I’m normally wary of anything that has too much hype surrounding it, because generally I feel like it can’t possibly be as good as everyone says it is.  I’m sure you’ve heard of Mad Men, as it is constantly hyped as one of the best shows on TV and has won multiple Emmys and Golden Globes.  If you’ve never seen it, it’s set in the 1960s in New York City, and it’s all about  the “golden age” of advertising on Madison Avenue and the glamorous life that the ad men led.  Last week I finally checked out a couple of episodes and I have to say, it really is fantastic.  What I’m enjoying most about the show is the look and feel of it.  Not only does it seem very historically accurate, it’s such a beautiful period piece.  Everything from the clothes and the hair to the scenery is lovely to look at.

The acting in the show has also been wildly acclaimed, and it is also superb.  Jon Hamm is fascinating to watch as Sterling Cooper’s morally-complex creative director Don Draper.  You want to root for Don because he’s so charismatic and such an advertising genius, but he is certainly no angel.  I’m also finding myself really interested in the storyline of Peggy, the naive new secretary to Don.  We’re learning about how things work at Sterling Cooper right along with Peggy as she is thrown into a world filled with double standards between the men and the women.  If you’re looking for a great drama series to watch and are especially interested in learning a little more about the past, I highly recommend checking out Mad Men.  Currently we own season one, season two, season three, and season four, so stop by any of our three locations to look for one today!

Seriously, why hasn’t this book been made into a movie already? (although you’ll certainly be reminded of scenes from several popular movies and tv shows) Robert K. Wittman, the founder of the FBI’s Art Crime Team, pulls back the curtain on his remarkable career, offering a real-life international thriller in Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasure.

The son of an antique dealer, Wittman built a twenty-year career going undercover, usually unarmed, to catch art thieves, scammers, and black market traders in Paris and Philadelphia, Rio and Santa Fe, Miami and Madrid. Wittman tells the stories behind his recoveries of priceless art and antiquities: the golden armor of an ancient Peruvian warrior king, the Rodin sculpture that inspired the Impressionist movement, the rare Civil War battle flag carried into battle by one of the nation’s first African-American regiments. The art thieves and scammers he caught run the gamut from rich to poor, smart to foolish, organized criminals to desperate loners. Wittman has saved hundreds of millions of dollars worth of art and antiquities, but he considers them all equally priceless.

Told with a true storyteller’s gift, Priceless is intense and fun and personal – Wittman feels passionate about preserving art and he’ll make you fell passionate about it too.

Did you know about air plants?! Sounds kinda sci-fi, doesn’t it! Also known as an epiphyte, air plants get their nutrients from the surrounding air and thus do not need roots. Cool! They kind of remind me of a miniature, land-dwelling octopus or Thing from the Addams Family. Now here did I learn about these awesome plants? From Terrarium Craft: Create 50 Magical, Miniature Worlds by Amy Bryant Aiello, Kate Bryant, & Kate Baldwin!

I always thought that Terrariums were very difficult to upkeep and required intense calculations to maintain their delicate ecosystems, but Terrarium Craft has since convinced me that Terrariums are my new super laid-back, always stylish best friends. In fact, according to Amy, Kate & Kate, I don’t even have to put living plants in my terrariums if I don’t want to–I could use pretty sands, rocks, crystals, and dried flowers to make super lovely displays. However, they make even the plant terrariums seem easy by using moss balls, air plants, succulents and other easy care plants and arranging them with sweet figurines, geodes, books and costume jewelry to create little whimsical, fairytale-like scenes. I want to live in their terrariums, but, until I find a shrinking raygun, I will just check out Terrarium Craft from the library and make one of my own. It will totally have a geode and an air plant and will be based on that classic Ringo Starr hit, Octopus’s Garden.

The Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin contains over 1.5 million pieces, and is the only museum dedicated to the preservation, study, production and printing of wood type. That in itself is pretty cool, but there is something even more amazing about this particular museum: a visitor can actually feel, hold, and USE most of the historic collection!

Typeface, a documentary by filmmaker Justine Nagan, takes the viewer into the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum and shows the difficulties surrounding the need of preserving tools that are both part of a dying craft and an increasingly popular artform, as well as the hardships facing museums and similar institutions in the current economic climate. This film really shines when it shows the relationships between the volunteers who are mostly divided into two categories: townsfolk retired from the former Hamilton factory and artists visiting from the big Midwestern cities. The artists are all eager students attempting to learn the endangered-of-being-lost skills of cutting wood type and maintaining letterpress machines, while also trying to use their time to produce pieces of art with the largest collection of wood type they may ever have access to. My absolute favorite part of the film is when one of the elderly, former Hamilton employees displays the artwork given to him over the years by the artists he has helped. Although he seems rather bewildered by the art at first, his brief descriptions of the pieces begin to reveal an increased understanding of the artist’s intentions. Typeface frequently aims to blur the lines between artists and craftsmen, while still highlighting the expertise they provide for the museum.

Unfortunately, the movie ends on a bit of a downer, but a quick visit to the website for the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum shows that things must be looking sunnier (for example, maybe you’ve see the new clothing line at Target made using Hamilton wood type). I know that, thanks to Typeface, I sure am planning a visit!