Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Mid-Semester Professorial Excellence

I have some of the best professors ever, and to prove it, I offer some of their gems from this semester so far. Missing is an EXCELLENT diatribe about kindergardens basically being biological weapons development facilities that was too long and ebullient for me to scribble down in my margins, and for this reason I have GOT to start taking a Dictaphone to class.

"Oh my God...thank God you're not my daughter. You'd be beaten every day." Remarkably, not directed at me.

"Ginger! Ginger! I like your shirt! You look like a zebra from the future!" Apropos of absolutely nothing whatsoever, in reference to a totally normal pale blue and white striped shirt.

"Obama's going to meet with them and say...what? 'What's your foreign policy?' 'Jihad.' 'Okay.'"

"I'm sorry, they got disintegrated, that was their punishment."

"So, your allies shot at you. That's bad. But they missed! So that's good! But then...your allies...can't...hit you, so...they suck." In reference to Pakistan firing on American soldiers by "accident"

"Don't ask me to explain the French to you. I mean, I'm trying to explain defective Italians and Germans to you, don't ask me about the French."

"The EMP...do we know what EMP is?" *general murmurs of knowledge and a couple people saying "electromagnetic pulse"* "Yeah, we know this from the Matrix, right? Where we get all our foreign policy. Just be like Neo."

*extended hacking cough* "Jesus, I sound like a jalopy."

"Because if you do, I'll get upset. *pause* I'm an irascable person, okay."

"If you like that, become a professor. 'What'd you do today?' 'Well, I barged into a colleague's office and asked him, "isn't it weird that earth has no nature?"' *pause* And I get paid for it. It is extremely cool."

Um...Bill O'Reilly?

Look, I'm the last person who ever thought Bill O'Reilly would wind up on here in anything besides a hailstorm of spluttering profanity, but...this is kind of great.

Hat tip > Quizlaw

I would just like to note that I LOVE how this whole bailout situation is making everyone's political compasses go all screwy. Honestly, I see a lot of silver lining with the current situation, even if we are going to wind up weaving clothing for ourselves out of our own hair while our houses decay and the wheels fall off of our cars because we can't afford gas. I don't have time to get into it the way I would like, but here are my top silver lining items:
  • People finally realizing that even if they hate math, they need to tune into the economy every so often.
  • People realizing that perhaps they need to pay some more attention to the world around them.
  • Forcing some collaboration out of Congress and other leadership.
  • Forcing a revamp of grossly warped fiscal policies that have been able to develop.
  • Hopefully demonstrating to people that political issues are all interconnected, i.e. you need to stop being all "I will now open the box that contains the economy and consider it. Then I will close it and open the poverty box and consider that."
  • Hopefully - and oh my God you guys my fingers are arthritic from crossing them so hard - making people realize the hazards of overuse of credit and the virtues of examining your financial status realistically.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cannonball Read #3: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

First, a brief housekeeping note. Those of you who care may have noticed that I had listed John Berendt's City of Fallen Angels as the current book in progress. Those of you who can read will notice that I am writing today about Brave New World. For all the reading I do, I am sort of bad at it. I think you're supposed to read one book at a time, not have one per room, but apparently somewhere in my subconcious, I am unclear on this concept, because I frequently wind up reading 47 books simultaneously. Therefore, I would just like to note that though I will always be reading the book listed on the right hand navigation as my work in progress, it may not be the ONLY book I am reading, and thus, you should probably temper any excitement you have about an announced review, because I may disappoint you. Sorry. It's a lifelong problem and frankly not one I particularly care about fixing.

So, I read Brave New World, which is required for my Problem of God class. I'm kind of amazed that I am just getting to it now, since I know about its themes and the significance of it and it's such an Important Book that it seems impossible for a nerdy individual like myself to have hit the quarter-century mark without picking it up. While I was reading Brave New World, I read something (I think for my Terrorism class, weirdly) about types of intellectuals which mentioned those who "feel confident discussing books they have never read," and immediately was consumed with guilt...while I am not usually that person, I certainly have referenced Brave New World in both theoretical and allegorical contexts, and that...is not good. It's not necessarily bad, I suppose, since the work itself is so well known that people know exactly what you mean when you refer to it, but I feel like I SHOULD have read this before. That being said, my guilt over being That Intellectual Guy was ameliorated when I Googled for "confident discussing books they have never read" to find the article in question and discovered that there is a book called How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read, which broke my entire mind and made me feel better about having some holes in my consumption of classic and essential literature.

And of course, because I am a glutton for punishment, now I kind of want to read it to find out what drugs the author is on. This is also why I am frequently tempted to read the Twilight series. Ugh.

Some people are sneaky with their awesomeness, and you have to hang out with them and get to know them a little before you can realize the full scale of their coolness. Some people, however, just ooze intelligence, or quirkiness, or curiousity, and I find myself - as I believe most people must be - inexorably drawn to people like this. Several of my professors are like this, both here and at American...they walked in on the first day of my first class with them and my brain immediately said, "that is someone I need to know." On the back cover of my copy of Brave New World, there is an excellent picture of Aldous Huxley, looking very focused and grave, with the glasses worn to enhance his horriblly weak vision mostly obscuring his eyes, in a suit, with his face tilted slightly downward but also forward, and with his lips slightly parted, as though about to speak.

This is someone I need to know.

Is it me? Maybe it's me. I just think he looks so fascinating, and of course, he was. He was a prolific writer, and is noted for working in an remarkable depth of thought in all of his writings. This is clearly evident in Brave New World, as of course we are told over and over again.

I read this for my Problem of God class, in which we have been discussing the dangers posed by a modern science that does not trouble itself with the morality of its experiments, only with the possibilities. I have a hard time with this, because the answer to the question of how to ameliorate these dangers seems to be the halt of scientific progress, which to me is absolutely asinine. Obviously, we have to consider what we have, do and will create through the manipulation of science and nature in a moral regard, particularly since we have moved to a point where we can manipulate genetics (and in so doing affect the very tao of what it is to be human and to be our particular selves), but I don't think it is necessary to demolish technology simply because of what COULD be. All that being said, this book shows us a pretty horrifying dystopian vision, and even worse, one easily imagined as imminent.

The real problem of technology is that it requires people to not only be considerate, but to be willing to put other people, things and concepts beyond themselves. This is of course the great choice of Mustafa Mond...the choice between pursuing true happiness and staying behind to do what is best for society. While one hopes that the "best" for our society would not be to replicate the creepy mechanized society of Brave New World, I DO hope that we would be big enough people to choose preservation of our humanity and the dedication of our minds to the assessment of moral application of new technologies. It worries me to think that we may not be big enough people for this. We have become accustomed to being able to solve all our personal problems with modern technology...working jobs many miles away, using cell phones and the internet to work from home and spare the extravagant task of visiting friends in person, treating everything from the slightest headache to chronic diseases with armloads of medication. We have become unaccustomed to real pain, discomfort, and arguably to true emotion. Everything is filtered through something else. Hell, just look at public reaction to this election. No one seems to understand how big a deal it is, and how important. Even the media spends its time on other, abjectly frivolous topics, smushing dribs and drabs of election news in between the fluff.

To me, this book is a call to action. It's a call to renew my attempts to contemplate all aspects of my life, to live actively and not let the world happen TO me. It's a call to be vigilant, to watch politicians and civilians alike with a gimlet eye. It is a call to stand up, and to voice my beliefs in defense of the muted majority. It is a call to fight. We cannot become this book, and yet, we persistently teeter on the brink.

259 pages.

Project Runway: Rock 'n' Runway

NB: Every week after Project Runway airs, The Lucy and I trade epic emails to discuss the week's episode. That's what you're reading here...my comments are in blue, and The Lucy chimes in in white.

One of the many, many reasons my fiance is awesome is that he watches Project Runway with me, and he found this somewhat creepily prescient article. His commentary: "talk about nailing it...and having no life." True. Story. As Lucy said, "They have a fucking scoring matrix? A SCORING MATRIX? FOR A TV SHOW?" Yes, yes they do.

In other news, Korto is my new favorite because of her interview..."So, Kenley's a hip hop designer. *eyeball* Yeah. *eyeball*" It was like the whole concept just broke her mind, and all I can say is "I'm with ya, girl." Fucking Kenley, man.

I've always liked Korto, even though sometimes she's borderline annoying. She has talent, sass and says what she thinks, which I always like. Her reaction to Kenley was pretty much right on.

I REALLY loved when Tim came in when all the designers were all done up and the sight before him blew his entire mind. "I forgot why I came in here!" I love you, Tim Gunn!

I <3>

I should probably also confess my deep and abiding love for LL Cool J. I'm not really sure what that's all about but I would watch him read the phone book and be totally psyched about it. I think it's the teeth. I just want to hug him all the time.

LL Cool J is the man, I agree. We were all kind of appalled at the amount of makeup he had on though.

(NB: Truth. Yikes.)

