Friday, February 29, 2008

This is the day the unicorns have their picnic.

Too cute to be adult-sized. This dress is presented as a top for an adult person, but is (even by the ebayer's own admission) most likely a child's dress. This should not deter a slim and intrepid woman from trying it on. Though I am no longer the twig I once was, I can still sometimes get into a kids size 12 or 14, especially if it is one of those shapeless empire waist party dresses like this one. However, this one is a child's size 5, so one would need to be Liliputian indeed. And probably open up the arm holes a bit. Though I am a pessimist about everything except clothing, I think it would be tough to make this one work.

But this is adult-sized:

But made for an adult in touch with her inner-child. Posing and prancing carousel-style unicorns on a preppy skirt. Sure, this fabric looks a bit jejune, especially with the pink bows those unicorns are sporting, but who could resist all this fun?

Apartment Therapy recently advocated the collecting of Vera scarves for the hideous and ghoulish purpose of turning them into pillow cases for throw pillows on couches. I protest. Most silk scarves will shred under that kind of pressure. Pulled taut and leaned upon? Sat upon? Propped under heads? No, no and no.

I've posted a Vera print or two previously, and am drawn to her signature ladybug. I heartily approve of scarves in general. I am usually wearing (at least) one and ecourage others to do so as well. I go so far as to have a scarf and a shawl with me year 'round, combating winter and airconditioning alike.

Far from mere decoration, a scarf is an overwhelmingly useful thing to have around. It can keep your neck warm, protect your coif, hide your identity from the paparazzi, or cover your nose and mouth if you encounter tear gas. If necessary, it could be used as a tourniquet, or if large enough, a sling. I have had ocassion to use my scarf to secure an icepack. I can dramatically flag down a cab in a snow storm. And once in an emergency I tied a scarf around my waist, added a safety pin and wore it as a skirt. (It's a long story involving a characiture artist, a marriage proposal from a Frum I had just met, a copy of Fitzgerald's The Beautiful and the Damned and failed attempt to get into the Screen Extras Guild union.)

Now for wounds to the head involving blood (Pfui! Pfui! Pfui! Kaynehora, keep the evil eye away)I've got my pocket handkerchief. But for everything else, I've got a workhorse of a scarf.

If I were to suvive a plane crash over the Pacific and find myself on a desert island, I would be rescued in no time. I'd merely hoist my brightly-hued novelty print dress in a tree where it could be seen from a helicopter, and sit comfortably on the beach reading a Dickens novel with my scarf tied about me like a sarong. By my calculations, I'd be receiving medical attention within 4 hours. I know it's an unlikely scenario, but I like to plan for the worst.

However, I wear my scarves so wide and long that I am, at times, in danger of an Isadora Duncan ending. Live by the scarf, die by the scarf.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Unicorns seem to travel in groups. I recall a similar cluster of unicorn items around this time last year. Perhaps they have come out in late February to mate.

This dress is presumably cotton, with cute 3/4 sleeves, and a psychedelic Renaissance feel. I'd pair it with opaque royal blue tights, purple boots, tuck my hair into a pearl-bedecked golden snood (yes, goslings, I have such a thing) and glue on some false eyelashes.

I'd wear it to visit the butterfly exhbit at the Museum of Natural History.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A proposed uniform for AirScotland? A Serbin-designed polyester dress in maroon covered with tiny unicorns would do the trick if such an airline existed. Pair it with a pill box hat in tartan, and add a sporran as a cary-on.

Long ago, I wanted to create uniforms for imaginary airlines. CossackAir, was one idea. It included a high-necked mini dress with long puffy sleeves, tall boots and a big fur hat. It would have to include a whip. I wish I could remember the other ideas, especially for Cargo Cult Air.

Mr. Cliff Muskiet, a flight attendant for KLM, has amassed over 700 uniforms, some from now defunct airlines such as PanAm that you can see beautifully photographed on his website.

I love the way nationalism leaves its goofy handprints in the strangest details. The shamrocks on the scarves and buttons of Airlingus's somber suits, the green mosaic pattern of the Royal Air Maroc scarves and the I Dream of Jeannie hats on the Gulf Air, Oman Air stewardesses. Everywhere in the details, stylized wings, airplanes or birds in flight. I love how the scarves and blouses play out the same motifs, patterns, and logos. Sometimes in different colorways. The interchangeability. The summer and winter uniforms. And the hats, oh yes, the hats.

Mr. Muskiet points out that stews hate their hats. And no wonder. It is not easy to keep a pill box hat on your head in turbulence at 40,000 feet while microwaving the ethnic cuisine of your nation for the schmucks in economy. After takeoff those lids are stowed.

Do check out Mr. Muskiet's collection for hours of amusement and inspiration.

Here are a few lovelies from Pakistan International Airlines. I love the fusion of military lines, hijab compliance, and 60s modern sass in Pierre Cardin's designs for PIA's airhostesses. This is the winter uniform. I hope those pockets are functional. Isn't it space age? I guess those 60s 3/4 wigs give a rock solid bubble shape to the duputta, while protecting hairstyle. As their website states: "The uniform consisted of a short, easy fitting "A" line tunic, slim-line trousers and imaginatively moulded dupatta that not only covered heads but also turned heads."

And I love this photo of PIA Air Hostess, Selma Sheikh. She's got such a winning smile and can-do attitude that propells her into a future of blue skies. There's something that evokes Socialist Realist painting here.

And though it's hard to see the uniforms here, the poses of these Jamaica Air hostesses are just too much fun. Doesn't this look like a movie still? Or something from the Cremaster Cycle, if Matthew Barney had a sense of humor? And why is there a whole genre of photography devoted to women posing with machines?

