Spring Sunshine, Not a Moment Too Soon

SandboxSunshineOH, BoyinSandboxTHE JOY OF A BOY (or two) in the sun-warmed sandbox after a long, wet and wintry early spring.

The Lively Letters – and Interesting Times – of My Cousin Lillie

By David Fay Smith

Lillie de Hegermann-Lindencrone's author photo for her first memoir. She studied with the same voice teacher as Jenny Lind and sometimes sang duets with her at private dinners, but Lillie did not want a life upon the stage.

Lillie de Hegermann-Lindencrone’s author photo for her first memoir, taken in about 1908. She studied with the same voice teacher as Jenny Lind had, and sometimes sang duets with her at private dinners, but Lillie did not want a life upon the public stage like Jenny Lind’s.

I RECENTLY OPENED A BOX OF BOOKS that had been in storage  – usually a dubious proposition – and discovered a copy of In the Courts of Memory by Lillie de Hegermann-Lindencrone, a second cousin several generations removed. (Her mother and my great-great-grandmother were first cousins, but only a Hobbit would care.) Lillie Greenough was born into a musical family in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was well known there at a very young age for her remarkable soprano voice. In 1859, at the age of 15, her mother took her to London so she could be trained by Manuel Garcia, a famous voice teacher of the time.

By 1862 she is living in Paris, married to Charles Moulton, a wealthy American banker, and partying at the Second Empire – as the court of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie was known – all the while writing letters to the folks back home, detailing who was there, what they wore, what they did for entertainment, what music was performed, and what she sang, for she was almost always asked to sing. For example, in June 1867, she entertains Franz Liszt, Prince and Princess Metternich (the Austrian ambassador) and 25 other people, including the composers Daniel Auber and Jules Massenet. Auber brought along a manuscript, which Liszt glanced at, “and said ‘C’est très jolie.‘ After dinner, and a cigar in the conservatory, ìhe went to the piano and played the ‘jolie‘ little thing of Auber’s.” From memory!

“He seemed extraordinarily amiable that evening,” she wrote, “for he sat down at the piano without being asked and played a great many of his compositions. One has generally to tease and beg him, and then he refuses. But I think when he heard Massenet improvising at one of the pianos he was inspired, and he put himself at the other (we have two grand pianos), and they played divinely, both of them improvising.”

Known as the "Swedish Nightengale," Jenny Lind also was a student of Manuel Garcia and became world-famous for her operatic soprano. P.T. Barnum brought her to tour the US in 1851. Dress and even furniture styles were named for her.

Known as the “Swedish Nightingale,” Jenny Lind studied with Manuel Garcia in 1841, and became world-famous for her operatic soprano. P.T. Barnum brought her to tour the US in 1851, and later she made her own very successful tour circuit. Dress, hair, and even furniture styles were named for her.

Lillie has a sharp eye (and ear) for detail (and for human nature), and provides a vivid, sometimes acerbic image of the life and times of the very, very rich. Imagine Downton Abbey, but with appearances by people like Massenet, Liszt, Gounod, Rossini, Wagner, Jenny Lind (with whom she sings duets), and Sarah Bernhardt – not to mention all the royalty and near-royalty. Lillie is in France during the Franco Prussian War (1870) and in Paris during the Paris Commune (1871), an uprising of anarchists and Marxists who depose Napoleon III and rule the city for 72 days of chaos and bloodshed. A few years after her husband, Charles Moulton, dies, she marries the Danish minister to the United States, and travels with him to diplomatic posts in Stockholm, Rome, Paris, Washington, and Berlin.

My cousin Lillie lived in interesting times, and often had a good vantage to observe the people and events. In the Courts of Memory is only the first volume, covering 1858-1875. The second is The Sunny Side of Diplomatic Life, 1875-1912, which was not in our storage box and I intend to read on my iPad. (Both are available as free e-books at Project Guttenberg.)

Brooklyn Artisan Contributor David Fay Smith is the author of  A Computer Dictionary for Kids and Other Beginners, and a former columnist for Publishers Weekly.