Jerell...funky outfit, somehow both very Jerell and very pop. Kenley WAS working a distinct Britney vibe, and it wasn't just the outfit. I think what Nina and Michael said about there being just the RIGHT amount of naked was dead on. The skin is there but it's not skanky. It hit the look just right, and I love those big chunky bracelets she has! On a side note, just because this is the best example of this week's bunch...have you noticed that the Bluefly Wall o' Accessories is not really working out that well? I feel like in past seasons the shoes and stuff were either in a wide enough array or were more workable, and thus were better matched to the outfits. I mean...they only had a bronze boot? For what a gigantic bitch she is, I do have to admit that she's a very pretty girl. I love her hair like this and I think she should wear it down more. I think that the boob part could have been done a little better, but I agree that Jerell did an awesome job with this challenge by really thinking about what POP means. The Bluefly Wall is filled with ugly stuff...I always focus on the clunky, weird shoes and the strange color choices. They probably sent them the shit that wouldn't sell.
Leanne...okay, um, WOW KORTO'S ASS. Seriously, that shit was amazing. Right on, Korto! I actually really liked this. The color looked great on Korto, and the styling was definitely country without being like...pageant country. Gingham was not eating the outift, I guess is my point. Just a few little classic country touches, then straight up nice outfit. Well done, Leanne. Yay for Korto's ass! I always appreciate it when a girl with some junk in the trunk works it out. I actually thought this looked kind of cheap and was too literal. That gold is just so...blah! I thought the color for the top was good but oh my GOD what was with the styling???????????
Suede...I didn't hate this as much as the judges apparently did, and Suede did NOT deserve the auf. Utter bullshit. I cannot believe I am defending Suede. To be fair, it IS a Jerell-y outfit (GAH, CHEST) but I think it does have a kind of rocker vibe to it. I feel like either Lenny Kravitz or Steven Tyler would wear this...it's that kind of laid back, slightly boho musician feel (though Kravitz would probably staple some fringe or fake wings to it). It looked good on him and I thought it met the challenge admirably, so...whatever, judges. As soon as I saw this I was like "It's so Steven Tyler!" I think if Suede accessorized this it would have helped his cause a bit. It was too bare. It was totally rocker though, and I thought he did a pretty damn good job. Jerell looked cool and rockerish so I don't know what the hell the problem was. Screw you, judges.
Korto...I was happy with this win, because I thought this looked totally great. I think with the punk aesthetic, people don't really think or talk about whether it looks nice on the wearer, but the judges were right on when they mentioned how good the silhouette looked on Suede. I loved the jeans, to the point of kind of wanting to own them, and I really liked how she did the chains...well, everywhere, but particularly on the pants. (I actually found the little criss-crosses on the shirt to be a leeeeettle bit juniors department but not offensively so.) Awesome look, worked for everybody involved AND the challenge. Go Korto and her butt! First of all, floved Suede working it out for her. That was awesome. The silhouette was absolutely perfect for him. This looked like it came right off the rack, completely not home sewn at all, which I think is pretty damn impressive. The distressing on the jeans is amazing and the chains were a great touch. I love that she thought about this. My only complaint was that the shirt looked 80s, but she fixed that with the chains. She deserved the win.
Kenley...I'll be honest here - I see how Kenley thought the pants were hip hop. I don't know why people were acting all "KENLEY YOU ARE CRAZY" about them, because a.) as we all regret knowing, high waists have been in lately and b.) these look like something Nelly would add to the Apple Bottoms line, like, tomorrow. I don't LIKE them and would not have USED them necessarily but I just thought it was dumb to be harping on them when in my view they were the only thing that went right on the outfit. The rest of it...come on. The jewelry and top are straight out of freaking Boca, and the jacket makes no sense, hiphop wise. Fucking lame, Kenley, and moreover, I FUCKING LOVED when she was like "WELL. Hip hop is about ATTITUDE and Leanne is not delivering." First of all...like you're so fucking hiphop, Kenley. Second of all, your shit was weak and Leanne had nothing to do with that. Stop being such an asshole. I also thought that their ripping of the jeans was also kind of not cool. I mean, look at someone like Rihanna...she's more pop with a hip hop twist but the jeans are something she'd wear. So yeah, I agree with you totally. Tailoring on them could have used some work, but whatever. From the high waist up, it was a total fucking disaster. I know of no hip hop person who would be caught dead in a flowered fucking tank, and that jacket sucked. For real. I loved watching Tim tell her off, and I loved how she got a little misty eyed when the judges called her out on her assholishness. She should have been out with this pile of shit.

I am now convinced that Kenley is going to win this show. She should have been aufed two weeks ago, and has continued to suck since then. She is totally one-note but no one has been calling her on this except freaking Jerell. She refuses to adapt her designs in the SLIGHTEST, and does nto innovate, and when people try to get her to do either of these things, she gets defensive and nasty. She's disrespectful to people who have been successful in various aspects of the business for years, like...Michael freaking Kors is not pulling this shit out of his ass, Kenley. Still, through her repulsive behavior, serviceable and cute but totally predictable design, proven inability to innovate, and general grossness, she is still here. Why? My guess? The producers have decided they want her to win (God only knows why), and that's why she's here. Fuck that noise. See, I don't think she's going to win. I think she's going to go to the finals and act like an asshole and come in as runner-up. They need her for the drama because everyone else is kind of laid back and cool. I personally think that Korto wins after seeing her collection. Kenley is good tv...I mean look at how much emotion she illicts from us?? Bravo loves it.
...and then we talked about Russia, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and school. If I did not have The Lucy in my life I would probably die.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Just Thinking

I tend to find connections between the classes I am taking (and have taken previously), but this semester, I have two that dovetail very clearly and directly. One is The Problem of God, my second theology course in the core curriculum, and the other is The Philosophy of Nature, which fulfills both my core curriculum and my "I heart Prof. Flynn" curriculum. Both deal with nature and how it works, though obviously the courses approach the topic in keeping with their repsective disciplines (theology and philosophy).

I have kind of a hard time with the Problem of God, because I feel somewhat pressured to conclude that God just made certain things work that way and that's all there is to it. The professor stresses the importance of consideration in this regard, but for whatever reason, I am not sure I am comfortable with saying "yep, God did it" and leaving it at that. I think the reasons I am uncomfortable with the concept is twofold - first, the technological advances of this past century alone have made it possible for us to see, know and do things that would never have been thought possible in the dawn of human civilization, and these technologies progress every day, and second, I personally consider God as more of a moral specialist, a kind of force that ensures that there are consequences for poor behavior and a guiding light that shows us how to live a good life. This is not to say that I am 100% against the idea of creation, but I do have some trouble with the idea of an intangible, superterrestrial being just magically creating the Earth and all the detail therein. I suppose that the best way to explain it is to say that because I don't know what the extent of human technology is or will be, I am not ready to accept the creative God wholeheartedly. It's kind of my version of space...you know how they say that the human mind can't comprehend the magnitude of space? I kind of can't wrap my mind around the idea of an omniscient being making the Earth out of nothing. As we know, however, I like having answers to things...this is why I had such issues with the ConLaw book I had last semester; Posner kept going back and forth and back and forth without ever taking a solid stand (on issues, at least), and I just wanted to call him up and be like "dude, you are equivocating and I find that unacceptable." The idea of there being a limit to knowledge is something that makes me very sad and nervous, so maybe my whole issue with this is just an advanced form of denial.

So okay blah blah, whatever Josie, one of the terms that has come up in both classes is the Greek concept of techne, or craft. You sometimes also hear it described as art. Basically, we're talking about making things with your hands. In the Philosophy of Nature, we're still picking apart Aristotle's Physics and discussing the levels of knowledge, but in Problem of God, we have talked about how our current society has sort of abandoned the techne variety of knowledge. This is pretty much inarguable...we live in an extremely disposable society (warning: link must be taken with a grain of salt, but overall, it's good), and when you do take the time out to do some kind of handcraft, it's a big special deal, an interesting hobby to talk about at cocktail parties. The professor asked if anyone knit in the class, so I raised my hand, and he had some questions about how long it took to knit a sweater, etc.

One of the things that I thought about from that point was the fact that you have to think a whole hell of a lot less when you just buy a sweater from the store. I mean, yeah, you need to think about what a given sweater could go with in your wardrobe, whether you like what it's made of, etc. But when you make a sweater, you need to decide what yarn you want to use, how much you need, what you want it to look like, what weight of yarn you want...you need to conceptualize exactly what you need, without guideline. It's not picking between the green one and the purple one...it's considering what you really want. For the most part, we don't do that any more. We don't consider what we want to achieve, from nothing to completion.

I wonder what the political effect of this is (oh come on now, you knew it was going there). I believe that a lot of our political troubles of late stem from sheer laziness and misinformation. As accurate information becomes more and more obfuscated in the media, to say nothing of being consumed by non-news like celebrity sightings and even superficial analysis OF politics like the obsession over John Edwards' hair, etc., it begins to require more work to figure out what exactly is going on. Besides that situation in so-called "traditional" media, the internet has exploded, awash in opinion that may or may not be backed up by fact. It now takes significantly more work to participate in the political system that we are theoretically in charge of, and at the same time, technology has evolved to a point that there's very little you have to do if you don't want to.

