Thursday, February 28, 2008

Project Runway Episode 13: They Really Did Pick Just One

With last year's four finalists, it always seemed a possibility that they could pull another surprise and allow both Rami and Chris to show at Fashion Week.

But the not-so-subtle clues of only having three workspaces in the workroom drove home the point: someone would be going home. Immediately.

Before that occurred, Tim Gunn took us on a mostly New York-based excursion to meet the finalists on their home turf. And it was an interesting journey to say the least.

Christian's apartment was the first stop. His teensy nook of a room - in what I assume is a shared apartment - was the size of a closet and had once functioned as one, according to Christian. So when he said early in the season that he slept on the floor because he'd rather spent his money on clothes, the kid was only half joking. His "bed" is something he waved to hanging on the door (Was it a cot? A sleeping bag? I couldn't tell.)

About Christian's designs... When Tim held up a pair of feathered trousers, I was stunned... could it be? Has the wunderkind misstepped? These pants looked like they were made from dozens of chickens who had met an unfortunate demise. And given Tim Gunn's suggestion to edit-edit-edit, I'm not surprised they didn't make the final cut. The previews for next week allude to Christian losing his mojo, so maybe this is the beginning of a much-needed period of growth and reflection that he is not all that simply because he can out-trashtalk the best of them.

Jillian's collection looked just like plays on the best of the designs she churned out all season - well-tailored coats, with surprising details and femininity all around. (But what's with all the little cutouts on the jacket arms and such?) She must have taken Tim's suggestions to heart regarding her color palette, because the runway shots look less "gray skies" overall than the designs she showed him.

It was sweet to see Tim Gunn meet Jillian's family and enjoy dinner with them. Meeting the contestants' families is always one of the most interesting parts of this show for me. I love to see where people came from, maybe how the way they grew up inspired them one way or another to become what they've chosen to be. This episode was all the more poignant given that two other contestants introduced us to their "chosen families," who seem to give them tremendous strength and feed their creative spirits.

Chris's designs intrigued me from the moment they appeared online. But Tim's analogy of the monkey house with Chris's design was a little over-the-top, but maybe there was a kernel of truth there. Using human hair in such a creative way, as a decorative element on clothing, was certainly gag-inducing if you thought about it too much. But the way Chris did it was so inventive and smart, who could blame him for following through on an idea?

Once they got on with the elimination show, I thought the designers made surprising choices in the three items they selected to compete.

Given Tim's reaction to the human hair business, I was surprised when Chris stuck to his guns - and I have to say I respect him for sticking with his creative vision, even if it was one I couldn't stomach, really. The safety-pin skirt was architectural and inspired. With most of his three designs, the overall effect was one of movement and life, despite the dark gothic with a twist theme (granted, the gown seemed to trip up the last model, and I think that was probably the final nail in Chris's coffin). His designs shimmy'd down the runway, and the details showed he really could design clothing. He has a costumer's sense of the absurd, though, so finding his audience may take some time. I think that's what the judges were responding to when they said his looks were overdesigned... and frankly, I think they couldn't get past the hair.

Although he moved away from the draping, the three selections that Rami made were, to me, a bit disappointing. The teal coat looked over-engineered and definitely sturdy enough to go into battle. The second piece, the dress with the every-which-way fabric dancing across the front looked so lovely, but I would have liked it to be a little longer - the way it revealed the model's leg made her look a little odd or chunky. Rami's last look, the gown, was so elaborate but strange with the circular hip-targets, but I liked the almost Spanish influence and all the ruffled detailing really showed some tailoring chops.

In the end, I could see why the judges went with Rami - and realistically? They wouldn't give it to Chris given his returning status when Jack's health caused him to withdraw from the competition.

But damn... Rami already has a career in this industry, and a showroom - and a following in Hollywood, for crying out loud! (I had the same complaint about Jeffrey Sebelia, so go figure.) Why not celebrate the creativity of someone like Chris, who stands to make a significant career change that could shake up the industry a little with some out-of-this-world creativity and execution ideas?

At one point, Chris March joked about the small size of a room he walked into, noting it was "about the size of my first apartment!" Thinking back to Christian's tiny sliver-of-a-space, I had a glimpse of two futures taking divergent paths. Who knows whether Chris always wondered what would have happened if he'd done something differently, chosen another path.