A Wing and a Latte: Backstory on a Visual Pun

Wing and A Prayer, 1944 moviePosterADDENDUM TO CHALK TALK: Look closely at the center of the Intelligentsia winged insignia. In place of the customary propellor or star between the wings, this clever image seems to show an artisanal coffee with a curl of cream on the top. The “wing and a prayer” phrase has been kept alive in American culture – at least among old-movie buffs – by a black-and-white movie that occasionally turns up on PBS or late-night television: Starring Dana Andrews and Don Ameche, this war propaganda film won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 1944. It took its title from a number-one hit song of 1943, “Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer,” sung by the Song Spinners. Other number-one songs in that year: Bing Crosby, “White Christmas”; Harry James, “I Had the Craziest Dream (Last Night)”; Glenn Miller, “That Old Black Magic”; Benny Goodman, “Taking a Chance on Love”; Dick Haymes, “You’ll Never Know (How Much I Love You)”; Tommy Dorsey, “In the Blue of the Evening”; Mills Brothers, “Paper Doll (To Call My Own)”; and Al Dexter, “Pistol Packin’ Mama.” Quite a song list for a single year!

Moore’s Law: How the Future Came To Be Stuffed in a Stocking

Apple II computer, 2 disc drives.By David Fay Smith  COMING UP ON 30 YEARS AGO, I WROTE A BOOK called A Computer Dictionary for Kids and Other Beginners (Ballantine, 1984), to explain bits and bytes to children and their parents. This Christmas, my wise wife gave me a copy of iPads for Seniors. And so it goes.

At Costco recently, I bought flash drives for Christmas stocking stuffers: $10 each for SanDisk 16 GB flash drives – solid state gizmos with retractable USB connections that will bayonet into practically any fairly modern PC or Mac and provide a convenient means of backing up or transporting files from one computer to another. These are about 1 ½ inches long and weigh a third of an ounce.

Just to be clear, 16 GB is 16 billion bytes (actually 16, 384,000,000, but who’s counting?) A byte is equivalent to a single character or letter, so 16 GB amounts to some 2 billion 8-letter words or about 40 typical 50,000 word novels.  [Read more…]

Who’s Who in Creating 12 DAYS OF BROOKLYN

Brooklyn Artisan’s 12 Days of Brooklyn is our gift of the season when you visit our site.

12 Views of Brooklyn were gathered from artists and photographers who have looked at Brooklyn through creative and loving eyes and curated by Anne Mollegen Smith. 12 Tastes of Brooklyn were sampled and curated by Basia Hellwig12 Sips of Brooklyn were sampled and curated by Bruce A. Campbell.

Typographic designs of the date stamps for all 12 days are by Joy Makon Design.

DEC. 6  Date stamp font:  Avant Garde, by Herb Lubalin and Tom Carnese, ITC, 1970.

The arch at Grand Army Plaza lighted for the holidays (Photo by Joseph Caserto. More: Who’s Who)

The arch at Grand Army Plaza decorated for the holidays, photograph by Joseph Caserto.  A resident of Brooklyn since the late 1980s, Caserto is an award-winning publication designer and earned a BFA with honors from Pratt Institute. See more of his work at etsy.com/shop/josephcaserto

EDITOR’S UPDATE: Joseph Caserto has kindly offered Brooklyn-Artisan visitors a 30% discount on boxed card sets that include this brilliant image of Grand Army Plaza on a winter night. Go to http://www.etsy.com/shop/josephcaserto and use the coupon code COUNTDOWN12.

DEC. 7  Date stamp font: Mrs Eaves, by Zuzana Licko, Emigre, 1996

Fall and Winter Tree at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, photograph by Jake Miller. Miller is a writer as well as a photographer and was a Brooklyn resident in the 1990s, when he shot a series called Brooklyn Light. His articles and photographs have appeared in many national magazines. He now lives in the Boston area.


DEC. 8  Date stamp font: Bauhaus, by Ed Benguiat and Victor Caruso, ITC, 1975

Photograph by Joy Makon; see Who's Who.

Menorah in the Snow, photograph by Joy Makon, taken in 2009 in Windsor Terrace. A resident of small-town Brooklyn since 1983, Joy is a magazine art director+designer and an indefatigable lover of all things new and cool. She curates Craft & Design for Brooklyn Artisan and writes and produces the weekly Best of Brooklyn listings.

