Due to the immediacy and ease of email, it sometimes seems tangible stationary has gone the way of the Dodo. Graphic design may be just as important on a screen, but personal paper correspondence is rare. That is why the LETTERHEADY blog is so fascinating. It collects examples of famous figure’s distinctive letterhead. Some are exceedingly simple, as Leonard Cohen, Saul Bass and Enzo Ferrari. Others are more elaborate and colorful, such as those of artists like Dr. Seuss, Andy Warhol, and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Houdini had the option for either, in the same year:

Two of my favorites combine color and simplicity, and personal nostalgia:

Whatever the design, the style speaks volumes about the person or company it represents. What does ours say?



Found in the New York streets: a strangely ambitious list of mediocre popular movies. Hey, at least the kid’s got goals. Soon, he or she will have a Netflix queue a mile long, just like the rest of us.



The provocative Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has finally been released by the Chinese government after 80 days in detention with no charge. Ai Weiwei has been an outspoken challenger of Communist Party rule, both in statements and in his art, but he was uncharacteristically tight-lipped as he emerged from his long imprisonment.

His work constantly questioned traditions in China, especially accepted ideas about the possession and value of art and antiquities. He famously dipped neolithic Chinese clay vessels in bright-colored paint, and photographed himself dropping a Han Dynasty urn which smashed into pieces on the stone ground he stood on. Destroying those symbols of Chinese craft and longevity was a statement that earned him attention and notoriety.

Just as the artist disappeared, his monumental work “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” was installed at Somerset House in London. This sculpture installation addresses the problem of looted art and antiquities, referencing the Imperial Haiyantang water clock, where twelve bronze heads, each an animal of the zodiac, spouted water on the hour.

During the Second Opium War in 1860, French and British forces looted the Imperial Summer Palace and seized the bronze figures, exporting them from the country. Some have surfaced in private collections, such as the Rabbit and Rat held by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé until 2009, while others have been recovered by China and others remain missing.

The installation re-imagines the bronze heads in their formation around an active fountain, and reminds the viewer of the millions of objects around the world removed from their origin cultures by force.

Another Chinese artist whose work interacts with the history of art and material culture also has an installation in London, at the British Museum. Xu Bing created “Background Story 7” as a “dialogue” with a 1654 Chinese landscape painted on a hanging scroll by Wang Shimin.

Xu Bing’s image seems to simply copy the familiar brushstrokes of the 17th century traditional landscape in a modern medium, a large-scale light-and-shadow box. However, a surprise awaits as the viewer walks behind the work. The image is a silhouette meticulously constructed with branches, tape, paper and other refuse. It is a fascinating process and truly makes one question one’s assumptions about how art is created, and challenge one’s capacity to renew vision.


Fat Tuesday, Film

Woody Allen has always thrived on charm. Throughout his career, his unconventional charm made him his own best leading man. His writing and directing lent his fellow actors his adorably flustered cadences, and his love of New York brought the charming city to life on screen. It follows then, that his latest film, “Midnight in Paris” relies almost purely on charm, and succeeds. There is a little more substance, but not much, and that’s ok. Allen finds an actor in Owen Wilson who starts with his own charisma and adds a classic Woody impression to the performance much more naturally and enjoyably than Scarlett Johansson’s panicking “nerd” in the painful “Scoop”.

Other characters are familiar to the Allen oeuvre, picked up by new talents like Michael Sheen, who channels Alan Alda’s narcissistic know-it-all in “Crimes and Misdemeanors”. After capturing New York and London, Allen finds a new muse in Paris, the ultimate city of enchantment, and banks on the seductive presence of a long list of literary and art world heroes.

The incarnation of Ernest Hemingway provided the most amusing scenes in the film, delivering tongue-in-cheek lines in the frank, deadpan manner of his writing style. Hemingway waxes monotonously poetic about truth and writing, Paris, love, bravery, honesty and good meals, as he does in A Moveable Feast, his brilliant memoir about living as a poor writer in Lost-Generation Paris with his first wife Hadley.

“Midnight in Paris” explores the nature of nostalgia, and A Moveable Feast has that feeling as well, as Hemingway recounts romantically on this time long past in his life. About his lifestyle and sharing it with his wife, he writes that although they were young and poor, “…we ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.”

Brasserie Balzar’s Midnight Onion Soup
La Gratinée de Minuit Brasserie Balzar

3 pounds onions
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
2/3 cup dry white wine, such as Sancerre
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
Several sprigs fresh thyme, wrapped in cheesecloth
Several fresh or dried bay leaves
8 thin slices baguette, toasted
1 pound Swiss Gruyère cheese, freshly grated

1. Peel the onions and halve them vertically. Cut the halves lengthwise into thin slices.

2. In a 10-quart stockpot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the oil, onions, and salt, and stir to coat the onions. Cook, covered, over low heat– stirring occasionally so the onions do not scorch– just until the onions are soft but still pale, about 15 minutes.

3. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir to coat the onions. Immediately add the stock, wine, 4 quarts water, the white pepper, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves. Bring just to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low. Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

4. Preheat the broiler.

5. Ladle the soup into individual ovenproof soup bowls. Top each serving with a slice of toasted baguette. Cover the bread with a thick coating of grated Gruyère. Place under the broiler. As soon as the cheese begins to bubble, serve the soup.

Brasserie Balzar
49, rue des Ecoles
Paris 5
Métro Odéon or Cluny-La Sorbonne

Recipe courtesy of: Patricia Wells. The Paris Cookbook. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2001.




Aside from simply loving movies of all genres and eras, I’ve always felt there was a really good reason to fill out my personal watched list: to catch every single joke on The Simpsons. From the beginning, The Simpsons referenced and parodied tons of film classics, but if you haven’t seen them, those allusions go right over your head. Familiarity with the original is similarly satisfying when viewing remakes. During a summer when it seems that Hollywood has no ideas of its own and every movie is a rehashing of something else, its easy to see remakes in a bad light. But for every affront to a brilliant original (Ahem, Disturbia, a hopeless re-imagining of Alfred Hitchcock’s flawless Rear Window), there are a few pairs of which the original and reinterpretation are surprising and unique.

Woody Allen took frequent inspiration from cerebral European directors like Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini and twisted them into his own quirky, self deprecating romps. The epic samurai films of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa were perfect to adapt into the Western genre by pioneers like Sergio Leone and John Sturges. So, as blockbuster season bombards you with lackluster remakes, think about looking back to some tried-and-truly satisfying classics and their masterful homages.

Smiles of A Summer Night, 1955- Ingmar Bergman
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, 1982- Woody Allen

8 1/2, 1963- Federico Fellini
Stardust Memories, 1980- Woody Allen

Yojimbo, 1961- Akira Kurosawa
A Fistful of Dollars, 1964- Sergio Leone

The Seven Samurai, 1954- Akira Kurosawa
The Magnificent Seven, 1960- John Sturges