Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My Friend Frankie

In my sophomore year of college at American, I was well into my Model UN-based world domination plot, through which I met Awesome Woman and Fellow Redhead Erin, who in turn introduced me to a guitar-playing, Kenya-visiting, Orioles-loving individual named Frankie. Frankie introduced me to Ethiopian food, and I introduced him to the fact that if the Yankees play, Yankees AND Red Sox fans will appear. He came complete with a zen-to-the-point-of-spaceshottiness attitude and French roommate who was more a state of mind than anything else. One of the many things I appreciated about Frankie was that we could talk about baseball just as easily as we could talk about ongoing social crises and political philosophy.

Several years ago, as we know, I moved back up North from DC and in the intervening time period, Frankie has been filling his days being completely fantastic. He recently was picked up by the Huffington Post, and if you really want to feel weird about your life's accomplishments to date, check out his bio:

Frankie Martin is an Ibn Khaldun Chair Research Fellow at American University's School of International Service. His research interests include Islamic-Western relations, religion and culture in Africa, and American foreign policy. In 2006, Martin traveled across the Muslim world to study global Islam, conducting field research among diverse groups, including madrassa students in India, Somali refugees in Kenya, and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. He researched for and was cited extensively in the resulting book, Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization by Professor Akbar Ahmed (Brookings, 2007).

Martin has addressed diverse audiences on Islamic-Western relations, including the British House of Commons, the Brookings Institution, the Washington National Cathedral, and the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as universities in the US, Middle East, and South Asia. He has been interviewed by media outlets including the BBC and International Herald Tribune, and has also advised American lawmakers and officials at the State Department, FBI, and DHS. He is currently working with Professor Akbar Ahmed on a new study, "Islam in America," which will involve extensive field work throughout the United States. Martin is a magna cum laude graduate of American University.

Well, I feel like I've been wasting my life, how about you? He made his first HuffPo appearance with a post on Somalia that was picked up by the WaPo/Newsweek earlier this month. I personally think all this is cool as hell and am glad Frankie's being allowed to put his considerable brain power to significant and wide-spread use. Here are a few more items of Frankie's that are worth a listen or read. Enjoy!

Journey Into the UK
Students Tour Muslim World
Four Young Americans Take a Journey Into Islam
Talking Can Stop Hate
Good Anthropology, Bad Islam? The Pitfalls of Steamrolling the Muslim World
Comprendre les Zones Tribales au Pakistan (en francais, évidemment)
BBC World Interview (audio)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Project Runway: The Grass Is Always Greener

The episode airs, I write an epic email to The Lucy, The Lucy replies, I spatter it across the Internet. Me in standard font, The Lucy in white.


So, last night I was thinking about how you'd read that this season was a lot like season one, and I think that was accurate, in a SURPRISINGLY good way, rather than a returning-to-a-dry-well way. I liked the re-do of the Gristedes challenge, and I enjoyed the return to model personalities and involvement in this challenge, which I found to be very reminiscent of the wedding dress challenge from season one. I could have lived without the added green factor (why not have a challenge exclusively focused on green creations?), but I'm guessing that was the clincher for Natalie Portman's appearance on the show, and it wasn't TOO obnoxious, so I guess I can deal. I did NOT love the way that the green factor resulted in a lot of similar fabrics, several of which (I'm looking at YOU, brown satin) kind of sucked. I actually liked the results of this challenge a lot...funny that the winner would be one of my least favorites.

