Lever Brothers—in the iconic Lever House on Park Avenue.  After six months there, I moved a few blocks uptown to  work at the Ladies’ Home Journal, at 54th and Lexington (right across from what would be Studio 54 where Andy Warhol and Truman Capote played.)
There were no three-martini lunches for someone as low on the masthead as I was, but some of my colleagues did slip out for long lunch hours with older gentlemen and would come back looking rumpled and a bit tipsy.  One voluptuous blonde was having a relationship with a married account executive at J. Walter Thompson and kept us abreast of all the drama.
Yes, I did smoke at the time--in fact when I went to college there was a “smoking room” on my floor in the freshman dormitory where obsessive students like myself could sit up all night smoking, studying and living on Mars Bars out of the vending machine.  I smoked from the age of 18 until at 29 I married a Greek-American New York Times reporter who insisted I quit. (And I’m still married to him 42 years later.)
The thing you have to understand about the Sixties—and this is starting to be portrayed on Mad Men—is that at some point in the decade there was a watershed moment when everything changed 180 degrees:  everything from fashion, music and lifestyle to views on race, women’s rights, health—you name it. 
When people talk about the “Swinging Sixties” they’re talking about the last years of the decade, from about 1966 on.  The first part of the sixties was a lot like the 1950’s—conservative, uptight, well-mannered (although archaic in beliefs about sex, race, whatever.)  Clothing was  conservative and preppy, fitted to the body.  Just look at the pleated skirts and man-tailored blouses that Peggy, the secretary-turned-copywriter on Mad Men is still wearing in the season premiere, which takes place in 1966.

 Here is a photograph of me in the spring of 1965 when I was headed for the airport in Los Angeles to fly back to New York after a visit with my parents.  Can you believe the hat, shoes and gloves?  I wouldn’t believe it myself if I didn’t have the photo as proof.
And here are two photos of me on the job in 1964 and 65.  You can see that we are rocking the  sculpted beehive hairdo’s that were so lacquered with spray that they were un-squashable, inspiring jokes about rodents nesting within.
So we women all looked and dressed pretty much like the earlier seasons of Mad Men.  Then something happened. I’ve often pondered what it was that revolutionized the Sixties.  When I left Berkeley in 1963 the Free Speech movement was just a-bornin’ and it slowly moved across the country bringing sit-ins and riots on campuses, not to mention the surging of the Civil Rights movement. The Beatles came to New York in 1964  which was a cause of great excitement at the magazine. And there was the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967.
And suddenly hems rose to incredible heights while dresses, once structured  and controlled, became loose on the body, like tunics.  On the Mad Men premiere last Sunday, when Megan, the new Mrs.  Don Draper sang her French song and did her sexy dance, which shocked and alarmed her colleagues and her new husband, she was wearing  a black, flowing mini dress that illustrated perfectly the new fashions and attitudes.  Everything that had been up tight until 1966 soon became flowing and loose and very, very short.
 In this photo from Feb. 1967, when I was  discussing a magazine article with Ruth Jacobs on the “Jewish Home Show”, you can see that my beehive has been replaced by a pseudo-Vidal Sassoon, asymmetrical bob.  Though you can’t see it, my A-line dress with a yellow stripe down the side is very short.
On April 1, 1968, I left New York and the Ladies’ Home Journal to travel and work in Europe.  I was leaving partly to get away from the Greek-American reporter who, I was sure, would break my heart.
As soon as I left New York, Martin Luther King was assassinated, then Bobby Kennedy, then, a year later, Ted Kennedy drove off a bridge at Chappaquiddick and the Charles Manson murders terrorized Los Angeles.  From my vantage point overseas, it seemed that my  country was literally coming apart.
I had scored an editing job in London, when Swinging London was peaking.    I met the Beatles, bought clothes from Biba Boutique and shared a flat with three young women who were waiting to turn 21 so they could get their hands on their trust funds. Meanwhile they got up at four every afternoon and circulated from one club to another all night.  I, meanwhile, went to a nine-to-five job and occasionally handed over my rent in advance when the girl who owned the place got in a jam and had to be bailed out.
In 1969 I traveled to Greece, because I had reconciled with the previously mentioned reporter, and he was vacationing there. I arrived with a whole wardrobe of skirts so very short that he refused to introduce me to any of his friends or relatives until I acquired something of a more respectable length. 
 My asymmetrical bob had grown into a French twist and, for some reason, I seem to be wearing a ratty rabbit fur (or something) coat .  I won’t comment on the shoes, but it all seemed very stylish at the time.
I went back to my job in my beloved London, but we eventually agreed to marry (if I quit smoking), so in 1970, I returned to Manhattan. 
On March 18, 1970, at least 100 feminists staged a sit-in at the Ladies Home Journal, protesting the way the magazine’s mostly male staff depicted women’s interests.  They occupied the office for 11 hours.  They held prisoner my highly respected boss, John Mack Carter, and the managing editor Lenore Hershey.  They even smoked JMC’s cigars.
Unfortunately I wasn’t there to see this historic moment, because by then I was writing articles for the company's foreign syndication service and working mostly at home.  But I suspect that pretty soon I may get to see a similar feminist sit-in in the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce on Mad Men.  

