Archive for August, 2012

House Envy

August 20, 2012

“When he was on the board of the Danvers Preservation Commission, Mr. Archer, who seems to have a finger in every artistic and architectural endeavor in town, fought to save the Danvers State Hospital. A mental institution built in the 1870s, it was not merely a Gothic masterpiece as far as Mr. Archer was concerned, but ‘a testament to the human condition no less formidable than the Hermitage or Buckingham Palace.’

“The fight to preserve the building failed and much of it was torn down, but Mr. Archer paid $6,000 to remove a turret and have it hauled over to his place, along with bricks, hunks of granite, window frames and other odds and ends. (The rumor that he also managed to salvage a lobotomy machine is false, he says, as lobotomies were done with needles, but yes, he does have some of those.)


The turret lay on his lawn for a few years, until earlier this summer, when he was finally able to transform it, with the help of Robert D. Farley, an architect in Ipswich, Mass., into what he calls the Danvers wing. That was about $225,000, a figure that includes the walkway to the music room.”

— From an article entitled “Scrap Mansion” in the NYT four days ago.  DANVERS 4 EVA!

Rhetorical (I Hope) Question

August 20, 2012

Should I feel bad about the fact that I’m a “writer” and yet very often use a Thesaurus?

Hunting for Unicorns

August 17, 2012

When I was a kid, my family and would often go up to Mackinac Island, a tiny little isle that sits in the place where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet (kind of).  Mackinac was enchanting to me as a child because it existed in kind of a time bubble –– there were (and still are) no cars on the island, the most prevalent type of establishment is fudge shops, and the homes are these enormous Victorian palaces that seemed like they must have housed the wealthiest and most sophisticated of fur traders.  I was always most intrigued by two things about Mackinac: the first was that there were actual people who lived their all year round (how many?  I guessed maybe 60, but according to the 2010 census, it’s actually 492) but the lives of those who made their homes on wind-swept, isolated dots of land surrounded by water fascinated me regardless of specific Island.  The second reason was the Grand Hotel, a 385-room white tank of a building on the hillside, a testament to WASPy days-gone-by, complete with the world’s longest porch (reputedly), high tea every day, uniformed ethnic maids and a shrine to the Christopher Reeves movie Somewhere in Time, which was filmed there, in the lobby.

My beloved boyfriend was sweet enough during this last visit to indulge me on a $10 (a person!) self-guided “tour” (read: entrance fee, and that’s it) around the Grand Hotel.  As we wandered the halls looking at the art –– which fell into one of two categories: “chintzy” or “satirical” –– I came across the below article, framed:

October is Unicorn Questing Month

In search of a one-horned medieval symbol of purity

by Mark Abley

The Gazette

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” a poet once called it. Today we know it was a month of pumpkins and red trees, Thanksgiving and the World Series.

But October has other meanings, too. Just ask Bill Rabe.

A retired public-relations man, he lives in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., just a stone’s throw away from Canada. At 70, he’s reached an age when a lot of men slow down.

Not Bill Rabe. For him, January brings Dancing Cuckoo Week, June means World Sauntering Day, and July had the Mackinac Island Stone Skipping Tournament.

But Rabe’s year is crowned by October. For on Mackinac Island, not far from Sault Ste. Marie, October is Unicorn Questing Month.

Be warned: a quest is not the same thing as a hunt.

“Only thing you can hunt on the island is a squirrel,” Rabe says. “Of course, a deer will swim over from the mainland sometimes.”

And couldn’t deer be related to the fabulous unicorn?

“Not at all,” Rabe retorts. “Deer have got too many horns.”

A unicorn, you’ll remember, has only one horn, growing proudly in the middle of its pale forehead. Unicorns have been rumored to exist for millennia – the Bible contains a few references to them – but nobody ever suceeded [ed. note: sic] in capturing one. In the Middle Ages, the unicorn became a symbol of purity, often linked to virginity.

Unicorns also were a symbol of truth: “If you stood in front of a unicorn and you were guilty,” Rabe says, “he would shish-kebab you.”

Now in the forests of Mackinac Island, during the first 11 days of October, Unicorn Questing Season is reserved for people with bows and arrows. At other times, Rabe’s official licenses say, questing devices may include general levity, iambic pentameter and sweet talk.

