When Santa Letters Were Dangerous

December 16th, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

Santa letter 1914What could be more innocent than a letter to Santa? A child jotting down her heart’s desires in pencil or crayon and dropping it in the mailbox, naively hoping the wish will be granted by Christmas morning: It’s a tradition that goes back at least to the mid-1800s, and it is a reminder of the holiday’s more idyllic past.

These days, such letters are viewed as an opportunity to help the less fortunate. In many cities across the U.S., the Postal Service makes available Santa letters to groups or individuals who want to fulfill the wishes enclosed within. It’s a small gesture, multiplied hundreds of thousands of times a year, that brings joy to both the giver and the recipient. What harm could come from that?

Oh, just teaching kids to beg, cheat, and lie—at least, that was the conventional wisdom of charity groups in the early 1900s. As such, the Post Office Department, now known as the U.S. Postal Service, found itself in the middle of a wild confrontation between a press and public that never failed to find delight in a note opening with “Dear Santy,” and groups that claimed Santa letters were the product of con artists in training.

Read the rest at Slate.

Dali vs. Picasso

November 16th, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

Dali PicassoTwo giants of twentieth-century art are facing off in a new exhibition at the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, FL. Titled Picasso / Dalí, Dalí / Picasso, the show, which opens on Nov. 8, pairs together works of Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. Gathered from more than two dozen museums and private collections, the paintings, drawings, and sculptures are arranged to shed light on each painter through his connection with the other. Rhapsody spoke with the show’s curator, Hank Hine, about four points of contrast:


The show illuminates the artists’ differences by comparing how they tackled similar subjects, such as literary figures or the Spanish Civil War. For the latter, each has their signature work on the war represented in the exhibit — a charcoal study for Dalí’s Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War) alongside a sketch for Picasso’s famed Guernica. Despite their very different style, both works “have a sense of agony,” says Hine.


“They had quite antithetical approaches to their art,” says Hine. Picasso would make one piece after another, simplifying and amending his treatment of the subject each time, resulting in about 10 times as many works as Dalí in a given year. Dalí was more classical in his technique, beginning with a sketch and building on that single work. “Picasso saw art growing from art, while Dalí believed it came out of tradition and imagination,” says Hine.

Read the rest at Rhapsody.

Self-Publishing Evolves

October 26th, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

Screen-shot-2014-11-16-at-4.13.54-PMA recent analysis by Bowker, whose Identifier Services is the official U.S. ISBN agency, found that the number of ISBNs associated with self-published books climbed 437% between 2008 and 2013. For the organizers of the Self-Publishing Book Expo (SBPE), which held its first gathering in 2009, that growth indicates how quickly the segment that the expo is serving has grown and changed—and how important it is for this self-publishing conference to stay a step ahead in a fast-changing market.

As it enters its sixth year, the expo is hitting its stride. Diane Mancher, cofounder of SPBE and president of One Potata Productions, an author marketing firm, says that “the show’s kinks have been worked out,” while deepening the more in-demand aspects of the program and cutting back on those today’s self-publishers have lost interest in. She adds that overall, this year’s SPBE will offer plenty for writers dipping their toe into the self-publishing pool for the first time, as well as those who have been putting out and marketing their own work for years.

This year’s show, held Saturday, November 15, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City, features an expansive program of education panels, events, and exhibitors.

Read the full story at Publishers Weekly.

Exploring Icons

October 16th, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

Arnold NewmanA portrait captures more than just a person. That lesson will be reinforced to anyone visiting the new exhibit, Arnold Newman: Masterclass, running from Oct. 23, 2014 to Feb. 1, 2015 at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum. Over seven decades, Newman created a vast and celebrated body of work, photographing fine artists and pop celebrities in a style that continues to influence portraiture.

“Newman was a famous photographer and had lots of shows during his lifetime and at least one major book every decade,” explains William Ewing, the curator of the show who worked with the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography and Harry Ransom Center to decide what to include in this, the first major exhibit since the photographer’s death in 2006. “The question for us was, ‘what is something we can do that’s new?’”

