Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Your holy grail? I am loving this medieval sun dress. I love the interplay of orange, mustard, brown and light blue and these jaunty faceless women and one-eyed courtiers. I love the comic book tension marks surrounding the head of the armored knight. And the pockets. I even love the orange band along the bottom, even though it looks like someone ran out of fabric.

It would look darling on you.

Lately I've been working on a new piece, struggling over the dialogue and hearing snatches of something in my head that I thought was worthwhile. I came up with a line or two and got this expansive feeling, like I was really onto something, but that I didn't have it quite right. And then I was listening to NPR yesterday, and realized the sad truth. What was floating around in my brain was actually half-remembered poem by Elizabeth Bishop. Perhaps it's better to have Ms. Bishop whispering in my subconscious, than say, I dunno, Jaqueline Suzann or Joseph Stalin. Or is it? Anywho, since it's percolating in the old noodle, I shall reproduce it for you here:

One Art
by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Well, there you have it, goslings. Yeah, what she said. And, gosh darnit, I believe this is a villanelle.

Latest, in the list of current loses and annoyances, my hair has begun to desert me in handfuls. And I had made it a point to sport an unapologetic Jew 'fro even during the tyranny of the 90s stick-straight hair. No amount of product could tame it, so I just let it do as it likes. You wouldn't think that wearing one's hair au naturel is an act of civil disobedience, but it was interpreted that way. In the end, I had to embrace the defiance of it.

Just as one example (there are many):I worked a job 6 or 7 years ago where someone would leave brochures about chemical hair straightening on my chair everytime I went to lunch. Since I was Just a Temp, I felt I couldn't exactly call the ACLU on them. But at the risk of sounding like Seinfeld's Uncle Leo, it smacks of Anti-Semitism. I mean, no one was leaving info about perms on the chairs of straight-haired goyishe persons, nu? No one said to those with flat hair: you'd better perk up that limp hair if you want to work here. And why is straight hair the default professional style? And why is a Jew 'fro or, perhaps even more saliently, an Afro considered inappropriate for work?

And so my hair, friend, foe and by default advocate for diversity and hair acceptance, is giving up the good fight. As it abandons me what I'm left with is a lot more demure. I've had a scalp biopsy (ouch!), and most likely it was just stress that caused it and before long I'll be 'fro-ing about yet again. But regrowth is process that involves patience, especially with very curly hair.

I'd like to say I'm handling it stoically, but alas. I even snapped at Akhenaten this morning, which was entirely unfair. I mean, truly, a more Jew-loving Egyptian could not be found.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Eureka. Today brought yet another ebay-generated epifany: what's ancient is modern. And I couldn't think of anything more fun than to complicate my contradictions by focusing on the 60s and 70s stylistic explorations of ancient Greece and Rome.

Now I have posted many a Greek frock here before. Well, at least 2 or 3, and more than a few Greco-Roman fabric themes. Since I was forced to study Latin in school, something about this stuff really cracks me up. And of course Fellini's Satiricon has long been a big style influence for me. I mean, the Greeks had class, they had sacred theaters and catharsis, for crying out loud. But the Romans just might have invented tacky. They developed waterproof concrete just to shallack amphitheaters to stage navel battles. "Think Roman!" could be my new battle cry.

This first dress is earnest, but shows a drinking scene, with a splendid elastic waist, and Greek Key patterns around the neckline. A solid and deserving frock to carry you through a summer day, slurping from a kylix and accompanied by pan pipes. It's hard to see in these photos, but it's brown and creme colored, which makes it infinitely more interesting than black and white. The Rome in ruins dress is a large to XL, and would light up a room, no doubt about that. A mustard-colored riot of too bright flowers, contrasted with the grey monument, gives the feeling of the animation that is featured in the credits of the old Monty Python shows. I just love the round covered buttons on the shoulders. And the label is just too precious. How could you ever feel out of place wearing something by Apropos?

Now the tapestry, or wall hanging, alas, was sold to someone long ago. I was bewitched by it, and rendered speechless before it's awesomeness. I love the blue figures vibrating against that yellow background, the inclusion of a Greek theater mask, and the bowed bellies and slim legs of those horses. I also love how the figures are drastically different sizes. The use of white outline on the black horses, the musician's head and the chariot wheel evoke x-rays or negatives. But the grouping of the scene really knocks me out. Nothing is really forgrounded, creating a lot of tension. This piece is by someone named Donald Clark, and was in Australia when I saw it on ebay. I think I shall become a devotee of Donald Clark, and toot sweet.

