Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Object of My Affection: Diplo-gifts by Kara Ross...

If you wander around the diplo-circles long enough, you get wind of some really strange gifts that people are given through diplomatic channels.  As junior diplomats, you aren't allowed to keep much of anything - you pretty much have to declare it and hand it it unless it truly is a small-change trinket.  The gamut runs from ties to pens, and of course, random doodads featuring engravings of the gifting countries. 

At the head of state or ambassador level, that where things get interesting - countries start giving out things like shepherd dogs which young staffers are then tasked with caring for while they find them a home.  You might even get some swords or art or a "large desert scene on a green veined marble base featuring miniature figurines of gold palm trees and camels; large gold medallion with the Royal seal in a green leather display box; large brass and glass clock by Jaeger-LeCoultre in a green leather display case" (who's up for a round of name that oil-producing, generously gift-giving country?).  If you're curious about what the US receives, you can see the full list by the State Department every year.

But anyway, after a few slips of their own in the gifting department, the Obama White House recently changed up the stock gift - at least for the wives club.  Michelle Obama hired in Kara Ross to design a chunky wooden bangle that by all accounts she herself would wear (the first sign of a good gift), made from fallen trees on the White House property.  Marked with a small silver buckle and interior silver inscription plate it's understated but elegant and a nice, democratic high-low mix.  My grandmother took one look at it and declared it resembles a shackle, so I could see how not everyone will go for this.  To get one, you have to be invited in official capacity to the White House. I think I might be waiting for that particular call for awhile.  My grandmother too.  So we'll have to continue to debate the merits of this gift by photo alone.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Diplo-man of Style: Christopher Plummer...

We missed the Oscars frenzy (or maybe lack of frenzy from what I've read?) last night but I was elated to see that Captain Von Trapp...I mean Christopher Plummer...won for best supporting actor.  Number one, he has been deserving of one since...well, since he played CVT but I'm sure he would be appalled to read that given that he's always considered that a two bit role.  Two bits or not two bits, he will always be the Captain to me.  But number two, he really did play the role excellently in Beginners.  We watched it right before our trip - it didn't hold much interest for diplo-husband, who nodded off half way through but I thought he made his character capture self-discovery, new singlehood, older age, and imminent death in such an elegant and captivating way.

And he rolled out in style - nothing says "I know who I am" like a velvet smoking jacket and an easy going smile, and of course, nothing goes with a velvet smoking jacket as well as a little gold statuette can.  Also, is it me or does he have a spot of edelweiss in his lapel? Maybe he's not as anti-von trapp as he makes himself out to be.  And those bandanas? Looks fit for an alpine stroll to me, where dare I say it, the hills are alive?

Congratulations, Mr. Plummer....I mean, Captain!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mexico: a sneak peek...

Around midnight last night we rolled into our own beds, finally at home, from one of the best trips we've taken in a long time.  More on Mexico to come once I get to downloading our photos and processing all of the experiences but I thought I'd put up a little sneak peek into what we were looking at right outside our window just a few hours ago before making our way to the airport...what a difference a day makes.

Photos by The New Diplomat's Wife by iphone Instagram.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Photography Friday: Under the Sea with Mark Tipple...

Technically today is the last Friday of the month, so we should be doing Photography Book Club - I've already read and highlighted just about every other page of Jose Villa's book, but I just need a bit more time to put  it all into a coherent post to do it justice (those of you reading along, you get a bonus week!).  In the meantime, since we'll be doing a bit of time under the sea to explore the reefs of Cozumel as you read this, I thought today's photographer would be appropriate.

I saw Mark Tipple's photographs on the Aether Journal blog, and I immediately checked out his website for more, and honestly, couldn't get enough. This collection of images showing swimmers - mostly surfers - struggling against the ocean but captured in a moment of makes you realize both the peace that can be found underwater as well as the sheer force that water and its movement can have.  You can feel the rush and the stillness all at the same time.

While in Mexico we'll be diving - not surfing (not sure I'm cut out for that!), but part of the reason why I continue diving is that there is nothing quite like the underwater world, and no matter how rough the boat ride or how kooky the dive master, there's a certain peace that comes with being in a totally quiet in blue, weightless to the world.  Previously, I could only experience that diving, but now I see it in Tipple's work too.  He offers a special edition book of giclee prints for $150 that can be removed and framed, or individual prints between $85 and $850.  Seems like a more than a reasonable price to have just a small representation of that underwater calmness somewhere other than underwater.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Venice is like a box of chocolates...

...that you eat all at once, said Truman Capote.  Totally correct in my humble opinion, especially during the carnival season.  As I was getting our camera and gear ready for Mexico, it made me stop and realize that while we're excited to be headed to a new kind of Carnival (we'll be in Cozumel over the weekend for the festivities), it's bittersweet not to be celebrating in Venice.  After three years, we had our own little drill and I'll definitely be missing it.

I found a few more pictures of the carnivale masks that I hadn't yet posted - and aside from making me smile with fond memories, it also made me realize how much I've learned about my camera since then in terms of colors and focus.  But we all start learning somewhere, and Venice is not such a bad place to break in a DSLR basically right out of the box.

If you're craving more masks, because in Venice more is more, pour yourself a little Aperol Spritz and check out last year's post here - and if you're headed to Venice, don't forget to check out the dining guide and coffee recommendations, as well as the full series of posts from last year's trip.

Maybe we'll see you there next year?

All photos by The New Diplomat's Wife.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Object of my affection: Pants please...

