Saturday, December 31, 2011

What Are You Doing New Years Eve


Rockin’ it old school: Ella Fitzgerald


Rockin’ it new school: Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt


Artist: Ella Fitzgerald / Album: A Swingin’ Christmas



This Christmas, with the generous financial support of a variety of holiday benefactors, will be known heretofore as “A Ruth Orkin Christmas”* throughout the land (or at least in my apartment). I took one more step towards what I envision is adulthood and purchased my very first piece of art—and from the John Cleary Gallery, no less!!!


Ruth Orkin: Couple in an MG, Florence, 1951


Now first a bit of exposition:  For those of you who aren’t aware, I had the privilege of studying abroad in Florence, Italy the first semester of my junior year at Baylor.  As one might imagine I had an absolutely astounding time—however, I never came away with that ONE memento that I knew I would have forever and make me think of the experience as a whole.  (Don’t get me wrong, I did plenty of great shopping, traveling, eating, etc.)

Joseph on moped, Florence, 2004

Joseph on moped, Florence, 2004


Even before I began working at the gallery, when I used to come visit Catherine I would sometimes rifle through the drawers of pieces and I came across this one.  I mean seriously… the goggles, the ecstatic grin, the cap, the car, the city, the EVERYTHING!!  How could I not love it, right?  Immediately I had one of those dramatic soap opera moments: *shakes fist into the air* “One day, you WILL be mine!!” … … …

My Room

… … … AND NOW IT IS!!! I get to wake up to that crazy grin every morning now!


In reading up on both the photographer and the photograph I can easily say that I am in love with this woman!!  Now, I could wax on and on and on about how fascinating her life was and show you picture after picture after stunning picture but who really has time for that.  So instead, I’m just going to wax on and on about how fascinating her life was and show you picture after stunning picture from her catalogue.  You’re welcome. (Information and photographs primarily from

Born the child of a silent film actress and a toy boat maker in Los Angeles, California, Ruth Orkin began taking photographs at the age of 10. While living in Hollywood she became the first ever messenger hired by MGM studios.   At the age of 17 she took off on a bike ride across America to New York to see the 1939 World’s Fair, stopping stopping to take photographs along the way (often making sure to include her bicycle as proof of the trip.

Ruth_Orkin_Washington_Monument  Ruth_Orkin_El_1939

El, 1939 / Washington Monument


Moving to New York in the early 1940’s, Ruth began photographing for various magazines around the city, particularly focusing on street photography of the city.

Ruth_Orkin_White_Stoops  Ruth_Orkin_Tired_Little_Boy

Ruth_Orkin_Man_in_Rain  Ruth_Orkin_Central_Park_1965

White Stoops / Tired Little Boy / Man in Rain / Central Park


Concomitant to her work in New York she also spent many summers at the Tanglewood festival, shooting rehearsals with many of the major musicians of the day—an introduction to the photographing of celebrities she would continue to do throughout her career.

Ruth_Orkin_Bernstein_and_Marion_Anderson  Ruth_Orkin_Woody_Allen

Bernstein and Marion Anderson / Woody Allen


In 1951 LIFE magazine assigned Ruth to travel with the Israeli Philharmonic on its first American tour, later leading to her shooting in Israel for a period of about two and a half months.

Ruth_Orkin_Jewish_Refugees_at_Lydda_Airport_Tel_Aviv_1951  Ruth_Orkin_Tel_Aviv_Sea_Wall

Jewish Refugees at Lydda Airport, Tel Aviv, 1951 / Sea Wall


Following her travels to Israel she headed northwest towards Europe and it was in Florence, Italy that she met a fellow American, Jinx Allen (now Ninalee Craig), who shared her fascination with art and travel.  Immediately they head out among the city to document what it was like for a single woman to travel alone in Europe after the war, leading to what is now considered her most iconic image:


American Girl in Italy, 1951 (Which just recently celebrated it’s 60th anniversary. Read the article and an interview with Jinx, still alive at 83, here)


Ruth_Orkin_Jinx_Beads  Ruth_Orkin_Jinx_Goggles  Ruth_Orkin_Staring_at_the_Statue_Florence_1951

Jinx, Beads / Jinx, Goggles / Jinx, Staring a the Statue


Upon her arrival back to New York she married fellow photographer and filmmaker Morris Engel, a union that produced two short films, “Little Fugitive” and “Lovers and Lollipops”, the former of which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1953.