Farewell, Chris. I really hope we'll see more of you. In Vogue, perhaps?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Diablo Cody's Shoe Hissy Fit

What a way to upstage your Academy Award win: Diablo Cody wore her schlumpy gold flats to the awards show because the Stuart Weitzman shoes she was loaned were really for PR purposes? The nerve of that company!

(Note to Diablo: If you really wanted to hide as you claim, you would have worn a black dress. Or even red, given the sea of red that swarmed the theater Sunday evening. Not a "Look-at-me!" animal print.)

Even a writer should realize that on awards night, strolling down the red carpet is just another form of "the media and the message" - and that nothing comes for free. Now she'll forever have to pay retail, just like the rest of us.

Also: Not smart to wear a dress slit up to your pupik when there's even the remotest chance you may have to climb some stairs in full public view. On camera. In front of nearly a billion people, no less.

Despite all this, of all the awards that Juno was up for, original screenplay was probably the most deserving. Great story, well told.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Project Runway's Christian in the Lead

Surprise, surprise, even the poll I ran on this blog revealed that people think Christian -- garnering 60% of the vote -- is a shoe-in to win Project Runway.

(Jillian got 30% and Rami just 10% of the vote. Chris got nada.)

I'm wondering, though ... given all the attention he's received during this season, it just seems unlikely. In theory, I know the producers don't know who's going to win during the course of the show. But they still reserve the right to choose whomever they want.

And who wants to watch the finale if there's no element of surprise?

There hasn't been anything on Bravo to hint at any dramatic tension, yet. Maybe they'll ratchet it up after tomorrow's episode.

Maybe during the hometown visits, Tim will be startled to find some seismic shifts going on to cast doubt over everything we've come to think this season.

It's fun to think about what could result during those visits... For example, Tim Gunn could:
  • Declare Christian's three-color "sophisticated" palette is just too-Donna Karan circa 1987.
  • Find something spectacularly artistic during his visit to Rami's abode that proves that he is more than a drape-master.
  • See Jillian's ideas taking shape in a collection that kicks Ralph to the curb.
  • Unveil in Chris's collection an aesthetic that had been heretofore buried under his attention-seeking portfolio of Wonder Woman costumes and broadway showpieces.

Seeing the collections in photographs is just completely different from seeing them stride down the runway.

Two seasons ago, I remember thinking Chloe's collection looking prom-ish and fusty in the photos. But seeing the models strut down the runway really sold her collection. And it's difficult to get a bead on the workmanship from a still photo.

As they say, "We shall soon see!"

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Make It Today: Jamie Oliver's Cheat's Papardelle with Leeks

If you enjoy leeks, you must make this dish, courtesy of Jamie Oliver, whose latest show should be subtitled, "Cooking in the Garden Shed" because that's what he does most of the time.

His approach to cooking looks slap-dash and frenetic, but the flavors are a substantial symphony culled together from years of practice.

We made this last night for dinner, and it was easy and delicious and we ate twice as much as we expected.

You don't have to, but we also made the porcini-mushroom breadcrumbs for the top, and it added an earthy garlicky crunch to every bite of pasta. Yum.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Photo a Year

I love things like this. When you look at each year, and consider the physical changes etched on each person's face, doesn't it make you wonder what was going on, then?

During certain years, you can just see the parents aging more rapidly than in others. Or that something heavy is weighing on their minds. Especially for the mother during the sleep-deprived years a new baby entered the family.

But I guess that's not surprising -- what mother doesn't worry?

And with three boys -- are there more worries or fewer? Just different? I come from a family of girls, where the women in the household outnumbered my father.

What made the boys grow beards at certain points, or shave them off at others? Rebellion? Exams? Style?

Similarly, the Seven Up! documentary series has always fascinated me. But that's another post (or two, or seven) for sure.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Project Runway Reunion Show

Did you cast your vote in my Project Runway poll, yet? It's easy... and it's right over there, at the top of the last column. Go ahead, vote!

The reunion show was... well, it was a clip show. Under normal television standards, these are hack job affairs that don't provide any insight into the show or its underpinnings.

But Michael Kors losing it during the WWF Divas challenge? That just got me. He's normally so, I don't know, reserved and together, sort of approachably imperious with the occasional kooky commentary. To see him just flat-out overcome by a fit of the giggles made him more human in a way.