Dec. 9  Date Stamp font: Cochin, Georges Peignot, Linotype, 1912

sledding_homeSledding Home, 2009, is an oil-on-canvas painting by Ella Yang, who is a member of the artist-run collective and gallery, 440 Gallery, in Park Slope. The gallery is run collectively by more than a dozen artists with very different styles and outlooks, but a common commitment. It is located in Park Slope on Sixth Avenue between Ninth and Tenth streets.

Dec. 10  Date stamp font: Chalet Tokyo, by René Albert Chalet (a clothing designer), House Industries, 1970

Peace Detail from a mural in Park Slope, boy and girlAt right, these 4 panels appear to the right of the children’s More Panels in 8th Street Muralpanel in the 8th Street mural. Just down the street is a Beansprouts childcare center, and around the corner, a church.


Dec. 11  Date stamp font: Goudy Oldstyle, by Frederick W. Goudy, Linotype, 1915

(Used by permission of the homeowner)

When you visit the site of the Mill Basin house, you can sign the guestbook and review the extensive press clippings. Screen shot 2012-12-10 at 12.43.57 PMAt right, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, holding the proclamation, with the Teitelbaum family.

Dec. 12  Date stamp font: Gill Sans Ultra Bold, by Eric Gill, Monotype, 1928

September Rain,7th Avenue, etching by September Rain, Seventh Avenue, 2006, etching by Eric March (edition of 25). Eric March’s first solo show was A Brooklyn Year at the Park Slope Gallery in 2006. His second show at the gallery was Moments in Time: Queens to Coney Island, in 2009. He teaches painting and illustration in the New York City area. The Park Slope Gallery shows by appointment.

Editor’s Note: Making and printing etchings are special skills: Etching is generally done to a metal plate by coating the surface, then scratching through the coating with a special stylus; an acid is then used to eat away the scratched lines which later hold the ink for the image to be printed. A particular piece is usually identified by the position in the series and the number that are in the edition – 1/25 meaning the first of 25, and so on. A lower number is not necessarily an indicator of quality, since much effort goes into making all the pulls equally good; rather, it is a way of tracking or inventorying the images to discourage theft, loss and forgery, and signals relative scarcity. The artist’s signature – usually written in pencil – shows that he approved the quality of that particular piece. A gallery or publisher sometimes underwrites a limited edition as a form of investment, and value may even rise as inventory shrinks.

Dec. 13  Date stamp font:  Shelley Allegro, by Matthew Carter, Linotype, 1972

Photograph by Joy Makon.  See Who's Who.

 Porches in the Snow, 2009, by Joy Makon. See her bio above, for Dec. 8. For most of her publications career, Joy has worked as a designer, but as readers of her Joy’s Best of Brooklyn column for Brooklyn Artisan know, she also writes well. Early sign of crossover skills: She was editor of her high school newspaper, and went from there to art school.

Dec. 14  Date stamp font: Rockwell, by Morris Fuller Benton and Frank Pierpont, Monotype, 1934

Painting by Ella Yang. See Who's Who

Canal Cloud Reflections, 2010,  another oil painting by Ella Yang (see Dec.9, above).”This was a very still morning, the water in the Gowanus Canal was high and there were plenty of clouds to make great reflections,” she recalls. “I love the contrast between the dilapidated, jumbled items on the left bank and the apparent organization of the buildings on the right bank. That’s the former Williamsburg Bank building on the right – a nice Brooklyn landmark that’s been turned into luxury condos!” Ella is a member of the art collective, 440 Gallery. (Next time you’re on the 440 Gallery site, browse the work of other gallery artists. You can also find other views of the Gowanus, this time abstracts, by 440’s Karen Gibbons.)

Dec. 15  Date stamp font: American Typewriter, by Joel Kaden and Tony Stan, ITC, 1974

From the Brooklyn Roasting Phog. See Who's Who

The Brooklyn Roasting Co. maintains a phog – a photographic blog – on its site and invites contributions from outside the company. The result is a delightful mélange of coffee growing photographs, of the company’s staff and friends, of DUMBO and elsewhere in Brooklyn. This couldn’t-be-anywhere-but-DUMBO image emerged from that phog. Notice how the image is a study in verticals, from the construction fence through the tall alley and bridge struts to the towers of Outer Brooklyn across the river.