With the advent of color photography, Ruth Orkin was one of the pioneers of the genre, looking once again towards the streets of New York City for inspiration.

Ruth_Orkin_Ladies_Home_Journal_Cover_c1950  Ruth_Orkin_Mother_and_Child_in_Water_1950

Ladies Home Journal cover, circa 1950 / Mother and Child in Water, 1950


Until her death from cancer in 1985 Ruth lived the remainder of her life in an apartment overlooking central park, continuously photographing the world and people around her.


Muted Autumn


As many of you know, once I’m interested in something I am oft found devouring as much information as I can possibly find on each respective subject (See: “In Praise of Cultural Omnivores”.  [See also: the title of my blog]).  That being said I received a couple of Barnes and Noble (r.i.p. Borders) gift cards and immediately bought a couple of books on Ruth Orkin:

   A World Through My Window 1  A Photo Journal  Above and Beyond


So finally, thank you thank you every one for helping my “Ruth Orkin Christmas” come true… I honestly couldn’t be more thrilled!

“Being a photographer is making people look at what I want them to look at. […] My life’s work was determined by four passions which I had as a kid:  Film, photography, music and travel.  And eventually, I realize now they all fell together in photography.  Today it seems to me a lot of young people go out and say ‘I’m going to become an “art photographer.”  That to me is a joke.  What’s important is, to me, what you’re shooting… what it means to you. And if somebody else sometime eventually calls it art then alright, it’s art photography.”

- Ruth Orkin


Artist: Jamie Cullum / Album: Catching Tales

*As well as the year I got a ginormous television (but I’m not allowed to post pictures as it might entice the inner-thieves amongst you to do bad things)

White Christmas


I lamented last year around Christmastime that Texas isn’t exactly the most “idyllic” of settings for Winter positioned holidays.   Now, you all know I’ve never really been one to let a silly thing like scorching hot temperatures keep me from expressing my holiday cheer and have oft been found with enough saltwater seeping from my pores to float a mid-sized barge but, damnit, it’s December and you can pry that soggy paisley scarf from around my neck only AFTER I’ve passed out from severe dehydration (and even then there might be some lingering synapses, so perhaps the “cold, dead hands” metaphor is a bit more apropos) [long sentence much?].  I’m also pretty sure my good friend, Television, agrees with me:

Modern Family’s Cam and Jay (my favorite plutonic May/December relationship) from the 2011 Christmas episode



from The New Adventures of Old Christine

This year there really wasn’t much to complain about because it was quite chilly (proportionally) and there was a fire in full blaze when I got to uncle Sid’s house in Lufkin. My fraternal grandparents had driven down from Midland and mom and dad had come over from Crockett for the festivities. I kinda took the day off from taking any pictures so Sid was kind enough to send me a couple of family shots!




Pheobe, Sid, Catherine, Liz, Hannah




Grandmother, Granddad, Mom, Dad and I



The cousins!!


Artist: Barbra Streisand / Album: A Christmas Album

Friday, December 30, 2011

Singers with One Name


2011-12-30 00.52.45

Joseph and his Hanna / Hannah with Joseph’s JosephJoseph


Artist: George Carlin / Album: Complaints and Grievances

Thursday, December 29, 2011

That Good Old Baylor Line


Congrats to Baylor football on a fabulous season... Heisman and Alamo Bowl champs much?!?!


Fling it far, biscuits!!!

You Have to Be Carefully Taught


My cousin, Hannah, came up yesterday to spend a couple of days in Houston over her Christmas break from Carnegie-Mellon and it has been a fantastic chance to hang out and chat more than we have in a long time.  At one point during the evening I posted the follow to my facebook and perhaps I should have worded my excitement in a different way:



The “Tolerance” statues in question are an installation along the Allan Parkway by artist Jaume Plensa that I have often seen while driving by but never had a chance to actually go and visit.  And as proof of my bad influence:

2011-12-28 21.15.09  2011-12-28_21.14.25  2011-12-28 21.11.01

Me, Hannah and, as always, I keep one giant metal statue empty to represent our unfulfilled hopes and dreams…

… just kidding. My friend Zach was off having dinner with lesser people.