But oh, how they didn't let the designers get away with a thing!

With a nod to both Marion and that girl who was eliminated first (oh yeah, Simone), they were asked each about their experiences. Marion seems like a genuinely earnest sort, disappointed at not having had the opportunity to showcase his avant garde side and accepting of his fate. Simone marveled at how she's been stopped while out in the airport with Kit Pistol (um, probably because Kit was around for a while and developed a following?).

Carmen, who boo-hooed too much about not being properly missed after she was dissed by the judges? With her massive architectural shouldered jacket, just begging to take up more space on the screen, I kept yelling "Grow up!" at the television. And her sarcastic "Thanks, Heidi," sort of snort she made when Heidi mentioned the menswear challenge after Ms. Klum specifically mentioned "an outfit that had no shirt." Maybe Carmen will see how a lack of grace and gratitude aren't exactly becoming a former model turned fashion designer. Perhaps she could take a cue from some of the other auf'd designers who handled their fate in a more mature way.

I'm no fan of Victorya, but I lost a bit of respect for Heidi after her derisive remark about Victorya's uptight nature -- when they'd just been describing Jack's very sad departure and how Victorya felt about it. Tim, too, joined in the slam, which surprised me, because Mr. Gunn is nothing if not the master of courtly politesse. Something tells me there's something going on, what with Victorya showing at Fashion Week in spite of her being dismissed weeks before the finalists were a glint in the judges' collective eye.

Was anyone else surprised by Jillian beating the crap out of her dress model? The girl has moves like she's taken a self-defense class, or at least an aggressive form of Tae-Bo.

As a fan of Catherine Keener's movies, I was glad to hear Sweet P got some attention from her at some point. Catherine Keener's got an interesting sense of style, and I admire how she got started late in the acting game, but carved out an indie-film career for herself (one of America's most underrated actresses, along with Hope Davis).

It was a shame that the segment on Kevin focused so much on his not being gay. Wouldn't it have been more interesting to see how he thinks being a heterosexual male means he's got a unique angle on for designing for women?

The way Elisa acted on the reunion show now makes me suspect that she adopted this interplanetary character/persona and played it to the hilt for the sake of getting more air time. Boo.

Was it me, or did every shot of Ricky make it look like he wanted to strangle the producers? He looked angry from every angle. And when the feature on his crying jags was introduced, he seemed ready to punch someone. Can't say that I blame him.

All the bellyaching about having no money is getting old, actually. Sweet P mentioned it, and so did Christian. I realize this is a tough business -- but having any business is hard work, labor intensive, and financially risky. Get used to it! Like Michael Kors says, the insecurity never goes away because like Heidi says, one day you're In and the next, you're Out. There is no more fickle finger of fate than that of fashion.

I loved how Rami's advice for subsequent contestants focused on how you've got to love what you do, that this isn't a springboard -- even though it really could be. It's clear that none of the previous contestants have really used it to its fullest advantage, at least as far as I can tell. Michael Knight is coming out with a fragrance? What about a line of clothing? Did he, too, fall prey to the licensing bug, a la Jay McCarroll? And what of Chloe? Jeffrey? Hello?

Christian being voted Fan Favorite wasn't surprising, I guess. He had the most over-the-top, made-for-tv personality, garnering him the most screen time, albeit with the overuse of a tired-old expression (I thought "fierce" went out after the inaugural season of America's Next Top Model?). For me, though, his winning the Fan Favorite award was a teeny bit jumping the shark, because his persona seems so calculated and sound-bitey.

These reunion shows are seldom as good as the clips lead you to believe, and it's all due to the editing. I can't imagine fitting together such a disparate group of comments into an interesting narrative, when people aren't really as inspired as they may be in the heat of the battle.

The clips quoting Heidi were the lamest group of snippets ever! Maybe they didn't want to harp on the worst outfits, but how can you do a segment on Heidi-isms and leave out her assessment of the outfit Marion and Steven cobbled together? Behold:

"It's like 'out of the basement.'
It looks dirty -- it looks like a rag to me."

Honestly, ever since Heidi uttered those words, that phrase runs through my mind whenever I feel disheveled or not at my best, fashion-wise. It's like the title of a bad made-for-TV movie: "Out of The Basement," the tragic drama of an outfit gone horribly wrong.