Friday, July 29, 2016

Rocky Start to a Greek Vacation

I somehow managed to raise three children without ever hearing about Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (also called coxsackie virus,) but it just caught up with me, via our grandkids Amalia, 4 ½ and Nico 16 months, as we boarded a plane on July 17 heading for Athens at the start of our annual family vacation to Greece.

I’ve since learned that HFM disease is very common, usually affecting children under five, and is a virus passed on by sneezing, coughing or contact with body fluids (as in changing diapers.)  Daughter Eleni thinks that both of her little ones contracted it while playing in water sprayed in the playground in Central Park.  They each suffered one day of fever and then some red spots on the feet, which Amalia was still complaining about when we got on the plane—beginning a sleepless night—a nine hour flight-- featuring Amalia crying “my toes hurt” and Nico sitting in my lap and watching the same Mickey Mouse cartoon five times in a row.

Very rarely does the HFM virus affect adults and when it does, it’s a lot worse than it is in children, as I learned.  On the fourth day in Greece—after dancing and feasting at the annual festival in Nick’s native village of Lia on the Albanian border—I began to see red welts and gray blisters covering my hands and feet.  I had hardly noticed the sore throat that came a day or so before, although the disease often announces itself with sores inside the mouth.

That afternoon we drove from the village to the Zagorahoria—about 90 minutes away.  We stayed at the “Art Deco Greece” hotel, carved out of an antique stone mansion, with stunning views of mountains and the world’s deepest gorge, but by then I was shaking with fever and the bottoms of my feet were so sore I could barely walk. Needless to say I was hopeless as a child-minder.

The next day I didn’t even try to get up for breakfast—Nick kindly brought me the coffee I needed for survival.  When it was time to leave, walking the maybe 100 feet to the car from the room while dragging my suitcases was agony because the bottoms of my feet were so sore.  About 20 feet from the car I was ready to sit down in the path and cry, but I didn’t. It occurred to me that my hubris, about being able to walk like a young person and carry my own suitcases at age 75, was coming back to bite me in true Greek style.

Saturday, July 23, was Nick’s birthday and a family who lived in Yannina (where we were now ensconced in the Grande Serai, a Byzantine-themed hotel) had scheduled a co-birthday party at their home for Nick and their son, Vassili, --Nick’s godchild—who turned 30 on the same day.  By the time they got a look at me—now with sores at the corners of my mouth and nose and on my forehead and scalp, and blisters on my elbows and knees—they were understanding (and undoubtedly relieved) to hear that I wouldn’t be coming to the party.  I had learned on the internet that I could be contagious for as much as a month.

The next day we took the ferry to Corfu, where we have a trusty extended family of relatives, and on Monday one of the four sisters—Aleka—took me to a series of Greek doctors.  (This was the first day I could walk like a normal person, but my feet and hands were so swollen, the only shoes I could wear were heel-less slippers.) 