Artist: Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II / Album: South Pacific

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Light My Fire

As seen driving home from church Christmas morning:

Kerosene Christmas

Commentary on the duality of heaven/hell or (more likely) a crafty holiday business model!  Either way, it’s good news for the wise men vis-à-vis the recent announcement of quickly declining frankincense availability



“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense  sterno©, and myrrh.

~ Matthew 2:11, KJV (King Joseph Version)


I mean… would you wanna be in a manger in Bethlehem in the Winter?!?!?


Artist: The Doors / Album: The Doors

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Every Day Is a Holiday (With You)



(Images from the John Cleary Gallery “Deck the Walls” holiday card. Top L-R Susan Burnstine, Renate Aller, Charles Grogg. Bottom L-R Jeri Eisenberg, Elliott Erwitt, Maggie Taylor)

Artist: Esthero ft. Sean Lennon / Album: Down with Love

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Chimney Sweeper


Last year around Christmas time I featured a video about a couple who, for some inextricable reason, kept receiving hundreds upon hundreds of letters addressed to Santa.  It’s quite a fascinating story and if you haven’t seen it then take a couple of minutes and watch it.  (DO IT!!)

This year’s bizarre letter to Santa story, courtesy of io9, comes to us from our friends across the pond in Dublin, Ireland.  Per the Irish Times:

It may have been slightly scorched over the years but a letter to Santa written 100 years ago, which was later discovered in a Dublin fireplace, has the magic of Christmas written all over it.

100 Year Old Letter to Santa


On Christmas Eve 1911, a brother and sister, who signed their names, “A or H Howard”, penned their personally designed letter to Santa with their requests for gifts and a good luck message at their home in Oaklands Terrace, Terenure (or Terurnure, as the children spelled it) in Dublin. They placed it in the chimney of the fireplace in the front bedroom so that Santa would see it as he made his way into the Howard household in the early hours of the morning.

The letter was discovered by the house’s current occupant, John Byrne, when he was installing central heating in 1992. […] Ownership of the house changed over the decades, with the Byrne family moving there in 1961, but the letter survived. “At that time, the fireplaces were made of brick with a shelf on either side,” said John Byrne who works in the building industry. “The letter was found on one of the shelves.”

The letter remained remarkably intact given the passage of time and was only slightly burned from fires set in the house over the years.

Does this mean there’s still hope for that Teddy Ruxspin I wanted when I was four?!?!?!?!


Artist: Benjamin Britten and Dietrich* Fischer-Dieskau / Album: Songs and Proverbs of William Blake

*Interesting music nerd/pop-culture reference.  Rain (Dwight from The Office) Wilson’s actual middle name is “Dietrich” because his parents were ardent opera lovers.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Big Brother


Along with Jesus and Beethoven, December is also the birth month of my brother, the very one and only second Matthew Bryson Roberts!!  On a recent Halloween post I shared my penultimate favorite picture of us; and, in honor of today, I share with you the ULTIMATE picture…  it pretty much sums up our dynamic to a “t” If I do say so!

Me and Matt

J.D.: “Listen to me play a scale!!!!”   Matt: “Um J.D., can’t you see I’m working here?”


But let’s be honest: really, not much has changed over the years…

9010figaroa17  Matt Roberts DDS

Joseph:  “Hai, gia vinta la causaaaaaaaaaa!!”     Dr. Roberts: “Um Joseph, can’t you see I’m working here?”


!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Artist: Stevie Wonder / Album: Talking Book

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Angels from the Realms of Glory






“The two-lobed star-forming region, dubbed Sharpless 2-106, is located in an isolated part of our Milky Way galaxy nearly 2000 light-years from Earth. The bluish ‘wings’ are lobes of super-hot gas illuminated by a monster star—dozens of times the mass of our sun—forming in the center of the still-expanding nebula. A dark ring of dust and gas circling the star (dark bands, center), material that may one day coalesce into a planetary system, acts like a belt, cinching the nebula into an hourglass shape.” [via ScienceNOW]


Artist: Renee Fleming and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir / Album: The Wonder of Christmas

Friday, December 16, 2011

Beethoven Day


Though there is no hard historical evidence proving that today is Ludwig van Beethoven’s birthday… ye old fount of knowledge, wikipedia, informs me that it is the 16 that is typically celebrated as his date of birth. It’s been quite a Beethoven couple of months for me, actually:  I went to a performance of his 9th Symphony in September with my friend Rachel, and Jennifer and I recently saw Houston Grand Opera’s performance of Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio— a first for me!