The dish from the other designers over who they thought would win? Clearly Christian has their respect, but I suspect that his Fan Favorite status means he'll never take home the big prize. Jillian had her share of supporters, too, with the exception of Victorya, who clearly seems jealous of Jillian's talent, having worked with her on the coif challenge that got them attention for Jillian's dramatic coat design.

Rami had a few nods, too -- and one from Marion, (or was it Steven?), who said he was confident that given Rami's skill that he'd do besides the draping (Note to Marion/Steven: Uh, don't hold your breath!). Only Jack put in an off-hand good word for Chris, while hedging his bets in speaking kindly about all the finalists. Shades of things to come? Or Red Herring?

It will be an interesting final two shows, no?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Our Comcastic DVR Meltdown Nightmare

Yesterday, we went to watch something we'd recorded on our Comcast DVR to find that we lost everything. Ev. Ry. Thing. Thanks to Comcast and its faulty DVR.

Project Runway episodes from the start of this season. The new Jamie Oliver shows (loved the one about leeks). Almost a season's worth of Futurama. A few stray Flight of the Conchords. Even Lost. (Thankfully, we'd seen all the episodes in this truncated season, but still.)

The Comcast DVR we had so lovingly programmed our tv-watching habits around had been half full -- or half empty, depending on your point of view.

But now, the Comcast DVR unit had turned magically overnight into a doorstop. Couldn't even change the channels.

All gone!

During a storm the night before, our block suffered a power outage. But after power was restored, the DVR was working. As I recall, I even watched a few old recorded episodes, and deleted a few.

Then, yesterday, the unit locked up -- we couldn't change channels or get audio. So, we did as we've done when it locked up once or twice before -- we unplugged the DVR and plugged it back in.

Only this time, the DVR was DOA.

A call to Comcast confirmed we were totally out of luck. Ding-dong, the DVR's dead. They offered no way to get the shows back off the hard drive. And no, there's no backup.

In rare cases, losing power, we were told, can wipe the hard drive clean!

We pointed out that this was unacceptable in a service that purports to hang onto whatever you tell it to -- especially because it gives you no options whatsoever to create a backup of the hard drive contained within.

The response? Something along the lines of this:

"Too bad."

Clearly, frustration reigned on both sides of that conversation.

Because they don't offer any way for you to easily and effectively back up the hard drive that comes with the DVR, the assumption is that Comcast has it covered somehow.

Well, they don't.

So, let that be a lesson to you. If you have a Comcast DVR:
  • Watch whatever you record -- or love -- early and often. Because you never know when your shows will completely disappear. God forbid you live in a rainstorm-savaged part of the country.

  • Write down a list of the shows you record as a series. If, like us, you've become dependent on your DVR and no longer pay attention to a show's actual broadcast time, this could be a challenge to reconstruct later. Do it now. On paper.

  • If you ever get an on-screen message that involves calling Comcast and giving them some sort of special code number, pack up your DVR and find out which local Comcast office you need to go to to trade in your DVR for a different unit and pencil in some time to go ASAP.*
Live and learn!

*This happened to us a few months ago, and with a simple phone call, they were able to fix something on their end to reset it, and we marveled at Comcast's efficiency. However, when I traded in the DVR yesterday, the very nice Comcast person there said that's a sign that something's up and you should just trade in the DVR right away.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Memory and Memories

My high school biology class was run by a dynamo of a teacher. One who placed high demands on all of us, and who could smell fear.

One of the biggest problems I had with biology is the rote memorization of it. High school felt like one long list of things to memorize after another: kingdoms, phyla, classes, orders, species...

Not to mention history dates, literary themes, pluperfect forms of French.

At times it seemed more than my brain could hold.

I'm not a natural memorizer. Never was, and it took me a while to realize I never will be. I make connections visually and viscerally. By identifying patterns and interactions and relationships, some connections I just feel in my gut.

It struck me that so much of how my high school classes were taught ran counter to this learning style.

So when I got to college, which of course wasn't free from the need to memorize facts and figures and formulas, it still offered more of a forum for synthesizing the connections between disparate ideas.

Today, I've seen evidence that schools are starting earlier and earlier with the connecting of the dots, where math and science work more closely than before, where projects in social studies have a language arts component that enables the outcome to be richer and less about memorization than about thinking.

And making the connections.

