In Search of Sleep, with Bob Ross

In Search of Sleep, with Bob Ross

It seems only fair that, since our phones keep us awake at night as we scroll helplessly through our feeds, and then wake us up in the morning with an alarm, they should also help us fall asleep once in a while. Recently, the sleeping and meditation app Calm added the famously soothing voice of Bob Ross, the painting instructor with big hair, who hosted the television program “The Joy of Painting,” which ran on PBS from 1983 to 1994.

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The Magazine Antiques: Handle with Care #5

The Magazine Antiques: Handle with Care #5

Deadly sins by design at the Cooper-Hewitt; masterpieces of Italian glass sell at Wright; a discovery of ancient pottery rewrites the history of winemaking

Thanksgiving is behind us, and Saturnalia—the ancient Roman equivalent of the holiday season—is right around the corner. The Romans celebrated the annual festival in honor of Saturn, their god of agriculture, time, and liberation, by turning rules and regulations upside down—feasting, drinking, and generally poking fun at their society’s hierarchies.

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The Magazine Antiques: Handle with Care #4

The Magazine Antiques: Handle with Care #4

In this edition: Soviet ceramics; the Met’s adorable hippopotami; and inspired British pottery at Yale

Russophiles know that this month marks 100th anniversary of Russia’s October Revolution. Perhaps less well known is the fascinating ‘porcelain revolution’ that unfolded in the wake of the political upheaval. Russia’s 18th and 19th century elites had a taste for fine china. The famously western-oriented and modernizing Russian emperor Peter the Great visited Dresden in 1718, and, delighted by the delicate wares he saw there, tried establishing a porcelain manufactory at home, to no avail. His daughter, the Empress Elizabeth, succeeded where Peter had failed: in 1744, she established the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg, under the technical direction of a mining engineer named Dmitri Vinogradov, who developed his own formula for making ‘true’ (kaolin-based) porcelain. The nobility dined on porcelain dinner services, gifted one another porcelain tea sets and painted figurines, and, this being Russia, meticulously decorated porcelain Easter eggs.

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The Magazine Antiques: Handle with Care #3

The Magazine Antiques: Handle with Care #3

Autumn is an ideal time for a visit to the Corning Museum of Glass in New York’s Finger Lakes region. As the leaf-changing season peaks, an equally dazzling display awaits inside, where daily glass-blowing demonstrations draw crowds so transfixed that they forget to Instagram the experience. Corning’s permanent collection galleries hold glass vessels, lighting fixtures, jewelry and even furniture dating as far back as Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. Glass treasures like ancient Roman cage cups are miraculous to behold in their finished state, but the chance to watch glass being formed into a decorated cup or vase, deftly, quickly, and seemingly without fear, is unforgettable.

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The Magazine Antiques: Handle with Care #2

The Magazine Antiques: Handle with Care #2

It’s the height of summer, and like the shimmery dragonflies and beetles of the season, fin de siècle-style iridescence seems to be in the air these days. The New York Historical Society unveiled “A New Light on Tiffany,” a luminous re-installation of its famed collection of Tiffany lamps in late April of this year, and in addition to its dreamy exhibition space, designed by Czech architect Eva Jiricna, the long-overlooked story of the “Tiffany Girls” now takes center stage.

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The Magazine Antiques: Handle With Care #1

The Magazine Antiques: Handle With Care #1

The new and noteworthy in the worlds of ceramics and glass can come from any part of the globe, and indeed any century. This month’s crop of highlights range from vintage Americana to contemporary art, with the requisite dash of midcentury style in between.

The quirks and fascinating history of Anna Pottery will be on full view when a rare find from the Illinois studio goes up for sale on June 17 at Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates in Mt. Crawford, VA. Anna Pottery isn’t as well-known among collectors as other nineteenth century American ceramics like Rookwood or Grueby, and that may be because unlike the serene and floral ware produced by the famous Arts and Crafts potteries, Anna pottery had an agenda.