The first doctor I saw, after waiting in a crowded room, took one look at me and said, “You need a dermatologist, not a pathologist.”  So we went to a woman derm, who said, “If you didn’t have the back story about HFM disease, I’d think you had vasculitis.”  Then she ordered 23 tests to be done on me, which we promptly carried out in another clinic.  Her last words to me, in a funereal tone, were “In a week, your nails are going to come off.”

Aleka and I stopped for a much needed iced café frappe in the hellish heat, when she got a phone call from the clinic saying they needed to send my tests to Athens to be read and that would cost 180 euros.   At least my hands and feet had stopped hurting!  But my fingertips had become numb and hard—it felt as if I was wearing heavy leather gloves.  I needed help buttoning my own blouse.

The next day, Tuesday, we drove to the beach house in Barbati, Corfu, where we would be staying for four days.  On the way, I noticed that the skin was peeling off my hands in long strips—there was no pain, but the skin underneath was soft and red and sensitive.   People we encountered, in restaurants and on the beach, if they noticed my peculiar looking hands and feet, were very tactful.  

So today, Thursday, my hands and face are starting to look normal and this morning I went with the grandkids to the beach and had lunch at a tavern under the olive trees.  My energy level is back to about 50 per cent of normal. I thought I’d better explain why I’ve been absent from the blog and social media for so long.

And as I was typing this, my first fingernail came off.    

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Donald Trump and Diane Sawyer--Post Election Fun and Games on Nov. 7, 2012

(Just came across thus post that I did in Nov. of 2012 when I was amused by Trump's reaction to Obama's victory.    Four years later Trump seems a lot less amusing and a lot scarier.)
Nov. 7, 2012--Much more fun than following the pre-election debates (yawn!) and the election night results is reading today's after- election commentary and Monday-morning quarterbacking on the internet. 

Trending now as number one topic on Yahoo is not a search for the breakdown of electoral votes, but the burning question: Was Diane Sawyer drunk?  Evidently ABC and her colleagues are saying she was merely exhausted from staying up night after night memorizing election facts and figures. I say, never mind if she was celebrating Obama's win off camera; she still did a great job.  I think Diane Sawyer's wicked smart and gorgeous to boot.

Salon has listed the 20 top sore losers after the election results came in and Donald Trump has won first and second place in this race for two tweets , one of which he has deleted after cooling down a little.  This is what Salon said about Trump:

(Credit: Salon/Benjamin WheelockAs election night wore on and an Obama victory became more and more likely, conservatives began explaining away the loss for Mitt Romney and other Republicans. On Fox, Bill O’Reilly kicked it off on a sour note, predicting on Fox News: “Obama wins because it’s not a traditional America anymore. The white establishment is the minority. People want things.” Then it deteriorated.
The sorest losers, ranked in order:
1). Donald J. Trump, for his tweet:
He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!
Trump has since deleted this tweet, maybe after he learned Obama would not lose the popular vote.
I think the painting of Trump on Salon (above, by Benjamin Wheelock)  is probably adding to the mogul's anger and disappointment over Romney's loss, so I thought I'd repost a portrait of Trump which hangs in his estate Mar-a-Lago,  which is now a private club.  This is the way Trump prefers to see himself portrayed:

I first posted my photograph of this painting after a lunch at Mar-a-Lago in April 2011 when the Donald and his family passed through and greeted us visitors.  This is what I posted about it:

Lunch at Mar-a-Lago with the Donald

Someone passed this self-aggrandizing photo on to political blogger Andrew Sullivan, whose blog is Goliath to "A Rolling Crone's" David.  When Sullivan posted it, hilarity ensued, but no one knew where the photo came from in the first place until another political blogger, Michael Shaw, traced it back to my humble blog and my pocket digital camera.    Suddenly I was getting 3,000 hits an hour--a heady experience for  a novice blogger.  If you want to read more about the brouhaha, click on

"Somebody's Playing my Trump Card"

Meanwhile I'm going back to search the internet for more sour-grapes tweets from Trump and explanations of Diane Sawyer's slurring.  It takes my mind off the rain, sleet and snow in the nor'easter which is fast heading our way.  (Now where did I store that snow shovel?)