Archive for February, 2013

On Friendship, Mercury Retrograde and the Distant Shore

Ah, Mercury retrograde: when travel goes awry, computers crash, things get lost in the mail and forging ahead feels like wading in muck. Everytime I see Mercury retrograde on the horizon, I want to hide out at home with my new donut maker and some Nick Cave records and wait for the astro-storm to be over.

But there’s one nice thing about Mercury retrograde I’ve noticed: people come out of the woodwork. Friends I haven’t heard from in ages, buddies I used to carouse with, clients from past projects in past lives, colleagues just touching base to say hello and let me know what they’re up to…they all drop a line, send a quick message on Facebook, or (wow!) even pick up the phone and call. That’s such a nice thing about Mercury retrograde, right?

This particular retrograde’s been good for that, and I’ve spent tons of time chatting with old friends, meeting up for dinner, FaceTiming (is that a verb?) at odd hours with those in different time zones. Most of these friendships go way, way back, back when friends were family and our conversations were like oxygen — when we’d talk about the selves we wanted to be, the dreams we wanted to will into being, when we spent nights and weekends together, holding each other up when things were falling apart. These are the friends who kept my spirits aloft when everything looked hopeless and grim, who danced into the night together like some urban-pagan ritual, who hugged me and told me true love was waiting and we were worthy of it. Maybe we didn’t believe it ourselves, but telling another person you love helped convince you, too. Loving your friends is like loving yourself, only easier sometimes.

It’s years later now. And we are still friends. But our friendship has a different tenor, one wrought by changes in circumstance, temperament, families, babies, husbands, wives, houses, families — the stuff of roots and stability. We talk less often, perhaps. We’re farther away. Paths are wending in unpredictable directions. Social media’s had an odd effect, in a way. I know what’s happening in lives; I see the pictures of the home renovations, the kids, the trips, the weddings, so when we talk, we can get right into it. But what Facebook and Twitter don’t truly create is genuine intimacy — how we feel experiences of our friends as if they are our very own. Are these only transmitted by the sounds of a voice, shared only over a proper cocktail? Sometimes you can only really be there for someone with a hug.

Sometimes it’s like distant ships passing close to shore — you see a shape moving through the fog towards you, and maybe even hear the horn sounding through the mist. And sometimes they pull into the harbor and drop anchor, and you’ll run out to meet them, because it’s been ages and it’s just like they never left. But still you stand on land and the ship pulls away, and you watch it until it becomes a speck on the horizon, and then no more. And then you walk back to your own home, and pick up your life where you left off and live it until maybe around the next Mercury retrograde, when the next ship pulls in.

My Quasi Rick Owens Jacket, Mia Wasikowska in Stoker & The Sensuality of 70MM Film

Here are my lovely sparks of inspiration and insight for the week! I’m only just become uncongested from my lingering cold and feel like I haven’t been working with a clear (and unstuffed-up) head, so I haven’t been reading as much as usual, and what things I do read get muddled up in my head crazily. Luckily clothes and movies rush in to fill the spaces!

I Can’t Wear Rick Owens But I Can Pretend on My Blog

I have long loved Rick Owens, but I can only really afford his knitwear (and only then, by hunting it out at resale shops and sales sites.) It’s worth it for me — the fabric is of the highest quality, and his pieces keep for years. I’ve had a long skirt by him for nearly 10 years, and it still has its beautiful shape and silky texture. But his masterpieces are his jackets, which are pretty much out of my reach, even at a sale price — and his leather ones? Ha! Which is too bad — he makes rigid, structured biker jackets into sonnets of artful, graceful drape, cutting them so that they look like they’re elegantly melting off your body. And to be flattering to a large number of female body types as well? That’s pure genius. He’s an absolutely brilliant cutter and while his dark, glamorous aesthetic is strong, his designs actually nestle alongside other clothes in your closet quite nicely, and don’t overwhelm women when worn in real life.