In the process, administrators just may find more kids with different learning styles succeeding more than ever before.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Red Beret

Today, while out picking up some takeout from the local salad and panini emporium that we frequent, I spotted an older woman munching on a sandwich across the room.

In a room full of black puffer coats and nubby sweaters, of fleece jackets and parkas, she was a the one bright spot.

On a gloomy, overcast Sunday, she was decked out in a red sweater set, topped off with a red beret.

Perfectly poufed to one side.

It was like seeing the first tulip of spring start to poke its head out of the murky soil.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Jacques Torres Chocolate: The Ultimate Valentine's Day Gift

My husband knows me, and he knows that chocolate is the one thing I dream of for Valentine's Day.

Yeah, Vosges is all the rage in some quarters -- but to me, that's just chocolate gussied up as an attention-seeking, paparazzi-dodging celebrity. Kalamata olives and olive oil? They belong on the focaccia, people, not in the chocolate.

And I'm a sucker for MarieBelle's Aztec Hot Chocolate, as you may know. The chocolates are OK, but in my experience, they're more colorful and pretty.

So for chocolates, there's no contest. The super-smooth, perfectly balanced truffles from Jacques Torres are just the best. The hazelnut concoctions he and his people make are a deliciously nutty explosion, the perfect balance of sugar and chocolate and nuts that puts Nutella to shame.

I'm something of a purist when it comes to chocolates, but these little Lovebugs are even delicious - and they're white chocolate and key lime. It puts every key lime pie I've ever tasted to shame.

A few years ago one June day, a friend and I popped into his store in Soho. Or, his chocolate manufactory, I should say. It was a wonderland where cocoa beans come to meet their match.

We arrived long before the store opened, and a vent from the store pumped out the magical scent of chocolate along the desolate street. We headed off for some breakfast and a couple of hours later, meandered back.

After assembling a couple of boxes of treats to take home, we decide on a frozen hot chocolate. And Jacques is behind the bar, ribbing his employees good-naturedly, whipping up frozen drinks including his wicked frozen hot chocolate.

He's just really, really excited about getting people turned onto his chocolate. He obviously works hard at his craft and it shows.

And I like to reward that enthusiasm by patronizing his business and encouraging others to do so. So if you or someone you know is in need of a bit of chocolate decadence, go shopping.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Project Runway Episode 11: Chris March Gets Dramatic

Did I call it, or what? Several episodes ago, I'd commented wondering why they didn't just set the designers loose in the Met to find a piece of artwork to inspire them to create a fantastic design.

And hey! That's what the producers had them do!

Given the sheer size of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, there's no way they could set the designers loose to run amok through every gallery. That would take weeks. So they limited them to three galleries: Grecian sculpture, European art, and an Egyptian wing that seemed to have only a temple in it.

Surprise, surprise, Rami chose the Grecian sculpture to "inspire" yet another draped dress. Yawn. The lavender-ish color of the fabric did nothing for his model, a freckled redhead. Lavender just doesn't look on people with that coloring -- it brings out any redness in the complexion and just doesn't look good overall.

Jillian took inspiration from an argonaut painting that resulted in her creating a coat (another coat!). Underneath was a tacky little lame dress that looked like something you'd see on the sale rack at Macy's. The coat was dramatic but the dress was dreadful. I don't know what the judges were thinking. But Jillian's comment that, "I can't go back to a cubicle, designing things for other people." Honey, we can all relate!

Peacocks inspired Sweet P, how, I'm not sure. Her end design didn't involve any of the coloration or fringy loveliness that peacock features inspire. (I'm partial to peacocks, as you can tell from my banner, so yes, my expectations were high.) I wanted to see more striations of color, some peacock hues, something over-the-top couture-ish, and like the judges said, she created a very commercial design, albeit wearable. But no splash.

Christian with his multi-pieced design with "jacket," tiered ruffle shirt, and knickers, went for the balloon-y, poufy face-framing drama that, judging from the pics from last week's Bryant Park Project Runway showdown*, have become his signature. That and the gender-bending. While speed at the sewing machine definitely gave Christian the edge, and the time to indulge all kinds of creative exercises throughout the competition, I look forward to what he can produce if he's given a few months to dream up something startling.

Then, there's Chris.