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Why the Closing of the Museum of Contemporary Craft Is a Major Loss

Why the Closing of the Museum of Contemporary Craft Is a Major Loss

The next time you find yourself hate-reading a fawning profile of a photogenic young Brooklyn potter whose hot-pink-rimmed wares are transforming the “stuffy world of ceramics into a cool new craft” (or something to that effect), navigate yourself away from there, and instead visit the website of the Museum of Contemporary Craft (MoCC) in Portland, Oregon. Here you will find a digital record of nimble cultural production that will knock your socks off. If you’re not already familiar with this small but mighty 79-year-old institution, its website will introduce you to an array of exhibitions, events, and programs that have helped shaped high-level thinking about craft practice in the 20th and 21st centuries.

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How Dutch Wax Fabrics Became a Mainstay of African Fashion

How Dutch Wax Fabrics Became a Mainstay of African Fashion

Riotously colorful, densely patterned, and unassailably fabulous, Vlisco fabrics have, for decades, been tailored into shift dresses, power suits, and formal gowns for Central and West Africa’s cosmopolitan elite. Their patterns and palettes evince an instantly recognizable aesthetic. And there are scores of Vlisco imitators: Chinese knockoffs are sold on city streets all over the world. But are any of these fabrics in fact African? The exhibition Vlisco: African Fashion on a Global Stage, on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) as part of a suite of shows and programs called “Creative Africa,” poses this question in an indirect but intriguing way, by explaining the company’s origins in the Dutch colonial empire and demonstrating its products’ lasting popularity, in African fashion and beyond.

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The Democratic Cup

The Democratic Cup

Since the advent of online journalism, social media, and the increasingly partisan landscape of cable news, Americans have started to do something that researchers call “self-segregating” when it comes to learning about politics and current events. Many of us are watching, just not together: according to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of Nielsen Media Research data, the 2016 presidential election has led to an 8 percent jump in prime time viewership of cable news. The revenues for the three major channels, CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC, are projected to increase by 10 percent to about $4 billion this year. That’s certainly good for TV, but it’s probably not good for us.

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This Hilarious Star Trek Podcast Perfectly Captures the Spirit of The Next Generation

This Hilarious Star Trek Podcast Perfectly Captures the Spirit of The Next Generation

Star Trek reruns are a little like Carpenters greatest hits albums: You’ll rarely find someone proclaiming unironic devotion to either one, but clearly someone is watching and listening, because ratings and sales figures don’t lie. Nerdy self-consciousness aside, 2016 has been a big year for Star Trek. Following on the heels of 2009’s acclaimed feature film reboot directed by J.J. Abrams, and Star Trek Into Darkness in 2013, the franchise’s latest offering, Star Trek Beyond, has been met with praise by critics and fans alike. The recent newfangled Trek films have lots of panache, and at their best, they pay sincere and beautifully realized homage to the original series. But for people who came of age in the late 1980s and early ’90s, it will always be the commanding BBC gravitas of Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard—along with that series’ generally impressive acting, sharp writing, and spurts of earnest goofiness—that sets the standard for Trek fare. Fortunately, there’s now a place for fans of the original show to revel in nostalgia while discovering that series anew: the smart and hilarious Star Trek podcast The Greatest Generation.

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Ceramic Vases that Contain All the Beauty and Ugliness of US History

Ceramic Vases that Contain All the Beauty and Ugliness of US History

Of all the astonishing things Roberto Lugo has done in his career — from creating a DIY potter’s wheel and mixing his own clay from dirt in an urban scrapyard, to creating a new genre of hip-hop-inflected political porcelain — the most radical might be that he is head over heels in love with something rather uncool in the contemporary art world: skill. In his exhibition Defacing Adversity: The Life and Times of Roberto Lugo at Wexler Gallery, Lugo’s creations are bursting with wit and formal mastery, even as they sport the drips and brush marks of graffiti and liberally-applied glaze. The vessels exude a forceful sense of patriotic bling; for his first solo exhibition in his native city, in a gallery within walking distance of Independence Hall, Lugo celebrates the US founding fathers, public intellectuals of color, musicians, poets, and presidential candidates.

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The Bauhaus Connection in Google’s New Logo

The Bauhaus Connection in Google’s New Logo

When the news broke yesterday that Google had a brand new logo — the biggest change to its visual identity since its inception in 1998 — the design twitterverse exploded with commentary about the thickness of the new letterforms and their conspicuous lack of serifs. On Tuesday morning, typographers chimed in with praise and scorn, often about the perception that the rounded characters paired with the company’s signature color-block hues seem too childlike for a technology behemoth. But what Google introduced is actually much more complex than a new logo: it’s a new identity system, comprehensive in its design and intended to visually unify the disparate ways in which we all interact with Google products (whether we like it or not) every day.