Plenty, it turned out. While Newman’s most famous portraits — Pablo Picasso, Marilyn Monroe, Igor Stravinsky — have been widely shown, Ewing found an abundance of unpublished material that shed light on the photographer and his process. These include group photos and alternate takes on some of Newman’s best-known works. The curator aimed for about half new material, half works that had been previously released.

It’s this variety that Ewing feels makes Newman’s work exceptional Capturing his subjects in their personal spaces provides a “psychological aspect” to the images — placing the viewer in Salvatore Dali’s studio, or Paul Auster’s cluttered office — but also required Newman to improvise depending on the individual. “Artists like Irving Penn and Richard Avedon are great portraitists, but always take the same approach to their subject matter,” says Ewing. “Arnold Newman, whenever he went out, took a risk.”

To further explore Newman’s process, the show includes many of his work prints, pinned to the wall as if visitors have entered the photographer’s own studio.

“You will see in these pictures that he has drawn many different frames on one picture, moving it very subtly,” says Ewing. “He composes the picture like it’s a painting.”

Read the story on Rhapsody.

Rich History in Puerto Rico

September 15th, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

Puerto Rico La Rogativa San JuanThe sandy beaches, elegant Spanish-style homes, and centuries-old forts of San Juan, Puerto Rico, could make you easily forget you’re still in the U.S. And all those rum-soaked cocktails certainly don’t help with thinking clearly.

An unincorporated territory of the U.S., Puerto Rico requires no passport or complications with customs to gain entry, and direct flights from New York City to San Juan take just about four hours — but you’ll feel like you’re a world away.

During fall and winter, it’s still swimsuit weather in Puerto Rico. But if you can pull yourself away from the beach, a day spent walking through the district of Old San Juan offers great rewards.

Cobblestone streets play off the Spanish-meets-neoclassical architecture, with the wrought-iron grates and bright-colored exteriors. You can stroll down the elegant Paseo de la Princesa esplanade for a relaxing ramble, or head to the bustling Calle Fortaleza to check out some of the best stores the city has to offer — from high-end luxury designer goods to handcrafted souvenirs. For the latter, stop by Puerto Rican Art & Crafts to peruse original jewelry, ceramics, and more.

Though an energetic, modern capital city, San Juan radiates history. Head to Calle del Cristo not only for the shops and restaurants but to see Capilla del Cristo, a chapel built to honor a reputed 18th-century miracle in which a rider lost control of his horse, rushed to the end of the street and over the precipice, only to be saved by the prayers of the city’s secretary. Next to this sacred place is Parque de las Palomas: a park that’s now home to hundreds of pigeons who inhabit the ground, trees, and cubby-holed walls.

Public art abounds, including the celebratory “Raíces” statue honoring Puerto Rico’s cultural roots, and the more somber “La Rogativa” commemorating an 18th-century prayer procession believed to have protected the city from a British attack (miracles seem almost commonplace in this sun-drenched land).

Defense is central to the city’s history and design. A Spanish colony for centuries before passing to the U.S. after the Spanish-American war, it was something of a front door to Spain’s empire in the Americas — often a first or last stop for ships crossing the Atlantic in need of fresh food and water before setting off to their final destinations.

Read the full story at the New York Daily News.

Meeting at Microbreweries (and Distilleries)

September 3rd, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

ry-colin-summer-wedding-15_114136743210As breweries become more popular as destinations for groups, they are bolstering their spaces to better accommodate the needs of organizations. Hardywood recently expanded, adding a room with A/V capabilities including projector, screen, and sound system. A glass garage door on one side of the room allows guests to see beer aging in whisky barrels, and a bar with a half-dozen beers on tap.

The same unconventional feel can be created at local distilleries. The Las Vegas Distillery offers a 1,000-square-foot Spirits Room and 4,000-square-foot Distillery. Visitors can join in tours to see how the distillery makes its vodka, rum, and whisky — including its Nevada 150 Bourbon, the state’s first official straight bourbon, released on Nevada’s 150th birthday. In addition to tasting the products, visitors can create custom labels and fill their own bottles from the barrel.