I also think that it's a return in a good way as well. I was actually kind of surprised about the small choice of fabrics that the models had, unless they are just the dumb and took the easy way out by copying off each other. I thought Natalie's eye makeup was awful and I got a kick out of them saying that she has a green shoe line, which is laughable because basically, she's making cheap shoes and probably charging and arm and a leg for them. Whatever.
Blayne/Polina...does Polina here remind you of Jewel? I liked this dress a lot more than I would have expected, what with the black/pink combo (not an instant strike, but tough waters to navigate) and the asymmetrical shoulder action, which I always have a hard time with. The sleevelet is really interesting and the panel of black is JUST enough to add interest without shoving the dress over the edge into 80's territory. Honestly, in a lot of ways this is a total 80s owl pellet, but I think Blayne really handled all the components well and in a way that kept is fresh and modern. Also, her bod looks rockin' in it. I HATE that I like something of Blayne's. I happen to be a fan of the asymmetrical look, and I'm an 80s ho so I really like this look. I think that the texturized sleeve is really pretty and it gives it a point of interest. I also like the black panel because I think it's really slimming, and yeah, she does look damn good in it. When Blayne said that Heidi was "darthlicious," I was hoping that someone would stab him. I do feel disgust at liking something he did but really, how could he not improve?
Wesley/Alyssa...I actually love the IDEA of this but come on Wesley, what's with the execution?!? I know satin is tricky, but dude, I PERSONALLY have done better hemwork than that, and that's pretty sad. I am almost ANGRY that the execution wasn't better because when they did a closeup on it on the judging line, there was all kinds of cool detailing and such on there. Could have really been awesome, had it been better done and maybe in another fabric. I was not quite ready for the little foppish neck thing, but the fluting and stuff on the skirt had awesome potential. Bummer to see Wesley go, too...I was looking forward to seeing more from him, AND he was the Massachusettsian I didn't hate. (YO. IN THE COURSE OF CONFIRMING THAT DANIEL WAS THE MASSACHUSETTS PERSON I HATED, I DISCOVERED THAT WESLEY AND DANIEL ARE DATING. I do not approve of this. Wesley is great and Daniel is a douche. Thoughts?) His tailoring was rather unfortunate, because like you, I think he had a great idea. It really was a mess though. Also, part of my delay in writing this to you had to do with the fact that I still have no idea what people's names are and for some reason I thought you were referring to that dude Michael Adams from the first season of Top Design because I remembered that he was also a douche from Massachusetts. Speaking of Top Design, do we really need another season of that pile of shit? I'm not watching it, I swear.
Daniel FROM GREAT BARRINGTON, MA/Elena...both Speed and I really liked this one. I really enjoyed the movement of the skirt, and the sleeves are very cute. It's classic and pretty, and it's a good look for the model, IF a little too close to her haircolor. I think this could have benefitted from some brightly colored shoes and DEFINITELY from some colorful jewelry up by her face. Very nice. Have I mentioned that Brooklyn is lovely and also not where Daniel is from? Because he is from Great Barrington. I'm actually not a fan of this look. I think it's a little boring and too monotone for me. The shoes and jewelry might have helped but overall, meh.
Jerell/ gut reflex to this was to really like it. Very different, good shape, interesting detail. I think this picture of it is fucking horrid. However, once I moved out of the gut reflex zone, the breasticular area started giving me issues. As Speed said, "it looks like her boobs are in her armpits!" That being said, the whole thing isn't destroyed by the bodice for me...I am willing to give it a chance, even if I would never wear it. I really enjoyed the little neckpiece up there. Oh this model's face is so annoying...why does she always look like she needs to take a dump? Anyway, I'm not really a fan of this one either, mostly because of the poor tailoring. The top of this dress is completely out of control. I also think it looks kind of cheap.
Jennifer/Alex...the movement on this was great! This is exactly why when whoever it was was bitching about how their model had bought jersey, which would NEVER EVER work for a cocktail dress, I was like "er...we do not see eye to eye." Yeah, it's more difficult, but I think Jennifer demonstrated exactly how it could be done. That being said, I hate the colors, and the grey bodice parts are emitting slightly more overalls vibe than I personally am ready for. But! I think this is very sweet and actually quite chic for someone who does not have the same sensibilities that I do. I'm not a fan of the colors but I am a fan of jersey, because as I've said in the past, it truly is God's gift to women. It CAN be done with the right accessories. I've done it myself and I know it can work. I think it's pretty, and with different colors it wouldn't have looked as casual. I like this one.
Emily/Leslie...DAMN DUDE THAT SHIT IS SHORT! This is a cocktail shirt, I'm sorry. I don't hate it or anything, I am just kind of startled by the length. Was is that short on the show? Are we sure? Wow. Okay. So I have this issue with trim. I am not against the braiding that was employed here, but since some of it is the same color as the rest of the bodice, I think it looks weird. Every time I see something like this, I dislike it. However, I like everything symmetrical and in block colors, so who am I to judge? On final analysis, this is not very cocktail dress-y to me...I think of a cocktail dress as being more sophisticated, and this says a lot more "Vegas cigarette girl" than "Bombay martini, please" to me. I think different trim would have helped and I think a longer hemline would have helped. Not bad, just not cocktail and not fabulous. I think with a few tweaks this could have been very pretty, but as it stands it's too short, and I agree that the braiding would have been prettier if it had been in a contrasting color. This looks like one of those tunic-y tops that you wear over leggings. I like the necklace though.
Keith/Runa...I swear to God these were not this short last night. This one's got extra emphasis on it too since it looks like the curtains are coming up on the main event. I do NOT like the juvenile hairstyle, and that is distracting for me, since it's a pretty sophisticated dress at work here. Unfortunately, this is not a great bodice for this model...when I first saw it come down the runway, I thought the bodice was poorly constructed, but then I realized that it's fine, but the model is pretty goddamn flat, and this does nothing to ameliorate that issue. I think the simple solution would actually be to bring down the waistline to closer by her natural waist, and develop a superdeep V. When you get a model flat enough to pull that off without her tits shaking out every time she takes a step, why not capitalize on it? This dress drove me nuts because it looks like Keith took a dress from Beauty and the Beast right off the rack from the Disney store and plopped it on this model. It looks EXACTLY like the gold dress Belle wears in the movie! Grrrrrrr! I can't get over that so, yeah, not exactly liking it.
Kelly/Germaine...Speed would have liked to see the colors reversed on this, which I think has potential. I don't like how there is weird asymmetrical patchwork on the bodice...I think the sort of diagonal ruching effect is interest enough without the creamy-yellow patch on her left pec. I LOVE the detailing of the shoulder and neck cowl whosie, though...the sheer with the ruffle is really pretty. I would have liked to see that ruffle echoed at the hemline, because I feel like there's too much going on from the waist up, and not enough from the waist down. Also, the shoes do not match. Don't like it too much, very blah. There is definitely some distorting of boobs here, which I'm not really a fan of. I kind of like the color combination but overall this is really boring.
Joe/Topacio...dude. Is there a HOLE in this dress? EW! Before, I was just going to say it's boring as hell and has a visible hem, but now I am PERSONALLY OFFENDED by the hole. Fuck that. See, I didn't mind the hole so much but I would have liked to see the cutouts used in a different spot or in a different way. Without the hole though, this dress is ultra boring and plain.
Kenley/Shannone...Speed HATED this neck ruffle situation, but I think this is REALLY cute and chic. The black waistband is JUST enough, and the ruffle is enough volume without being overwhelming or anemic. Fantastico! I'm all about this dress. I have a thing for ruffles and high necks and when you put them together for me, wow! I think she looks so pretty and it's very figure flattering as well.
Korto/Katrina...Speed was all "WE GET IT, YOU'RE AFRICAN" last night and I have to say that to some extent the styling in this prompts the same response from me. The necklace is cool, but in concert with the hair, it's just trying to hard to be all "FEEL MAH ETHNIK RUTZ." Also, the clavicle upwards doesn't match the dress, doesn't match the shoes. Come on now, Korto, I KNOW you have awesomeness in there. I do actually like a lot about this dress...Tim cautioned her that the seams-on-the-outside effect would have to be handled perfectly, and I think she did, but then she took a wrong turn, and that turn, my friend, was the FINS! How do you take a cool concept like she had and then step back and say "hmm. You know what this needs? MORE CADILLAC!" I respect the trying of something different (see my response to the weird skirts and jackets in Valentino's couture collection), but in this case it failed. UGH! STOP IT KORTO. STOP. During the episode I kept saying, did you know she's African? Really. I'm sorry, but as a woman who is rather bottom heavy, I like things that accentuate my shape, not things that stand there with flashing lights and a sign that says "LOOK AT MY ASS!" It is not a flattering look at all. The styling made it seem like a costume as well.
Stella/Kendall...more too-short-ness, for me, highlighted here by the one long sleeve. I do appreciate, as one of the judges mentioned, that Stella was able to work some of HER style in there as well...after all, Stella's the designer who's competing. I am not too wild about this...I think the color is not that great on her and if I thought I had issues with your standard one-sleeved or sleeveless asymmetrical stuff, THIS makes me want to start slapping. Not a fan. I didn't even think the garment looked that great, and I couldn't understand why they had her in the top 3. Plus, I think Stella's a pain in the ass. I don't like the color and it's too short. Yech.
Suede/Tia...I hate the neckline of this. I don't really like the effect he made on the torso part of the dress but I can appreciate its artistic value. The neckline though for some reason just kills the entire thing for me. I don't even mind the concept that much, with the tulle, etc., but they had this one closeup of it last night and it looked unfinished and weird and gross and it made me angry. As you know, too, I like things to decide what they are...if the weather wants to be hot, great, if it wants to be cold, also fine, but PICK ONE. Same deal here. It can be a scoopneck, it can be a v-neck, but this is just decrepit and I HATE it. The neckline is definitely stupid, but I do like the criss-crossing and I was surprised that the color combination was cool too. It's neat, it's fun and young, so I can dig it.
Leanne/Karalyn...I actually thought the loopy bits were cool, but there was just SO MUCH at work her that you couldn't even appreciate their coolness! Also, I'm sorry Leanne, but pockets that far down by the hem are just not workable. It just makes it look unfinished to me, like there was supposed to be more skirt that got left off. I didn't really like all those flaccid bits of fabric flopping around on this dress. What a mess! It was just weird. Maybe with a different fabric it wouldn't have been as bad.
Terri/Xaveria...obviously, our girl Xaveria here is selling the shit out of this one, but I like it on its own merits, too. The ruffles are really well done and the color is great on her. It may be a bit simple, but to me the va-va-va-voom to basic ratio is just perfect. Well done! I really loved this look. It's really pretty, I love the color and you notice that the model looks beautiful. You're not really looking at the dress, you're looking at her which is the point! I was surprised this wasn't one of the tops.
Speed has been getting kind of frustrated because he knows Blayne looks like SOMEONE but he has not been able to figure out who. Tonight he came up with two options...1. Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes, "but dirty," and 2. "if you took Mini Me and stretched him out." Needless to say, Speed promptly mulled over the chances that Blayne would drunkenly pee in a corner. Blayne looks like the kind of person who did too much heroin and then went shopping at the Thrift Store for some 80s shit. He. Is. A. Mess. I seriously worry for him because I'm afraid someone will drunkenly pee on him while he's strung out in a corner. Peelicious!

I also noticed, when he said "I'm thinkinnng I'm gonna win this!" in the first ep, he sounded JUST LIKE this one child on Paranormal State...same weird inflection, same bizarre verbal tics. Obviously it's not as good a pop cultural reference but I know you've watched at least parts of PS, so maybe you've seen this kid, since they rerun the shit out of that show. It's an episode where the kid is seeing ghosts, but specifically one ghost, and it turns out there was actually someone who died who fit the description, etc. Really weirdly over-mannered way of speaking...there's a scene where they are talking out on a deck. If you see or have seen it you'll know what I mean but seriously it's weird.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Framing the Debate

I often get up on my soapbox to rant and rave about how if you want to accomplish anything, you need to frame the debate properly. I think the importance of this idea is particularly relevant today in general and particularly to the Presidential race. Several key issues have been framed improperly and as a result have been carried off downstream by both candidates, the media and the voting public. Thankfully, the timbre of the Iraq discussion is beginning to right itself, and moving away from bickering about who voted how and when, towards a more sane (though still fighty) discussion of what to do now that we're there. Several other issues, however, remain mired in poor terms that miss the point...rather than talking about alternative energy because smog is gross, we're fighting about whether or not global warming is real or even matters, for example. Rather than talking about spending federal funds intelligently as opposed to doing so in a manner that most closely resembles some kind of monetary ticker tape parade, we're talking about bailing out people who bought houses they couldn't afford to begin with.