Now part of me feels like there's something inherently wrong in living in New York and buying something from Australia on ebay, especially a large thingamagig, since the shipping is not only inexpensive, but also not good for the environment. But since I'm a philistine, I think this while wearing my super-cheap made-in-China shoes and eating yogurt with a non-recyclable plastic spoon that was also made in China. Ah well, at least it's not Earth Day today.

Now the show stopper. Of course this one is a protected image so I couldn't make a copy of it, but Alfred Shaheen did a black cotton Greek Key themed dress that you can check out here. I'm salivating a little since this one is in my size.

And finally, at the library today as I was returning copies of The Prisoner, I literally stumbled over a 50s Ulysses with Kirk Douglas (Full Disclosure: Spartacus is one of my favorite movies).

Look out everyone. Once I get my hands on a bust of Hermes like this and a coupla cheesy plaques of the Collisseum, I will transform my living room into a veritable lupercania. My collection of kitschiana will make sense and it will all coordinate with the gold velvet chair I found in the garbage. After I'm finished watching The Prisoner, I can watch all the episodes of I, Claudius. That should take me clear up through next October.

The future, it ain't so bad.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's got Indonesian shadow puppets on it, for crying out loud. And it might even fit me. I am plotzing, swooning and jonesing for this frock.

The colors, the stripes: all delicious. I believe the puppet featured on the bodice represents the universe.

As you know, I really love puppets. I love big puppets and the tiniest toy theatre puppets. I would run away with a puppeteer to live a life of penury as long as it was filled with marionettes dancing, or peeking out of trunks and window curtains at me. Hell, even sock puppets, if well-manipulated, can look heartbreakingly alive. But shadow puppets really do it for me.

I've seen only 2 live shows of Wayang Kulit, but they were transformative and thrilling shows indeed. The Indonesian Consulate hosts regular gamelon performances, but only rarely with shadow puppets.

My life has been shockingly devoid of puppets the past 5 months and I intend to remedy this as soon as humanly and humanely possible. In years past, I've always managed to catch a production of the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre here and there.

I recently watched The Cameraman's Revenge, along with some other animation by Ladislas Starevich. The 1913 stop motion film actually uses dead beatles and other bugs, animated by affixing false legs to the thorax with sealing wax. Mr. Starevich is credited as creating the first narrative puppet movie, and though the entomological element sounds icky, this tale of martial troubles and infidelity among bourgeois insects is absolutely adorable. I can't believe that children were ever the intended audience though.

In an alternate reality, I'd make puppets of some sort and coax them to life.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Oh, the family gatherings this skirt could have endured with a smirk.

Clearly, this awesome wrap skirt could have helped you to avoid prying questions from nosey Aunties, parental nagging, and a full scale inquiry into your immoral life, but it has sold already. I regret not posting it earlier as this could is both a shield and a sword. And that it accomplishes these objectives with humor, even better.

Fortunately for me, everyone back home actually envies my profane and disgusting life. These upstanding citizens often threaten to abandon their clean living and run away to live with Auntie Samsara in the dirty dirty city. They imagine that I live off hors d'oeuvres and wine at art openings and galas (avoiding the expense and annoyance of preparing proper meals) and that I inevitably run into famous people (like Bill Clinton, Wallace Shawn and Cher) at the newsstand. They imagine underground beatnick caberets where I perform expressionistic dances and the jaded audience snaps their fingers to show their appreciation. And then, of course, handsome men in tuxedos shower me with roses, and we all jump into the Betheseda fountain. Yes, goslings, they imagine a mix of Blake Edwards movies, Audrey Hepburn's Funny Face, early Woody Allen, and La Dolce Vita all cooked up in a casserole. It would have to have a Henry Mancini soundtrack, wouldn't it?

Alas. I like that this fantasy edits out the Dickensian squalor, the working in a cubicle, and all the times I've been backed into a corner. I spend most of my evenings with NPR, and buy my own roses, usually orange or purple ones. When family visits me they are surprised by the abundance of peace and quiet.