“The copper pot stills, the whiskey barrels, and the scent of the fresh-distilled mash creates an unforgettable experience for an event,” says George Racz, the distillery’s owner.

This month, on the same premises, the distillery opens the Booze District event space along with the Chocolate Makery (creating handcrafted chocolates such as Booze Bumps, Grandma’s Apple Pie Moonshine Balls, and customizable Story Chocolate Bars).

The Las Vegas Distillery is a rare space for the country’s gaming capital — a venue that offers what Racz calls “local community.” A refreshing change from the high-end restaurants, eye-popping shows, and dazzling casino floors, the distillery is a casual venue with an old-fashioned feel.

This points to another advantage meeting planners are finding with breweries and distilleries: There are few better ways to get a feel for a city or region than to try what the locals drink and see how it is made.

Similar to Las Vegas Distillery, Kings County Distillery, based in Brooklyn, NY, offers a down-to-earth meeting venue in a larger-than-life destination. Located in the two-story Paymaster Building (originally built in 1899) in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, it is a short ride or drive from more traditional Manhattan hot spots.

“Because we’re in Brooklyn, a lot of companies can see the distillery as a ‘corporate retreat,'” explains Colin Spoelman, co-owner of Kings County Distillery. “Even though we’re just over the bridge from most companies, we’re in a quiet part of Brooklyn, so it feels very removed from Manhattan.”

Read the full story at Successful Meetings.

Five Beers to Celebrate This Oktoberfest

August 28th, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

German Beers Oktoberfest

I had the chance to interview Horst Dornbusch, perhaps the premier expert on German beers, for this recent roundup of five must-try rare brews in Rhapsody magazine, just in time for Oktoberfest. He was a very charming guy and managed to give me a gloss of the entire history of beer in about 15 minutes. While I am not going to get too detailed into that here, I did want to include an additional beer he recommended that could not fit into our roundup — an ideal drink for those seeking an organic option to sip at their local beer hall.

At Der Ratskeller in München (a vaulted restaurant in the basement of the old City Hall at Marienplatz in the very center of Munich, try a 100% organic Weizen or Pils from Neumarkter Lammsbräu; or a 100% organic “historic emmer bier” from the Riedenburger brewery.

Read the story in Rhapsody magazine.

Watch That Man

August 28th, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

David Bowie Is Chicago

Trying to encapsulate in a single space the career of one of rock music’s most prolific and perpetually reinventive artists is no simple task. Yet that was the challenge before the curators of “David Bowie Is,” a retrospective on the musician opening at the Museum of ContemporaryArt, Chicago on September 23.

“The goal was to show what an innovator he’s been all these years,” says chief curator Michael Darling, summarizing what unifies the show’s more than 400 objects, including handwritten lyrics, 60 costumes, music-video set designs and even personal diary entries. As Darling puts it, every piece was selected to reflect how the Thin White Duke “has a good nose for the zeitgeist and where the culture is heading.”

He points to the section on Bowie’s “Berlin period” in the late 1970s, which includes brooding paintings and photographs that the artist made while holed up in a German apartment. During that time, Bowie created albums like Low and Heroes with minimalist sound and abstract lyrics that not only captured the Cold War mood of the moment but influenced rock music for decades to come. Darlingorganized the show chronologically, and he says it will offer “a dynamic and immersive experience,” with design cues that signal Bowie’s transformations during his near half-century of creative output. But, as the exhibit’s title suggests, the only era that matters to Bowie is now.

“He’s not someone prone to look backward,” Darling says.

Read the story at Rhapsody magazine.