We are not this dumb.

I refuse to believe that Americans are actually so stupid as to not understand the truth of issues so essential to their lives. I refuse to believe this because so many people in my everyday life disprove it. That being said, we're doing a damn good impression of being that dumb. My personal feeling is that much of the country, who either are naturally less considerate of politics or who simply do not have time to double- and triple-check the facts, have fallen into a certain kind of frog-in-boiling-water situation. Rather than there having been a massive and violent leap into completely mindless, inadequate news coverage (i.e. the frog being thrown into a pot of boiling water), the crap has snuck in slowly over time (water being boiled as frog sits in it, not noticing his impending watery crisis), while maintaining the facade of credible and deep news. That being said, my ability to understand how we got here does not excuse it, and Americans have got to wake up, or we're going to end up in a world of shit beyond our worst nightmares. I don't want to go all Second Amendment Means a Bunker in Montana on you here, but we have to be vigilant, and we have to watch the government.

To my mind, this must begin with a demand that political discourse in this country be set back on track, so that we're addressing the actual business of governance rather than engaging in political smoke-blowing contests. This is going to mean facing some hard truths if we demand it and mean it, amongst them a serious look at pork spending and earmarks and some adult conversation about how demographics should play in this country's political life.

The latter truth is of particular interest to me, and after being startlingly and kind of spectacularly ineloquent in explaining to a friend this past week why I don't like demographically-based programs, I've been thinking about it more than usual. The programs in this country that are meant to right prejudicial wrongs are all based in the best of intentions...Affirmative Action, for example, attempts to correct centuries of abuse of African-Americans that none but the most bigoted (and thus most easily ignored) can refute. America means well, and tries to do the right thing. On the face of it, Affirmative Action sounds like a great concept, right? Repressed population gets first crack at some stuff, and you're not allowed to discriminate. The problem is that you are fighting fire with fire here by FORCING race to remain an issue. If you have to have a certain number of black people on staff, you have to count them. You have to set them aside and think " my black people." That's just NICE racism. That's just discriminating without being a douche about it.

An additional issue with these kinds of programs is clearly visible in my mortal enemy, Title IX, part of the Education Amendments of 1972, and also called the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act, which I have always felt sounded like something you'd name a rec center or something, giving it a cute, Welcome-to-Pleasantville kind of feel. (I mean...Patsy. Come on! The Patsy T. Mink Rec Center for Young Adults. No?) Title IX reads thus:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Surprisingly, this is some of the least convoluted legislation-speak I've read since maybe ever. Unfortunately, it doesn't make it any less problematic. The difficulty here is that we have a mandate tied to financial assistance that is predicated on gender equity. Economics and social agendas can't mesh in this regard, because the Title only considers one half of the accounting ledger. Because of this oversight, all kinds of weird duct-tape-style solutions have sprung up in an attempt to resolve the gap between the two aspects of Title IX. Of course, the most visible attempts and failures have been in high school and college athletics.

The missing piece of the ledger is the income side, and this is where college sports, in particular, are most threatened, mostly because of high-expense sports like football and hockey. (NB: This is true of state schools, since the matter deals with federal funding. While this is less germane to the private-school-heavy Northeast, it factors in on a much greater scale with the more dominant state schools of the Midwest.) Those sports have expensive utilities to maintain and expensive equipment, and in football's case, a large roster to outfit. Now, that being said, college football is one of the biggest moneymakers in the country, bringing in millions from a wide variety of sources (tickets and merchandise, TV advertising, sponsorship, etc.), more than making up its maintenance costs. Title IX fails to take this income into consideration. As a result, the schools' intelligent financial decision to maintain a football team comes at the cost of other programs that are not as profitable but provide the obvious social and competitive benefits to athletes in those programs. Furthermore, the value of maintaining a successful football team hones the blunt male edge of the gender sword, causing more ancillary mens' sports to be cut as the school struggles to maintain the "correct" balance between mens' and womens' sports expenditures.

The infamous three-prong test of Title IX has caused further problems, particularly in the thorny realm of the third prong: "Full and effective accommodation of the interest and ability of underrepresented sex." This is where you get all kinds of weirdness, as women are allowed to try out for mens' teams (and occasionally but much less frequently, vice versa) in the hopes that those teams could then be counted for both genders. Regrettably, this is a logical flaw not only in the approach to nullifying the damaging effects of Title IX but in the arguments for the more extreme feminist views of today, as it assumes a physiological equality that simply does not exist. This is not to say that women are by nature unable to attain certain physical stature, but rather to say that it is extremely improbable that enough women can compete in certain sports to truly negate the forced gender-blindness Title IX seeks to impose. The basic biological differences between men and women translate into a smaller probability that AS many women will be able to truly excel at full-contact sports...we can see the liabilities of the female build in shorter average height, prevalence of problems with bone density and arthritis, and other common ailments that trend towards women instead of men. We are built differently - that is okay. What is not okay is the attempt to force an unnatural equality upon male and female athletes. The aim of Title IX (and more specifically of prong three) is ensuring that all athletes, regardless of gender, will have access to the sports they wish to play. That is a social issue, not a financial issue, yet Title IX attacks the problem as though it is simply a matter of dollars and cents.

This all comes back to the importance of framing our debates in a manner most likely to allow both intelligent discussion and practical solution. Government solutions to social problems, if rooted in the prejudices themselves, will never achieve the goals they set out for themselves. You cannot fight fire with cannot fight prejudice by basing programs on prejudice. We should talk about our social ills, and talk about what happened before, but when we try to bear up those less fortunate in our society, we must choose income-based programs. We have come to an unfortunate point in our political development where we think everything needs to be resolved through the government, when in reality, many of our social problems can only be exacerbated by memorializing them in non-adaptive, prejudicially oriented programs. Unless we are prepared to continually revisit these types of programs and adjust them to fit the times as their effect is felt, they simply become a detriment to the repair of social rifts. For instance, Title IX was published in 1972...Billie Jean King faced Bobby Riggs in 1973. Manon Rheaume hit NHL ice in 1992. Brandi Chastain lost her damn mind in 1999. The WNBA was founded in 1996. Title IX still presumes that women are being locked out of sports. This is simply not true. Attitudes have changed.

We are a capitalist country. There's considerable evidence that the Founding Fathers actually wanted to ensure that this was the case, though the reasons they wanted it to be so are up for debate. My feeling is that they wanted the riffraff to stay occupied with work so they would leave the politics to the professionals, which in turn raises the question of whether we are currently staring down the logical end of the Framers' work, i.e. low voter turnout and high factional engagement (Et tu, Madison? Was all that evil faction talk just a ploy to get on the good side of political science teachers?), but THAT is about...eight more posts and maybe a small novel, so I'll let you mull that one over on your own time. The problem is that our well-intentioned social programs do not match our capitalist leanings. While race and gender may contribute to our historical misfortune, we all deal in the same currency. In these days we should be discussing the social problems around us in order to root out the insensitivity and inappropriate prejudices still perpetrated, but federal aid should stem from economic standing. Level the playing field that way. Talk out the rest.