If you want to be smart, you need to think. This doesn't mean you need to be thinking about advanced philosophical concepts all the time, but rather to just live a life fully considered. Think about your actions, your words, your interaction with all aspects of the world and about who you are. At some point in history, this mental workout of considering everything around you could have begun with a sweater...thinking about what you wanted, designing it from scratch. If we don't contemplate our sweaters, do we then start to not worry about other things? It could be kind of a long shot, but I don't think it's necessarily without some weight. We don't have to think, and frankly, sometimes thinking is terrifying. I would rather not read books like Future Jihad. I would rather not watch news reports about shootings in Pakistan and think about what they could mean for the US. But if I don't, am I being a responsible citizen of the world? If I don't think about the revolting state of the welfare system or US military policy, am I being a good American citizen? Actions have to start as thoughts. If we aren't thinking, how can we act? How can we take part in the world around us? And how do we communicate and interact with people who do?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Science/Art, Art/Science

So, the Large Hadron Collider might kill us all, it might discover God, it might turn us all into grey matter, it may be the only thing capable of turning us into little bits of vaporized dust before the Russians get us.

But while it's temporarily busticated and the project is on hold, can we talk about how it's kind of beautiful? Note that there are people in every picture, which gives you an idea of the scale of this thing.

Pictures from the ever-wonderful National Geographic...photographers from top: Maxmilien Brice (CERN), Mark Theissen, Peter Ginter.

Oh, and, um...there's also this.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Te Amo, Eiffel65.

A couple weeks ago, I did some dogsitting for my parents. This is always an exciting time, because I use a makeup mirror in my sister's old room, and being in there allows me to rediscover all the crap she stole out of my room in high school. One of the things she ganked was a CD that played an important role in my formative years...Europop by Eiffel 65.

There is no reason that any kind of intelligent being should adore this CD the way I do, but luckily, thanks to the magic of the Internet, I found something that can sum it up very quickly, using exactly zero words:

I dare you to find me one thing that is not awesome in that picture.

So okay, everyone I'm sure has heard their big hit, Blue, the one about the little blue guy in a blue house with a blue Corvette, and every thing is blue, inside and outside, etc., etc. You may also remember that there was considerable speculation on what that whole "da ba dee da da die" situation meant. It was kind of a goofy, catchy, poppy song, and let me tell you, it was not even the beginning of the things that were awesome on that disc. Let me...illuminate the situation for you with some lyrics.
We're gonna play the game, the Playstation all day,
With Metal Gear Solid to Tekken 3.
And from Omega Boost to Resident Evil,
Just play for the fun, 'cos we got it going on.
Tekken 3, Metal Gear Solid,
Resident Evil, Gran Turismo, Omega Boost, Bloody Roar,
X-Files, all over the world, come on...
Ridge Racer, Odd World, Winning Eleven, the game on the
P. L. A. Y. S. T. A. T. I. O. N.
P. L. A. Y. S. T. A. T. I. O. N.
P. L. A. Y. S. T. A. T. I. O. N.
P. L. A. Y. S. T. A. T. I. O. N.

"Josie," you may be asking, "is that...a song about Playstation?" YES, my friends, it is a song about Playstation, and it is set to a techno-house-orchestral, and it is magnificent. It takes a really specific kind of person to combine all of those things, particularly the topic, and deep, deep in my heart, I want to befriend that person.

So okay we have the Blue song, a song about the evils of money, then there is a song that asks "what is dub, dub in this life," which I do not understand. We then move on to Living in a Bubble that is maybe about the media, maybe about fame. Who knows? Who cares? On to Move Your Body which teaches us that if you want to move your mind, you start by moving your body, which is why I will be dancing throughout my school day tomorrow and for the rest of my natural life. After we move our minds and bodies, the Playstation song makes an appearance before the CD continues to Your Clown (relationships do not always end well), and Another Race (women are odd) before hitting up The Edge which is about absolutely nothing. There are a couple more tunes, but then you reach Hyperlink [Deep Down]. Oh my God, magic. Here's the whole song:
Deep down, deep down
Dari dara dada du dara
Deep down, deep down
Dari da down

I want a click, a click to your heart, a hyperlink into you,
A sexual browser from here to the end, a newsgroup one on one,
Don’t need a modem to connect to your mind,
No search engine to find you,
I want a click, a click to your heart, a hyperlink to go inside

WHAT THE HELL IS EVEN GOING ON THERE? So here's the great thing. I figured there was more fantastic weirdness on the loose out there, so I YouTubed Eiffel 65. First of all, I checked out the Blue video, which...have you seen it?

Yeah, it's a video game. I love these people. I also found out from YouTube that these people are ITALIAN which makes me really really happy. According to the Wik, "Eiffel" was a word picked at random by a computer, and the 65 was actually part of a phone number that got included in their name BY ACCIDENT. I think you should probably just read the Wikipedia article.

My life is so good now that Eiffel65 is back in it.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I Am Who I Am Who I Am

If one more person a.) uses the phrase "tax and spend Democrats" with a silent "so don't elect any of them because they will come to your house and steal your shit" or b.) vomits rhetoric about how Democrats just want to blow money and socialize the shit out of everything, I am going to punch them directly in the face.

I don't know what I am anymore. I love Jim McGovern but hate John Kerry. I think Bush is an absolute idiot and a horrible diplomat but I believe deep in my heart that he believes he is doing what is right for America, and moreover that he loves it more than maybe anything else in the world. I hate that the Democratic party has been taken over by disparate and warring interest groups, but won't vote Republican because they've been taken over by repulsive NeoCons. I hate the xenophobia and the dickswinging, but I still get teary over the National Anthem. I hate that my age bracket can't unplug their earbuds long enough to vote, I am grossed out that the older generations have given up and settled for talking shit about how Those Damn Kids don't care about anything, and the less said about vast swaths of the younger populations, the better.

Let me be perfectly clear.

I believe that no one should go into the twilight of their years homeless or hungry. I do not believe that this means a Benz and a beach house in Boca. I believe that healthy people up the economy and benefit the general morale of our country. I believe that businesses fail sometimes and that they must be allowed to. I believe that we were once a nation of critical thinkers and that we have lost that most essential quality.

I want to stop hearing about haircuts and clothing and superficial nothings that have nothing to do with a candidate's policies. I want to know what people think about the economy. I want to know which social programs are good, which are bad, and which need serious rehabbing. I want to know what their game plan for the War in Iraq is and how they plan to catch up with Osama bin Laden. I want to know how they are going to fix the mess that No Child Left Behind made. I want to know how they think about the Supreme Court and whether they can leave politics out of appointments. I want to know all these things and honestly, I only truly, truly know, in any kind of depth, about a couple of them, and that's after significant digging through the media.

I want a true conservative to vote for, and I want a rational liberal to vote for. I want the Democratic Party to be razed to the ground and rebuilt by Jim McGovern and crazy ass James Carville, with a coherent platform and one SIXTEENTH of the now-typical public bickering and selfish behavior. I want the Republican party to stop being so creepy and gross and get back to their actual conservative roots. I want MORE from my politicians and from my government.

I want more for everyone.

Cannonball Read #2: La Bella Figura by Beppe Severgnini

The people who would build a public space that looks like this are without question worth getting to know. In America, we so often militantly separate our public and private lives...our parks are expansive with well delineated borders, away from our residences and businesses. This may sound weird, but Siena, seen above, reminds me somewhat of the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art...both are huge public spaces that nonetheless comfortable and intimate. This piazza is enormous; they actually hold famous horse races here (we missed them by about a week). Still, walking into this space under the clear blue sky feels like walking into a cocktail party. People are relaxing, talking, reading, watching, just being...all surrounded by their community, watching from the apartments ringing the piazza. Let's be honest here. The second I saw that there was a Salvatore Ferragamo shop in the Roman airport, I was in love with Italy. (I am easy, and do not apologize for this.) But in Siena, it felt like home.

My relationship with the Italian language, however, has been somewhat fraught with peril. Though I am usually pretty good at languages, Italian has not come exceptionally easily to me. When Professoressa explained the concept of la bella figura, though, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and a reminder of why I'd wanted to learn the language in the first place. La bella figura is where I relate and aspire to the Italian culture...the idea of always, ALWAYS being well put together, regardless of whether you're at a cocktail party or picking up flu medicine in the grips of an insidious winter plague. Obviously, there is more that I love about Italian culture...the ebullience, the friendliness, the passion, the engagement with the world around them, their excellently insane politics (which relates back to the other attributes), but it is the concept of fare la bella figura that floats to the top of all these.

Beppe Severgnini used this phrase to title his analysis of the Italian mindset, and both the choice of title and meandering mode of the text are perfectly suited to that particular Italian je ne sais quoi that makes them both infuriating and inexpressibly wonderful. The book is ostensibly based on ten days of travel through Italy, though to imagine this tale strictly as a travelogue would be a massive error. Severgnini takes on any number of topics, with wonderful humor and real incisiveness. He reminds me of Bill Bryson, who also manages to reveal the true soul of a group of people by observing their ancillary tics and small, wonderful habits. Everyone can appreciate broad categories...who doesn't like food? Who doesn't like communication? But it's the details in which one can truly appreciate the ways that the Italians just do things differently...the pageantry and consideration of food, the "OMG hands everywhere" mode of communication, the elegance in absolutely everything. Severgnini covers all of these ideas and many, many more, and he does so with such wit that one cannot help but finish the last page with a deep and abiding adoration for this curious country across the pond. A GREAT read, and a must for anyone planning to travel to Italy...you have an eight hour flight, it's the perfect time!