And, of course, Pucci's designs for Braniff. Who could resist those wide-legged trousers? And an umbrella to match (natch!).

I have not seen any version of Coffee, Tea or Me? (book, film or remake), and I abhor the sexualization of all women's work (teacher, librarian, nurse, secretary). Though stewing is a tough job, and air travel in general has lost its glamor, a female flight attendant is still inappropriately sexualized by male passengers in a way that other professions have managed to leave behind. And the sexist practice of hiring only conventionally attractive women has remained the norm for many airlines.

I have the top half of a Singapore Airlines uniform. My mother found it in a thrift shop. I had no idea of its origins, thinking of it simply as an orange and blue batik top. I only got about a block from my house when I was accosted by a eye-numbingly beautiful woman who asked me: "Which run do you have?"

It turns out that she was a flight attendant for Singapore Air, and politely set me straight as to what I was wearing and went on her wingéd way. All that day men approached me, on the subway, in elevators, to tell me that they loved Singapore Air. That they loved the airline's Singapore Girls. That they loved a particular Singapore Air stewardess and could I help him get in touch with her? And finally they declared that they loved me and wanted to know how long I'd be in town. Women asked me for diet cokes and extra blankets. The ladies were joking, of course, but the men, not so much.

Of course I was flattered that anyone would think I was a Singapore Girl. I mean, they are all stunning. I also appreciated everyone's broadmindedness since I look Jewish from 5 blocks away. But at the same time it is creepy how women's work, especially when it involves helping others, is sexualized, romanticized and not well paid enough.

There was recent talk of revamping Singapore Air's admittedly sexist and racist campaign. There was even talk of changing the uniform, though flight attendants apparently rejected the proposed redesign of a banal business suit. As an ex-air hostess, who asked to be identified only as "Nancy", told reporters: "When I put on the uniform, I represented Singapore, not just the airline. It made me so proud and we would get a lot of positive feedback." Doesn't she sound like a soldier in the kitsch army of nationalism? Aren't all flight attendants on international carriers a symbol of their nation's fantasies?

And I wonder, why is it that women in national dress are the stuff of erotic fantasy? (And why is it that men abandon traditional dress much faster than women?) Would it be equally racist to dress a Lufthansa stewardess in a dirndl? I'm sure that Iberia's flight attendants would find the addition of a large comb and mantilla a needless emcumbrance. One can navigate both Lufthansa and Iberia's websites without a single photo of their cabin crews. And that's as it should be. I think the Singapore Girl is all grown up. I sure hope the Singapore Air stews have some good collective bargaining and can advocate for whatever uniforms and working conditions suit them best.

Are the Singapore Air stews whose photos are used in promotional materials adequately compensated? Or are they just exploited employees, like those poor skinny girls who look so unhappy on those American Apparel ads?

Lastly, goslings, there is an exhibit of photos of contemporary Flight Attendants by Brian Finke at Clamp Art. That's about all the flying I'll do these days.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

There is just the merest sliver of this magical fabric. A remnant of 18" by 22.5". Oh the injustice of it all. There should be reams of this. Enough for curtains, duvet covers, throw pillows and a circle-skirted shirtwaist dresses with cuffed short sleeves accented with these crown buttons.

Again with the Scottish Secret Service. I know, I know.

And so, goslings, my friend Fidel is retiring.(Do you think he'll move to Florida?)
My buddy Musharraf is trying to be a good sport about losing. What shall I do when even Generalissimos are throwing in the towel? Do neither of them have the gumption anymore? Are they just gonna take it lying down? If Fidel and Purvez can no longer be bothered to crack a few eggs to make an omelet, who does a poor performance artist have to inspire her to battle on?

Oh, what would Kim Jong-il do?

The thing with dictators is that they usually keep going. That can be relied upon. They invade Russia in winter. They scheme about invading Iran when they are already fighting losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have no intention of altering their plans just because people are dying in large numbers and the economy has tanked.

Henry Kissinger was awarded the Novel Peace Prize in 1973, along with Vietnamese diplomat Le Duc Tho, for brokering a cease fire to end the Vietnam War. So the cease fire didn't last and the war didn't end for two more years. This is realpolitik, kids. At least Le Duc Tho had the decency to decline the award, stating that his country was still at war. Did Mr. Kissinger lose any sleep? Not a chance.

Me, I've been fighting a losing battle for years. And I've been fighting it like a dictator. I pour more and more resources (read:money) into failing projects. I do the same things again and again but expect different results. I take bad advice. Do the ill-advised. And then wonder where it all went wrong. I too should step down.

I want to retire. I want fresh air, lots of plants and a big mean doggie. I want to grow vegetables and eat them. I want to perform ukulele concerts for squirrels and ants. I want to listen to 8 track tapes and be completely innocent of tabloids, blockbusters, and fashion trends. I want to paint and whistle and dream. But, to be perfectly candid, I still want to pop over to the Met, take tap dancing and uke lessons, and eat really good Indian food. In short, I don't want to leave New York. True, most of what I loved about this town is long gone, destroyed by a terrible fungus similar to the one that destroyed the grossmichele banana crop in the 1950s. This fungus killed off all the independent bookstores, cinemas and cafes, leaving behind a sterile ring of Footlockers, Banana Republics and prefab condos that seem to import young puppies from elsewhere who think they are getting the real New Yawk experience at $4,000 a month.

But then I saw this article in the Times and hope blossomed again in my bitter bosom.