I should not end without mentioning the damaging effects of the coddling provided by political correctness and the abovementioned programs. We have become so unbelievably thin-skinned as a result of our unwillingness to approach social ills on an adult level that we now are almost completely unable to be rational. I will certainly not pull the words-are-just-words line out here, because we have no better defense against the mess we find ourselves in but the English language, but we need to be able to accept some basic realities about ourselves and the state of our discourse before putting the first foot forward. I know this will be surprising, but...there are assholes in the world. Sometimes, they don't even know they ARE assholes. They just grew up in bad environments, with crappy role models, and no direction, being encouraged to play a proscribed role, be it one of dominance or of victimization. There is no asshole-free Utopia out there. The sooner we can all accept that, the closer we will be to a better social climate.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My Memory Lane and Others'

I recently discovered a fantastic photography blog and have been going through it semi-obsessively over the course of the past couple days. I've made it to the January 2008 archives now, and when I got to this article on the Library of Congress' massive project of putting thousands of pictures up on Flickr. You should make a point of checking this blog out, because the author has a truly great and diverse taste in photography. It's called The Year in Pictures and I came to it via another blog, which posted pictures of tulip farms:

I mean, amazing, right? On a side note, this whole thing is a real experiment in how the Internet is kind of constantly eating itself, and makes me feel considerably less unique in my interests than I usually see myself. This blog was linked from 24 Free Dinners which is an offshoot of Daddy Likey, which was linked to by both The Manolo and that weird fashion blog whose grammatical ineptitude eventually became too much for me to handle, the former of which is referred to with varying frequency on Television Without Pity, Tomato Nation and Pajiba, and this intersects with The Sartorialist, who is frequently referenced on the Year in Pictures blog and whom I read regularly. No matter how varied my regular Internet spots may seem to be, they all eventually mash together, particularly around Television Without Pity. I have three main online zones...politics and hard news, fashion, and pop-cultural-but-not-hyper-gossipy (i.e. no Gawker, Perez Hilton, etc.), which I think seem fairly separate from one another, yet they all seem to run into each other in the most random and serendipitous ways. Fascinating, I think. My nearest guess is that the intellectual level and style of all these blogs is about the same. I don't know if I should feel happy that there are lots of people out there who think like me, or if I should feel territorial and pissy that others are infringing in my (imagined?) uniqueness.

Okay, I'm sorry but extra side note...I use an online music thingie (not really radio, not really P2P) called Pandora and it's so interesting to see how certain tiny things that you would never notice carry through things you like, even if you would not consider said things to go together. The way Pandora works is that you punch in an artist of song you like, and based on that song, Pandora puts together a radio station of what it thinks you'll like. From there you can guide it along by giving the thumbs up or thumbs down to the songs it plays, and eventually, you get your very own superawesome radio station. I started on station with "The Way I Are" and somehow, presumably through magic, the radio station now includes all kinds of weird crap that I would not associate with ANYTHING from Timbaland but that I love all the same. I think there are just certain things that appeal to us, and whether we recognize them and conciously seek them out, like choosing a pink shirt over black, or respond without knowing we do so, dog whistle style, we respond to them the same way every time.

Should I get to the goddamn point already, because I think I should get to the goddamn point. As I said about three weeks ago at the start of this entry, the Library of Congress posted a ton of photos to Flickr, which is a huge service to the entire planet, since their photo collections are simply amazing (If I have not harangued you about this in person, PLEASE do not skip the Library of Congress. I know it sounds less thrilling than many of the other DC attractions, but it's really a spectacular place). I just loved this picture of Shulman's Market at N and Union in Southwest Washington, DC, taken by Louise Roskam in 1942:

Not only is it a gorgeous picture, but somehow it manages to be everything I love about DC. This market is still there...maybe not in the same place, probably not under the same name, but the spirit of this market is still in DC. (As it turns out, some helpful folks have investigated the specific market. I love the Internet.) What I love so much about DC is that so many different things manage to exist within the city limits. Everyone thinks of the White House, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial...these are the iconic images of the city, photographed ad nauseam and instantly understandable. But what really makes living in DC so exceptional is the other stuff...the storefronts that are still like this, and the neighborhoods that each have their own feel and flavor.
No matter what environment you thrive in, no matter what feelings you want to immerse yourself in, you can find it in Washington. If you can't decide, you can Georgetown, to the Hill, to Dupont, to Adams Morgan...hell, to Anacostia, if you want. You can find whatever people you could want in the District, too, from the Leader of the Free World right down to welfare queens of the dingier neighborhoods. There is a range and a depth in DC that I have rarely found elsewhere, and that is what I love and miss the most about it. It's a city with problems and pain and endless trauma, but it still manages to embody a certain spirit of resilience and strength that simply cannot be denied. How perfect, for a country like America, that such a city would serve as its seat of government, when it exemplifes all the mishmash of the country itself.

The Fail Continues

Pretty much the entire time we've been engaged, I've felt like I have been completely failing at being a bride. First of all, I haven't garrotted anyone with a color-coordinated ribbon or thrown an epic tantrum that resulted in the firing of multiple bridesmaids and the severance of family relations. Society teaches me that I am not only entitled to this kind of behavior but in fact am doing something wrong if I don't engage in it. So I'm bad at that. I also am thrilled to PIECES that we have booked our location and in so doing completed about eighty percent of the planning over a year ahead of the actual wedding. I don't really want to fuss over little ribbons to put on the invitations or whether to put chair covers on the seats at the reception...I want to make sure there is enough beer. One has to have priorities.

I can also see some impending ruination on the horizon, that being the creation of a registry. Speed and I horrified our families relatively early on in the relationship by buying a house, which meant we then had two of everything...sets of silverware, place settings, etc. If it was up to me, I wouldn't even bother with a registry, simply because we have so much crap, but I KNOW there are going to be some relatives who just have to give us some cut glass bowl, and I'd rather not leave them to their own devices, and I don't like the ideas of cash, mortgage or honeymoon registries (they just have a creepy, air-of-rudeness vibe to them for me...FOR ME, okay, don't email me). I trust that 99.9% of family and friends can gift appropriately and limit the junk factor, and that they know I'd much rather have them spend money on transportation so we can spend time with them than worry about gifts. I just don't know how I'm going to go about populating a registry when I don't really think we need anything of note...there are plenty of things that would be nice, but why should other people have to buy them for us?

That all being said, I have made some attempts at checking out wedding dresses, and since any and all readers will be doomed to limited squealing over wedding trappings, here are a couple pictures of dresses I like, all from Eden Bridals. I really enjoy Eden's stuff, mostly because the detailing is so well handled and unusual.

And this is a picture of part of St. Petersburg from the air, which I think is much more interesting and I found on English Russia.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stewing Roosters

So, speaking of awesome stories, I keep forgetting to write this up. At the end of May, Celia popped up on my Gmail chat and said the following.
i love freecycle
i might get some stewing roosters (if they're cleaned) for free
some lady a town over raises them
and didn't have room in her freezer

So naturally, my response was...what the fuck is a stewing rooster? I am no master cook...I blame feminism, personally, but feel free to point fingers as necessary. I was cautiously enthusiastic, then asked, "getting food off freecycle doesn't weird you out?" She rightly pointed out that they are in a pretty farm-heavy area, so it's not as odd as people putting food up there as it would be in, say, Boston. Fair enough. The boss in my previous department has a fabulous organic garden and every summer it kind of explodes on him, turning him into a vaguely menacing veggie pusher. He'd come in with a trailerload of lettuce, and people would take a couple heads, because it's...lettuce, and then a couple hours later he'd show up in my office all "did you take some lettuce? Because you should take some lettuce," and then a bag of EXTRA BACKUP LETTUCE would mysteriously get hung on my doorknob when I was out of the office. So...farms = surplus sometimes, okay.

We cleared up the stewing rooster confusion (older, less tender rooster better for stewing than rotisserie), I mentioned I was not personally ready for the Freecycle Poultry Experience, she kind of agreed, and then she informed me that she'd emailed the Freecycler to see if they were cleaned and how big they were. At this point, I advised her that they should come pre-dead, also. She replied - AND I QUOTE, THANKS TO GMAIL - "i'm sure they're pre-dead. they were listed as 'stewing roosters.'" I cautioned that "you never know with these farm folk," and then work and kids and such intervened and the convo ended.

I forgot about the stewing roosters until Freecycle came up again about a week later, when we talked again.
Me: Also, did you get the roosters?
Celia: no
they were alive
Celia: and I did
and they weren't

AWESOME. Someone put their NON-DEAD ROOSTERS on Freecycle. Is that not that awesomest goddamn thing you have ever heard? I love how weird people are. I just. Love it. These people? Can vote. And even better? I bet that someone took those roosters, and THOSE people can vote, too! THIS IS A GREAT FUCKING COUNTRY, IS IT NOT?