Italian Side Note: Last night was Italian Movie Night, featuring three authentic Italians!! Last semester, after the purchase of the Giant New TV, we started having sporatic movie nights with our awesome professor. Previous movies included Suspiria and Johnny Stecchino, and last night's feature was Facing Windows, which you all should go out and rent IMMEDIATELY because it is great. It is a great drama that is basically about figuring out what you really want your life to be about and how hard that can sometimes be, while also having some beautiful, beautiful cinematography and some legitimate Willy Wonka style childhood amazement moments. There is one scene featuring startling pastry (just trust me) that elicited an out loud "ohhh!" from me...and it had nothing to do for sugar cravings, but instead with the beautiful presentation of the whole scene. Fantastic movie. It was also a blast to hear some native Italian spoken at a normal speed, and again I was somewhat reassured by how much I DID take in, as opposed to unnerved by how much I missed. The Italians in question were my professor of THIS year, who is from Naples, and two Italian assistants who came with my professor from last year.

217 pages.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Scene: Chapel of the Holy Spirit, Assumption College, Worcester, MA. The crucified Jesus hangs suspended over the altar, flanked by the gorgeous organ pipes. The sopranos are called to the front of the nave.

Josie: *makes a "snap...pull" motion*
Cindy: I love when you do things like that.
Josie: You mean black people things?
Cindy:....um, yes.
Josie: It's okay, Jesus says it's okay. He told me.

Celia sent me a link to an article about idiots at the FAA talking about expanding O'Hare and Midway even more, or even adding a third airport to the area to meet increasing demand. I have the following comment.
It just amazes me because like...TEXAS
Has tons of space, right
But you know what Texas does not have?

Also, the mere mention of an O'Hare expansion strikes terror into my very soul. Listen people, eventually, travelers are going to STOP ESCAPING FROM O'HARE if you keep this shit up. I am STILL getting over the time I flew United out of there via a waiting area with four gates off of it, each gate loading two planes. Did I mention that the big, beautiful flat screens were broken and thus displaying information about flights that had left eons ago?

Apropos of more or less nothing:

Josie: WOW
Josie: Cindy
Josie: We have to go to Baltimore
Josie: *links to image below*
Cindy: "we have to go to Baltimore"
Cindy: that is NOT belize
Josie: I know
Josie: That being said, it does have that amazing stained glass, a.)
Cindy: we have to go Baltimore...for a stained glass window....
Josie: b.) it is actually a pretty neat town
Josie: c.) it has camden yards
Josie: and d.) there were really nice homeless people there who helped me get home when Greyhound thought Annapolis and Baltimore were the same and I was stuck in the city in full formal wear
It IS amazing though, right?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cannonball Read #1: Future Jihad, by Walid Phares

This is somewhat of a copout, since I have only technically finished this today and read all but the last 25 or so pages previously, but I think the book is so important that I wanted - needed - to include it.

Also, I wanted to start the experiment off on a nice, light note.

"When the second jet slammed into the North World Trade Center Tower in Manhattan, I immediately told students standing next to me, 'It's a jihad Ghazwa...they have chosen the Yarmuk option.'...What I had known, researched, and watched building year after year was finally here, ravaging my new homeland."
The speaker is author Walid Phares, and the exerpt is from the Introduction to his book, Future Jihad. I don't know about you, but that passage alone, taken from page one of 305, is enough to scare the everloving shit out of me. The idea of something so grand in scale as September 11th being predicatable and simply missed is horrifying to me. Even more worrisome are the other 304 pages, over the course of which Phares details a long, essential historical narrative almost alien to the Western mind, brings the same to bear on the contemporary state of the war against the West, and then, after illuminating the true depth of the Jihadist inclination to rid the Earth of their enemies, offers up some prescriptive advice on how to win.

I spoke in the introduction to the Cannonball Read project of my desire to know things. In pursuit of this kind of nebulous, disparate knowledge, I've become intimately acquainted with the Point of Iceberg Ahead. The Point of Iceberg Ahead is the moment when you realize the true enormity of what you don't know. For example, I've always been into hockey, but football is relatively new for me. Since Rich is a YOOGE football fan, it was pretty much either learn to appreciate football, or find another way to amuse myself on Sundays, so I started asking questions. After a while, I figured out how the downs worked (though not why seemingly reasonable people would name two different things a First Down, but whatever, football), and what most of the positions did, and figured out some key plays. Then, I realized that to really know the sport, I had years of games and annoying Rich with questions ahead of me. With Future Jihad, I hit the Point of Iceberg Ahead about two pages into the first chapter, with a side of wanting to hide under my bed.

There are countless differences between these Jihadists and Western society. The Jihadists have deftly used this to their advantage over time. (The best example may be the allowance in the name of religious freedom of Sharia law in the Netherlands. Yes, that's the same Sharia Law that demands whipping, caning, cutting off of hands, stoning, crucifixion, mutilation and other such charming punishments for moral transgressions.) I don't know that this was the most surprising information for me...I've long since tired of the obsessive political correctness that prevents us from having any kind of realistic, reasonable conversation about the pressing (and even the insignificant) issues of our time, and credit this mealy-mouthed pandering for most of the idiot behavior that's been going on, like the banning of holiday events simply because someone might be offended. (Side note: When are we going to sack up and stop being so afraid of ourselves?) The most startling information in the book was really the historical content.

We are the West. We're all pretty high on ourselves, and in many regards, it's well deserved. Unfortunately, particularly in capitalist, government-congested world powers that have a weird mixture of ambivalence, scorn and fear directed at intelligence and education (...ahem), this has manifested in an excessive focus on Western history, without consideration for the rest of the world. Until this gets fixed, we will remain in immediate danger from those who want to cause us harm. Not only does the Islamic view of history focus much more closely on non-Western achievements (because really...duh), but even more striking is the way they think about their history - as though it happened mere moments ago. In one passage, Phares relates seeing a chat room discussion about why the Ottoman empire had stopped at Constantinople. For those keeping score, that was around the mid-1200s. And it was being discussed in a chat room like it was still running on the CNN ticker. These Jihadists are thinking in an entirely different way - we do not know our enemy.

Everyone should read this. Were I an eccentric millionaire, I'd send a free copy to everyone in the country. These are things that need to be known, and no one's talking about them.

305 pages (incl. Notes section)

Cannonball Read

I read...a lot. I read quickly and I read pretty much everything. Since Harry Potter's somewhat universal at this point (in that people are familiar with not just the stories, but also with the look of the books, the style of writing, etc.), I can use the series as a reference point here. I sat down with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at 11:15am the day it arrived, and finished it at 5:40pm the same day. It is 759 pages long. Fast.

On top of the basic aptitude, I also just like gathering stories. I love just knowing things, and books are of course a direct route to all kinds of knowledge. Academic books, novels, histories, pseudo-non-fiction, long books, short books...you name it, I start itching just thinking about them. As a result, a Cannonball Read has been taunting me from just out of reach since the idea was floated on Pajiba a week or so ago. The plan is to read 100 books in a year, and there are some rules:

There are rules. No books smaller than 200 pages. Short story collections only count if they are at least 6 stories long. No graphic novels...We will cross-post our reviews here and on our own blogs when we see fit. They aren’t going to be full-on reviews necessarily, more or less our own personal feelings about the book. Insults and slander are welcome and accepted.
Obviously there are some adjustments, since I have no one to crosspost with, but I will post reviews and reactions here. Insults and slander are still welcome and accepted. If you have suggestions, please email me! While my Amazon list is long and various, I have come to terms with the fact that it will exist in this state until I am old and grey (NB: is that not the best thing ever? There will always be wonderful books to read.), so I'm open to anything I Simply Must Read.

I look forward to the challenge, recognize my extreme lack of common sense considering I will be in school throughout, and am so stoked I can hardly deal.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Project Runway: Age of Aquarius

NB: Every week after Project Runway airs, The Lucy and I trade epic emails to discuss the week's episode. That's what you're reading here...my comments are in blue, and The Lucy chimes in in white.

I enjoyed the exchange at the beginning with Suede and...someone, because it's basically exactly the kind of exchange that any one of my close friends and I would have, including you, obviously, to wit: "[totally weird dream/thought]"/"[blase response]." Or, in Project Runway lexicon: "I dreamed we have to make sweetheart neckline dresses out of chiffon and poptarts."..."Were you drinking before you went to bed?" Actually, "were you drinking before you went to bed" is probably the exact response that would get used on me personally, so the example is particularly fitting.

Is it bad that I still get SO EXCITED when Tim says "caucus"? You can take the girl out of a Model UN Based Non Profit but you can't take the Model UN Based Non Profit out of the girl!

I kind of enjoyed Keith's decision to continue being the most petulant, whiny little bitch this side of Kindergarden. "I'm fragile right now." Yeah, WE KNOW. Oh, and TERRI is the angry, bitter person. That cracked my shit up. I don't usually say this in regard to voting adults but he needs an actual spanking so badly my Whompin' Hand was twitching.