The season culminates in Unicorn Follies, a weekend of revelry at the Grand Hotel. A four-storey building, built in 1887, it lives up to its name: the hotel has more than 300 rooms and 500 staff.

The follies begin with a cocktail party at which questing licenses are issued, new members welcomed, and everybody listens to a tape of the Irish Rovers droning on about unicorns. When enough rusty nails and brown cows have been imbibed, in walks a fair maiden with a unicorn on her arm.

“The unicorn is my son James,” Rabe explains. “He’s 22, and he’ll do anything to wear a tuxedo. So he gets dressed up in a white tie and tails, and then he puts on a rubber unicorn mask.”

James Rabe and his rubber mask reappear at the costume ball. One year a bush and quail showed up; another year, two people came disguised as Hershey bars.

“At the bottom of her costume,” Bill Rabe recalls, “the woman wore a little sign: NO NUTS.”

To wash down the drinks, there’s a lavish buffet, for which the hotel chef carves a meter-long unicorn out of ice. You don’t have to worry about drinking and driving, because Mackinac Island has no cars.

When the guests have dispersed, Rabe returns to Sault Ste. Marie. But he doesn’t just wait for Dancing Cuckoo Week; all year long, he does publicity for the unicorn.

Since the Unicorn Questers were born 21 years ago, Rabe has given out more than 80,000 licenses. A unicorn also appears in the seal of his Sons of the Desert Society.

The Sons of the Desert, in case you were wondering, are devoted to Laurel and Hardy films. In Rabe’s mind, if no one else’s, they’re associated with Hush Labels, which produces silent records.

Back to the unicorn. “It’s a symbol of the impossible dream,” Rabe says. “It’s a symbol of why man is here. It’s a symbol of the meaning of life.”

And what is the meaning of life?

Well, if you want to join the Unicorn Questing Society, you have to swear the following oath: “I was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad.”


This year’s edition of Unicorn Follies has been sold out for weeks. If you’d like to go next year, be ready to fork out about $500 U.S. a couple per weekend.

For more information, write:

W.T. Rabe, 1204 Davitt, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. 49783, U.S.A.

So my task now is to write to the above address (though I fear Bill Rabe has expired?) to inquire about this year’s festival, and, failing that, to contact the Mackinac newspaper.  I want to attend and write something about it.  Or maybe just attend.  Whatevs.

Interestingly enough, this is one of at least two nonsensical holidays born at the Grand Hotel.  World Sauntering Day, another of Rabe’s faves, was created “to remind us to take it easy, smell the roses, to slow down and enjoy life as opposed to rushing through it.”



August 16, 2012

Bunny chair.  Best thing ever.  $3,100.  Some day!

by Merve Kahraman


August 15, 2012

For my PhD application:

“And here religion comes to the rescue and takes our fate into her hands.  There is a state of mind, known to religious men, but to no others, in which the will to assert ourselves and hold our own has been displaced by a willingness to close our mouths and be as nothing in the floods and waterspouts of God.  In this state of mind, what we most dreaded has become the habitation of our safety, and the hour of our moral death has turned into our spiritual birthday.  The time for tension in our soul is over, and that of happy relaxation, of calm deep breathing, of an eternal present, with no discordant future to be anxious about, has arrived.  Fear is not held in abeyance as it is by mere morality, it is positively expunged and washed away.”

Thanks, WJ.  I do feel better now.

(Varieties of Religious Experience)

This Game Is Really Fun

August 14, 2012

… but why is it still kind of scary?!  Cause I’m a chicken even when I can’t see the person’s face.

Live Chat with J. Crew online shopping specialist.

Thank you for shopping J.Crew–a specialist will be with you shortly.

You are now chatting with Sara S.

You: Hi Sara

Sara S: Hello! How may I help you today?

You: Well I’m looking at these Macalister High-Hell Ankle Boots

You: and they’re really nice, similar to a style I’ve wanted for a while

You: but then I’m plagued by this nagging existential nausea that after this, there will just be more to want

You: and forever and ever, until we die

Sara S: Did you have any other questions for me regarding our merchandise?

You: Do these boots run small at all?

Sara S: May I have the item number?

You: 98527

Sara S: No, but if you are a half-size, you should order up.

