Down the Rabbit Hole

Posted: 9th February 2013 by Tammy in Sounds
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A couple of months ago I was in an uncharacteristic funk and couldn’t shake it with the usual remedies, despite repeated and very creative attempts. Happily – and unexpectedly – my spirits were lifted by a Cigna commercial. From another room in the house, I heard a television commercial that sent me scrambling for my phone, to pull up the Shazam app. (For the unfamiliar, it’s a tool that “listens” to a song and tells you the title and artist.) I wasn’t quick enough to capture the song, but I did see enough of the ad to be charmed by the people in costumes, and I saw the advertiser was Cigna. Here’s the ad. Check it out – really, it’s adorable.

A quick Google search revealed the song to be “1” by Joy Zipper. I immediately bought it on iTunes because I needed it in my life.
Click to play “1” by Joy Zipper

Like a rabbit down a hole, I dove in headfirst and checked out the rest of their catalog. Several songs caught my attention, like “Go Tell the World.”
Click to play “Go Tell the World” by Joy Zipper

“You’re So Good” totally reminded me of L7 and The Breeders, which led to a little side trip down memory lane.
Click to play “You’re So Good” by Joy Zipper

After indulging in some nostalgia, I got back on track and discovered that Joy Zipper had a version of “Just Like Heaven” on a Cure tribute album. What the what?!?! This was the first I’d heard of this album, and The Cure is one of my “desert island” bands. Hate if you must; I love them and you can’t make me stop.
Click to play “Just Like Heaven” by Joy Zipper

Another great song on that tribute album was “Lovecats” covered by Tonya Donnelly (of equally memory-lane-inducing Throwing Muses, Breeders, and Belly) with a band I’d not heard of before, Dylan in the Movies. I might like their version even more than the original.
Click to play “The Lovecats” by Tanya Donnelly and Dylan in the Movies

As if my spirits weren’t lifted enough, I also found Joy Zipper had a track on a Pixies tribute album – which I hadn’t known about. Score!
Click to play “Wave of Mutilation” by Joy Zipper

I love that accidental exposure to a commercial led to several hours of unexpected musical exploration and some much-needed joy. It’s not the first time it’s happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Thanks, Cigna, for delighting me out of that funk! Now what kind of insurance do you sell? I kind of missed that part of the commercial.

Looking Through a Filter

Posted: 25th October 2012 by Tammy in Thoughts
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Despite our best intentions, we all look at all things through filters, be they economic, aesthetic, academic, philosophical, or even the very mundane geopolitical. From time to time I’m blessed with an impossible-to-ignore reminder of what life looks like through someone else’s lens, and it’s glorious.

Tonight I learned about life in Moldova, a small country between the Ukraine and Romania. While parts of Moldovian life sound idyllic, a monthly income of $100 does not…nor do limited choices in general. I’m grateful to live in the land of opportunity, even in the midst of a hotly contested election when I’m prone to break out in stress hives. Is it perfect? No. But the existence of choice, democracy, and (regardless of the current election results) a damned fine economic outlook – in comparison to the rest of the world – make it pretty hard to wallow in my political angst for very long.

I hope you’ll exercise your right to vote in two weeks. If you’re leaning towards an “I’ve got mine, good luck to you, sucka!” sort of vote, then I hope you’ll be too lazy to cast your ballot, but either way I hope you consider making your voice heard.

Celebrating Autumn

Posted: 18th October 2012 by Tammy in Sights
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Is there anything more beautiful than the changing of the colors in autumn? It’s high time I make my way to the Japanese Garden at Missouri Botanical Garden, to see some of the glorious splendor draped on every branch.

*Image found on

Little Things

Posted: 21st August 2012 by Tammy in Design, Sights
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Colleen Moore, a star of the silent film era, had a lifelong fascination with dollhouses and their furnishings. Her eighth dollhouse, now called the Fairy Castle, was imagined while on a cruise to Hawaii with her parents in 1928. Colleen’s father built it, making it even more special. Horace Jackson, a set designer Colleen had worked with, planned the masterpiece, and Hollywood art director/interior designer Harold Grieve designed the opulent interior complete with running water and working chandeliers. Maintaining a 1 inch to 1 foot scale, it stands 9 feet square and (depending on what you read) 12-14 feet tall, and weighs 7,000 pounds. In 1949, after the Castle completed a nationwide tour of Macy’s stores to benefit children’s charities, it was displayed at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry and ultimately lived there on permanent display.

I was surprised to stumble across it on a recent visit, as a dollhouse has nothing to do with science OR industry, but I was very happy to find it. (I later discovered Colleen had served on the board of trustees at the museum.) It was a crowded day at the museum so I wasn’t able to get any good photos, but I’ve scrounged up some photos taken by other people over the years, and by the museum itself.

Shall we have a look? Some of the notable features are highlighted below:


Magic Garden

  • The weeping willow actually weeps.
  • The cradle in the rocking tree is made of gold and pearls from the jewelry of Colleen’s grandmother.


Cinderella’s Drawing Room

  • The rose quartz floor was custom made in Peking, China and took nine months to arrive in the United States.
  • Vases at each side of the door are made of carved amber more than 500 years old. They came from the collection of the Dowager Empress of China.
  • The chandelier is made of gold, diamonds, emeralds and pearls.
  • A full-length portrait of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse dressed as the King and Queen of Heart was painted by Walt Disney.
  • The rosewood piano can be played, and is topped with scores copied in tiny notes by their composers, all friends of Colleen: Rachmaninoff and Stravinsky, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin, George M. Cohan, Richard Rodgers.