I could buy a boat and dock permanently in the boat basin at 72nd Street. Close to the express stop. Not so far from Zabars. I could have seagulls for neighbors, watch the moon rise and still make it to the screenings at MOMA with all the old ladies wearing fur coats like bathrobes. True, it might be difficult to get Chinese food delivered, and I know nothing about the seaworthiness of vessels but I began looking for boats for sale on craigslist right away.

$50,000 is about the going rate for what I'd need, though I must say the interiors of these boats look awfully 80s. And not in a good way. But it certainly beats NY real estate prices.

But alas, goslings, once the NY Times writes about anything, it is already over. The permits the city is issuing for permanent docking are probably all gone. And I can't even fix my leaky kitchen faucet, so I severely doubt I can manage to keep something a float. But it was nice to dream, n'est pas?

Now if I had a submarine with a roofdeck, a sunken living room in white fur and pop art paintings of red lips where I could lure my Catholic priest cousin to totally mess up his priesthood, then I'd be in Roger Vadim's If Don Juan Were A Woman. This 1973 film is one of the worst I have ever seen. And remember, I LOVED Ishtar.

La Bardot looks dyspeptic throughout as the title character. She is not so much acting (she has no range) as stumbling through. I really think she wasn't feeling well during the shooting of this film. It looks like Mr. Vadim only allowed her to go and throw up between takes. Poor thing.

But cinema always has a moral. In this case: don't star in a film directed by your ex-husband.

Bardot plays out not so much the story of Don Juan, but every sleazy 70's dude's fantasy of what he would do if he were Brigitte Bardot. Oh, wait, that would be Roger Vadim. Exploitative, tacky, risible dialogue throughout. One of La Bardot's conquests is an archer, which is very visual and made archery look like fun. Another is her cousin (or is it half-brother? Oh, who cares?) who's a priest. There's even a folk singer in a beatnick cafe (checkered tableclothes and candles stuck in empty wine bottles) who cuts his throat for her. I think a mime wanders through at that point. Oh no, I'm making it sound better than it is. Don't see it!

Some reviewers (dudes, of course) make much of the nudity in this film. (One even recommends turning off the subtitles for certain scenes so you can see it better--yuck!) I saw this this film a couple of years ago, and I remember it being completely unerotic. There's a totally boring orgy scene in Sweden where everyone looks like ABBA. I mean, really boring. That sentence is more interesting than the scene it describes. And of course, our Dona Juana is punished at the end for doing whatever Mr. Vadim wanted.

Warning: spoiler ahead.

La Bardot, in an ill-fitting tuxedo that she wears shirtless, has a death scene that seems to go on for 20 minutes. She's actually burned alive in a half-finished house that is one of these planned suburban communities. A prototype of a McMansion. She screams and screams until you look at your watch.

But the design! The interiors! The polyester! But whoever did the art direction achieved the apotheosis of early 70s style. I remember thinking that I would so want to live in that submarine.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Monday, February 11, 2008

Around the world in 15 novelty souvenir print scarves.

A ready-made collection for the highest bidder. Or perhaps a starter kit. Or maybe a gateway drug to more and more souvenir print scarves. And maybe that's just how you'd like to get high. Go get these beauties.

I would totally go for these scarves in a big way if I didn't already own 52 scarves. Hmmm, upon reflection, probably more like 108. And I prefer for souvenir prints to find me naturally, that is, when I'm on the road. You know, somewhere exotic, like Philadelphia, where I can pick up a souvenir scarf of Gibralter for 50 cents at a Goodwill.

You know how I love a little holandaise. This Dutch scarf that looks like delftware is a charmer:

But the Joan of Arc scarf is the show stopper here:

I have long had a fascination with Saint Joan. (Doesn't she look like she's wearing false eyelashes here?) After all, what's not to like? You've got a cross-dressing young peasant woman who leads an army and saves France, guided by some mysterious voices in her head. Of course it all goes badly for her in the end.

I was lucky enough to see Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1928 film The Passion of Joan of Arc on a very big screen at the Hollywood Bowl, like a million years ago in the 80's. I don't remember the music, but there was a full orchestra. And I remember admiring the bravery in the face of fatalism shown by actress Renée Jeanne Falconetti as Joan. And how could I resist the electric Antoine Artaud as the mad monk?

Listening to New Sounds last night, I heard bits of a new score created for the film, created by composer Richard Einhorn. For text, fragments from the transcripts of Joan's trial were utilized, along with writings by female mystics of the time period. Beautiful and inspiring music you can listen to here. Of course many of Joan's contemporary female mystics met the same bad end that she did. And apparently the movie even had something of a curse on it, like King Tut's tomb.

A career-wrecker for Renée Jeanne Falconetti, who, rumor has it, spent some time in a mental institution later. Carl Theodor Dreyer also checked himself into the psych ward for a time. The original negative was destoryed in a fire, and Dreyer died believing this film to be lost. A clean copy was later found in a janitor's closet in a mental institute in Norway. How's that for a coincidence?

Perhaps the fascination with Joan is the blending of the spiritual and the political. Oh, and let's not forget torture and sacrifice. Oh yeah: and the cruel, cruel world of dudes who just don't get it. I'm with you, sister.

Originally this post was meant to be an installment of "Now Let Us Praise..." for performance artist Linda Montano. She is an artist who has been a big inspiration for me. She tears down the wall between art and life. I even do a colors project every year inspired by her 7 Years of Living Art + 7 Years of Living Art =14 Years of Living Art.

For those who tuned in late, Ms. Montano spent 14 years focusing on the chakras. She devoted a year to each of the 7 and wore the color associated with that chakra exclusively for one year (she also listened to the sound associated with the chakra and chose a patron saint for each year etc.). After starting at the root chakra and ending at the crown, Ms. Montano decided to do another 7 years, returning down the ladder to the root chakra.

