May 10, 2013
The drinks were freer, the music brassier and the times, well, Gatsby-er. At least, that’s the picture F. Scott Fitzgerald creates with his tales of high society run wild in his 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby. Now set for yet another screen adaptation, this time thanks to the energetic hands of Baz Luhrmann, the novel continues to resonate today.
Its appeal is a dark but undeniable one, enough to let you weep alongside Daisy as she marvels inside Gatsby’s closet at his exquisite shirts. The clothes, the alcohol, the music–we get it, it’s a heady and seductive mix. So go ahead and throw your Gatsby-themed party (skipping the murder and suicide–oops, spoiler alert) and let the experts at Folkways supply the playlist.
Thanks to David Horgan and Corey Blake of Smithsonian Folkways for the inspired lineup that includes three tracks referenced in the novel itself, including “Three O’clock in the Morning,” which narrator Nick Carraway calls a “neat, sad little waltz.” The novel also mentions “The Sheik of Araby” and “A Love Nest,” which, in some versions, includes the poignant lyric:
Ever comes the question old,
“Shall we build for pride? Or,
Shall brick and mortar hold
worth and love inside?”
May 9, 2013
Longtime host of “Jeopardy!” Alex Trebek, has often called game shows, “the best kind of reality television” for the way they encapsulate the American dream. On his show, he says, anyone can earn success with enough wit and skill. Now a donation from Trebek to the National Museum of American History of several items from his popular game show cements that idea in popular culture. In a new partnership with the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the museum accepted a cache of items, representing three categories of the Daytime Entertainment Emmy Awards–daytime dramas, game shows and children’s programming.
Trebek, who was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Daytime Emmy Award in 2011 as well as five Daytime Emmy awards, contributed a script with handwritten notes from one of his 1984 shows. Also making a donation was the 1999 Daytime Emmy Award-winner Susan Lucci, better known as Erica Kane from the popular soap opera “All My Children;” and 2001 award-winners Kathy and Phil Parker, creators of the 1990s children’s television program, “Barney & the Backyard Gang.” Lucci’s pink gown and shoes from her cover of People magazine played colorful companion to the plush purple dinosaur that was donated along with the script from the first “Barney” video.
“Game shows have been an important part of daytime television since the 1940s,” says curator Dwight Blocker Bowers, “when the radio series, ‘Truth or Consequences,’ made its debut as a television show.” The show selected ordinary citizens as contestants to answer trivia questions and to perform zany stunts. Over time, he says, the questions got tougher and the prizes, bigger.
We talked with Trebek at the donation ceremony:
Why has the show enjoyed so much success since its debut in 1964?
It’s a quality program and it appeals to the aspects of American life that are very important to us: opportunity, we give everyone an opportunity to compete even if you’re an ordinary citizen. It doesn’t matter what your background is, you can compete on our program and do well if you have knowledge. You can fulfill one of the American dreams, which is to make a lot of money. You’re not going to be elected president just because you appear on ‘Jeopardy.’ Although we’ve had ‘Jeopardy’ winners in the past who have done very well in the public arena. One of them is the current director of our consumer affairs department, nominated by President Obama. He was a ‘Jeopardy’ winner and in fact, when he first ran for Congress in Ohio, his bumper sticker said, ‘The answer is.’
We are now part of Americana so we’re accepted, people know us, they like us, we’re familiar, we’re part of the family.
If you were a contestant what would your biographical detail be?
I’m willing to try everything once. I’m just thinking back to sky-diving, scuba-diving, running military equipment, flying in a F-16 and taking 8Gs, parachuting, it doesn’t matter. I’m a little too old now to get out and do that stuff but there are a few things on my bucket list.
You’ve been hosting since 1984. Are we getting smart or dumber?
There are bright people in all walks in life and probably in the same percentage as there have always been. We’re attracting more of them so people think America is getting smarter, I don’t know about that.
But not dumber?
Some people are.
Recognizing everything from landscape architecture to fashion, the 2013 Cooper-Hewitt Design Awards recognize the best in design. Some names, like this year’s winner for Corporate and Institutional Achievement, TED, are familiar, while others may be new to most.
Within academic circles, for example, Michael Sorkin is a well-known architecture and planning critic and professional whose texts show up on college syllabuses across the country. His 2011 All Over the Map: Writing on Buildings and Cities takes on his own New York City, including the controversial Ground Zero Memorial and proves why his is a bold and valued voice in the field. For this and other works, Sorkin is being honored with the Design Mind award.