Sure, his design recalled the dress that he and Christian made, but the draping of the side-swept collar and the dress itself were dramatic. As Roberto Cavalli said, Chris just may be the most artistic of the group, he's got flair and an eye for drama. He will put on a Show. Maybe he needs the pressure of the final-three within his grasp to really deliver.

In the end, giving both Rami and Chris the chance to participate in a little mini-competition just before the Bryan Park shows is a great way to end the standoff. Although I don't hold much hope that Rami will do much different from his standard draping-and-drooping grecian-inspired evening dresses. I hold more hope for Chris, who seems to realize the gift he was given of a second chance at competing means the pressure's on to make an even bigger splash than he has so far.

Winners: Christian, Jillian
Tied: Rami, Chris

*Note: Although I've seen the Getty images of the fashion shows, the photos never do the clothes justice, so I'm just taking them all with a grain of salt.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Stranger Made Me Get a New Haircut

"I'm not a miracle worker!" the hair stylist shrieked, when I asked her to pump up the volume on my hair during my last haircut.

O-kaaayyy, I thought. Time to find a new stylist...

Never mind that what I was asking was not impossible -- I went home, washed my hair, and achieved the look I wanted. It was all about the Attitude, capital A.

Last weekend, when I was out for coffee, I sat behind a woman whose hair looked fabulous -- and it looked similar in texture to mine, too. So I asked her where she got it cut. Got the stylist's name and everything.

What a difference the attitude makes!

The new stylist is awesome. She kept up just enough chatter during the cut, asked great questions and put me at ease the whole time.

And the price was almost half what I'd been paying before.

Other people have marveled that I asked a stranger about her haircut. But I say, why not? That's the best advertisement any salon can have -- people who do a great job.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Project Runway, Episode 10: Symphony in Spandex

Even before the show aired, the commercials made it look like the strangest Project Runway misstep ever. The assignment? Design a costume for women wrestlers. Oh, wait. No, excuse me, Divas of the WWF.


But I have to say, after seeing the episode, the design consultants who dream up the challenges made a good call.

Because despite requiring a trip to Spandex House (I swear, it looked like Mood only stretchier), this challenge separated the designers from the hacks.

First, you've gotta love that self-effacing good sport, Tim Gunn. Climbing over the ropes to introduce the models, he referred to himself as Grandpa (I was holding my breath, hoping they didn't linger too long on that, and they didn't).

Chris? This challenge was designed to advance him to the next level. He showed that he can skirt the parameters of bad taste, and that he's got a few tricks up his sleeve (see the sparkled black spandex lining in the hoodie) and has an eye for detail -- many of the designers did some variant of strippy-straps, but his gloves completed that look.

Rami, although talented, showed he has a vision and a talent for draping, but unless he's forced to work with stiff fabrics, the emphasis on draping is self-limiting. He had that pale, panicky and somewhat-sweaty look for most of the episode that makes me think he'd fall apart when organizing a full-blown show. Either that, or he'd work and work and work and work in the months leading up to the show and be completely prepared, nothing to finish when he arrived for Fashion Week. It could go either way.

Jillian's sporty look seemed well-executed and sleek. (Again with the strippy-straps.) The color looked great on her model and the fit was sexy-sporty. If she's in the final three, I envision Jillian creating a line that is sophisticated but pretty with lots of details. The girl should just wear some skates so she can get around the room faster -- she's clearly got a time management problem with nearly every challenge.

Sweet P pulled it together in the end, but needed far more fabric to make the dramatic coat she really should have created. The look was so revealing that there was no surprise when the wrestler-diva removed it. Her looks are so tenuously created -- most episodes it seems she's hanging on by a thin emotional thread -- that I'm sure she's next out the door.

And Ricky... Again, Ricky, you made some errors in judgment that just made me shake my head. The girl was in a swimsuit -- and not a very attractive one at that -- covered with a schmatte. Hell, that wasn't even a schmatte -- it was a smock. She looked like she was ready to get her hair dyed at a New Jersey salon. But kudos for not falling apart at the end. At least from what I could see, there were no tears, and although sad, Ricky seemed resolute and forward-looking.

But Christian, you definitely earned your "fierces" and "big deals" this go-round... That ruched jacket was a little bundle of tough-girl chic, and the lacy cropped top and chaps fit his model like a glove. It was over the top, but detailed and somewhat restrained -- yes, suitably tacky. He was done and finishing up his little drawing of his design when Ricky was still creating his smock and scarfing up snaps and shooting down Sweet P's weird choices. Time management seldom seems an issue for this one. And creative ideas? They seem to ooze from his pores. And he's a baby! McQueen better form an alliance because if he doesn't, there's a new enfant terrible in town.