I am not as ambitious nor organized. Starting at the beginning of February, I wear red for two weeks (the color of the root chakra) and progress to orange for two weeks. The rest of the colors for one week each: yellow, green, turquoise, indigo, purple and white. I realize that this is 8 and not 7 chakras, since I separate indigo from purple.

This gets back to Jeanne d'Arc. Really, it does, I promise.

The first year I did the colors project, I was full-throttle. I set up an altar for each color, complete with a patron saint and offering. Wore a special scent and listened to music chosen to evoke that chakra. For example, the root chakra is all about suvival, home, clan and belonging, and the color is red. What could be redder, I ask you, than the Soviet Army Chorus and Band? So my exploration of the chakras was kinda kitschy to begin with. For example, Liza Minelli was the patron saint of the heart chakra. But I digress.

This is year three. As you know, I love repetition, and have created something of a liturgical calendar for myself where I have rituals for different parts of the year. The colors project coincides with the darkest months of winter and the colors cheer me up. I don't take the chakras literally, because I'm not all that new agey. And doing research to write about Ms. Montano (but that will be another post), I found myself distracted by Ms. Montano's one-time collaborator, Tehching Hsieh.

And so: Let us now praise Tehching Hsieh.

An abstract painter and merchant marine who jumped ship in Philadelphia in 1974, Tawainese-born, American artist Tehching Hsieh put down roots in New York where he engaged in a series of overwhelmingly rigourous year-long performance pieces. The restrictions he places on himself are emblematic of the restrictions we all have. But his imagination can both imagine and inhabit the most extreme versions of just what oppresses us all.

In the first, he spent the year of 1978 locked in a cell, a cage he had constructed in his loft. He documented each day with by marking the wall, and taking a photo of himself. He met no one, read nothing, and wrote nothing. Visitors were able to come and view him during 18 different brief viewings.

In the Time Piece from 1980-1981, Mr. Hsieh punched a time clock every hour on the hour, he only missed about 150 hourly punch-in times due to oversleeping, even though he was foggy due to lack of REM sleep. An outside and objective person verified his time cards, and he filmed a single frame each day showing himself with the time clock. The film version of that year has been compressed into 6 minutes.

The next year he took a vow not to enter any building. He stayed in a urban environment, mostly the Lower East Side and notated a map, marking places where he ate and slept. The project was inperiled by the NYPD who arrested him during a street brawl and put him in stir for 15 hours. But other than that Mr. Hsieh was out there and exposed to the elements.

Then there was the year-long rope piece where he collaborated with Linda Montano. And then came a media blitz.

From July 4, 1983 at 6pm to July 4, 1984 at 6pm, Mr. Hsieh and Ms. Montano were contected with an 8 foot rope. They had only met a couple of times before beginning this piece. The boundaries of the piece were set up in advance. For one thing, though they would be forced to spend an entire year together, they agreed not to touch. Avoiding sexuality, the piece was able to focus solely on the literal connectivity of the rope. They are not a couple, but two individuals stuck together (which, no matter how romantic you may be, is the truth for couples too). While Mr. Hsieh's other pieces can be read as explorations of jail, work, and homelessness (or civilization), this one, clearly, is about communication, inter-dependance, privacy, individualism, pair bonding, negotiation, marriage and of course, how another person can reelly reelly get on your nerves.

Speaking with the Brooklyn Rail, Mr. Hsieh even describes the aftermath of the project like an acrimonious divorce. He says: "She took that piece and made it hers. Most people think that was her piece. The picture she always uses I don’t like either. She is in the foreground and I am in the background. Sometimes my name isn’t even included when documentation of the work is shown. So I am a little angry, because actually it was my idea and we decided to do it together and share the work 50/50, but now it is like she has eighty and I have twenty. She says it is the critics that make it that way. I tell her, "You know what is going on." But she doesn’t agree and there it is."

During an interview in 1984, while the two were still tied together, Ms. Montano and Mr. Hsieh describe their experiences differently and yet they meet in the middle somewhere. Ms. Montano says that the discipline of the piece has a spiritual element for her. Mr. Hsieh states that he is like a monk in his dedication, but that he is trying to figure out where he is in life without God. He focuses on struggle, which he states plainly is what all his work is about. He speaks of negotiation, and the inability to hide from negativity in this piece.

Perhaps the glare of the media prompted his next year-long piece entitled A Year Without Art. Paul Laster, writing for Art Asia Pacific notes that this project was "so successful that most of the art world stopped calling." This was followed by a 13 year piece called Earth. From the years 1986 to 1999, Mr. Hsieh proposed to make art but not show it publically. As the 21st Century began, he showed his work: a statement resembling a ransom note saying that he had kept himself alive.

I have a tendency to elevate bowing out, dropping out, taking a lindy, a junket or even absconding, but this is not what is happening here. No, I'm not playing three card monty with you, goslings, but maybe I'm gonna write something more appropriate to a Hallmark card. Keeping himself alive doing carpentry and odd jobs is a victory indeed, and probably even art. He tells the Brooklyn rail: We don’t look at survival that closely. We pretend to smile. We are all taught to say everything is OK, we are in control, even if we are not. There is a need to be positive in public. But art is not doing that. We try to tell the truth in someway, to touch a part of it, to not be so typical. This kind of work is not about suffering, it is about existence. It is about a technique, my concept is to show this technique.