A brief and random note from the evening in preparation for this email: "if I see any more of Jerell's fucking chest I a going to scream, vomit, then die." The sentiment still applies.

Also: "Is Jay rocking a MR T LOOK because that is great." He was, and it was!

Since I am on a time crunch (thanks for changing due dates for class and adding an extra assignment for the week at the last second, teach!), I'm just going to say that I agree with you on all counts and points brought up at the beginning. Also, I looked at some spoilers and saw who's going to Fashion Week...
Blayne & Stella..."she's pooping fabric!" I feel like this statement is the Rosetta Stone of my love of Michael Kors. He offers up this great, incisive, historically-informed commentary on this stuff...while using elementary school words. And frankly, she WAS pooping fabric. I hated the cream part, and the only way I would have liked it even a little more was if the fabric poop was on opposing limbs, i.e. left arm/right leg. Stupid, gross, arguably avant garde, but the side note to "avant garde = something we've never seen before" is "and it should be something someone wants" and this was grody. OH MY GOD, I JUST NOTICED THE SPAT. SINGULAR. EW. NO. I thought his concept for this was pretty cool, and maybe if he worked with someone else, they would have been able to help him shape his idea a little better. Stella is always like, "It's weird so yaaaaay!" that I think her rah rah attitude kind of hurt him. That being said, this look is AWFUL! If he wanted to make her look naked, he should have picked a true nude instead of a cream. Also, he should not have had little bunches of fabric right next to her butthole. Why Blayne, why? Oh well, I guess I'll miss your little E.T. face.
Kenley & Wesley...I was so offended by Kenley's self-enamourment and irksome voice that I didn't even have time to be grossed out by the shoes here, but damn dude what is with those shoes?! I don't even know that I hate this SO much but it definitely was not nearly as awesome as Kenley thought it was. As Michael Kors said, it wasn't anything new...Viktor & Rolf on top and [can't remember] on the bottom. The absolute grossness of her saying she didn't pay attention to collections was the final nail in the coffin for me. Also, the boobs WERE in a weird place, like Heidi said, but this model also has some boobular issues so I can kind of understand it. I seriously hope Kenley gets stabbed. I cannot believe the way she talks to people. She's disgusting. And yeah, the look is nothing new, and it is not as fabulous as she thought it was. For some reason when I see this I think of Minnie Mouse, which kind of has me baffled. Oh, did I mention that Kenley is an asshole?
Jerell & Jennifer...I found the VAST majority of this to be gross, but I love the skirt. I even kind of like the fabric...sort of houndstoothy, but not. That being said, the bodice was kind of a snore and I hated the jacket. I just do not see eye to eye with Jerell in regard to his fabric choice, and I think it's pure aesthetic disagreement, because his own personal outfits drive me up a wall as well. That being said, I hated the jacket less than I have hated other fabic combos, so I...guess that's a win? Again, though, loved the skirt. I think the skirt is what won this for Jerrell. It's just so cool and the print is awesome. I think the other designers really dug the amount of detail he put into the piece...I remember Christian saying he liked the different trims on the jacket. While I agree that the fabrics on top kind of suck, I do think he did a pretty damn good job on this one, so I'm ok with the win.
Korto & Kelly...boy, this picture does it NO justice. This was so great and floaty, and the colors were beautiful. This was one of three dresses where the movement added so much. I found the back not only to be very cool but also reminiscent of Anne Hathaway's recent dress with all the crazy volume and light movement. I liked the leathery shoulder and neck accents, too...they kept it from being too unfocused and gave it just a touch of nice structure. I thought this one was going to be the winner because it was absolutely poetically gorgeous. I really liked everything about this piece, from the colors to the flowiness to the pieces at the neck.
Leanne & Emily...this pretty much guaranteed that I'm wearing a birdcage veil at the wedding. I realize that's a bit of a weird leap, but there it is. I love the faux-birdcage on this, and the structured neck-shoulder-headpiece is awesome. It's just so dynamic, I love it. I was glad they did a little bit of self-editing to keep it from being TOO derivative (there was a planned tail, no?). Excellent work. Definitely a great look, although the dress underneath looks kind of boring. I like the idea of this but I kind of felt as though it needed something else (certainly not a tail).The birdcage part is too black for me...maybe with some fabric used as shading, I would have liked this one more.
Joe & Daniel...this looked SO COOL walking down the runway. The fabric choice for the skirt was PERFECT to pull off that firey effect they were going for. I also liked the feathery piece on the bodice. I could have lived without either the cutouts or the weird separation between skirt and top, but overall I thought this totally rocked. This was another one I thought could have won. It did look amazing in motion, and I thought they did a pretty damn good job on this one. It's so cool!
Terri & Keith...I didn't hate this nearly as much as the judges did. I agree that the pink/red fabric could have been better, but I thought over all the look was pretty solid. I would have either kept the fur piece or nixed the weird banner type things she's holding up here, but in both cases I get what she's going for. I was not wild about the gold knit fabric she used on the skirt, but I thought it made sense in the grand scheme of the dress, so I don't really know why the judges and everyone ever was puking vitriol all over the place. Not that I would have handed the win over to her, but I do think this was solidly average. I think this was one of those producer influenced aufs. I also did not think this was as bad as they said it was. As much as I liked Terri, her attitude was starting to really get on my nerves.I don't know, I think she would have done an awesome collection so I was really sad to see her go.
Suede & Jerry...I'm not really in love with the pants aspect of this, but overall I think it did fit the bill for their sign, and it looked great on the runway with the crazy back things floating everywhere and the gauzy effect all over the outfit. I also really enjoyed the particular way the camisole showed through the top with the light blue under the dark. The one thing I really didn't get was the appearance of some kind of ANGELA TYPE FLEURCHONS securing fabric to the back!!! WTF?!? WTF? Indeed! I don't understand how they thought this was better than Terri's. This look was a freakin' mess from top to bottom. I cannot tell you how much the fabric scales annoyed me. So weird, so literal! There was nothing avant garde about this at all. No idea how Suede got to stay.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Animal Friendly Mounted Deer Trophy Heads

So, my friend Juls linked me to these:

DUDE. The second I figure out how to make this happen, it's gonna be a damn faux taxidermy shop in this joint. HOW COOL IS THAT? They are made by artist Rachel Denny, who appears to specialize in awesomeness. I am in total stupid love with them. That being said, my absolute favorite may be this wonderful little bunny.

Everyone together now: "AWWWWWW!" What talent. The body is so expressive, and the technique is just magic. School Friend Cindy and I had a good discussion about how it was a leeeeeetle bit dodgy to skin a rabbit to make yarn of its fur in order to...make a rabbit, but thanks to the magic of the internet, we determined that angora (from which this little dude is made) is in fact made from insane looking rabbits that can be shorn or just brushed to collect their fur. Regardless we agreed that there is a certain level of irony in making something out of..what it is.

No, seriously, insane looking.

I want at least five.

NB: When discussing this with Celia, I remembered a Humourous Family Bunny Anecdote which really should be included here for the betterment of society. My Mom decided at some point that she wanted some bunnies. My Dad basically responded with "well, bunnies are cranky, breed like crazy, chew everything on God's green Earth, and are generally a bad idea." This prompted my Mom to pull out her Big Winning Argument, which was..."but their poop would make such great fertilizer for the garden!"

I repeat...this was her Big Winning Argument. My brother, sister and I were around the ages of 9, 7 and 5 and even then we were like "oh dude, come on." My Mom rules.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Project Runway: Double 0 Fashion

NB: Every week after Project Runway airs, The Lucy and I trade epic emails to discuss the week's episode. That's what you're reading here...my comments are in blue, and The Lucy chimes in in white.

Okay, I am really glad I took a couple notes while I was watching last week's ep, because I probably would have forgotten some of the great shit that went down, starting with Blayne's weird retardologue about Mary Kate Olsen: "Maybe it's MaryKate! I want every challenge to be about Mary Kate. I want to marry Mary Kate. Who doesn't? Except Tim Gunn."

Ok, Blayne...WTF dude? Mary Kate? Well, I guess it makes sense. They both have the ability to work the drug bag look, so I guess they would make a great couple.

I want to understand the taped lines on the mannequins. I think this is another thing I need to take a sewing class for.

I actually think the lines represent where the lines of the garment should be. If you watch them when they drape, they tend to follow the lines they have places on the dress form.

Not only was Stella looking stunning again, but I want to buy tickets IMMEDIATELY for the STELLA V. RACHEL ZOE fight night! I don't remember the specifics, but I DO know that Zoe's stupid hyper-boho floaty twirly dumbshit aesthetic was called out, and it was the best thing maybe ever.

Rachel Zoe is another one of the many famous people who I don't quite understand why they're famous. She dresses like shit, so yeah, I would love to watch Stella pound on her head like she does when she's working on her leatha.

Loved Heidi's "walk out backwards, ding ding ding" comment...I wish I could remember who she was saying it to, but the whole "ding ding ding" with the Heidi full body bob action was so great. I totally love her.

I also loved Kenley's dress with the feathers and iris print, which was just another annoying component of this episode re: Kenley. I have absolutely had it with Kenley, but she reacted to Diane von Furstenburg exactly as I imagine I would (only with less drool and scary hugging) and really seemed to feel the magnitude of the challenge more than others. Stupid wench.