To me, this episode is one where Christian reinforced he is a youthful yet creative force, that Chris's experience is an asset and he may have a few tricks hidden up the sleeve of his blue plaid bathrobe, that Jillian has a sense of herself as a designer, and that now? Rami could be the wildcard.

Final picks: Christian, Jillian, Chris, with wildcard: Rami

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Project Runway: Six to Go, and Fashion Week's Here!

Already, it's Fall Fashion Week in New York, yet there are still too many Project Runway contestants! Three are supposed to show at Fashion Week.

Do you mean to tell me that the five who will remain after tomorrow night's episode will present during the Fashion Week shows at the end of this week?!

Two decoys and three actual shows? Tell me that nobody will be able to sniff out the winners from amongst such a large group.

When I first got wind of the "decoy" shows I thought, How unfair: this person didn't get to the final three, yet he/she still gets to present during Fashion Week!

That wasn't the deal! The finalists get to show during Fashion Week. Period.

It's bad enough Victorya got a show -- early in the week, no less. Have you seen her line? Blech.

Also? The challenges need to be more realistic. Designing outfits for female wrestlers? Give me a break!

Some of these challenges are so far beyond the realm of fashion, or design -- I just don't know what to say.

Sure, good TV, blah-blah-blah. [Yawn!]

I'd rather watch the designers set loose in the Met and having to pick their favorite piece of art and create something inspired by it. Think back to the gutter-dress that Andre designed! Genius use of fluid fabric and judicious administration of bling.

Bracing myself for a letdown of a show tomorrow night.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Fistful of Daffodils

It was cold and damp here today, and like many Mondays, I trudged into the grocery store to do the shopping.

Mondays are odd days at the grocery store. Much shelf-stocking is done -- and today the post-Superbowl Sunday snack displays were still fully stocked.

But it was while I meandered through the produce aisle that I got an unexpected surprise: a woman of a certain age in a blue nubby tweed overcoat ambled by bearing a fistful of daffodils. Just in her hand -- no bag, no plant tote.

Made me smile and realize that although Punxatawny Phil insists there will be six more weeks of the cold stuff, the bulbs know better.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Savages: Misnomer of a Movie

If you haven't already read the reviews or seen the trailers, the movie has nothing to do with savages (lowercase "s").

Two grown kids who technically haven't yet grown up have to deal with their infirm father's need for a nursing home.

It's one of the few movies that make it difficult for me to put into words exactly why I like it. Of course, Philip Seymour Hoffman pretty much just has to show up for the shoot in order for me to like most movies he's in. And Laura Linney can lie like nobody else I've seen.

But there's something about how human The Savages is and are, that makes me wonder how I'd act if faced with the same reality.

No matter how arrested your development, when the tables turn and you have to care for the welfare of your own parents, rather than the other way around, it's poignant and scary and funny and personal and impersonal, all at the same time.

Because nearly everyone goes through it. It's just in the dealing with it that we differ.

If we're fortunate, we can do it while forgiving all the slights and slings and arrows, and act out of love simply because we're related by blood.

And maybe in the process become closer to those who are still here with us.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

School: The Creativity Stifler

This is an old TED talk, but Ken Robinson drives home a good point. Go watch.

Schools are stifling creativity, with their emphasis on getting things right and not questioning the status quo. With reducing the presence of the arts and music in the curriculum due to budget constraints.

At a point in our history, we are outsourcing every "repetitive task" we can think of in the business world. All in the name of cutting costs and speeding processes that make companies leaner and more responsive.

But to preserve our nation's status, the corollary should be that instead of these repetitive tasks, we should be fully engaged in higher level thoughts.

So we should spend our time fostering activities that train our citizens to think creatively and expansively - don't you think?

"Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value."
Sir Ken Robinson

Why, then are schools still largely focused on the un-original aspects of learning?

While I'm all about increasing literacy, which is table stakes in my opinion, perhaps we should be taking a good look at arts programs in the public schools, as well.

Besides discipline, and appreciation for the arts in general, these programs tap into the portion of the mind that isn't focused on rote memorization, but generating great ideas.