And I find Mr. Hsieh's unflinching look into the void refreshing. But maybe it's my scepticism. (Generally when I first meet someone, I evaluate everything they say as if they are actually saying the opposite. If someone tells me he is a nihilist, I figure he's got a heart somewhere in there; if someone tells me he is religious, I put my hand on my wallet.)

But the thing is: when you tear the veils off of everything and see very clearly, you don't get along so well in the world. And you really piss people off, and they want you to suffer for it. And it used to be that an unpopular opinion sent you to the stake, now it just excludes you from the media circus. It's cold out there with out the camera flash, but is that really so bad?

Mr. Hsieh, I am happy to report, owns a loft building in Williamsburg, supports other artists, travels and lectures. So, he's doing okay. But if you want to set your cap at him, no luck: he's a married man. I know, I was kinda hoping he was single too.

Yes, goslings, even though I've got a show coming up, I'm still thinking of retiring.
I leave you with one more photo of Renée Jeanne Falconetti acting her foot off, now that is a performance to retire on. Even though the still that I chose from the movie kind of resembles Janet Leigh's shower scene in Psycho, doesn't it?

Friday, February 08, 2008

I searched high and low for this one, goslings, a novelty print that could finish out blouse week with a bang; it took me hours to find this comma and semi-colon print.

40's rayon, cute little collar, great color. Covered in punctuation marks, this shirt would definitely help you to say what you mean. This is exactly what I needed to wear to housing court this morning. This is the novelty print that could have said: "Your honor, I find the petitioner's suit both frivolous and egregious."

I have written extensively on what novelty prints to wear to court, and punctuation has always been the chosen theme for the claimant. But what if you are the respondent?

Housing court is indeed a fashion challenge. Mom had excellent advice. She said: look poor. Easy enough to do. Just pick my most pathetic, well-worn vintage dress and pair it with an acrylic sweater. I had an appropriately cheap purse and carried all my legal documents in a Russian briefcase, that is to say, a plastic bag. I topped it all off with braids and a headscarf. Just to keep it downtrodden, or in case a low budget production of Fiddler on the Roof needed an extra. But then I started over-thinking the whole thing, as I tend to do. If I am really to look poor, then I must look like I'm trying not to look poor, right? I settled on a silk blend turtleneck and a pair of decent boots to add a little class to the schmatte and the headscarf. As if I dressed up to go to court.

"Tell it to the judge!" shouted my landlord's scumbag attorney during our last meeting 2 weeks ago.

We had gotten off on the wrong foot, he and I. Because of the masculine sound of my name, he presumed there was some Mr. Sam Sara somewhere and kept asking about my husband, and if I was there to represent him. This did not endear him to me. Plus I had the flu, a high fever and it was all I could do to keep from throwing up.

"I'm too sick to be here and I need an adjournment," I told him, "I have the flu."

"What has that got to do with anything?" He asked indignantly, "Tell that to the judge!"

And so, two weeks later, I was prepared to face the judge and this schleppy, heavy-set white guy, my landlord's attorney. And I was prepared to do it dressed as the Little Match Girl.

For those of you who have tuned in late, my landlord, Pinnacle Management (who received a special mention last year in the Village Voice's 10 Worst Landlords) took me to housing court over a rent credit that they promised me. We've had this intermittent problem of fumes from the boiler getting into the apartment the whole 11years I've been there. Off and On. But the chimney finally broke in late September. Smoke and black ashes were coming into my apartment for about 2 and a half months. I had to move out while the chimney was repaired. The Building Manager promised me a credit for the time I couldn't be in the apartment, but of course no one would put anything in writing. Which brings us to Housing Court, at 9:30am today.

The Judge was direct from Central Casting: a poker-faced, African-American woman in her late 50s, glasses perched on the end of her nose. I listened to her on the cases before mine. She didn't put up with nonsense. She silenced a long-winded attorney with a lifted eyebrow. She adjourned to give an elderly lady time to hire a lawyer. Tough but fair. I was so excited that she would be my judge. And I had so many things to tell her. About the broken chimney. About the evil landlord. So many things. Things that filled two folders carried in a plastic bag. And this woman, clearly, could set all wrongs right.

I sat in the pews and awaited the bottom-feeder lawyer, like we had a date. Every time that court room door opened I was hoping it was him and my heart beat a little faster.

But there was no court room drama for me, legal beagles, and probably for the best reason. The landlord withdrew the lawsuit. I guess it was costing them more than I owe them to litigate. I have a current outstanding balance of $144.

And so I signed the Stipulation of Settlement without really realizing that I had waived my right to sue the landlord. Now, I've got mixed feelings about that, but the unofficial legal advice I've gotten all points to the impossibility of winning any legal tussle with my landlord. And shelling out a lot of money, which I obviously don't have or I wouldn't have been in this position to begin with. And that my case would only be compelling if I were to die from the fumes, or be permanently disabled (Gawd forbid!). In addition, the chimney has now been replaced, and it would be very hard to file suit for conditions that have been ameliorated. And so, all things considered, I will simply Get On With My Life.

The first thing I saw when leaving the Civil Court was an ad for something called "Moving On".

I went to The Vegetarian Dim Sum House to celebrate. Last night being New Year's Eve, Chinatown was littered with confetti and still asleep. (I lived in Chinatown eons ago and normally the neighborhood is up and at 'em pretty early, but not today.) Everything was shuttered. I found myself on Pell Street at 10:30 am without any vegetarian options and decided to follow the throngs trooping in and out of Delight 28 next door. A hand-written sign said dim sum and it was clearly the place to be this morning. Elderly men in baseball caps handing out red envelopes with money in them. Good-looking young men with sleepy expressions. Old ladies on canes and women who talked on their cell phones during the entire meal.