Adding to this whole extravaganza was that between the first and second conversations, I had some kind of exhaustion driven laughing fit that lasted for the better part of two days. I still can't really explain it, but let me tell you, it got ridiculous. I was looking at completely un-funny, inanimate objects that had been on the desk all day without moving, and bursting into crippling laughter. After the Undead Chicken Revelation, I started cracking up again, probably giving everyone around me great cause for concern that another epic laughing fit was incoming.

You're Welcome!

Last night, my sister called me while I was at my Totally Awesome And Not At All Dorky Candlepin Bowling League, so I got all excited and assumed she was in town and wanted me to buy alcohol for her or something. Not exactly preparing to wrassle Reagan for the title of "The Great Communicator," that one. So anyway, she calls me, and by some miracle I hear my humiliating ringtone rocking out, and we have the following conversation.

Me: Hey! What's up?
Sarah: Hey. Are you pregnant?
Me: Am I PREGNANT? No. Are you high?
Sarah: Wellllllll, Alicia saw your Facebook status and she said she thought you were pregnant.
Me: I...don't even know what status she could be talking about. The only one I remember from today was when I said I was living on the edge by microwaving my lunch in styrofoam.
Sarah: Okay, well I was just hoping if you were pregnant you would tell me first.

Then we talked about what we were doing that night and hung up. I remained confused throughout bowling and for the drive home. Speed and I sat down and started watching a back episode of American Gladiators (YES we're contributing to the decay of Western culture, back off), and all of a sudden, it comes to me.

I have been panicking about my upcoming Italian III course for several reasons. First, I am losing awesome prof RoMa, and thus will be facing an unknown quantity. I fear that said quantity will not appreciate my tendency to respond to requests for the use of reflexive verbs with variations of "fuck" or my policy of masking ineptitude with snide remarks. Secondly, I've been researching grad schools and Ph.D programs, and all of them want some degree of ability in a foreign language. I think my French is beyond timely resucitation at the moment, and I'm knee deep in Italian, so continuing seems to make the most sense. Most of all, Italian is kicking my ass. I AM a language person, and particularly a romance language person, but lord, am I bad at Italian. I'm not even sure why. In any case, the irritating textbook we used did not help, and it was from this book that I was making an extensive, mildly alarming vocab study guide (I have decided that my main issue is vocab...I am reasonably confident about conjugation, etc., but my Italian vocabulary sucks). I noted on my Facebook status that I thought this textbook kind of sucked.

That my Italian textbook sucked.

My Italian textbook that is called Prego.

I posted a new status on Facebook that explained that PREGO is not the same as PREGGO, and that I am definitely NOT PREGGO, not that I am that in love with Prego, either. Since then, a bunch of people have written comments on my wall to the effect of "oh PHEW, I didn't want to say anything." So now we know how people will react if I ever DO wind up pregnant...with stunned and slightly alarmed silence. HIGH FIVE, FRIENDS!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Generation Kill

I had heard good things about HBO's newest miniseries, Generation Kill, and given HBO's recent batting average, pretty much any of their shows are worth a stab. The series is based on Evan Wright's book of the same title, which chronicles a platoon of First Reconnaissance Battalion Marines' engagement in the first days of the Iraq War. The book, as I understand it, is an expanded version of a series of articles written for Rolling Stone.

The HBO series - and presumably the book and original articles - paints meticulous portraits of the Marines with whom Wright was embedded. The men in the platoon are like all the Marines I have ever, profane, powerful, and completely weird. The weirdness is not so much an issue of the Corps seeking out weird people to fill their ranks, but rather a manifestation of the only release valve they have for the tough shit they need to be able to absorb. I am not a Marine, my family has no Marine connections, but I do have a bevy of Marine friends, who have at least tried to explain what it is to be a Marine. It is not something for the weak, and it is not something for the stupid. It's never NOT intense, and this is where the weirdness comes from.

You can also see what I think is the greatest flaw in the Iraq War...obviously, as I've babbled about many times, I think that the abandonment of diplomacy in the months preceding the war is the biggest mistake of the entire thing, but in terms of the actual, Okay, We Goin' part of the war, the planning and preparation were not where they should have been. This is clearly evident in Generation Kill, when the men head into Baghdad in unarmoured Humvees alone, with no tank escort, and with chemical suits in woodland camoflauge. Communication is weak at best, and the Rules of Engagement change what seems like every couple minutes.

It seems to me that the US military failed to anticipate how different this new war would be. I am not so blinded by my general dislike of the Administration and the government's handling of this war that I can fool myself into thinking they didn't know it would be down-and-dirty, urban combat shit they were walking into. They knew they'd have to go into the cities to rout the Baathists and lop off the tentacles of Hussein's government. More that than, they had to know that this was not a Geneva Convention war...there would likely be less uniformed combatants than fighters clad in civvies. Frankly, that's a smarter way to win a war - look like you live there and just need some groceries. Right there, you blow your rules of engagement out of the water. I think in large part the possibility of success was derailed then and never recovered. It's truly horrible to see this problem painted so clearly, complete with real, human characters. The newspapers make it easy to think in binary - this film makes it a photograph.

Moreover, and this may seem completely weird given the weight of the material addressed, the recapper assigned to the series on Television Without Pity is Jacob, who recapped The Apprentice and American Idol for them. The Apprentice and AI couldn't be more vapid if they tried (maybe they do...there's certainly an argument to be made there), but Jacob really has a way of imbuing the recaps with a certain sociopolicial weight that isn't always evident from the first viewing. With Generation Kill, he brings a lot of excellent observations not only about the military and the Marines, but also about the war itself. I'll leave you with some of his best contributions, advice to check out his recaps, and a demand that you watch Generation Kill at your first convenience. It's important viewing, and Americans need to know about these things.

"The way that these men deal with ugliness is, of course, a major draw here, and the ways it's expressed are completely foreign and interesting. I would not be able to invent the coping strategies these men have developed. Like, they know killing is horrible and bad, and they don't want to die; they know that they are racist and homophobic and sexist and gross, and surrounded by people of other races who don't always get along in the real world, and that they're in a homoerotic home movie with no girls for miles, and they know that these things cause resentment and fighting and total weirdness on every level from the physical to the spiritual, but if you say it you break the bubble and everybody freaks out, right? Except not in this case, because they have to be empty and can't have all that stuff going on inside. So they just acknowledge it, violently and at full volume, on a constant basis, and that... works for them. It's brilliant."

"Ray accuses Jeff of communism; he reacts poorly. They talk a lot about communism, in the Battalion. It didn't make a whole lot of sense at first, but I think I get it. As a cultural gloss, the bugbear of Communism as an all-purpose signifier for weakness and a particularly anti-capitalist, which is to say anti-American, point of view encapsulates everything the rest of the country -- the liberal media, et. al. -- doesn't understand anymore. I mean, war is bad. But that's not a Marine thought. So all the non-Marine thoughts in the world, thanks to the '60s, can be easily filed under communism. It's an artifact. It reminds me most -- stay with me here -- of the way men pass down information in other environments, like, the '70s and poppers and drag queens were a long time ago, and made sense in that time and place. But you meet a 20-year-old gay kid who still thinks those things are relevant, it's because somebody got ahold of him before he invented the world for himself. So the whole communism thing -- most of the guys in Bravo Company, understand, are under twenty-five -- is extant in the men who've trained them, and the men who trained those men. And it means something larger than it pretends to. The entire concept of getting offended if you called somebody a communist, it's so weird. But in this context it makes total sense that it's still pejorative."

"And I mean, the most cartoonish people in this story -- Captain America, Rudy Reyes, Sixta, Ray Person -- are the most true-to-life, and I had to watch this maybe a dozen times to even begin to understand what a Sergeant Major is all about, because what he is about is this: being the freak. Looking for things to yell about. It's not because he's a dick -- he's also a dick -- but because that's what he does. They kept saying his job was to be an asshole and I thought they were being cute, but no: his job is actually to be an asshole. That's so weird."