For the other honorees, we’ll let their posters, gardens, restaurants and clothing speak for themselves:
Landscape Architecture, Margie Ruddick
When asked to create a “winter garden” for the Bank of America Tower in New York City, Ruddick created this living sculpture. She says, “we created an immersive green environment that is designed to make you feel like you have stepped into the natural world of the city.”
Communication Design, Paula Scher
Known for her rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic–she’s designed posters for Elvis Costello–Paula Scher is a clear voice in communication design. Her advice to aspiring designers? “Find out what the next thing is that you can push, that you can invent, that you can be ignorant about, that you can be arrogant about, that you can fail with, and that you can be a fool with. Because in the end, that’s how you grow.”
Interior Design, Aidlin Darling Design
Aidlin Darling’s design for this ultra-hip San Francisco bar and hangout got almost as much attention as the food. Generous with the wood, the design also employed billowing glass curtains.
Architectural Design, Studio Gang Architects
Designed for the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, this structure takes its inspiration from a tortoise shell. The archway was part of a larger boardwalk that transformed an urban pond into “an ecological habitat buzzing with life.”
Fashion Design, Behnaz Sarafpour
Sarafpour began her career in New York in 1989 when she attended the Parsons School of Design. Since then, her work has found its way into special lines for Target and several museums, including the Victoria and Albert in London.
Interaction Design, Local Projects
To gather the stories of a mining community for an area museum, Local Projects built a recording studio from ”a trailer clad entirely in copper…in homage to the single metal that the Southwest is famous for supplying.”
Product Design, NewDealDesign
Based in San Francisco, NewDealDesign combines graphic, interaction and industrial design to create products that also serve as solutions.
Lifetime Achievement, James Wines
Wines has long integrated green design principles into his work, such as this Las Vegas Denny’s that also includes a wedding chapel.
May 7, 2013
Andean bear cubs, Curt and Nicole, played in the rain for the first time in their new outdoor home. Before making their public debut Saturday May 11, the cubs got to know their space on a rainy Tuesday morning. Under the watchful eye of mother Billie Jean, the two cubs, born last December, took to the rocky walls and steep climbs. Staffer Craig Saffoe says this species has a particular fancy for heights and a flair for daring acrobatics that can sometimes leave visitors breathless.
“But I’ve never seen them fall,” says Saffoe. Curt and Nicole both took a few small tumbles as they tried out their mountaineering skills, but they seemed to be in good spirits bounding about the grass, tackling each other. Billie Jean was a bit less enthusiastic but still attentive.
The cubs were a big victory for the Zoo. Since 2005, only three litters of Andean bear cubs have survived longer than a week, two born to Billie Jean, and the mortality rate of Andean bear cubs in their first year is around 40 percent, according to the Zoo.
Saffoe says the cubs will likely come out around 10 each morning to play, but, just like kids at a park, he says, when the cubs start to crash, they’ll head back inside. The cubs first explored the enclosure in March after Billie Jean finally allowed them to leave the den. The Zoo staff then began baby-proofing the yard with extra hay bedding.
The cubs will make their debut just in time for Mother’s Day.
May 6, 2013
“None of us know the Lord’s will,” Burtis J. “Bert” Dolan wrote to his wife about his journey on the new airship, the Hindenburg. He had purchased his ticket for the trip on May 1, 1937, two days before setting off from Frankfurt, Germany. It cost him 1,000 RM, equivalent to about $450 during the Great Depression, according to the National Postal Museum. His ticket survived the disaster on May 6, 1937. He did not. He died, along with 35 others.
The exhibit, “Fire and Ice,” which opened in spring 2012 for the 75th anniversary, included never-before-seen discoveries like the map of the Hindenburg’s route across the Atlantic, but now, thanks to the Dolan family, it will also include what may be the only surviving passenger ticket from the disaster.
Had Dolan not listened to his friend, Nelson Morris, and changed his travel plans, he would’ve headed back from Europe by sea. But Morris persuaded him to try the passenger airship and surprise his family with an early return. It was the perfect plan for Mothers Day and so Dolan agreed. When the airship caught fire just before docking at the Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey, Morris jumped from a window with Dolan behind him. But Dolan never made it.
Not knowing he was on board, Dolan’s wife learned of her husband’s involvement through Morris’ family and, along with the rest of the country, followed the newsreel and audio reports from the disaster that made headlines. Debates continue about what caused the initial spark and ensuing flame that consumed the ship within 34 seconds.
As part of the museum’s exhibit “Fire and Ice: Hindenburg and Titanic,” visitors to the National Postal Museum can view Dolan’s ticket and passport and learn more about the disasters that still captivate audiences.