You: Because of socks, probably.

Sara S: No, it is because this item is not offered in half sizes.

You: Oh, yes, or that.

You: Are you a real person?

Sara S: Did you have any other questions about any other items?

Sara S: Yes, I am.

You: Wow. Technology.

Macalister Boots do not come in half sizes, and do not ward against death.


Terrible Tuesday

August 14, 2012

me:  i am being useless

Sent at 1:27 PM on Tuesday

LB:  by definition i am useless

A Gig For Me

August 14, 2012

“Tino Seghal makes what he calls ‘constructed situations.’  He uses the raw materials of voice, language, and movement to build pieces of art.  For ‘This Progress’ (2010), he filled the rotunda of the Guggenheim with a corps of ‘interpreters’ –– children, teen-agers, baby boomers, octogenarians –– who, according to a set of rules devised by Sehgal, engaged each visitor in a conversation, delivering him to progressively older interlocutors as he spiralled up the museum’s ramp.  The piece, which made intimates of strangers, was exhilarating.  Visitors shared such confidences as, ‘The smaller the diamond, the better the marriage’ and ‘Mr. Hitler ruined my childhood.’  Some of them left in tears.  (The critic Jerry Saltz pointed out that it was the only work of art he’d ever encountered that could cry back.)  ‘This Progress’ reflected Sehgal’s desire to redefine art as the transformation of actions rather than of things.  ‘What my work is about is, Can something that is not an inanimate object be considered valuable?’ Sehgal said recently.  He is, in a sense, an architect of interaction.  His works are collaborations, new builds on human turfs.”

— New Yorker article entitled “The Question Artist”

So now I have to write to Tino Sehgal and offer myself up as an “interpreter” (for a nominal fee) for his next NYC-based project.  Here’s to hoping I have more luck with him than I did with Ms. Abramovic.

Eh, Fuck It

August 13, 2012

So I’ve tried to really not post too many pretty things that I want to be purchased for me because my boyfriend is one of three followers of this blog and sometimes calls me out on basically keeping a running tally of all the gifts I would like him to give me (sometimes he’s right, sometimes not).  And this one is PARTICULARLY bad, because it’s a RING, and I’m not saying I need to get married now or any bullshit like that (trust me, I’m about done with the whole idea of a wedding at all right now, given recent experiences), but I saw this engagement ring on a shopping website the other day and am. officially. obsessed.


It’s a black fucking diamond.  So badass, and yet so beautiful.  The perfect antidote to all the boringly pure whites out there.

So why am I doing something so blatantly idiotic as posting an engagement ring when I know my boyfriend –– logical and fearless a thinker he may be –– looks at this site?  Well, it seems pretty obvious to me, a devotee of Walker Percy and all, that a lot of e-activity these days is a paltry attempt at ownership –– as in, we post a link to an article that we like because it allows us to feel that we have some active hand in its creation, or a picture of a blouse we may have seen online because by keeping a simulacrum of it on our blog (in our domain), it’s a bit like having it in our own closets.  In other words, passing the thing on, announcing our love of it, commenting on it online, these are the closest experiences we can ever have to owning the thing 100%, and while of course we should all aim towards some degree of needless Buddhist existence (especially American active-Facebookers), sometimes you can’t help but want to have something, to touch it and to keep it for yourself.  So basically I just want this beautiful thing, even in a way that is so pathetically by-proxy and associative, and I’m succumbing to my desire for one <500 word post.  I wanted to announce my attraction to it so much that I emailed a pretty prominent professional blogger who writes about cutesy stuff like baby clothes and NYC date ideas and told her she should post it.  Her response:

“haha, you are so cute!! thank you so much for writing:) oh wow, this ring is gorgeous; i really love it. i’d love to post about it soon. thank you so much for the great idea!!”

So maybe she will and maybe she won’t, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t good enough for me.  I wanted to claim it for myself, so here we are.

This is the catalyst for the creation of another retro-category, I believe: new lows.


Back from the Mish

August 12, 2012

Back from northern Michigan, feeling like absolute death for various reasons, but thought I would share this uncharacteristically scatological bit of self-made humor with you: the other day I was taking a shit and eating a piece of toast at the same time and I thought, amused at myself, “Ah, the Circle of Life!”