Of course, dim sum is a dangerous business if you have any dietary restrictions. My dear friend, Spartacus, is allergic to shell fish (like go to the hospital type allergic), so he has to opt-out. I was happily seated near the kitchen. An excellent vantage point to see what was on each cart. The first cart-lady assured me that she had seafood dumplings. And they were. Seafood mixed with pork. I ate them anyway.

And everywhere, everyone was saying Happy New Year. Even to me.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Special procrastination bonus extra.

How I love a photo print. Something about the crispness of it, the feeling that a photo must never lie (though we know they fib), the postcardness of it, the sense of holding a true copy of something. (Yes, goslings, when I am civilian and go by the name Diana Prince, I am a notary public, among other things.) Then there is the collage element, which is always substandard. Different photos are just slapped up there together, without any artistic trimming, without any Max Ernst surrealism, without any sense of musicality. And the fabric is always cut without any regard for the placement of the images on the garment. The most interesting are usually upsidedown.

Yet I accept all the failings of the photo print. Because it tries so hard, and can never achieve all it hopes for. I mean, don't we all?

Charming photo print of Spain on nylon polyester with a Saks Fifth Avenue label. Not to be sneezed at, no indeed. Flamenco dancers in red, a helicopter view of what might be Madrid. Maybe there are guitarists in there, who could tell from these nebulous photos?

And now let us praise Pilar Albarracín. I saw her work in the Global Feminisms exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum last spring. Playing on kitsch images on nationalism (one of my pet projects too), Spanish performance artist Ms. Albarracín inhabits different characters of fantasy in order to implode them. I was totally taken by the video of her in a yellow coat dress, pursued by a brass band blaring jingoistic Spanish anthems. (I believe "Arriba Espana" to be a tune from Franco's reign, no?) You can watch her videos on her website.

My court date is tomorrow, goslings, and I am so not into it. I'm dreaming of Spain and Morocco, and all those improperly treated leather bags they sell that have a strange smell and are ruined by rain and sweat. And sunshine, and torillas, and dancing in the caves of Sacromonte. Sigh. I gotta get in touch with the part of me that loves a court room drama. Wish me luck!

Up a steep and very narrow stairway/To a voice like a metronome/Up a steep and very narrow stairway/ It wasn't paradise/It wasn't paradise/It wasn't paradise/But it was home.

At the Ballet.

Blouse week continues with this rayon crepe blouse. What look like flowers, perhaps hibiscus, from afair, are buxom, dark-skinned blondes in billowing rainbow-tinged skirts. Some hold fans, others are checking themselves out in hand-held mirrors. Graceful arms and the staggered placement of the skirts give a feeling of whirling.

B34, W28, and it buttons up the back. I'd resist the temptation to wear a full skirt with this one, and opt for something straighter, more tailored. But I would definitely wear a pair of black suede opera length gloves.

I'd wear this one to the Flamenco Festival. With an enormous red comb in my chignon.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Confound it, kids, I thought this picture copied better. Go to this link to see this Miró blouse in all it's detailed glory.

An excellent addition to any Museum of Fine Art on Polyester. This top is an XL: with a Bust of 52", and 29 inches in length. It could be a top or a dress, depending upon the wearer.

I love Miró's work and have never seen anything like this before, so hop to it. Wear it when you need to think abstractly.

And so, goslings, I guess this is turning into blouse week. Let's see if I can find 3 more novelty print tops for you to enjoy.

As for what I'm going to do with The Rest of My Life: I've made some headway as a philistine. I've decided to devote myself to watching all the episodes of Patrick McGoohan's late 60s tv series, The Prisoner. Well, there are only 17 episodes, so I guess I can devote the next couple of months to it.

Okay, so you could argue that this show references surrealism, totalitarianism, and has enough mid-century design goodies to class it up and out of philistinism. Puh-shaw! I would argue that devoting oneself to a tv show of any sort is a good schmear of lowbrow on the bagel of life. We all need a soupçon of vulgarity to keep things interesting.

A shocking addition to my usual tenet: One must have a touch of whimsey.

Whimsey, yes and always. But being possessed of good manners and childlike wonder can get a bit grating without just a bit of the common touch, don't you think?

Do read Lynn Yaeger's column this week. She asks fashion designers who they are voting for in the primaries. This one is particularly well-written. It's enough to make me want to retire.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Call me.

Sized small. Made in Japan. Old skool telephones complete with dates of provenance. A very late 60s color combo of maroon, orange and brown.

It would be adorable on you. Wear it to all networking events. Anywhere you intend to hand out your business card. Wear it with an orange a-line skirt, mustard- colored boots and a lemon-colored cravat. At least, that's what I would do.

I saw Carmen last night, goslings, and lemme tell you: Olga Borodina has some terrific pipes. Go see her. Franco Zeffirelli’s 1996 staging at the Met this season included a whole barnyard and milling crowd scenes. Perhaps a bit too literal for my taste, but boy did it ever play to the back row. Which is exactly where Akhenaten and I were sitting.

While it's one of my favorite operas, I've never seen Carmen up on its feet before. Though to get myself in the mood, I watched Carlos Saura's 1983 flamenco version the night before. I'm a big fan of Carlos Saura's work, and of this film in particular, which inspired me to study flamenco long ago. Yes, in 1983. Though my skirt-swishing and high heeled stamping days led me to Spain to study, I've never graced a flamenco tablao. Simply put, I haven't got the I'm-too-sexy-for-this-skirt attitude. And when I try to affect it, it's like an agressive chihuahua. Oh you vicious widdle thing, let's see what all 3 pounds of you can make of that mean widdle bark. Even the guitarist would look at me and crack up.