The Dining Room

  • Replica of King Arthur’s round table
  • The plates, knives and forks are made of gold.
  • The crystal glasses are more than a hundred years old
  • Five needlepoint “tapestries” depict the Knights of the Round Table.


The Great Hall

  • The suits of armor lining the doorway are silver and came from the collection of Rudolph Valentino, a famous motion picture actor.
  • Cinderella’s glass slippers sit on a low rosewood table.
  • Under the glass bell, the tiny chairs of the three bears sit on the heads of pins—the largest weighing only 1/150,000th of an ounce.
  • A Roman bust of a woman on a green pedestal is about 2,500 years old.
  • Next to the bust are three statues of the goddess Isis, which are more than 4,000 years old.
  • A Syrian vase is more than 1,000 years old.
  • Behind the ropes is a Battersea enameled table topped with a nest filled with golden eggs, and beside it, a goose.
  • On the next table is a small pistol that actually shoots.
  • At the foot of the stairs there is a 3,000 year old alabaster jar from Egypt and a 1000 year old glazed porcelain jar from ancient Siam.



  • Through the clear glass in the center of the chapel window is an altar and a little tabernacle, on top which is a golden sunburst. In the center is a glass container holding a sliver of the true cross, given to Colleen by her friend, Clare Booth Luce, who received the relic when she was Ambassador to Italy and had her first audience with the Pope.
  • To the right of the chapel’s organ is a vigil light with a very large diamond in the top. This was Colleen Moore’s mother’s engagement ring; when she died, she left it to Colleen to put in the castle.
  • The silver throne is a copy of the famous English throne in Westminster Abbey.
  • The statue on the pedestal to the right is a bust of Pope Pius IX, and on the bottom is the seal of the Vatican.
  • On the prayer bench in front of the altar is a small Bible printed in 1840, given to Colleen by Antonio Moreno after their 1927 film, Her Wild Oat.


The Library (my favorite)

  • Over the fireplace stands Captain Kidd with his treasure behind him.
  • The door to the right shows Robinson Crusoe and his man Friday.
  • Above the other door is Gulliver, pulling the Lilliputian ships through the gates of the city.
  • The furniture has a sea motif and is verdigris copper. Sea horses and sea snails hold the shell-like furniture.
  • Almost 100 leather-bound miniature books feature small-scale handwriting by famous authors of the time (friends, or friends of friends): Noel Coward, Sinclair Lewis, Thornton Wilder, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edna Ferber, John Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald and more.
  • On the reading stand is a dictionary. This was given to Colleen by her father when she was only 5 years old, the start of her miniature collection.


The Princess’ Bathroom

  • The crystal walls are etched to tell the story of Undine, a water spirit.
  • The tub is made of silver, and actual water can flow from the dolphin’s mouths.


The Princess’ Bedroom

  • The bed represents the bed that Sleeping Beauty slept in. The bedspread is the gold spider web that covered her for 100 years as she waited for Prince Charming.
  • The platinum chairs are set with diamonds and have seats of green cloisonné. Their backs are made from a pair of emerald and diamond lapel clips that belonged to Colleen, who decided to use the clips in the castle than wear them.
  • The other chairs in the room are of Battersea enamel, given to Colleen by her aunts when she was a child.
  • The dressing table is made of carved ivory. On top is a gold toilet set made by the late jeweler Guglielmo Cini, whose signed sterling miniature holloware pieces are much prized by collectors. It consists of a comb, brush, mirror, nail file, and two boxes each smaller than a fingernail–one for powder, the other a jewel box. The handles of the mirror and brush are made of platinum with diamonds. Inside was a minute engagement ring with a full-cut diamond; the ring is so small it won’t go all the way down on a common pin.


The Prince’s Bedroom

  • This room tells the story of the Russian Little Czar, Saltar, carved in the furniture.
  • A wicked white bear is a character in the story; a taxidermist used an ermine skin and the teeth of a mouse to create the miniature white bear rug on the floor.
  • The sword standing by the wardrobe is representative of Excalibur, King Arthur’s sword.


I couldn’t find photos of it, but in the entrance hall is a pistol that fires tiny silver bullets. There’s a treasure room filled with what looks like pirate booty, complete with a chest and shovel. The kitchen is a gothic dream. I can’t even imagine how many hours of imagination, labor, and love went into the creation of this masterpiece – but I’m so glad I stumbled across the results on a rainy day in Chicago. The little things that make life grand…indeed.

If you’re interested in seeing more, perhaps in Colleen’s own words, check out her 1971 book on the topic, “Colleen Moore’s Doll House.”


Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues

Posted: 10th August 2012 by Tammy in Sights, Sounds
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Last weekend I finally got to check out Buddy Guy’s Legends in downtown Chicago, after three failed attempts over the past five years. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely! As we walked to the club, people were leaving Lollapalooza in varying states of inebriated muddy bliss. While I would love to have gone to Lolla (too), there’s nothing better for a bruised soul than the blues, and Carl Weathersby more than delivered. The icing on the cake? Buddy Guy sat in for a few songs.


* Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues is a studio album by Buddy Guy.