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The Labyrinth of Litchfield

The Labyrinth of Litchfield

In the third season of Orange Is the New Black, which premiered on Friday, Piper Chapman is no longer be the central focus of the story. Over the course of the season, characters we haven’t heard much from before, including the soft-spoken Chang, get their backstories revealed, and new characters arrive to offer Litchfield Penitentiary more intrigue.  This has long been one of the best things about OITNB: the way it pivots from prison scenes to places on the outside—the homes, apartments, playgrounds, and schools where characters had lives before jail—then back again to the beige halls of Litchfield.

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50 Shades of Beige

50 Shades of Beige

FX’s Cold War spy thriller The Americanswhich returns Wednesday for its third season, benefits from the sort of reverse novelty that made early Mad Men so enchanting: It lets us remember (or imagine) what it was like to live in the days of phone booths, cabinet-sized computers, and TVs with rabbit-ear antennae. The Jennings’ studied suburban ordinariness makes all the intrigue of their day jobs seem even more ludicrous. Elizabeth does laundry in their harvest-gold washer and dryer; Philip serves the kids waffles. Then they strap on Colt handguns and dart off to assassinate a scheming Russian oligarch or covertly test the loyalty of an unwitting fellow KGB spy. At night, they come home from “the office” to chat about movies or baseball with the kids as if nothing unusual had happened at all.

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Shopping for a Modernist Holiday Tablescape at the Cooper Hewitt

Shopping for a Modernist Holiday Tablescape at the Cooper Hewitt

One of my favorite holiday memories from my school days on East 91st Street (where I sported a very fashion-forward plaid jumper until age 11) is of browsing the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum‘s gift shop in search of exquisite, handmade Christmas ornaments and educational stocking stuffers. To the delight of design lovers everywhere, the 1902 Carnegie Mansion that the Museum calls it home is now the site of a brand new shop full of inventive and wonderful things just in time for the holidays.

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Photographs from a 1950s Cross-Dressing Retreat

Photographs from a 1950s Cross-Dressing Retreat

An elegant black envelope arrived in my mailbox last week. Inside is a square, burgundy-colored folder containing a catalogue of 1950 and ’60s snapshots. On the cover, an off-white, hand-lettered logo reads “Casa Susanna.” The photographs reproduced inside appear at first glance to portray a group of women at leisure: posing in the kitchen, dressed smartly for dinner, sporting fashionable bathing suits, sitting in a field of wildflowers. They are to be sold as a single lot by Wright auction house on October 30.

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They Ferment for Each Other

They Ferment for Each Other

You’ve probably heard the one about the guy who raised $75,000 on Kickstarter to fund a nebulous potato salad project with no business plan, no recipe, and no particular sense of what kind of potato salad he was interested in making. I wish him well, but it’s high time the Internet supported a group of savory snack food entrepreneurs with a viable plan for scaling up, and some surprising health and environmental benefits to offer their neighborhood and customers. A new pickle company has emerged in Philadelphia, going by the evocative name Gary Ducket, founded by five guys who love brine and sustainable farming practices.

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How Design Tells the Story on Masters of Sex

How Design Tells the Story on Masters of Sex

Mad Men has trained a generation of TV watchers to become eagle-eyed connoisseurs of Saarinen furniture, IBM Selectric Typewriters, and Western Electric Model 500 telephones, raising the bar for set designers who are acutely aware that accuracy counts. But designers also know that television sets are not museum installations: The verisimilitude of physical details must work in tandem with aesthetic choices that help us understand who characters are.

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The (Tortured) Soul of Wit

The (Tortured) Soul of Wit

Try to imagine Grumpy Cat as a professor of German literature at an Ivy League university, haunted by deep misgivings about his role in academia. Now imagine that he has opposable thumbs, an iPhone and a love of wry German aphorisms, and you might end up with something pretty close in spirit to Eric Jarosinski’s Twitter feed, @NeinQuarterly. Nein’s avatar is a stylized rendering of lovable Frankfurt School misanthrope Theodor W. Adorno, who is depicted sporting a monocle that he didn’t wear in real life, but plausibly could have. 

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