But luckily, he’s so influential and so widely-copied that his techniques and ideas do trickle down into more affordable price points. And you never know what will trickle down, and where. I was buying my mom a gift card at Kohls, believe it or not, when I spotted this on a sales rack — it’s not Rick Owens but Vera Wang, but it’s kind of a distant cousin of a classic Rick Owens take on the biker jacket, a mass market riff on his use of mixed textiles, dramatic details and supple drape and cut. The fur is faux, the knit parts are simply cotton, but it’s as close as I’ll come to real Rickness for awhile. And I still love it, because it’s Goth-y and eye-catching and I can wear it with my wedge-heel high-top sneakers as well as my fancy shoes and my old, beat-up combat boots. One day I will have my real Rick Owens jacket, but until then, it’s a nice placeholder for the real thing.

My Girl Crush on Mia Wasikowska Knows No Bounds

I love Mia Wasikowska. She’s one of my favorite young actresses — she radiates such watchful intelligence. I’m excited, though, that she’s using that kind of rare presence in darker, more flamboyant roles, in movies like the upcoming Stoker, where she plays a weirdo teenager in a very odd family. The film got raves at Sundance (all my peeps who went this year and got into the screenings loved it) and it’s getting lots of buzz for being Oldboy director Park Chan-Wook’s first English language film and its strong Hitchcockian vibe. But I’m really going to see it because I love Mia and Nicole Kidman, both really amazing actors at different points in their creative trajectories. (Also: Wentworth Miller wrote the screenplay, and my former screenwriting prof at Duke worked on it as well!) Here’s the trailer, it’s so creeeeepy:

She’s also going to play a role in the Jim Jarmusch vampire movie, Only Lovers Left Alive, which is also coming out this year. (Jarmusch + vampires = CANNOT WAIT.) Mia told Dazed and Confused her role in it (as Tilda Swinton’s younger, crazier vampire sister) is kind of like Kim Kardashian as a vampire, really silly and vapid and fun. I always love seeing really smart actresses play almost bimbo type of characters and see what they tease out of these stereotypical roles (thinking of Jessica Chastain in The Help as a kind of example, or maybe Anna Faris’ entire career.) I think Mia will do wonderful things with it, and I’m especially interesting in seeing such a still presence transform onscreen.

I Believe the Hype: 70-Millimeter is So Worth It

This past Saturday we went to see Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master in 70mm projection at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago. Often I’m slightly skeptical of cinephiliac fixations on medium, print quality or whatever, but I have to say: it was so worth it to see the film in the projection in which it was shot. We sat further back than I would’ve liked and the screen seemed so small to me from the first time I saw it (digital projection at my local multiplex.) But even then, the film just looks so much more luminous and sensuous — you noticed stuff like how Philip Seymour Hoffman’s skin would redden, or the beautiful textures in the scenes that took place in the department store, or how inky and rich the shadows were. The whole thing was just beautiful in a way that strikes you immediately and viscerally. Perhaps only cinephiles can really articulate the differences (less crushed blacks, more vibrant contrast, more saturated colors.) But even if you’re not conversant with the intricacies of post-production color and image correction, you can feel an impact if you’re at all sensitive to the visual richness of film in general. There’s something about 70mm that returns sensuality to the filmgoing experience, so if there’s a chance for you to see a film originally shot in 70mm actually projected at that size, go see it!

On The Fashion Blog Circus and That Dang Suzy Menkes Article

Once upon a time, I was a fashion blogger. And while I lived happily ever after doing my own thing on this personal blog, I still look into the mirror of the fashion/blog world with a kind of distance that comes from having blogged a very, very long time — and yes, from being one of the early fashion blogs, part of a previous generation that included peeps like Manolo the Shoe Blogger, Marilyn Kirschner and Diane Pernet.

