January 3, 2011
In my 20's I went there regularly, not for the food—I never had a truly great meal there—but for the crowd. It was the type of place you might run into Woody Allen or Gregory Peck, you might be seated next to a table of pinky-ringed Italian men in shark skin suits, or you might find yourself next to a Mets pitcher who ate there for good luck. Why this place? The room was nothing special, just a dark rectangle hung with low grade office ceiling tile. The lighting was lousy, and there were those damned plastic flowers in cheap sconces. It wasn't like Dan Tana's in LA, with it's red leather booths and feel of faded glamour. Gino's was almost lowbrow, but it had an irresistible sense of style regardless. The yellow door was just the right yellow, the green sign was EXACTLY what it was supposed to be, and the red zebra wallpaper was... well, perfect. The zebras, in addition to being on the walls, could be found on the matches and the napkins and the doors to the bathrooms. Gino must have known he was on to something, because those zebras became design icons in their own right. Without the zebras, the room is nothing special. I always said the zebras helped carry the place through time.
When the restaurant was slated to close Gay Talese wrote, "All the items on the menu appear on a single plastic-covered page and were handwritten in ink sixty-five years ago by the restaurant’s founder, Gino Circiello, a dapper and debonair trendsetter in 1945 who thereafter ignored all trends. Even a year after his death at eighty-nine, in 2001, when the restaurant was described in the Zagat Survey as “frozen in the 40’s,” the regulars liked to boast that, at Gino’s, nothing was new: within the zebra-covered walls of this place everything remained the same, including the fact that a stripe was missing from the rumps of half the zebras—a mistake made by the original designer which Mr. Gino, a superstitious Italian of Neapolitan origin, chose not to correct, because to do so, he feared, might bring him bad luck." (full article)
Don't know why I was thinking about Gino's today, but I wanted the wallpaper for my computer. I couldn't find a digital copy so I made one myself: Gino's Digital Zebra Wallpaper. I left the stripe off the rump.
January 7, 2011
This set of photographs from the the Sydney Police Department collected on the French visual culture site La Boite Verte is pretty astounding, I was reminded that Alec Soth showcased the same archive a few few years ago in a blog post titled Why Bother?.
I finally dug through the original archive myself at the The Historic Houses Trust site today. It's well worth the visit. The site allows download of full resolution versions of the images and provides context. Many of the descriptions are like that famous 6 word Hemingway short, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."
More images to whet your appetite:
January 25, 2011
Phillip Toledano has created a new body of work titled Kim Jong Phil. He writes:
"For my palette, I've copied pre-existing dictatorial art. Paintings from North Korea, statues of assorted dictators (Kim Il Sung, Laurent Kabilla, and Saddam Hussein). I had these works re-created in China, and each instance, I've replaced the great leaders with myself."
January 29, 2011
When I was a kid I thought if I could memorize the encyclopedia that I could understand the whole world. Good old fashioned paper encyclopedias are almost extinct these days, but I recently discovered the Smithsonian Natural History visual reference. It's a visual encyclopedia for the natural world with 600 pages and thousands of photographs. In my house it's quickly become a favorite. My kids use it constantly, for projects or just to discover something new. Best of all it's only around $30. Easily the best $30 I've spent on my kids in ages.
Related: More books I recommend for kids