Dec. 17: Date stamp font: Industria, by Neville Brody, Linotype, 1989

Photograph by Joseph Caserto. See Who's Who.

Christmas Trees on Sale: Brooklyn-based design professional Joseph Caserto, whose Grand Army Plaza photo launched our series, also contributed this image of a Christmas tree vendor. Joe tweets – @josephcaserto – about his @udemy courses for students to learn InDesign, Adobe PhotoShop, Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, sometimes at a discount. He also sells his work at etsy.com/shop/josephcaserto, with occasional discounts.

In 1851, the same year Henry Gritten (mentioned in Dec.14: 12 Views of Brooklynpainted Gowanus Bay, a Catskill Mountains farmer named Mark Carr launched the commercial Christmas tree business in New York City with two ox-drawn sleds loaded with forest-cut trees. He sold them all, and harvesting forest trees became a business, a kind of winter crop. In 1901, a from-scratch Christmas-tree farming operation was established in New Jersey, and seven years later their Norway Spruces went on the market for $1.00 apiece. By 2000, the number of American families using artificial trees was significantly larger than those with natural ones.

Dec. 17  Date stamp font: Mason, by Jonathan Barnbrook, Emigre, 1992

More bridge views, see Who's Who

Forget those people trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge to hayseeds, how does one go about finding a large photograph of it suitable for framing? The selection is mind-boggling. You can check museum shops. You can inquire of Brooklyn photographers whose work you like. You can search by subject on many sites such as etsy.com and fineartamerica.com. There’s instagram and pinterest and the Flickr albums of your friends; ask around. Cross the river and check out the Union Square vendors. You can of course go out yourself, camera or iPhone in hand, by night and by day. You can order prints by size and by medium – would you like a print on canvas? Or in acrylic? Or acrylic on glass? Oh, you’ve settled on having the canvas wrapped around the sides of the mounting? You can get that done at the drug store right on the corner of Flatbush and Seventh Avenue. Step number one in a personal Views of Brooklyn gallery.

The portrait of Emily Warren Roebling in the Brooklyn Museum is by the French painter Charles Émile Auguste Carolus Duran. Emily’s older brother, Civil War General Gouveneur Kemble Warren –and the one who supported her interest in becoming educated though a girl – is remembered by his statue at the gateway to Prospect Park. Although the Warren family came from Cold Spring, NY, not Brooklyn, the brother and sister made their mark on this community.

Call Me, Ishmael, Or Pls Txt Detls: Moby Marathon

OMG, starts 2day.

(From poster/Illustration and design by Bianca Stone and Paul Tunis)

THIS-FIRST-TIME-IN-NYC MARATHON READING of Herman Melville’s classic white-whale tale – a book, not a drink – has its multiple readers all lined up; walk-in listeners welcome. Starts tonight, Friday, Nov. 16, at Brooklyn Word (reception at 5 pm, reading at 6pm). Tomorrow the reading moves to Housing Works Bookstore Cafe (10am to 3 pm), returns to Brooklyn’s shores for the evening read at Molasses Books, back to Housing Works on Sunday, 10am to 4pm.

As a young boy living on Bleeker Street, Melville liked to go down to the battery to stare at the sea. What would he have thought – or written – about Superstorm Sandy?

Joy’s Picks of Brooklyn will be back this week. Stay tuned.

Thank You, Open House New York

Badges of service for Susan Katz’s 10 years as an OHNY volunteer.

THANKS TO OHNY.ORG,  Brooklyn was buzzing with extra activities over the weekend. Though – as some know –  it is at the center of the universe, Kings County ‘s events comprised only one slice of a citywide effort that was started as Open House New York by Scott Lauer in 2001. It, in turn, is part of a global network. Official Open House events take place in Dublin, Tel Aviv, Barcelona, Slovenia, Melbourne, Helsinki, and six other cities.

Lauer’s particular mission is to educate the public about New York architecture and design. An October event annually since 2003 , Open House New York invites the public into “hundreds of New York’s most architecturally and culturally significant spaces and places, many not usually open to the public, in neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs,” its site says. Brooklyn events are managed by “a hardy band of 15 OHNY volunteers,” says Susan Katz, a blogger and tourism consultant with MsGuided Tours NYC and herself a 10-year veteran volunteer: “We like to think people appreciate it.”

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