I'm sure a dissertation is being written somewhere about the role of gypsies in the popular imagination of France in the 19th Century. Another is being written about gender, race and class in opera. And someone somewhere is identifying with Carmen, or Don Jose. I enjoyed Carmen's sensuality and fatalism, especially in Près des remparts de Séville. This fantasy that she paints for Don Jose is an idealized version of her life. Of course she knows that it is false.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Every dog has his day. Some of these look like 50's versions of a 17th Century mythological beastiary. That spotted dog with the long neck and moustache whiskers, for example. Is that a leorafus (leopard/giraffe/walrus)? And the sad face of the blue spaniel, and the dour green pekinese steal what little pieces remain of my sordid heart.

This is a smock-style, shapeless shirt. I'd wear it loose and pair it with a turquoise leather skirt and a green cravat. I'm devoted to cravats these days. I'd wear it when I feel like I'm just a dogsbody (rimshot).

I read Jonathan Adler's My Prescription for Anti-Depressant Living over the weekend. Though I believe that the current obesession with 70's modernism is on the wane, and that for the most part Mr. Adler's designs are stunningly similar, nonetheless this is a charming book, filled with lavish photos and witticisms. As well as some very good advice.

Mr. Adler is about the same age as me, and he name-checks some of my favorite (and rarely mentioned) films: Smashing Time, and X, Y and Zee. Both, I can assure you, are better than LSD. The first has a deliriously clad duo of girls from northern England (Lynn Redgrave and Rita Tushingham) who become pop stars after a mere week on Carnaby Street, the second has a crazed Elizabeth Taylor in hotpants with Michael Cane as her skirt chaser of a husband. Mostly they cheat, fight, and engage in lurid acts of interior design. She's got a round bed covered in fluffy white fur!

Mr. Adler also uses his own cinematic visions in decorating. He describes a hotel that he designed in Florida, as having imaginary inhabitants: Mrs. Parker, an Auntie Mame type whose spirit of fun infuses the entire aesthetic. And for the club room restaurant, there's Mr. Parker, Mrs. Parker's very wealthy lothario of a husband, who decorates his lounge with "mantiques": suits of armor, leather wing-back chairs, portraits of pretty girls semi-nude. Hilarious.

I wonder who would be the imaginary inhabitant of my apartment. Say if I had the time, money, energy or inclination to re-do it. Or at the very least, pick-up and sort throught the piles of clothing that clog it up. My cinematic fantasies are all about Barbarella. I want an apartment like her spaceship. Covered in fur, with a big Seurat painting, and a magical closet were I can get dressed in mere seconds.

I've mentioned Mr. Adler before. I love his maxim: Minimalism is a bummer. As you know, goslings, this is something that I live by. He also advocates for overtipping, and refusing to be practical (Chandeliers, he writes, should always be bigger and more expensive than you think you can handle). Great advice indeed. And I totally want to a pet just to name it Liberace. His decorating modus operandi mirrors my own: cover every available surface with the kitsch you love. He inspired me to hang a bunch of Japanese carp windsocks around my loft bed. I’d bought them ages ago for this express purpose, but never got around to it. And I must say they are cheery.

The best advice in this book is about gift-giving. Like most adults (and increasingly, many children) in North America, I have a lot of stuff. I really do not need anything else. Yet on birthdays and whatnot, my dear, darling, cash-strapped friends come up with a gift for me, just as I do for them. Mr. Adler writes that in his decade long relationship with Simon, they have gifted all that can be gifted. Mr. Adler recommends that portraiture makes the best gift. Posed photos, drawings, silhouettes, are all delightful and document that moment in time. Henceforth I propose to offer portraiture to all my friends for special occasions. Now if only I could transform my living room into a portrait studio…

I enjoyed the snippets of his relationship with Simon that he shares with us. How fun would it be to brunch with them in Provincetown and do some antiquing. I also respect how he shares his life story, including the photo of his Bar Mitzvah.

In the closing chapter, Mr. Adler advocates something that was shocking for me, though it is an old-fashioned truism: love is what makes a house a home. He advocates finding someone to love, even if it is a rabbit or a Siamese cat, and Making A Life.

Now for me, the idea of cohabitation has only meant less closet space, and therefore is an anathema. I also love sleeping alone. It’s really more restful. You know I’m right. And how I despise cooking and domesticity, and someone knocking on the bathroom door when I am putting on liquid eyeliner. Indeed, Making A Life with someone seems a project doomed to endless conflict. Unless you are of those lucky few, like Pierre et Gilles, who can find someone who shares your taste in silver lamé and will stand beside you in a matching astronaut costume in a forest made of tinsel.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Ken Russell’s 1973 film Lisztomania has many things to recommend it. Roger Daltrey as Liszt playing Chopsticks on mirrored pianos surrounded by screaming teenage fans in prim bonnets. Ringo Starr in a cameo as the Pope. A Busby Berkeley musical number with a gigantic penis puppet. An extended homage to Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush. And Wagner resurrected as a FrankenHitler.

But my favorite moment is a quiet one. When Liszt and Princess Carolyn of Russia decide to part ways. She tells him that she intends to write an exposé of the malfeasance of the Catholic Church. It will be in several volumes. It will take the rest of her life. And now, having the rest of her life planned out, she asks him what he intends to do with his life. (Hilariously, he decides to become a priest).

And so I find myself faced with some plans to make. I’m already in semi-retirement from the stage. My ambition has dried up. My interest in the outside world is at an all-time low. And I’m not doing anything in particular for the rest of my life.

