Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cool for Bats

Halloween is a good time to plug a great organization called Bats Conservation International. BCI's goal is to educate folks about the vital role these often maligned creatures play in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. BCI has a wealth of information on bats, and is involved in research and conservation efforts as well. You can even learn how build a bat house.


I came across this photo, in the New York Public Library Digital Gallery, of Houdini visiting the grave of Italian magician Bartolomeo Bosco. Bosco had been a renowned performer during the first half of the 19th century, but he died penniless and when Houdini visited his grave it was neglected and dilapidated. Houdini took it upon himself to care for the plot at his own expense, something he did not only for Bosco, but for other deceased magicians as well.

Halloween is, of course, the anniversary of Houdini's death, and as I viewed this photo it seemed an apt way to honor the memory of a man who did so much during his own life to preserve the memories and legacies of those magicians who came before him.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Cabinet of Dr. Gurnweith

Through November 8, visitors to the Marlborough Gallery in NYC will be able to enter "Through The Moon Door" and cross over into the world of explorer, artist, and collector Dr. Gurnweith. On view are paintings of unknown worlds, elaborate sculptures, unusual imaginary insects, and other works of art. Dr. Gurnweith was dreamed up, literally, by artist and architect Thierry Despont. The figure appeared to him in a dream, and the entire exhibit, including the mysterious Doctor, are all the creation of Despont, who seeks to find magic and beauty in things which are discarded and overlooked by most. He regards himself as both a creator and a curator of these works.

The entire exhibit resembles a fantastical kind of museum of natural history, one that exists in a parallel universe. Despont believes that we've "lost our sense of wonder and hope and I hope to try and restore that a little bit." Both wonder and beauty are in abundant supply at this extraordinary exhibit.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


When astronaut Alan Bean, the fourth man to walk on the moon, retired from NASA in 1981 after a distinguished career, he decided to devote himself to his art. The historic space missions in which he participated are a rich source of inspiration, and he endeavors to capture in his paintings the exhilaration of that experience. As he noted in a recent interview, "They're not like Earth paintings. They don't look like Earth paintings. . . they're paintings from another world."

His work will be on display until April 2009 at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, in Austin, Texas, as part of their celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of NASA.
Bean's evocative paintings hint at the greater mysteries beyond the confines of our earth, from the perspective of one whose art is truly "off this world."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pottery Boo

I love these skull votive candleholders. They're available from Pottery Barn, of all places.

Monday, October 13, 2008


This is a special Las Vegas edition of Tarot images I encounter, a series inspired by Craig Conley's magical Trump L'Oeil Tarot of Portmeirion. My son and I recently went to Vegas to check out the new Criss Angel and Cirque du Soleil production, Believe. He took this photo as we were walking down the Strip. It is, of course, the magical duo of Siegfried and Roy, and I thought of Strength as soon as I saw it.

The magicians were renowned for incorporating animals, including Royal White Tigers and white lions, into their shows. Since their retirement following Roy Horn's near-fatal mauling by a tiger during a magic show in October 2003, they are committed to conservation efforts and promoting a greater understanding and appeciation of wild animals. The association with the Strength card seems fitting in light of the relationship that they had with their fellow animal peformers.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Un-Dead

Good news for vampire lovers. Dacre Stoker, the great-grandnephew of novelist Bram Stoker, has co-authored a new Dracula novel which is set to be released in October 2009. It is set in early 20th century London, in the theater world, and Bram himself is a character, along with Quincey Harker, Mina and Jonathan's son. Titled Dracula: The Un-Dead, the novel draws upon notes that Bram Stoker wrote when he was researching his work, and it continues themes from his seminal book. There is also a movie planned.

I am looking forward to this sequel.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Otherworldy Garden

The September issue of Wallpaper* has a great fashion layout photographed by Paola Kudacki. While the clothes were stunning, what caught my eye was the unlikely setting for such sartorial splendor: the Brion-Vega Cemetery in the Veneto region of Italy. Designed by Carlo Scarpa, it was completed in 1978, the year of his death (he was laid to rest there).

Unlike most cemeteries, the Tomba Brioni eschews statuary and ornamentation in favor of minimal architecture and geometric forms which interact with the space around the structures to create serene, open areas. He described it as an architectural kind of formal poetry, and the space is as thoughtfully composed as a poem, one that lends itself to reflection and appreciation. It has a spare, somber beauty that reminds me of an Etruscan necropolis. Scarpa's creation is a place which is meditative and timeless - a true resting place for the departed.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Out of the Box

One of my favorite blogs, Craig Conley's Magic Words, has a thoughtful post about Women in Boxes, a documentary on magicians' assistants and the important yet often overlooked role they have played in magic.

As the mother of a son who has a keen interest in magic (he's a member of the Society of Young Magicians), I've learned a lot about magic and magic history over the past couple of years, and I have a real respect for magicians' assistants and their wives (the two often overlap). They work very hard to help create a magical experience for their audience, yet must generally remain in the background while the magician basks in the applause and recognition for the performance. Depending on the relationship between magician and assistant, they can also provide invaluable support and advice to the magician as he develops and refines his magic routine.
I had fun going through the bio's of the assistants featured in Women in Boxes, and learning how some, such as Luna Shimada, went on to become magicians in their own right, while some started new careers in magic in a different capacity. I was delighted to see that one of them, Deanna Shimada (wife and assistant to the magician Shimada, and Luna's mother) now does Tarot card readings. I tried googling her to see if she has a website of her own, but alas couldn't find anything. She, along with the others profiled, seems like a cool person and I can't wait to check out the DVD to hear their stories.