So it was with a kind of detached bemusement that I read this much-discussed Suzy Menkes article on bloggers, showoffs and “the circus of fashion.” Detached, because while I was a fashion blogger a very long time ago, I’m not really any longer. Bemused, because the whole fashion industry bemuses me in a “tempest in a teapot” kind of way. It always has, because deep in my heart I know it’s not a world that I ever fit in — I knew from the onset I’m an outsider, and so you automatically assume a kind of gentle yet critical distance from the aforementioned spectacle.

But I also found my reading of Menkes’ story tinged with a kind of sadness, and I can’t quite pinpoint it yet. I suppose it’s my sense of fashion blogging as a whole having squandered its potential to shift the conversation around style, fashion and industry — and that it has mostly become a distorted, odd Underland version of the mainstream fashion industry itself, with its obsession with status and consumption and its disconnect from reality. Don’t get me wrong: there are lots of shining lights out there in fashion blogging (as there are in the fashion industry), who don’t simply replicate the power dynamics and values of the dominant system, but bring something new to the whole enterprise. But overall, I’d have to agree: it’s a bit of a circus, and many “style stars” don’t inspire me much, on a personal-taste level and an ideological one. But with that sadness and disappointment with fashion blogging as a whole, I’m forced to ask myself where fashion blogging went wrong, and why it feels so often irrelevant to me as an admitted clothes lover and style watcher. And the answers don’t really come any easier, either. (more…)

Blah and Bleh: 9 Ways I Fight Off the Mid-Winter Doldrums

I’ve been fighting off a cold most of this week, feeling a bit more lethargic and achy and throat-tickly than usual. And it’s bitterly cold out, and it’s cloudy all the time, and blah and bleargh and bleh…yes, it’s the mid-winter doldrums in full effect.

I usually enjoy winter, but it’s usually because I make it through the season without illness. This year, I’m realizing nothing sucks harder than being sick when it’s cold out. You feel like you will never be well again, and everything is starting to taste like those Halls Vitamin C Defense drops I keep sucking on. Yick!

Still, I am a trooper. And when I’m not sick, I’m still a winter fan, because I love how everything slows down, takes a deep breath, snuggles down and maybe gets off the grind a little bit — enough so that you’re refreshed and energetic for spring. Maybe this cold is some way of making me slow down a bit, at least until the rest of me catches up. Until then, here are some of the things lifting my spirits just a bit this season — no trips to tropical paradise included!

Go Bowling

I like any indoor sport where you can play while drinking beer and eating potato skins topped with sour cream and bacon. If someone put a gun to my head and forced me into a weekly group leisure activity, bowling would be it. But in all seriousness, it’s nice to get a bit of movement in, even if it’s just a spot of Dance Central or bowling or lazy human yoga or something. It feels like the last thing you want to do when you just want to lie there in your bed all day, but it always feels worth it to me once I get going.

Eat More Fruits & Veggies

Another thing I don’t want to do when it’s cold outside is eat more fruits and veggies — but when I do, it’s like this switch goes on in my body and I’m like, Wowwwww, all these vitamins and minerals are good for me, I need morrreeeeee. I was really good about green smoothies for most of January — and I’m great at them in the summer, when fresh produce is super-abundant. I feel 10x better when I have them, so I just need to get over my odd seasonal aversion to fresh things — and my craving for rich, creamy, yummy buttery things, I suppose — and incorporate them back into my diet, because my body and immune system is starving for some green freshness, even if my taste buds aren’t.

Bake Stuff

I like to cook, but I am not a baker by temperament. The whole enterprise confounds me. However, I found a crazy-good local sale of those Babycakes donut and cupcake makers, and I just couldn’t resist the idea of my apartment filling up with the cinnamon, chocolate and vanilla smells of yumminess — a nice panacea to the icy, grey ickiness outside. I know buying a “maker” is a bit like cheating, but I’m completely discombobulated when it comes to baking and it reduces the intimidation factor. Because baking is mad intimidating to me. How do you soften butter? What’s this sifting? What do you mean, only mix enough until large lumps are gone? What about small lumps? I really don’t know how baking relaxes people because it only makes me anxious! But I’m game to find out…and dying to make cardamom and peach donuts.