I have kind of a thing for wacky patterned pants - I own one pair in a nutty navy blue paisley which I only surfaced on the bravest of occasions.  I haven't kept up much with fall fashion week (fall fashion? I haven't even decided on anything for spring!) but a quick look at J.Crew is making me think that those paisley babies will be coming out a lot more.  Not to mention a few companions from their collection for the coming year.  So far the black and white are my favorite, with the navy/white combo up top a close second - but those are looking rather similar to the ones I had already flagged from this spring so maybe we will have already checked that box.

Not only are the pants something - and I'll warn you, they're not all for the faint-hearted and some prints are decidedly more successful than others (also not all of them have to be worn with 17 layers up top and nothing past your ankles) - but the shoes are looking rather sharp too.  Could these be from the new Manolo Blahnik collaboration? And more importantly, what is this collaboration going to set me back?

All photos from

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Casa sweet casa midy...

Now naturally while we're off in Mexico, I'll be gathering all sorts of posts so not too much Mexico while we're gone.  But I couldn't help but think of this house that I remember from Elle Decor a while back, profiling the Midy family, of Casa Midy fame, a design darling furniture store in San Miguel de Allende (sadly not on our itinerary but something to come back for!)

What's interesting is that the family eventually decided to move back to Belgium (should we take a moment to remember my mediocre stay in brussels fondly), and what struck me is how much they were able to take back from Mexico, without their home looking like a weirdly overstuffed souvenir shop.  You know how sometimes you live, or even visit a place, you buy things and it doesn't look quite right when you get home? To me, their home looks exactly right - and a good model for those of us who live neither here nor there anymore.

PS - see that children's bed below, with the wooden logs? those are actually pylons from venice - how cool is that? makes me a little nostalgic for venice - it will be our first time in 3 years not going to carnivale!

All photos by Simon Upton for Elle Decor.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Time to Travel...

It's time, it's time! By the time you read this, I should be firmly tucked away under the Mexican sunshine - a trip in the making if there ever was one.  If you recall from this year's resolutions, it's a country that I've wanted to see for years, despite being our neighbor to the south, this is the first time I'm making it.  And hopefully it's the first of many trips to come!

So if there's any place you've been wanting to see, this little video should get you inspired to get up and get out there - one person's trip around the world in one year, condensed into 60 seconds (is this supposed to echo Ferris Bueller? "Life moves pretty fast....if you don't stop to look around once in a while... you could miss it...)

I first caught this video over at Eclectic Cool - a fantastic blog out of Hong Kong that I've only recently discovered- check it for the full series of videos that STA travel produced.

I have a week of posts all lined up for you but looking forward to sharing all the stories once we're back!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Photography Friday: The Pilgrimage of Annie Leibovitz...

A couple of weekends ago, we ducked into the American Art Museum to check out the long-awaited new exhibit of Annie Leibovitz, entitled "Pilgrimage".  DC is great for that - most museums are free so checking out a single exhibit and then taking advantage of wide open common spaces where freedom of movement is encouraged are recipe for success for us - we get to see something we're interested in, diplo-baby gets exposed to some art which is hopefully good for the brain, and then she gets to enjoy a space much larger than her apartment.  A word of caution, the atrium at the American Art Museum involves highly accessible water - prepare to come home with wet feet.

I had been reading about this exhibit for some time and was anxious to see it.  It's definitely a departure from Leibovitz's usual work for several reasons.  The first is that there are no actual potraits in it, let alone the thought provoking shoots that have become her stock and trade on the pages of Vogue and Vanity Fair.  And the second is that this is her first entirely digital project (wow!).  The exhibit consists of about 60 photographs curated into three rooms, simply displayed which works to their advantage. 

The subject matter is mostly "things that are famous becuase they belonged to legends of the past", with a couple of landscapes thrown in - most known is probably the shot of Niagara Falls which is on the exhibit poster.  That particular piece has quite a backstory - it was one of the first photographs of the project, and shot even though when Liebovitz arrived at Niagara Falls, her credit card was declined and hotel cancelled as this was at the height of her financial woes and soon after the loss of her partner, Susan Sontag, with whom she was supposed to do this project with.  So to me, not only do you see a mass of water tumbling down, but putting yourself in her shoes, it must represent to some degree the feeling of being consumed, drowned and lost all in one place. 

The photographs of objects are well annotated so that you have a sense of what you're seeing - there seems to be a reoccuring theme of gunshots: the TV from Palm Springs that Elvis shot a hole in, Annie Oakley's shooting target, countless Lincoln paraphernalia who of course was assassinated.  Many of the objects to me seemed sad, musty...but they do represent people who are, for one reason or another, heroes to Leibovitz and important to the course of the arts or history.  In the end, the three rooms go by quickly, and represent to me more of a tour of things from "Exotic America" with a few bits of England sprinkled in.  It's so different from her usual work that it's certainly worth seeing - both for the images and the history lessons, but I would have loved to see more images included in the work.  I left feeling a bit incomplete, and that the pilgrimage was disjointed - but maybe that was the desired effect.  Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see how Leibovitz adapts to this newest phase of her life, and to see whether she's crossed the digital line - maybe we'll see more?

Annie Liebovitz, "Pilgrimage"
American Art Museum
On diplay until May 20, 2012

Interested in more?
Washington Post Review
Huffington Post Review
Washington City Paper Review
New York Times Review

Annie Oakley's Shooting Heart...

Elvis Presley's Shooting TV...

Annie Liebovitz opens the exhibit in Washington, DC...

Historical archived negatives of Abraham Lincoln...

Sigmund Freud's "couch" in England...he also had one in our first apartment in Vienna!

Martha Graham's dance studio...

All images by Annie Leibovitz.
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