6/30/2014

20 Things I'm Definitely Putting in My Lottery House!


Recently my husband and I visited Graceland, the palatial estate of Elvis Presley.  Okay, so it's sadly dated these days, but once upon a time the estate represented the very highest achievement of unlimited money paired with dubious taste .

So, naturally, on our looooong drive back home, we started imagining what we'd do with dubious taste and unlimited funds.  Besides, one ought to be prepared in the event that one is fortunate enough to be the sole winner of a multi-million dollar lottery. We were shooting for outlandish, though it may be that some of these are actually de rigour among the 1% ... not that we're ever likely to find out!
  1. To start, we're definitely installing a shark tunnel entry hall.  You know what I'm talking about - one of those 360 degree acrylic tubes that pass through the middle of an enormous saltwater tank, so that as you walk through the tunnel, you're surrounded on all sides by coral reefs, exotic tropical species, and sleek, smirking sharks
  2. Visitors emerging from the shark tunnel will find themselves facing our next delightful home furnishing, an authentic, full-sized, articularted T-Rex skeleton.  Surrounding the T-Rex will be Jurassic-themed furniture and tables with fossil-slab tabletops ... because I don't care how old you are, you never outgrow the thrill of visiting the dinosaur room at the museum.  
  3. Palatial kitches are so McMansion these days!  So to differentiate ourselves from the 95% we're going to equip our palatial kitchen with an old-fashioned teak-lined Butler's pantry, complete with towering shelves of gleaming silver platters, salvers, tantaluses, bowls, and complete Victorian tea sets behind towering glass doors.  Most of the silver won't even do anything - it will just be designed to sit there, looking ostentatious.
  4. Speaking of kitchens, we are so having a dumbwaiter.  Because they're so convenient for ordering little snacks from the kitchen ... and, of course, for temporary storage of inconvenient corpses.
  5. And because we are concerned - as all Americans should be - about recycling, we'll be installing a piranha tank adjacent to the dining room. Perfect for disposing of those inconvenient table scraps ... and, as luck would have it, for long-term disposal of any inconvenient corpses.
  6. Wondering about that roaring sound coming from the great room?  Follow the sound of rushing water and feast your eyes on our indoor waterfall, fed by a water wheel that lifts water to the top floor.  The resulting indoor stream will meander it's way through all the rooms of the main hall, but don't worry: you'll be able to cross the water by means of a series of polished glass floors, bridges, and stepping stones.  Oh, and I'm stocking the stream with trout and lobsters, so I can enjoy fresh seafood whenever the mood takes me.
  7. "If you build it, they will come," I've heard, so to prepare for the onslaught of visitors hauling jaded children in their wake, we'll be devoting a wing of the house to creating a children's village.  Think the Main Street of any small town, except all the stores are fitted out for children - a movie theater that shows children's movies on request, a diner serving kids food, a video game store, a model train store, a stuffed animal pet store/vet office, a clothing shop full of costumes, a theater (for staging performances), an exercise gym (with indoor pool), a repair shop, a library, and a dance studio/disco with light-up floor.  
  8. Meanwhile, adult visitors will be invited to enjoy our fully-equipped Vegas-style casino, complete with gaming tables, free cocktails, and a 24/7 Rat Pack soundtrack.  To enhance the authenticity, we'll be installing an Elvis-themed mini-wedding chapel in one alcove - just the thing for renewing those wedding vows! - and a full roast-beef buffet in another.  A closet full of cocktail dresses, tuxedos, and wedding dresses in every size will be available for the convenience of visitors who fail to arrive prepared.
  9. It goes without saying that we're going to be buying a fleet of sweet automobiles (we're especially partial to vintage roadsters).   What a waste to store them away in some dark, dingy garage!  For this reason, we'll be building an indoor car showroom complete with polished granite floors, elegant painted panelling, immaculately restored auto advertising/club/rally posters, chandeliers, comfortable seating, a big screen television, and a wet bar. That way we can appreciate our babies even when we're not in a place to drive them around.
  10. How do you make a man-room even more manly? Add a jumbotron!  Ours will have screens on all four sides so that no matter which way you're facing in the room, you'll never miss a moment of sports action.  Plus, we'll program the scrolling text to keep us updated on the scores of other games and wish people visiting our home a happy birthday.
  11. In a rush to get downstairs to the kitchen from your upstairs bedroom?  Just hop on the zip line that will connect the two floors!
  12. Love looking at stars but hate all the bugs!  Our solution?  A dedicated planetarium with optional deployable observatory for scanning the skies in search of incoming asteroids.  Just spread a towel out on the astroturf floor, lay back, and watch the constellations mosey by as Neil deGrasse Tyson narrates our own customized planetarium show.
  13. Did you ever wish it could be Christmas all year?  You know that's right.  Which is why we'll be equipping our house with a year-round Christmas room, complete with decorated trees, Christmas music, a roaring fire, and a mini-fridge full of eggnog. 
  14. Hard to believe a few hours in the Christmas room wouldn't cheer anyone up, but just in case we find ourself afflicted by by an ennui so profound that even multiple screenings of It's a Wonderful Life fail to dispell it, we're going to invest in a full-proof alternative, a puppy room.  Which is just what it sounds like: a room full of adorable puppies just standing by, waiting to melt away stress like global warming taking out a glacier.
  15. Connecting the myriad rooms in our house will be multiple secret passageways, accessible by a dozen or so cunningly hidden doors.  Because how else are we going to travel quickly between the kitchen and conservatory?
  16. Having yet addressed the top floor, which we'll be turning into an indoor skating rink, complete with wood floors, disco balls, and a snack counter.  This would be in lieu of a hum-drum home gym, you understand, because skating is great exercise.  The polished wooden floor will double as a shuffle-board court, so we can continue exercising into our old age.
  17. Little will our guests suspect that stretch beneath their feet is an authentic dungeon! Ours will double as a wine cellar. Speaking of which, can I interest you in a rare and exquisite Amontillado?
  18. Indoor pools? So Comfort Inn!  That's why we're going to kick it up a notch and install a full-sized wave pool with island.  Because who wouldn't want their own private island with perfect surfing?  It hardly bears mentioning that our island will be equipped with a beach, a hammock, a tiki bar, and an assortment of eukaleles.
  19. Venturing outside, our backyard will naturally be dominated by a whole bestiary of topiary animals and a wicked topiary maze.  Seriously, you're going to need a compass, field rations, and a couple balls of string if you're hoping to come out alive ... and, believe me, you do not want to be wandering out among the topiary animals after dark .... 
  20. Finalizing our outdoor landscaping will be a massive dancing fountain, programmed to perform water shows choreographed to a variety of classical, pop, and holiday music.  Performances every half hour, and at night the shows include colored lights and lasers!