"The thing with the mustaches is cool, because it runs under everything else that happens: before this week, the division was having a mustache contest, and now suddenly mustaches are evil. But it has to be mustaches, because to be a Marine is simultaneously the most powerful and the least powerful thing you can be. When you're made into a weapon you can do what weapons do, but you also don't have too many options otherwise. The things they did to Gunny Wynn in Basic, make my skin crawl. I don't even want to talk about it. It makes me feel sad, and very alone. But think about it: no matter how small the box you're in, no matter how many parts of you they burn off, you still have the ability to grow hair. You're a man: your mustache proves it. The reason the grooming standard is so galling is because it's control on a level that nobody should have to endure. The find the one square foot you're standing on that still belongs to you, and they take off six more inches: not even your face belongs to you, it belongs to the Corps."

"Iceman's life is about protecting his men in the field, and every scene with the turret makes it an objective correlative for that central issue. He's looking for something he will never find, which is safety for his men, and no matter where he looks for it, nobody even knows what he's talking about. Garza stands on top of a Humvee, completely exposed, shooting a gun as big as a surfboard. I've never stood on top of a Humvee while it was standing still, much less slip-sliding through desert sand while people shot at my head. Get the dude a fucking turret; they're not supposed to be in these cracked-out Humvees in the first place. Rudy approaches, looking grim and gigantic and apologetic, and summons Brad back to the tents."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Project Runway: Let's Start From The Beginning

Ah, Project Runway, in its last season before it moves to Lifetime, where I expect it to be irreparably, hideously mangled. The Lifetime people have already said they plan to move the show to LA for a variety of reasons, including the opportunity to have more celebrity involvement. Le fucking sigh, dude, for real. Project Runway isn't ABOUT celebrity, it's about people being really fucking good at design and execution. When celebrities factor in, they are appearing as guest judges and are fashion celebrities, not fucking movie stars. On top of this announced incoming doom, the editorial reins are being handed over from the talented and witty Magical Elves group to Bunim-fucking-Murray, best known for their work on...The Real World.

I am just going to put this out here now. Lifetime, if you turn my favorite TV show into the kind of dreck you air all day, every day, I will fucking cut you. That is all.

So anyway, let's all enjoy this season before Lifetime gets their sappy, hormone-saturated mitts on Project Runway. So far it looks entertaining, at least, and in a LANDMARK event, The Lucy and I hate most of the same people! Normally, we have a conversation like this relatively early in the season:
Me: Oh my God, __________ is SO OBNOXIOUS! I want to stab him/her
repeatedly in the eyeball!
The Lucy: Are you on drugs? I love ___________!

As far as I can tell, this is because The Lucy is better able to look past obnoxious personality to the fashion being produced. Our agreement on the annoyance of Blayne and Suede is refreshing and a good indicator of the IMMENSE obnoxiousness of both. A couple notes to begin the dress-by-dressage...
  • The guest...mentor?...and guest judge was none other than the inestimable Austin Scarlett, who horrifies both Speed and School Friend Cindy, because they do not know better. Austin is a lot to take, visually, what with the insane dressing and the makeup and the "soft serve ice cream hair" (as magnificently described by someone who lives in Internet land), but if you've watched the first season you know he is to be adored. He won this same challenge on the first go-round with a really spectacular dress made of corn husks. Even though he forgot to refrigerate it and it got a little shrivelly, the judges exhibited exemplary good sense and gave him the win.

  • On the model front, there are two semi-startling women on deck. One is named Elena and appears to be almost normal human sized. The other one is named Germaine (hehhhh, her name is Relevant) and she...does not have boobs. I don't know what the deal is with it, but seriously, she walked down the runway, turned at the end, and dang.

  • During the "Coming Up This Season" clips, there was one that featured Tim Gunn saying "it's like a pterodactyl in a gay Jurassic Park." I love Tim Gunn.

  • This was the first viewing of PR for School Friend Cindy. We have developed a habit of watching TV codependently (i.e. watching the same show and commentating via AIM), and this time, we watched PR. Good times!

  • Daniel "from Brooklyn," you are from GREAT BARRINGTON, MA, stop being an assface.

  • I wonder how much they paid Kit Pistol to wax enthusiastic about designing an outfit based on a car. On a SATURN. I hope it was a lot.
The challenge was a return to the very first episode ever, where the designers were taken to Griestedes grocery store and told to create an outfit. I started off The PR Email to The Lucy with the following: "I have decided I am just going to ignore color unless it's exceptionally GOOD, because they WERE shopping in a grocery store. I was psyched that they did this challenge again! In other news, the Bluefly wall looks LUSCIOUS, doesn't it? I saw some snazzy stuff on there." I'm usually very color oriented, but I am trying to abandon that tendency for the time being, given the nature of the challenge.


Josie: I thought Kenley did a great job with the bustier. I actually like the skirt a lot more in this picture than I did when it was moving on the runway last night, because the stiff "fabric" was getting kind of caught up on itself. Now that I can see it like this I actually really like it.

The Lucy: I liked the bodice too, but there was a little piece of me that felt as though it were kind of...obscene? I'll give her props for working the hell out of that rubber ball though. The skirt is cool, but this look is really meh for me for some reason.


Josie: I kind of hated the top of this (I am pretty sure I saw nipple, also...WTF?), BUT it was interesting and creative, so I will give it a pass. The skirt was pretty blah but did well showcasing the work she had done on the top.

The Lucy: I wish she had stitched the braided ropes together, because as she was braiding I kept seeing a sweater knit. It would have looked better if she made it look like an knit piece. The skirt is just a pencil skirt but I dug her idea for the top.


Josie: I was really surprised by this, because I expected a lot more insanity from Suede, and instead got a total snoozefest. Adding the pieces of blue all over the TABLECLOTH (which was the tableclothiest looking one of them all) was somewhat helpful but overall, this was just boring. The styling was also really weird...what's with the big ole prom updo and big shiny jewelry? And in what world do they go with GINGHAM?

The Lucy: Oh sweetness, this sucks. I really don't have anything to say about this other than it's completely boring. I'm pretty sure any person could come up with this look...a tablecloth with blue shit on it. Hooray!


Josie: I...don't get or like this. There's weird shape, cooch highlighting via that little uptick in the hem dead center of her legs, the boots don't go, the neck ruff is weird and alarming and so help me, I'm abandoning the color disclaimer for a minute here because WTF is this all ABOUT? You couldn't find ANYTHING less jarring that smashing what looks like something you stole from an Elizabethan-themed children's clown on top of a cream colored weird but fundamentally sedate dress?

The Lucy: I kind of dig on where this look could have gone. I think the neck piece is actually really cool but it doesn't go with anything! The dress doesn't make sense, it's really Peter-Pan-ey and the boots look stupid. I wish something different went on from the neck down because it could have been cool.


Josie: I would have hated this far less had Leanne not done the white bits on the skirt itself. I also wasn't wild about the BACK of this where she just slapped those candies on...the LEAST she could have done is do some kind of cool pattern. Putting them all in rows like that just looked bland and janky. Not horrible but not my favorite either.

The Lucy: I thought the detail of the meringue cookies was cool, but I didn't really think much of this dress. The candies glued on the back were abysmal. I also kind of get the white poof thing, but I think she took it too far. It could have been cool if they were just peeks in the pleats.


Josie: Jennifer...cute but bland. I think this is a casualty of the Shopping In A Grocery factor.

The Lucy: Cute. I liked the little kiss details she did. Nothing special though.


Josie: Jerell mentioned the movement on this and it really was very cool. The bodice is fitted REALLY well and I actually love the cute little head thing. I could live without the funky sleeve but it doesn't ruin everything for me, so I'll let it live.

The Lucy: Oh, what fun. I actually liked the koosh sleeve, but that may have been a nostalgia thing. It's fun and pretty and the head piece is really fantastic. I love it and want one.


Josie: I thought this little Keith number was really cute, and it disappointed me when Tim gave the Tablecloth Speech as he was standing near it because it was the LEAST I-draped-a-tablecloth-y of them all. I would actually WEAR this, and I thought he did an awesome job, even BEFORE he added more netting...I think it was fine all on its own!