I seriously hate Kenley, and although she did grasp the full magnitude of the challenge, she does not grasp how not be a giant fucking annoying irritating bitch. I think her personal style is overplayed and not really original. Her mouth full of teeth usually distracts me from what she wears, so I don't even think I noticed what she had on.


Jerell...this doesn't really scream DvF to me, but I can see where he was going with the German spy vibe and everything. I don't know...it looks almost stumpy to me. The blouse is kind of floaty and free, but so is the top jackety thing, which makes the whole thing kind of sloppy looking. It just ALL looks too soft, which would have been okay if not for the stucture of the pencil skirt and the belt to contrast. The less said about the hat, the better. The first thing that threw me off about this look was the belt, which the look kind of needed, but definitely not in that color. I do get the spy vibe as well, although he needs to cut the shit with the ugly ass hats. He's like Ricky. Jerrell is really hit and miss for me, and this one was definitely a miss. This whole look is just pretty much blah.
Joe...what the fuck is this? I mean, the model is not helping here, but it was gross at any speed. The fabrics looked tacky, the idea was weird, it didn't fit ANY of the possible categories...I don't know how Joe didn't get eliminated, and I'm not even saying that out of any ill will. I was amazed Heidi didn't go into some kind of cheap-fabric fugue state. You know how she gets. I seriously cannot believe he wasn't the one to get aufed in this challenge. I hated everything about this, from the stupid backless top to the ugly hooded whatever the hell it's supposed to be. It did look cheap, and it didn't fit in with her collection at all. It seriously sucked. Someone got lucky.
Blayne...weirdly enough, I like all of this, I'm just not sure I like it together. The jacket is great, like, I want to own it levels of great. The scarf is the perfect pop of color. The pants...I dunno. I never thought I'd be willing to sign off on pantaloons, but these are kind of awesome. I could see them with a fitted tee or something and some spindlier heels. I might be totally out of my gourd here, but I'm standing by it. I also loved the jacket. It's totally awesome. I dig the pants as well. I just think this is a really edgy high fashion look. Not everyone can wear it, but on the right person it could be really cool. I'm perfectly ok with you standing by this because I would as well. Everything about it is cool.
Korto...I am in total love with this fabric. I think we talked about how DvF used it in the dress in her fall collection and AmEx commercial. I find that a lot of Korto's stuff is a lot more interesting while it's moving, so this picture is a little unfortunate. That being said, I loved the addition of the yellow fabric, but I don't get the bolero-y shrug situation in play here. I HATED the detail along the neckline...it looked like bra straps! Middle of the road. This fabric does kick ass. I have a skirt with a very similar swirly pattern and I love it. The little plaque of yellow really punches this up and gives it the bit of edge it needed to keep it from being mediocre. The yellow on the top is stupid but I did like the bolero, actually. I think I like it because you can wear it with other stuff. I liked this one.
Leanne...again, two pieces I like separately. The coat is cute, though as with most short coats, I would prefer it buttoned. The dress was beautiful...totally elegant. That being said, I don't really get them together, even in the name of the spy aesthetic. See, I thought these two items went perfectly together. I kind of viewed the coat as something she'd wear over it when she was outside. I loved the dress and if I had the type of body that could pull it off, I'd want it. I thought she deserved the win.
Kenley...whatever, it's a cute dress. It's not HALF of what Kenley thought it was, and it doesn't really fit into any of the categories she could have gone with. I know she was aiming for the Taiwanese vibe, but I don't think it particularly screams that, either. Also, I hate Kenley. I like the print and it's cute. Other than that, Kenley needs to shut the fuck up and get over herself.
Suede...yeah, I understood nothing about this. The dress fabric was just shrieking upholstery, and the vest/jacket was totally out of left field. I don't think this pic really shows how hiptastic it was, either...WAY too much pouf! I have no idea what he was thinking. This made no sense - the dress and the vest have nothing to do with each other. Kinda ugly, really boring.
Terri...there is some EXTREME camel toe at work here. Good god. That being said, I do think it's a product of the model's crappy posture, and not the actual pants, which were pretty nice. I will say, Terri is going to need to branch out sometime soon. I like her clothes, but she does do the same kind of stuff a lot, and the judges are going to get all pissy about it right quick. I didn't really like the firework print on the blouse. This outfit could have fit into the spy concept but for the fireworks...they're just too young and too light for the spy vibe. I thought the fireworks were fun, but I didn't think they were appropriate for this challenge. I do think the posture is affecting those pants because I don't remember them being that bad on the runway. It's ok, I guess.

Stella...oh Stella, you tried. I liked the IDEA of the vest okay, but she didn't anticipate the challenges of the different fabrics properly. I would also prefer buttons to a tie, but that's a personal problem. The pants actually look okay, and I appreciate that she tried, but yeah, that vest was a hot mess. I felt as though Stella got screwed. She at least tried to branch out of her normal style and I thought her outfit had a concept, even if the execution wasn't so great. How is this worse than Joe's? I don't get it.

Friday, September 12, 2008


I went to a candlelight prayer group last night at Assumption for September 11th. I spent most of the day tearing up about things anyway..."God bless America" on the Boston Billiards Club sign, a gleaming new flag on a house near my parents, one of the HR ladies bringing in little American flags and handing them out gradually and without fanfare. I went to work, I went to Frank, I went to Chapel Choir and sang "You Raise Me Up." Then I went to the candlelight vigil.

This is the year it finally hit me...I'm not ever going to feel better about it.

I was tearing up before the bulk of the prayer group had even started. There were maybe 30 people there. I talked last week about the historical reference gap, and intellectually I know that September 11th isn't the event it is to me to everyone else. But I mean...shouldn't there be more people? Shouldn't we still be coming out in droves to remember and think and bear witness? On the way back, School Friend Cindy and I were talking a little bit about this, about my experience on that day and the ones that followed, and about why we don't really talk about it or analyze it anymore. I said that it was for going after Iraq full throttle after throwing a few rocks at Afghanistan that I would never forgive Bush for. I got so insanely angry, just talking and thinking about it. I got so incredibly sad. It was 7 years ago, and I still feel such unbelievably intense emotion that it freaks me out a little.

I kind of thought, once I moved back here and once we started to get free of the immediate aftermath, that someday, it would get better. I don't know that that's possible. I have never had an event in my life so confusing or traumatic, so I guess I just thought that someday, it would heal. Single people I know have died, but there were reasons for that...old age, illness, depression. They don't help undo what happened, but at least in time the reasons help wear down the intensity.

So what do I do? I guess I just keep waking up. I guess I just have to keep learning more, hopefully finding a way to change things. I guess I keep wearing black on September 11th. I don't know what else there is. I guess all there is left to do is try.

Every year, there is an update on Tomato Nation on a man named Don. Here is his story. Pass it along. I also recommend reading "For Thou Art With Us."

The latest news is that there is no news; if I hear anything, I will let you know, but I haven't heard anything…and it's starting to look like I won't. I don't think I would recognize Don if I saw him on the street, anymore; I doubt he would remember me, especially now that my hair is so different. It's also possible that Don does not in fact want to be found, or that he's in the Yukon or something, but I've done the paid name/birthday searches and I've hoped that six degrees of separation would loop around, and I still haven't turned him up.Thanks again to everyone who's mentioned it on sites they run or frequent, or to friends of theirs in the media, and to everyone who's sent words of support. I appreciate it. If you hear anything, or you want to mention it on your blog, please feel free — you never know.

Don: A (Very Very) Brief History
Don is a man I met on September 11, 2001. Don and I became "disaster buddies," and ever since, I've wanted to thank him for hanging out with me and helping me keep it together — but I haven't seen or heard from him since we parted ways late that morning.What Don Looks/Looked LikeDon is an African-American man. I would estimate his age at between 25 and 35 on that day — probably not younger than that; possibly older, but not much. That means he's 30-ish to 40 now. Don is between 5'9" and 6' tall, and probably weighed 160-180 pounds. (I suck at estimating men's weights.) In any case, at that time Don had a fit build — not pudgy, not skinny, well put-together. Don had short hair and a goatee at that time. I do not recall any jewelry; he may have worn a watch, I don't remember. No glasses. Don had on a grey windowpane-plaid suit and was carrying a black soft-sided briefcase. Don didn't really resemble anyone famous, except Blair Underwood around the eyes a little bit.

Other Possibly Relevant Facts
Don and I met in the lobby of the Bank of New York building, located roughly at Wall Street and Broadway. We left the bank together at approximately 11 that morning. Don lived at that time in Jersey City, or thereabouts — he took the ferry to Jersey City to get home, from a slip somewhere around Hester Street on the west side. Don had come into the city that morning via the PATH train, and had gotten off at the World Trade Center stop. He had come into the city for work, but I don't remember whether his business that day was actually at the WTC complex; I don't believe it was. If he had gotten separated from any work colleagues, he didn't mention it. I don't know what he did for a living, and I don't know if his job was based in Jersey City or in lower Manhattan, but I got the impression that he was in the city for an errand or meeting, and that he didn't regularly commute in. As I said, I don't recall a wedding ring; Don did not mention a wife or any other family at that time as far as I can remember. Don's birthday is September 11. No idea what year, but based on my estimate of his age it's probably in the late sixties or seventies.