Have we missed anything? Let us know?

6/22/2014

The 30+ Coolest People of the 20th Century


It's come to my attention that the National Portrait Gallery will soon be debuting a "Coolest People of the 20th Century" exhibit. If you're like me, you're now wondering "how the heck do you define cool?" 

My knee-jerk reaction was to instantly summon up mental images of Audrey Hepburn, Clark Gable and George Clooney.  But then I started thinking a little more deeply - surely "cool" has to be more than savoir faire and a good wardrobe, yes?  After much mental deliberation (seriously, I thought of almost nothing else the half mile drive to the nearest 7-11 to pick up a pint of Ben & Jerrys) I finally decided that what truly "cool people" have in common is that they are courageous enough to adopt lifestyle decisions that set them apart from what was "normal" at their time, with such confidence and courage that they actually shifted the definition of normal. 

In keeping with this definition, I hereby nominate the following as belonging on MY list of coolest people of the 20th century.  Have I missed anyone?
  1. Nikola Tesla
  2. F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. T.H. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia")
  4. Eleanor Roosevelt
  5. Babe Ruth
  6. Al Capone
  7. Albert Einstein
  8. Ernest Hemingway
  9. Winston Churchill
  10. The Brat Pack
  11. The Beatles
  12. Orson Welles
  13. General George Patton
  14. Andy Warhol
  15. Pablo Picasso
  16. Frida Kahlo
  17. Mohammad Ali
  18. Mother Teresa
  19. Nelson Mandela
  20. Mohatama Gandhi
  21. Martin Luther King Jr.
  22. Malcolm X
  23. Thurgood Marshall
  24. Truman Capote
  25. Little Richard
  26. George Carlin
  27. Maya Angelou
  28. Bob Fosse
  29. Madonna
  30. Steve Jobs
  31. Prince
  32. Johnny Depp

6/19/2014

Book Look - Nellie Bly & Elizabeth Bisland's History Making Race Around the World, by Matthew Goodman


 
I love books about American history, women, and exploration, so this should have been right up my alley.  To some extent, the books delivers what it promises.  I now know all about the circumstances that led up to Nellie Bly's legendary quest to break the record Jules Verne established in "80 Days Around the World", I have a deeper understanding of the state of U.S. journalism in the 1880s, and I possess more information than I'll ever need to know about 1880s transportation.  On the other hand, here's what the book doesn't deliver:

* A description of the world in 1889. Despite apparently ample time spent relaxing on trains and deck chairs, neither Nellie Bly nor Elizabeth Bisland seems to have invested much effort reporting on what they observed as they travelled around the world.  What an opportunity wasted!  If this is one reason you’re considering reading the book, probably not worth the effort.

* A deeper admiration for "female womanhood". Though the author claims this was one of the outcomes of the adventure, I can't say I was terribly impressed by either women. Their arrangements were made solely by men, and when last-minute changes had to be made, often it was men who saw to this as well. In short, pretty much all our intrepid "globe-girdlers" had to do was show up at the right stations at the right times. Not exactly a bold statement of female intelligence or resourcefulness.

* A deeper understanding of what made Nellie Bly "tick". The author seems content to take her at her word, but I found this highly unsatisfying as Nellie Bly was above all a storyteller, not above tailoring the details of her story to suit her audience; therefore, we really can't trust what she says about herself or her motives. Would have loved insight into the extent to which her legitimate boldness stemmed from journalistic zeal, a risk-taking nature, a determination to defy stereotype, and/or simple necessity – she was the family’s sole breadwinner, after all.

It would appear that this is one of those instances where the myth really does trump reality, a fact that Matthew Goodman cannot entirely overcome despite his narrative zeal. Indeed, maybe a little LESS narrative zeal might have been more appropriate.  Feel like the author spent way too much time speculating what the women were "probably" feeling at each step along the way, which irked me because his speculations appeared to be based on guesswork rather than any actual data and because his “speculations” often felt stale and stereotypical.

Ironically, I now find myself both overwhelmed with detail about the journey itself, but craving to know more about the true sentiments and sensations of the women who undertook it.