SO!!! In much the same vein as my previous Bach birthday post here are a couple of my favorite usages  and machinations of Beethoven’s music:


The opening titles to one of my top favorite movies, The Fall (Symphony No. 7, 2nd Mvt.)



In my ongoing series to eventually post all clips from both Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 (Symphony No. 5, 1st Mvt.)


And finally, since we haven’t heard from La Voce herself (Mizzzzz Renee Fleming), I figure now is as appropriate a time as any for a video of her singing an arrangement of “My Funny Valentine” set to Beethoven’s “Moonlight” sonata.



Artist: Andrew Lippa / Album: You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Grown Up Christmas List


Much in the same vein as my 2012 New Apartment Housewarming Gift Registry Extravaganza, I present to those of you who have not yet crossed my name off your list (I’m talkin’ to you Senor Kringle) my Christmas 2012 White Wonderland of a Wishlist—let everyone cheer!!!!!!!


Bespoke British Baggage: As BoingBoing put it, this “gloriously impractical” luggage from Williams British Handmade is sure to draw attention at the baggage claim turnstyle.  (You know… because I’m sure people who can afford to even consider buying this stuff take care of their own bags.)




Booze Books!!: These sneaky little things from BenderBound are an alcoholic bibliophile’s wet-bar dream come true.  My only complaint—what… no Barenreiter?!?

Bender Bound



Doctor Who goodies from ThinkGeek: I mentioned last year how the nerd inside me looks forward to the annual Doctor Who Christmas special every year.  Why not celebrate with a Tardis mug and Weeping Angels t-shirt!!

TardisMug   KeepCalmandDontBlink



Sugru polymer clay and LEGOs: Just so you know, Catherine, this is how I will now be hanging all of the shows in the gallery!



SodaStream Water Carbonation Machine: Ever since I was quite young I have always loved sparkling water.  One of my favorite things about going to Europe is that, as opposed to in America, it’s quite ubiquitous over there.  My host family in Minden even had one of these machines and I probably went through a whole CO2 cartridge just on myself.




Look, I Made a Hat: Stephen Sondheim’s follow-up to last year’s Finishing the Hat, the combination of the two offering his entire collection of lyrics as well as anecdotes for his entire body of work.  Somebody puh-LEASE Sondheimize me this year!! (The video below explains it all if you aren’t familiar with Modern Family)

LookIMadeAHat   FinishingTheHat



Stealth Toothbrush Sanitizer: Because let’s be honest, it’s the perfect companion to the fancy pantsy toothpaste squeezer I mentioned in the last registry.




And FINALLY, for a bit of a laugh… if you think this list is a bit hodge-podge then check out the holiday shopping list these guys came up with (as seen on BoingBoing):

I’m pretty sure a gallery just down the street would probably sell an oil painting of circus clowns storming Normandy Beach.


Artist: Aretha Franklin / Album: This Christmas

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cover Up


My friend, Jamison, shared a link to “The Worst Classical Album Covers Of All Time. Ever. Really. Part I” from classical 91.5 out of the University of Southern California and one of them seemed holiday appropriate enough that I’m making a whole post about them!


Ummmmmmm… !!!!!! 


I’m pretty sure this is also as good a time as any to put up this ol’ thang from a master class I did with her several years ago at U of M:

Me and Jessye Norman

This is actually the SECOND picture I took with her.  In the first one I looked awful so you best believe I went back to get another one.  (That’s right, this incident was not the first time I had done that)




Obviously lighthearted fair like the Mario Brother’s theme aren’t included



I’ve already discussed on here previously how Brahms is a good part of your daily breakfast routine.  I do take a bit of exception with the title of this album, though, because I’m pretty sure that I’ve already proven that, in fact, SABRINA and I are the best of Brahms!!



And finally, with a bit of help from our friends in the German auto industry, Wagner’s Die Walkure


Artist: Stefy / Album: The Orange Album