Why You Should Care
Because it's a mystery, a puzzle, a story that needs an end. Because Don is everything good and friendly about the world. Because I owe him my thanks, and possibly a cold beer. Because it's his birthday.

What You Can Do
Do you know anyone in Jersey City, or anyone who lives or works near there? Have you heard a story like mine — secondhand, thirdhand, on someone's journal? Do you recall reading or hearing anywhere about people who ran for the Bank of New York, walked uptown a bit, and took a ferry to New Jersey? Post in the comments, or email me at sars at tomatonation dot com.And if you are in fact Don? Well, don't just sit there. Show yourself. My mom's friend swears you were an angel and she'll keep believing that shit until I can prove otherwise. Suggestions? Clues? Conspiracy theories? Send 'em my way. I'll add any new information as it comes in. In short: Don. He's still out there. And he's another year older.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Assorted Greatness

Several items in the Friends Being Awesome Department...
  • Bridesmaid and Russian Lit Buddy Celia has taken a job as a swim coach out in Washington state, where she lives. Some of you may know that C was a big swimmer throughout high school and into college, and secretly loves swimming with a totally stupid love even during the periods when she tries to convince herself she doesn't care. She recently was featured in an article about the team in the North Kitsap Herald.
  • Noted Baltimore Orioles Fan (oh and PS also an Ibn Khaldun Chair Research Fellow at AU's School of International Service) Frankie has embarked on a year long research trip to study post-9/11 Muslim life in America along with Prof. Akbar Ahmed and several other folks our age. He says he'll probably be coming to the Massachusetts/Boston/Harvard area at some point this fall, at which point I will likely attempt to stow away in his luggage. (Sorry in advance, Frankie. It's the jealousy, you see.) The trip is being called "Journey Into America" and they recently fired up a blog to record their progress and their thoughts.
  • Dad was in Worcester Magazine! It wasn't really that thrilling, since he wasn't quoted and his BRAND SHINY NEW SUPERAWESOME AND EXTREMELY GREAT AIR TAXI SERVICE, SKYLINE, was only mentioned vaguely, but they did include a photo of him pulling N2242Y out of the hangar in the article about how the airport is problematic. As fate would have it, the issue hit news stands the very day before the announcement that DirectAir would begin service to Florida from ORH. Hope it all works out! (NB: I don't know if I have mentioned this, but there is an excellent local blog about the airport that is worth reading called FlyORH. The author excels at applying a certain common sense that tends to be absent in most public discussion about the airport.)

It is worth noting that I found out about this picture because Rich happened to read WoMag and pointed it out. I immediately called Dad to ask for the Skyline media director so I could request being put on the list for press releases, to which his response was "oh, they used that [picture]?" I can only imagine what the hell he thought they were taking the picture for. I would also like to point out that this kind of weird lapse in ability to gauge the importance of information happens ALL THE TIME.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fall Collections: Gareth Pugh to Monique Lhuillier

There is an excessive amount of weirdness in the Pugh to Lhuillier bracket, including an appearance from a model who I have been wanting to include just so you can enjoy her zombitude with me. I bitched about the non-smiling zombie model phenomenon in the last round, but this woman is kind of the epitome of the situation. I don't know her name, but I find her abjectly horrifying in pretty much every single collection I have seen her in. Enjoy.

WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THAT? I'll admit that the freaky upside-down-umbrella-cum-neck-brace-with-cowl-neck-features situation that Maison Martin Margiela has her in doesn't help, but seriously, people, if I saw that shit coming at me, I'd run.

I feel so much better now that I have shared her existance with you.

Now we can move on to the collections from houses both new and old, including the exciting new designer...Maison de la Gwar!

Gareth Pugh...okay FINE it's just Gareth Pugh but I thought this was too insane to leave out. While I kind of like the structure of the outfit on the right, I can't really explain anything happening in these pictures, so I'll leave it to those with better descriptive abilities (and maybe a sci-fi novel in the works).
Gavin Douglas...the boots used here are kickass. I could certainly live with them being knee height, but they look great as ankle boots, too. I have been LOVING the covered platform trend. The sort of diagonal pleat on the dress on the left is striking, and I like how the fairly sharp lines of the pleats contrast with the twisted stippling around the waist it creates and the lightness of the underskirt. I like how the varied lengths of the handkerchief detailing on the dress on the right add interest to a somewhat tired trope. The sleeves are cute on both, and I like the twist of adding a bootie to little cocktail dresses.
Giambattista Valli...I just adore the watercolor effect created with the textures on the black, white and grey dress. It's a simple silhouette, but those fabrics add something really special to it. I understand that some people might not dig the shoulder mantle situation on the red dress, but I think it's cool as hell.
Giancarlo Ferre...vindication! I wore a navy and black outfit a couple weeks ago and was a little paranoid about whether or not I'd made up the combo's appeal in my head, but damn, this looks great and I LOVE IT. I would also like to say that I made a mental note to buy a white scarf to add to the outfit for the next round, and again I say, vindication! This just looks so chic and French and fabulous....I love the contrast of the loose top and fitted skirt.
Giorgio Armani...I'm not sure if you can see it or not, but there is some absolutely beautiful color on the blouse in the left hand picture. I like the overall look (less the flats, perhaps) but it's the blouse that really clinches it for me. On the right...well okay, let's talk about fur. I am uncomfortable with the concept and am not into animals being killed for their fur exclusively. That being said, I do own a coat with a fur collar, but it's a vintage piece and that seems less problematic to me. Maybe that's a copout, but I do think that the look of fur is striking in a way that very few things in or out of nature are. So that's fur, I guess. I think this look is just phenomenal. I realize most people don't ascribe political concepts to clothing (and why not?), but to me, this is what feminism looks like. It's strong, it creates a powerful reaction, and it banks on the female form without making it forcibly sexual. Right on. Power, ladies, POWER.
Givenchy...the Givenchy collection was full of necklace action like this, with lots of fairly thick strands. The dress is pretty but simple, and the boots..frighten me a little actually, because I think maybe they're based on a stanky old ankle brace I used to have, but I love the effect of the drapey, bold necklaces against the black. The golden goddess over on the right is spectacular...the shoes are hardcore, and I love the crazy detailing on the dress with the superfine ruffling. I kind of want to wear the gold dress to...well, pretty much to life, but a cocktail party would be acceptable as well.
Gucci...FINALLY, THE RUSSIAN INFLUENCE I WAS PROMISED, IN CASUAL WEAR! Let's have it said, the McQueen dresses were magic, but THESE I can wear in everyday life. I am in total stupid love with the military inspired outfit on the far left. Boots with whippy things on the side? Yes, please! The jacket's color palette is so rich, and the detail is just enough to really make it exceptional. The print on the shirt in the center is wonderfully intricate and features JUST enough gold detail to snazz it up and add interest. The last outfit is modern and hip, and I kind of appreciate that Gucci's collection wound up being kind of a Russia Through The Ages exhibit, starting (in the center, poor planning on my part) with the use of traditional patterns of the region, moving into the more heavily militarised history of Russia, and winding up with the look of the super-rich New Russians of today.
Heart Truth...I think this Heart Truth collection was some kind of promotional thing for the Go Red people at the American Heart Association, because it was modeled by celebrities. Frankly, most of it was boring as shit, but it appears to be for a good cause, so I'll allow it to live. That being said, I do kind of love this dress and the shiny shiny shoes, even if I do want to grab her dress in the armpittal region and yank violently upwards.
Hermes...Hermes is another house I kind of have angst with, because I can appreciate them on a certain artistic level but can't quite get to a place where I'm ready to wear them. Despite that, I adore these boots, with the kind of flamelike pattern on them. The rest of the outfit is fine but the boots are something truly special.
Herve Leger...welcome to what Herve Leger does - bandage dresses. I'm not necessarily anti-bandage dress, but they tend to be cut too short and then ride up like crazy, which makes the whole thing look completely hookeriffic. I do love the effect created by the use of color in the dress on the left, and I absolutely covet the navy and black dress. The former looks much less restrictive, and the sheer panel along the neckline lends it a delicacy that keeps the dark look from being too severe. I would ditch both the weird head thing and the heinous bangs, however.
House of Holland...there's a certain category of fashion that is woven out of pure dementia and sewn together with delicate strands of schizophrenia that I none the less am a total fool for. My standby in this regard is Heatherette, and I was all sad because they did not appear to get a fall show together. THEN, I came across the House of Holland, and while it did not replace the glory of Heatherette (really, there's no matching the spectacle and mayhem of a Heatherette show, not least because of the presence of the delightfully nutty Amanda Lepore), it certainly made a game stab at it. I saw the shirtless, becardiganed, flood pantsed, inexplicable beach bagged outfit first, jumped up and down a couple times, then a couple clicks later saw the all over logoed pajamas WITH GIANT CLOWN BOW TIE, and then died a little out of sheer happiness when I saw the model with ANTLERS. Well played, House of Holland...well played.
Isaac Mizrahi...I saw Isaac Mizrahi on a TV show at some point (I think it was How To Look Good Naked), and he is just one of those great, lovable personalities. I have no doubt that he has complete mastery over the Bitch Arts, but he just so clearly loves fashion and most of all, people, that I find him completely irresistable. He outfitted this one woman in a stunning dress, but more importantly, seemed to understand that just the experience of shopping in a designer's studio and trying on beautiful clothes was even more essential and ego-boosting than the final dress itself. I don't find the majority of his clothes particularly revolutionary, but they are always skillfully made with gorgeous classic lines, and these two are no exception. The red dress is so easy and light, and the idea to combine menswear fabrics with a ballgown is kickass and pulled off to perfection on the right.
J. Mendel...this isn't revolutionary, but I love the movement in it, and the detailing is masterfully handled. The way J. Mendel blends pretty funky details into a very classic silhouette is very unusual and beautifully handled here.
James Coviello...ooh ooh ooh HATS hats! I don't know if I have mentioned this in this space before but I had kind of a fashion revolution this summer and somehow it involved the purchase of hats intended to up my fabulousity quotient. I am VERY excited about these hats. I love the Casablanca feel of this, and the luscious fabric of the skirt keeps it from being overly trite and tired. I would wear this.
Jason Wu...I am so into classic prints the past couple years. I bought a houndstooth coat this past winter, as well as some assorted twills and pinstriped items, and I just want more, more, more! I particularly enjoy the modernity of this outsized herringbone, especially when contrasted with that awesome purple. Very chic and easy.
Jasper Conran...I appreciate this mostly as a work of art. As clothing, it's kind of eh, but the sculptural quality of the wrap is so graceful. I love it.
Jean Paul Gaultier...I am not quite ready to sign off on the printed pants we seem to be dealing with, but in the far left picture, I would CERTAINLY authorize the deployment of printed tights with the same feel. The coat is a great cut and the scarf adds the perfect exclamation point to the area of the face. I also love the coat on the far right, though I wish I could see more of it. It has the same appeal to me that the Hermes boots did earlier...a kind of swirling, delicate pattern against black. The middle outfit, well, okay, I know it's batshit insane. BUT I LOVE IT. Oh my God! I totally do! I think it's the coat.
Jenny Packham...well the middle dress, that's just pure drama. I don't know how these designers make ruffles have so much life. With the other two dresses, I just loved the effects...the marbly effect on the right is supercool, and I LOVE the ebullient sleeves. I fear that if put in a room with someone wearing this, I'd wind up creepily touching them. The dress on the left makes excellent use of the trendy sheers of the season, though I could use a little more excitement on the neckline. I feel like the fun stops mid-boob.
Jeremy Scott...oh. My. God you guys. FINALLY. Finally, my prayers for clothing that draws from Batman villains, Roman architecture and sublime tackiness have been answered! Just in case you were wondering, you ARE in fact looking at a.) a jacket emblazoned, Riddler-style, with dollar signs, b.) a sweater made to look like a gold credit card, and c.) a dress that is an homage to a GODDAMN IONIC COLUMN. Best collection ever? I won't say no! (PS - yes, they are wearing masks.)