Plan A: Get more Interests.
Kendo, archery, extreme ironing, ikebana, accordion, appraising Egyptian Revival jewelry, turn my living room into a Venetian palazzo. Hmmm. All these Interests are similar to ones I’ve already got.

Plan B: Become a patroness of the arts
In addition to the usual hand-outs and vegetarian dinners I provide for my starving artist friends, as well as the buck that every busker gets from me, I could support all the local arts organizations that I love. Become a member at Film Forum, Anthology Film Archives, WNYC, Gotham Chamber Opera. That already exceeds my budget. I guess I should pick one.

Plan C: Get an actual job
One that utilizes my skill set. Whatever that is. One where I am challenged. Or something. One where I make actual money. Or at least find someone to eat lunch with.

I don’t like this one at all.

Plan D: Become a philistine
Shall I devote myself to collecting vintage paint-by-numbers paintings of Clowns to adorn my hall? (I could call it Clown Hall!) Get a corgi. (Because they have those cute little legs.) Buy a new bed? Save $10 everyday and stick it in my mattress. Get a permit for a handgun. Become a Free Mason (oh, surprise, surprise, they don’t accept women), so I guess I’ll just wear a Shriner’s Fez.

Hey, that doesn’t sound so bad. Maybe I’m a philistine already.

Plan D: Become a recluse.
Reduce my dependence on the exterior world to nil.

Plan E: Write one of those How to Be Fashionable for People With No Time (or Taste) books.
My therapist seems devoted to the idea of me writing a book. Any book.
I have perused these style manuals. Lynne Yaeger writes about them in her column this week. It is true, as she says, that these books are mostly common sense. Though I’ve found them quite outdated. All seem to advocate owning various “crisp white blouses” with different collars. Who wears those? I work in a fairly conservative office and I’ve never once seen a woman wearing a white blouse. She’d look like she was about to sing, or walk around with a silver tray handing out hors d’oeuvres.
And trench coats? Please. New York is a shot gun shack. It’s got two seasons: winter and summer. You’re either in a down coat, gloves and a hat, or you’re shvitzing on the subway platform in a cotton dress. You’d be able to wear that trench coat for exactly one day in May.

If only I could be so lucky, my style manual would be like Diana Vreeland’s much maligned: Why Don’t You…? Columns.

All of these plans have something to them. Perhaps I should do a little of each of them.

And so, goslings, to this silk blouse. I love the line drawings, the use of cream, tan, chocolate and orange. These lost princesses, castles and floating crowns. Mysterious row boats and escutcheons. Something about destiny and tarot cards. And I love how the blocks of color hover over this scene.

See Lisztomania or any Ken Russell film this weekend, goslings. The Boyfriend, in particular, is just the thing for the winter blahs.

Two black and white lovelies from Paganne.

As you know, goslings, I have a cherished Paganne dress with a psychedelic Egyptian print in marvelously unbreathable polyester that I trot out on the coldest winter days. I'm sure these dresses have the excellent construction one can always expect from a Paganne.

I love the energy of both prints. I love how the lion's mane is subject to static cling, though I must admit that the animal's face reminds me of Anne Klein's logo from the 80's. This is a dress from a tall tomato.

The leopards in the bamboo is also a maxi dress with a lot of length. I just love how the bamboo appears to encircle the waist, and the anarchic quality of the bamboo plants themselves, running riot and roughshod over this print.

Black and white is always crisp and elegant. But too simple for me.

There is a marvelous black and white Shaheen skirt that alas I cannot show you in sufficient detail, since the image is copyright protected, but have a look here. I've managed to post the small photo of the lady who reclines in a psychedelic garden in a glorious dress made of delirious flowers whose swirls mirror the undulation of the vegetation around her. And how I love that massive pile of hair. If only the shameless wearing of hairpieces would come back into style.

At least false eyelashes are back.

Now I don't go in for what the industry calls Beauty. That is: potions, ointments and hair gel. I know, I know. This makes me a rebel. Absolute strangers stop me on the street to demand that I get some kinda product to control my Jew'fro. Demand. I resist. I am skeptical that something in a bottle can really change much about me, unless it's scotch. I think all that stuff is snake oil. That none of it does even half of what it promises. That there ain't no substitute for good genetics, which is precisely what I ain't got. I am content to schlep around with frizzy hair and an uneven skintone. Especially since my efforts to fix these problems have yielded clumpy, stiff hair and a complexion resembling stucco.

Besides, who wants to get addicted to a product? What if I am kidnapped by the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers and upon my release have to face the international press with nothing my chapstick on my lips and some coconut oil in my hair?

Perusing the New York Times' Style Section I suddenly found myself in the world of beauty bloggers. Most notably, Tia Williams of Shake Your Beauty. Ms. Williams is a devotee of old movies with fast talking dames and even name-checks my main inspirations in life The Women, Mommie Dearest and What's Up, Doc?. I was especially fascinated by Ms. Williams take on hair issues, which lead me to read about hair products involving figs that might possibly banish bad hair days forever. I got all dewey-eyed and even clicked on the link and everything.

But then the skeptic came out. Won't this just be like all the other times? Won't I be disappointed yet again? And $28 is not exactly cheap. But then, isn't this how I feel about everything?

I mean, love only lasts about 6 months, sometimes a year if you are lucky. Children are just little parasites, and then you've gotta put them through college. Success and failure are merely two sides of the same coin. And no matter what you achieve you're gonna die in a way you find painful and inconvenient. And I told everyone that the housing bubble was going to burst over a year ago, but no one listened.

Is it depression? Or am I just too realistic?