The Lucy: I'm kind of on the fence about this. While I think it's kind of cool, I think this look is getting a little overdone. It's not really creative, although it is pretty and well executed. I do kind of get Tim's point - it's obvious that he was kind of taking the easy way out.


Josie: I could live without the gloves, but boy, they really show you the hypercutesy Marc Jacobs influence, don't they? The dress itself is cute enough but I REALLY like the little swath of assorted stuff. Don't love the styling, but I think overall this is cute.

The Lucy: I loved the bright color and all the little bits that he used as accents. Once again, not really a creative piece but cute and well done. I think the accents really made this special...without them though...eeehhhhh.


Josie: All right, the top is pretty meh, but the use of the pasta is very cute and the skirt had good movement so I'll let it pass. Kind of a snooze.

The Lucy: This one was actually one of my favorites. I loved the pattern on the skirt and the way it played with the tomato pattern. I may also love this just because I'm Italian, and pasta and tomatoes make me happy.


Josie: I really liked this, even though I could have seen it shorter...I think that would have gotten the judges off her back about the tableclothiness. The use of the veggies was VERY cool and very much in the spirit of the challenge, I think. Love the yellow color!

The Lucy: MY VEGGIES! Fabulousness. I think this was really cool and the veggie "necklace" made this really special. So pretty.


Josie: Okay, how awesome was this? We just talked about the real-life model aspect but the dress itself is so damn cool. Obviously, I like it more because it's made out of a cool material rather than it actually being some kind of revolution in fashion design, but the design itself isn't BAD either, just pretty basic.

The Lucy: I thought this was pretty amazing, just because he made this cool melty plastic dress. I really liked this one. Also, I think this model looks like Elia from Top Chef, and it kind of bothers me.


Josie: What does one even say about this? I like that in this picture it looks like ump gear.

The Lucy: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA! The upside to wearing this is that you're safe if you get your period whilst wearing it. So much ugly.


Josie: Let's review...this is a FISHTAIL raincoat, with yellow dishwashing gloves, and a tissue paper dress. EPIC FAIL.

The Lucy: Perfect for a night out on the town with Jack the Ripper. Either that, or a fashionable outfit to wear to the meat packing plant. Her face really does say it all.


Josie: I thought the skirt on this came out REALLY well, but I hate the top so much I find it distracting. Everything's fine until you hit the coffee filter boobie manhole covers and then it's all over.

The Lucy: The skirt is pretty badass. I think it's funny that Jerry criticized her for what she did and he ended up getting kicked off. Had this model breasts, this look could have been a disaster.


Josie: God, what to say. Honestly, I think this does jive with her overall aesthetic but the WHINING on the way to its creation was almost more than I could handle. Like, okay, you can't make pants. That's horrible for you but SACK UP, HO!

The Lucy: "I will be the jackass of the nation." Best line ever. Worst dress ever. She could have done so much with this but instead she chose to complain instead of using her head to come up with ideas. She may not be long for the show.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dastardly Skateboarders and Responsible Government Spending

It seems to me that a lot of the problems of the moment stem from a distinct and vaguely alarming lack of common sense. The vast majority of pork spending and earmarks are accepted by people at all levels of political involvement as bullshit, yet they continue to divert millions of tax dollars into vanity projects. In my view, taxes paid to the Federal government should go towards funding programs that benefit ALL taxpayers more or less equally, without favoring certain districts.

Everyone understands Want, and everyone has wants and needs. A true measure of a person is how they consider their true needs even when their wants lie in reach, particularly when choosing need over want leaves resources for others' needs. It is even more difficult to relinquish something you want, or to fairly appraise the difference between the two once you have what you want. It seems that if people could man up and consider what is best for the country, rather than simply for themselves, the way would be cleared for some major financial reform. After all, doesn't doing what's good for the country at large allow us all to capitalize on our own opportunities and achieve new heights?

The town of Holden provided an interesting look at challenge of weighing wants and needs earlier this year. The proposal was made to build a massive new public safety building, which would create a hub for all of Holden's law enforcement and emergency responders. This is a great theory. We have a local paper called The Landmark, which amongst many other things prints the police blotter. The blotter - or, as it's called in our house, "the funny papers" - chronicles a variety of small town incidents...people driving without licenses, various wildlife being spotted, neighborly arguments, and above all, the removal of DASTARDLY SKATEBOARDERS.

I'm sorry about the piercing fear that I just struck into your hearts.

You might think I'm kidding about the Dastardly Skateboarders, but you can literally track their progress Billy's-dotted-line-in-Family-Circus style around town. 9:14a, Skateboarders in Wachusett Fitness parking lot...10:27a, Skateboarders in library parking lot...11:53a, Skateboarders at Rice School. I should probably note here that I have yet to see a skateboarder in this town over the age of about 13.

The cops are doing their job, maintaining a certain level not only of public safety but public serenity. The fire department is just as efficient and serves the community well. That being said, the proposed public safety building would cost $15.5 million. While I believe in emergency personnel being outfitted to the very best possible, there's also a logical limit. What true benefit would be provided and what actual need would be met by building this facility rather than renovating and improving the pre-existing structures that these departments currently operate out of? Holden is not a burgeoning city on the verge of bursting into full on metropolisdom. It's a town where the largest problem is likely to BE fairly low-level crime well within the capabilities of the efficient and competent HPD. It doesn't take $15.5 million (NB: When has a public works project ever come in on budget?) to maintain that kind of control.

Is it so much to hope that sanity will eventually be mustered?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Worcester Bling Bling: A Study In Personality Flaws

As some of you may know, I recently did this to my phone:

I used different colors - I used clear where you see it in the above picture, but used alternating orange and dark pink for the rest. You glue on each individual crystal, and the entire thing probably took me about 3 hours (with frequent breaks for mocking from Speed). The result is a heavier, shinier Razr, to the delight of myself and two year olds. I pulled this thing out of my purse in a hurry while in the car on a sunny day and all of a sudden DISCO was in the car with me. I adore it. The process also proved an interesting examination of my vast arsenal of personality quirks and defects, to wit:

  • I am really, really, super awesome at carrying out fine motor processes repetitively and for long periods of time. See also: knitting.

  • Though I present my predilection for shiny things as a joke, it's far more true than I like to admit.

  • There are certain things I should be embarassed about that I simply am not.

  • I have the emotional age of a child in elementary school.

Now, some people have simply started refusing to acknowledge the existance of this phone, but others, like my parents, have embraced the experience. In that spirit, when they drove past this masterpiece, they made sure to take a picture for me.

I HAVE to go there.

Worcester has made some great strides in the 25 years I've been here, but there's some stuff that just does not come out in the wash, no matter how hard you try to Shout it out. Ghetto fabulousness is apparently one of these things, because for every upscale restaurant that pops up, something like this is usually right on its tail. They may not be neighbors, they may not even be on the same side of town, but I tell you, God bless these purveyors of ghetto fabulousity for their diligent work towards preserving the balance of culture in Woo Town.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fashion Weeks

As you may or may not know, the fashion world has been in full throat the past month or so with Fashion Weeks taking place around the world. I am struck, most of all, by the boringness of so many of the NY ready to wear collections...good God, fashion, with the world in its current state, we NEED some joy in our clothing! Here's a rundown of some of the highs and lows.

I know there are quite a few of you who come here more for the swearing and the politics than the fashion, so let me explain briefly how fashion terms work. First, and eternally foremost, the phrase "haute couture" is NOT synonymous with "made by a designer." I understand that this is once again one of my private little battles with society at large, but actual haute couture refers to a very specific and tightly regulated community of fashion houses who a.) design made-to-order clothing for private clients, b.) have a workshop in Paris that employs at least fifteen people full-time, and c.) presents a collection biannually to the Paris press, comprising at least thirty-five runs with outfits for both daytime wear and evening wear (Wiki). Couturiers make these spectacular collections to promote their House and showcase their skills (these are the elite of the fashion industry), but very few people actually wear - and can afford - true couture, and for that reason, the Houses also produce ready to wear (or, pret-a-porter, which means exactly the same thing, in French) collections and other whickety whack like jewelry, perfume and accessories for the mass market.
I think I said I would keep this brief. Once again, I am full of lie.