But sometimes, if I stand back far enough and squint very hard, well (pfui, pfui, pfui, kaynehora, keep the evil eye away) maybe I can hear a Henry Mancini riff on a vibraphone in the distance.

Enjoy being the black sheep.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Oh, mighty Isis! This is one to write home about.

Eye-scalding purple, fuchsia, lime green, crimson and turquoise come together to show Horus and a mystery woman. Not Isis, since the throne symbol on her head is omitted. Nor is she Nekhebet, though she wears a crown of vulture wings. Nor can she be Ma'at, even with all those feathers in her cap. Perhaps she is taken from a Book of the Dead and shown to represent the deceased. Or maybe she looks just like you.

I love the snakey tree of life filled with preening blue birds. You can bet your bottom dollar those are the blue birds of happiness, goslings. A parade of blue horses, some unsaddled, march across the bottom, shiny and taut like balloons.

Go get this one. It will be gone in a day. Wear it everywhere. Or just stare into it for hours until you attain enlightenment. Go. The current bid is 93 cents for crying out loud.

Of course, everyday is not a holiday, so sadly, the back of this top is blank, black and unadorned. And the most interesting part of the print will be located practically in your right armpit. It might even be covered if you have a purse on your shoulder, so put your bag on the other shoulder or carry a clutch, will ya?

Wouldn't this pattern make amazing wall paper? I could live in a room with a whole wall of this and never get bored. But everything else would need to be very simple. Like nothing else besides a futon and a reflecting pond.

Monday, April 07, 2008

I'm not entirely convinced that this one is vintage. The silhouette, the way the violinist's pony tail and apron strings catch the wind, and the reflection of the lights in the water seem entirely too contemporary. And is that the Sydney Opera House I spy in the distance? Though Danish architect Jorn Utzon's design was selected in 1957, and work began on the site in 1959, the Sydney Opera House was not fully operational until after 1973. The outer shells shown here were only completed in about 1967. Is this one doing double duty as a souvenir print?

Feasibly this novelty hankerchief could have been made in the early 70's. I guess it still shocks me that 70s and 80s are considered vintage. But presumably the 60s were the last gasps of the novelty handkerchief market, so this would have been an anachronism even in its day, though I don't know if the production of printed handkerchiefs persisted longer in China, Hong Kong or Taiwan. The white crosses, deployed here to indicate shimmering and glittering do feel authentic. But I dunno, something just smells wrong. It's just too perfect, and complements the current reworkings of 70s graphics too nicely.

I'm not sure what "Xiao Ye Que" means. Web searching indicates that it could be a song title, "Green Island Serenade", or perhaps just "Serenade". (If you know, please correct me.) All make sense with the musical motif. And with the Sydney Opera House in the distance, like an aspiration, maybe this hankerchief is a visual pun, or the working of the old joke: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

I like this violinist. I like that she practices beneath a crescent moon in a garden of invisible poppies. The girlishness of her, with her swinging pony tail, pale bow, and frock that is evocative of Alice in Wonderland. Or is that a dirndl? She is not put off by the strong wind, the dark or that the Sydney Opera House is so far away.

Usually hankerchiefs are printed on a white background, or at least a less saturated color. That makes this even more remarkable.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Dreaming of world domination? Why not? Muriel Ryan, designing for the Serbin label, created this nuanced map print.

It's hard to see in this blurry photo, but I was able to enlarge it on ebay to see a nice mix of pale green, yellow, orange and burnt umber. I like that the water has been rendered green rather than blue.

Most map prints have a nautical overlap. I have a cotton shirt-waist dress with ships, compasses, globes and maps of Sumatra on it. Other map prints have an overlap with souvenir prints, or travel prints. But this one stands on its own. Unapologetically.

Here are two more:

A detail from an Escada blouse.

And this Cynthia Rowley skirt are just randomn samplings from ebay today on map-based attire. Alas the photo of this dress printed with the shapes of African nations is too blurry to see much, but it could be a good one too.

Apartment Therapy recently posted this photo of the Doge's residence in Venice to ask, are theme rooms ever okay? Of course many of the minimalists over there are utterly horrified, but since I have a kitchen devoted to velvet paintings of bullfights and plastic grapes, as well as a living room that is supposed to be a forest, obviously my answer is an enthusiastic yes. If only I had a map-themed office space. Then I could really get things done.

What's with all this perusing of Apartment Therapy? I am nesting again.