CULTURE

In Praise of Traditional Toys

During last winter’s endless cold, breakthroughs, and lockdowns, Mr. Covid paid our family a visit on Christmas morning. I was so sad. No grandchildren, no gathering, no Christmas as planned. But (shhh, don’t tell anyone), a teeny little part of my grandmotherly soul was relieved. I would not have to witness the over-the-top largesse that is the way of the world these days nor deal with the tsunami of lifeless plastic toys. I am not alone. My feelings are shared, albeit quietly, among my cohort of Nanas and Nonas, Omas and Grandmas. It’s time to consider the astonishing range of benefits children get from playing with traditional toys.

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Piano Lessons, Life Lessons

Music has saved my life. Not just listening, but the act of playing, the intimacy of running fingers over polished keys. Whatever concerns I bring to the piano vanish as I lose myself in stormy contrasts of a Beethoven sonata, the exuberance of a Chopin mazurka, the lighthearted skipping of a Bach bourrée. For me, the piano has been many things–a solace in time of loss, a playground for improvisation, a prelude to a state of grace.

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The Spirit of the Games

As a boy, I would lie awake at night clutching a transistor radio in my hand, futzing with the metal clip antenna, wiggling my earphones so I could catch the thrill of the games played by our local baseball football, basketball, and hockey teams. On the wings of those voices from WJR in Detroit I flew, and as I heard those games unfold, my love for my hometown grew. In the simple act of rooting for my team, I was participating in a tradition that stretches all the way back to ancient Greece.

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The Art of the Flâneur

The qualities of the flâneur are not achieved overnight, if they can ever be today. But if the historical flâneur is missing from the physical streets of Paris, he’s increasingly present in spirit, as a metaphor for the kind of unrushed, intellectually rich and creative life we long for. And we can channel the spirit if we try. Paris showers its special magic on those who submit most fully to its siren call. That’s the mission of today’s flâneur and his contemporary partner, the flâneuse.

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Recovering the Spirit of Play

This issue of Reinventing Home explores the role of play as our nation—and the world—emerges from a great pandemic. Our message: After two years in lockdown, we need joy, delight, and a dose of make-believe in order to feel whole again.

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The Story of a Happy Home

In the last few years, we’ve learned a lot more about the writer and psychoanalyst, Lou Andreas-Salomé, friend of Nietzsche, lover of Rilke, colleague of Freud. There’s a new bio-pic that focuses on her independent spirit, and now the first English translation of her novel, Das Haus, by Frank Beck and Raleigh Whitinger. A recent annotated edition, titled Anneliese’s House, will soon be released in paperback. In the meantime, the book is gaining the attention of literary critics, feminists, and followers of depth psychology.

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The Hare with Amber Eyes

Close on the heels of an exhibition in 2020 about the Ephrussi family at the Jewish Museum Vienna, the Jewish Museum in New York was confronted with a question: “Why tell a story that has already been told?” The answer is simple. Some stories are so compelling that they merit endless recounting. Edmund de Waal’s family tale, The Hare with Amber Eyes, is one of fortunes made and plundered, of homes made and lost, of disaster, dispersal, and reunion.

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In Praise of Dust

Dust lackadaisically spreads itself around the house as if it owned the place. As soon as the cloth has cleared the surface, a new cluster appears and thumbs its nose at us. With that first whisk of the feather duster, we whisper “Gotcha!” then moments later, we are pursuing these creatures as they dart around the room, engaged in that age-old game of hide-and-seek. Sometimes I wonder, is dust acting on a grudge, or expressing its own kind of constancy and devotion? Dust may be our silent partner in a lifelong courtship—and on the scales of Fate, what remains of all our good intentions.

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This Analog Life

This is the age of Kindle, cloud storage, and the app-for-everything. We’ve said goodbye to personal libraries and printed books, to cabinets and accordion files, to calculators and accounting ledgers. But is our understanding of the world—and even our sense of self— diminished as we lose our paper trail? The Berkeley artist Ann Arnold recently joined me in considering the advantages of the analog life. Here are our a few of our observations about old-fashioned ways of storing and accessing information.

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