Anyway, you get two types of fashion show - couture and ready to wear. Ready to wear is stuff that theoretically is for everyday wear (depends on your fashion ballsiness factor), whereas couture as explained above is pretty exotic.

Paris' Couture Fashion Week

Anne Valerie Hash needs to be told that gluing one weird piece of plastic onto a garment does not a couture collection make. I felt not only that this could have passed as ready to wear for a certain well-heeled kind of hemp-friendly hippie, but the color palette was boring as shit and there was nothing exciting about it for me. I also SWEAR there is a glorified Members Only jacket in there and that's just not acceptable on any level.

Armani Prive put out a series of suits in drab colors that felt very dated to me...tapered, high waisted (not in the good or in the modern way) pants, interesting enough but pleat-heavy jackets, shiny, garish fabric all over the thanks. Also, sorry Armani, but there's just no way for a giant neck bow to be pulled off. There was one dress that I really did think was lovely, which I've included in my round up at the bottom.

I continue to be Christian Dior's bitch in a totally pathetic way. I just adore what John Galliano does for this house, and though I do not love this collection with the same passion that I loved last year's spring collection that I refer to ALL THE DAMN TIME, but I love the way Galliano continues to produce innovative, exciting design while still constantly calling back to the grand tradition of the Dior house. The attention to detail is fantastic, and I enjoyed the use of sheers throughout the collection, and honestly...I want to live in a world where the insane leopard print dress I included below is commonplace.

Christian Lacroix was not my personal cup of tea, but after the overall blandness of much of the shows, the color was refreshing. The reason I didn't love the collection was mostly because I found it VERY busy...lots of stuff going on in each outfit, plus some pretty extravagant hair and makeup. There was a certain Elizabethan-updated-but-perhaps-not-correctly-stored aesthetic, which probably explains why I don't like it that much. I have never been into the whole medieval thing. My favorite of the collection was a relatively plain dress (included below) in a bright yellow with black detailing. Still, innovative and interesting.

Elie Saab put out a really lovely collection of formal gowns. While some of them trended towards being a little more prommy than I would like, the detailing is immaculate and every gown makes a definitive statement about the wearer. Not my favorite color story, but you can't have everything in this life, I suppose. I am still trying to decide how I feel about the graduated color trend that seems to have started with last season's Sfumato and Ombre shoes from Prada and carried into fabrics this season. I love it in the bright pop of blue in a brownish dress (below), but it's not a guaranteed win, even within a given house.

Givenchy was...different, that's for Goddamned sure. First of all, there were these insane boots all over the collection that I kind of love. They sort of look like regular pointy toed boots with some kind of deranged UberSpat over them. I included a picture below. The detail was interesting, though not my cuppa, and look...all I'm saying is that there's a pair of fuzzy shorts in there, people. I can't fault the creative vision of someone who makes fuzzy shorts.

As I noted to The Lucy, I saw a lot of Project Runway's Kara Saun in the first part of the Jean Paul Gaultier show. Lots of leather and heavy materials, very buckly and modernistic. The entire collection felt very fragmented to me. There was a section of the leathery, outdoorsy feeling stuff, then some great use of dramatic color, then a section of stuff with kind of serpentine whickety whack on it, then an inexplicable velour jumpsuit, then some creative cape action, then some kind of velvet high priestess outfit? How do all these things coexist? I would have liked to see a more common thread throughout, with more development of the color. The Lucy noted that Gaultier has clung to the 90s pretty hard after their involvement with Madonna in her glory days, and I think there's really something to that, particularly in the whickety whack section (cool though I found its deployment).

Maison Martin Margiela...what does one say about this? It's a collection that features a Princess Leia dress and clothing straight out of the Project Runway challenge when they had to make stuff out of recycled materials. I mean, I don't find it as offensive and self-impressed as I often find this variety of "I made this jacket out of six-pack plastic and bird poop, aren't I just the CUTEST???" clothing, but it's still weird and lame.

Valentino tried one of those dangerous experiments with changing the shape of a woman's body, and I am torn on it. First of all, this is the least boring of the neutral-toned collections....there's actual interest going on, and it's all well done. That being said, the problem of the body shape is significant. I like the bulbous hip and thigh area styling, and I like the use of ruffle to lift or lower waist- and bustlines, but then towards the end of the collection...a couple dresses involving elbow-level slits for armholes. The models are walking down the runway with their arms sticking out at waist level. I can tolerate a lot but let me tell you, if looking like a T-Rex becomes a Thing in fashion I am going to snap.

Ready to Wear commentary sometime next week...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Today In Things On My TV

First of all, I watched a re-run of How Do I Look this morning and received some humiliation for my troubles. SIDE NOTE: I am in love with Zappos. This story really requires pictorial assistance to be effective, and Zappos was there for me with every order I have ever made from them. That being said, on April 24th of 2004 (hah! Go Zappos.) I ordered "Aaliyah" from Gabriella Rocha. They look like this: ...only I got them in black and pink. I realize that they are a bit strippertastic, but they are the kind of strippertastic that can be ameliorated with some skillful dressing, plus I think everyone can see how I would be helpless against the charms of this particular shoe...shiny, tall, pointy, unique, stable support-y ankle strap. I HAVE A PROBLEM, OKAY? God.

Anyway, I was watching How Do I Look. For those of you who have not seen the show, the fashion victim's clothing is critiqued by two friends or family members and a professional stylist, then particularly offensive items are thrown out (as opposed to the full-wardrobe purge of shows like What Not To Wear). Each "Accomplice" is then given a set budget to buy three outfits to start the fashion victim on their new path to fabulousness. The accomplices also select new hair and makeup. The fashion victim tries on all three collections, then chooses their favorite, and then there is lots of hugging. In this particular episode, there was some pretty heinous shit brewing in the victim's wardrobe, so I'm getting all into it..."yeah. YEAH! Don't just throw that out, BURN IT! YEAH!"

Riiiight up until the point where they hauled out the shoes pictured up above.

And trashed them.

Amidst GREAT derision.

Awww, sad.

Luckily I got over it and did not die of shame, because if I had, I would have missed watching about a third of SNAKES ON A PLANE and let me tell you, my life would be SO BAD had that happened. I have been watching for five minutes and had to stop to send the following to School Friend Cindy:

Josie: god. I am watching Snakes on a Plane in order to expand my knowledge of the zeitgeist and it is the most idiotic thing I have ever seen and I LOVE IT
Josie: Someone just proposed everyone going upstairs - IN A PLANE - because it's "safer up there"
Josie: Because as you and I both know
Josie: Snakes cannot get upstairs
Josie: In other news, snakes have night vision, like, greenlit army style night vision
Josie: And eat humans

School Friend Cindy was quiet a while, then was all "I am going to watch Citizen Kane with my Harvard graduate brother," at which point I described the situation as "staring down the barrel of the dichotomy of our friendship."

I get excited about shit like this all the time, and she still hangs out with me...IN PUBLIC. This is why for the past 24 hours or so my away message has been a declaration that she is one of the best things to come out of my attendance at Assumption. Seriously, if you had a friend who would sometimes walk into a somewhat large public area and start talking to you about (for instance) Snakes On A Plane, and starting sentences with "OH. MY. GOD CINDY. I HAVE A STORY FOR YOU ABOUT " to the amusement of all around you, would you continue hanging out with that person? No, you would not, and for good reason. And yet School Friend Cindy continues to do so. Is she crazy? Maybe! I am not dumb enough to question. That movie is seriously SO BAD that I HAVE to watch the whole thing. There is nothing about it that is not bad...the acting, the logic, the plot, the...connection to reality? It's all HORRIBLE and it is horrible in the AWESOMEST WAY POSSIBLE.


They get rid of the snakes by SHOOTING OUT THE WINDOWS OF THE PLANE. The snakes are resultingly sucked out via air pressure from throughout the plane. I DARE you to find something not awesome about that.