Traveling Exhibitions

August 16th, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

0814 ExhibitionsThis month, Met Adventures — a new way to experience the expertise of one of the world’s great cultural institutions, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC — takes a trip to Spain, and the medieval pilgrimage route El Camino de Santiago. The Met isn’t alone, as many museums now offer similar (and invariably high-end) travel programs to distant lands, from Africa to Antarctica. Travelers are accompanied by in-house lecturers or curators who provide their own insight throughout. Here are four notable upcoming excursions:

“Tracing Ancient Buddhism: A Journey to Sri Lanka” with Met Adventures Sept. 12-23, 2014

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new series of outings for art lovers includes this exploration of Sri Lanka’s Buddhist legacy, from the monasteries of Anuradhapura to the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. “The beauty of the ancient cities of Sri Lanka is unmatched in the Buddhist world,” says John Guy, the Florence and Herbert Irving Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art at the Met, who will be leading the expedition. “This trip will provide a window onto the beauties of early Buddhist art.”

“Experiences of a Lifetime” with American Museum of Natural History Expeditions Oct 31-Nov 16, 2014

This excursion aims to give travelers a lifetime of experiences in 17 days, going by private jet to seven see-before-you-die destinations: Jordan, London, The Taj Mahal, The Maldives, Rwanda, and Morocco. But the luxury of the trip is secondary to the insight of the lecturers on board. “Curators enhance travelers’ experience in ways that are transformative and provide an understanding of the work of cultural institutions in a global context,” says Alex de Voogt, curator of African Ethnology for AMNH, who will be one of two guides on the outing.

“Battle of the Bulge: 70th Anniversary Tour” with The National WWII Museum Tours Dec 11-20, 2014

The New Orleans–based museum takes history buffs behind the lines on several tours, including this one hosted by Alex Kershaw, author of The Bedford Boys and The Few, among others. Participants will take part in anniversary celebrations in Belgium and Luxembourg and tour the battlefield of Ardennes at the time the attack actually occurred seven decades ago.

“Expedition to Antarctica” with Smithsonian Journeys Jan 26-Feb 8, 2015

The world’s largest museum also boasts a rich and extensive list of travel programs, including this voyage to the White Continent through the famed sea lanes of Beagle Channel and Drake Passage. Jim Zimbelman, planetary geologist at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, will lead the expedition through highlights including the awe-inspiring ice cliffs of Paradise Bay and nearly intact skeleton of a full-size blue whale.

Read the story in United Airlines’ Rhapsody.

Lowcountry Cuisine

August 3rd, 2014 | Author: | No Comments »

Lee Bros Charleston Wild Dunes“When you’re traveling, the best experiences are the ones that connect you to the place you’re traveling through, so you feel like a local.” That’s how Ted Lee, one half of Charleston, SC-based culinary duo, the Lee Bros., describes the benefits of his and brother Matt’s new Group Culinary Experience at Wild Dunes Resort (located on the Isle of Palms, about a half-hour drive east of South Carolina’s capital city). The program gives meeting groups the chance to not only learn about Charleston-area culinary traditions and history, but to take part themselves in preparing southern specialties like oyster pie, she-crab soup, and banana pudding.

From launching a successful mail-order catalog of southern pantry favorites (The Lee Bros. Boiled Peanuts Catalogue), to a James Beard Award-winning cookbook (The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook), to frequent appearances on the Food Network, the siblings have created a cottage industry around the food they grew up eating in downtown Charleston. Now, the duo has partnered with Wild Dunes Resort to bring their brand of cuisine to meetings.

Groups of 10 to 250 can take part in one of several culinary experiences, in which the Lee Bros. will provide cooking demonstrations and tell the stories and history behind Lowcountry (the local term for the region around South Carolina’s southern coast) cooking. Themed cooking classes include “The Lowcountry’s Greatest Hits,” with favorites like shrimp and grits, Hoppin’ John (a dish of peas, rice, and bacon), and banana pudding; or “Simple Fresh Southern” with contemporary Southern food such as honeydew wine coolers, pimento cheese potato gratin, and cornmeal drop biscuit peach cobbler. Groups can sign up for a full meal, a demonstration with tasting samples, or just the demonstration.

“When we serve Lowcountry cooking and tell stories about it, we’re connecting people, through taste-immersion, with what makes Charleston so enchanting and unique,” says Ted Lee. Matt Lee adds that the area’s cooking is especially conducive to groups because “it’s fundamentally a luscious, crowd-pleasing cuisine.”

Read the rest at Successful Meetings.