John Galliano...ah, Galliano. The preceding four looks are from the Master himself, though I broke them up into pairs so the detail didn't get lost. I really enjoy the teal coat, because you expect a trite brocade and instead have a pretty floral. I fucking love the orange dress with purply-blue tights...not only is the color combination bang on, but the fluid style of the dress is totally chic. Adore the movement of the fringe on the purple and red number, and the SHOES are spectacular. I completely covet them. Finally, the green dress...oh, the green dress. I'm not sure how he managed to take the tacky grossness out of retro dresses of this type, but the new generation seen above is pitch perfect. I even love the crazy hat/feather action. I just love the easy glamour of the whole look. Galliano FTW...again...forever.
Jonathan Saunders...my badass Philo prof from last fall (who I am taking again this semester, eeee!) used to wear these black boots pretty frequently, and at one point told us about a conversation with a colleague in which she'd said that if she was going to be short, she may as well wear fascist boots to compensate. Fascist boots! Awesome. I think these definitely qualify, and they are stunning. The dress is a really unique study in the contrast between structure and light. I find the effect here to be really fantastic.
Just Cavalli...as per usual, there was a lot of wackness on the Just Cavalli runway, but I thought these looks were particularly wearable and cool. The peach color makes for a great effect in the suit, though I kind of hate the bag. I covet the center outfit...the leather coat and neutral palette are fairly classic, but the leopard tights add a little kick to it, and the shoes are hot as hell. I mostly like the flamingo tights on the last outfit, but I certainly wouldn't kick the dress and hat out of bed. Cavalli really GETS over the top, but I often love his subtler stuff just as well.
Kenzo...I love the graphic on this first dress, but I really do wish that it was emblazoned on a slightly more interesting dress. I just don't like the sleeves on it. The shape of the middle coat, however, is excellent, and the use of two different prints adds a ton of interest. There is something very romantic about this whole collection, but particularly in these two coats. The color and print on the last coat is pure magic...I would wear it in a heartbeat.
Leonard...I just liked the print on this. That's really all I have to say, since the cut of the dress is fairly standard...the colors are deep and wonderfully matched, and the intricacy of the print only draws out their assets.
Louis Vuitton...I love all the shoes, I adore the chunky necklace on the far right, and the dress in the center is beautifully rendered, but...DUDE, THAT'S A DEVO HAT! There was a TON of weird hat action going on in the LV collection, but I think the example on the far left is a prime example. Louis Vuitton and I have a weird relationship...I love most of their logo bags, even though I am kind of grossed out by the whole conspicuous consumerism aspect of the most recognizable fashion brand maybe ever, but their clothes rarely do much for me. While I LIKE the dress here, it's not blowing my entire mind.
Luisa Beccaria...I just thought the ruffling effect on this was spectacular. It's really a shame that this dress fell victim to the oppressive greyscale of the fall collections, because I think it would have been absolutely exhilarating in a stronger color. It's not that it's awful now, I just think a different color would have brought it to a whole new level. I am constantly in awe of the things these designers are able to do with fabric. The ruffling here is so meticulously done, and so fine it almost looks like feathers, and I love how that one band at the waistline is enough to balance it enough that it's wearable.
Catherine Malandrino...ever since she judged the couture challenge on Project Runway and was fucking BRUTAL on the contestants, I have been in total love with Catherine Malandrino. Her clothing is just graceful and effortless, and these two pieces are no exception. The draping is masterful, and I absolutely adore the interplay of the light and dark in the blouse on the right. Note to self: win lottery immediately in order to buy complete wardrobe from Catherine Malandrino.

NB: The two looks I hated least from the two Marc Jacobs collections, Marc Jacobs and Marc by Marc, were here originally. I included them because I know Marc Jacobs is supposed to be totally fabulous and feminine and On The Pulse and everything but you know what? I think Marc Jacob sucks. I think his shit is either excessively twee or boring as hell and frankly the most exciting things I found were a black pant and white shirt with a modified admiral's hat and a pink houndstooth dress that was a pretty standard shape. Sorry, Marc, you're just not up my alley. I'll stick with your perfume.
Marchesa...so, I didn't think of this before, but isn't the black dress sort of a beautiful manifestation of the Louis Vuitton Devo Hat??? Weirdly, I mean that in the best way possible, because I would shank someone for this dress, but it totally does, right? I just love the dynamicism of the various layers, and while I usually take a knee on asymmetry, I think the effect is great here. The black and white dress is just visually arresting...I love how it ends in the feathers at the bottom with a kind of cut out effect. I think that the print sits somewhat awkwardly on the hips, and the bodice is a little bland right at the top, so it's not perfect, but I think the impact of the print itself overcomes most of the problems at hand.
Max Azria...I love the combination of the structured bodice and the long, loose ruffle over top of it. I think the rest is fairly plain, but I really do love the contrast between those two aspects.
Michael Kors...Michael, we have to talk. Love your work on Project Runway, adore your snark, adore your stubborn adherence to wearing your uniform of black teeshirt and blazer with jeans AND your reasoned decision for doing so. But here's the thing....I usually think your stuff is boring as hell.
I know, I know, it troubles me too, because I love your personality so much, but I find most of your collections to be overly safe, boring, or at worst, the refuge of the elderly denziens of Boca Raton.
I'm sorry, Michael. Can we still be friends?
Oh dear. Well, there is SOME good news...I think these looks from your collection are stunning, rich and beautifully presented. The fur collar with the tweed and the gorgeous color palette is a real knockout, and the center dress fits like a dream and amplifies the 50s-ish secretary vibe, with a fabulous coat. I love the color and interesting cut on the green dress, and wish I didn't have such problematic shoulders so I could buy it immediately and wear it all the time, even when not appropriate.
So are we cool now?Good.
Monique Lhuillier...okay, the makeup is kind of horrifying. With that out of the way, what a cool fucking sleeve on this suit! This is one of those things where I want to have an article of clothing, desperately, but don't really know how it works. I mean...I work reception. Can you imagine the havoc that sleeve would wreak on day to day operations? I am just imagining myself trapped in the mail room, the sleeve sucked into the postage machine, yelling for help...but feeling fucking fabulous. So I guess it would be okay? However it works, I love it, and I want it. I also love the effect on the skirt of the evening gown....it's so unusual and fluid.