Friday, August 29, 2008

Moved to Tears

When I was growing up, music was a huge part of my life. I played several instruments and considered pursuing performance as an occupation. Somehow I changed my adolescent mind and my major, but music remains a huge emotional outlet for me.

It's also an emotional inlet, in that listening to can trigger highly emotional reactions. Perversely, if I'm going through a stressful time, or need time with my thoughts, I can't listen to much music. I need the silence, to hear an idea rattling against the cage and give it some voice.

But there are several pieces of music that have - from my first listen - prompted tears, a joyful release that is incomparable. If it weren't for their incongruity, they'd make the ultimate playlist whenever I felt like I needed a good cry that would lift my spirits. There are others, but these are the ones that come to mind:
  1. The Flower Duet from Lakme: Whether it's a British Airways commercial or an angelic opera compilation, those high-note harmonies are the primary trigger.
  2. Ave Maria: Probably from my earliest recollections, at a regular mass I'd attended as a child; later, for weddings and, sadly, funerals.
  3. Another Train: By the Poozies. These women are doozies when it comes to harmony, with nary an instrument to keep them on pitch.
  4. Bohemian Rhapsody: The first time I heard this song, I turned the volume of my tinny little radio all the way up, drinking in every note, thrilling at the stylistic changes and operatic choral parts.
  5. Bridge Over Troubled Water: Like some cliche from an after-school special, over and over I played this Simon and Garfunkel song as a college freshman, when I felt weary, down and out, or just plain homesick.
  6. We Belong Together: Pat Benatar was a constant during the 80s, but it's that children's chorus, dammit, that gets me every time.
  7. Rilo Kiley's A Better Son/Daughter: A former coworker included this on a mix CD and while it triggered some tears on the first listen, it helped me stand tall as I left a job that I hated.
  8. Skateaway, by Dire Straits: It's the off-handed softness of this melody and how it just slips out of Mark Knopfler, who could probably pen a jingle for potato chips that would make me tear up, too.
  9. Breakfast in America by Supertramp: There's a tuba, or a trombone, that is just such a surprise, it gives me a little catch in my throat each time I hear it.
  10. They Say It's Spring, as warbled by Blossom Dearie: First discovered on the Target commercial a few years ago, each springtime since at the arrival of the first cherry blossom, I play it and tip my hat to this girlish-sounding jazz maven.

Project Runway Episode 7: Saturniquet

Now, I realize that this is just a season full of product placement gone horribly awry.

But making clothing designers work with car parts? Atrocious.

Although like Rachel Zoe (and is it me, or does that girl look like she's ingested too much Ketel One at 4 a.m.?), I think Korto's jacket was something I could wear tomorrow. (OK, maybe not tomorrow, because I'll probably be cleaning up my house if I get motivated, but still, you know what I mean.)

First, I believe Jerrell should have won if we're looking at innovation and technique and point of view.

And while Leanne did something interesting, I don't think giving any woman mega-hips, that she needs to stuff her undergarments with muslin to pouf up, is advisable. I mean, who wants their hips to look bigger? Sure, you could fool people with the whole effect, and by nipping in the waist, create something kind of architectural and not literally against the body (which the "fabric" didn't really allow for, anyway).

I'm betting the judges liked what Leanne did with the fringe and gave her the win for not keeping the seatbelt in its original form (although, I'm sorry, I took one look at those piles of mauvey-taupe seatbelts and thought, "Weaving!" so I'm not sure how innovative weaving seatbelts really is - sorry, Korto).

And Blayne, have you learned nothing if not to make sure the top of your dress actually fits?

Suede's model looked as if she had fashioned a skirt from one of those mylar pom-poms that you'd see at a football game.

While I used to be a Terri fan, I'm definitely tiring of her 'tude. And yes, like someone muttered under their breath, she does seem to just have 4 patterns that she recycles again and again. (To wit: Hasn't she worn an outfit similar to the one she designed?)

What the heck was Kenley thinking? Looks like poor Germaine got into a fight with a lampshade.

And thank God they auf'd Keith, because if I had to put up with one more week of his excuse-laden, bitchy whining and misunderstood-artist rap, I'd put my foot through the TV!

But really... Enough of the bizarro-world materials, Bravo. I'd rather see them give the designers strange constraints like:
  • Sell their drawings on the street for 2 hours to raise the money they need to buy fabrics at Mood.
  • Give them just a teeny budget and see what they can wring out of Mood's inventory.
  • See what they'd create from the same pile of materials (real ones, not car parts) and how their personalities and design points of view represent. Can you imagine what Stella would do when faced with a dollop of silk organza?

This last challenge is the most interesting to me. I've always been amazed at how people who are into beading and jewelry design will take the same set - a jumble of beads, colors, accents, pendants and thread - and create something totally unique to their point of view.

Sure, you see glimpses of the same color palette; that can't be avoided. But if I hear anyone else say their design is innovative, when really it's only unique to something done in that room that day, I will just spit.

Here are the picks I'd most like to see in the finale:

  • Leanne
  • Jerell
  • Stella

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Project Runway Episode 6: Drama Queens

Last week, when I saw the previews, I was just thisclose to not watching the drag queen episode that was scheduled for last night.

Chris March be damned - and he was one of my favorites last season - I just didn't feel like watching the designers create some wackadoo outfits that I'd never in a million years wear.

That's it. I said it.

The whole reason I watch Project Runway is that I think somehow, it will give me some fashion inspiration.

Day in, day out, I wear suits because they're easy, they fit and I know a few good manufacturers that fit my gigantic frame (I'm tall for a woman, and can't buy off the rack because of it - grr!).

But they're boring. Lowercase "b" they're so boring.

Yet the thought of wearing sequins to the next staff meeting, or a belt the size of a dinner plate, simply makes me break out in hives. That's why I'd mentally written off this episode.

So I was much-surprised when I found myself enjoying this episode. Not only for the design worthiness, since you got to see who really had the chops for serious construction and figure-flattering designs and pretty impressive execution.

But most of all, I enjoyed seeing the drag queens, both in an out of costume.

Seeing these guys like you'd see on the street traipse in during work day to try on the designers' wares, really drove home how much of an art form drag really is.

It takes a lot of artistry, possession of skill for dressing one's own body (and for some, mega workouts, to be sure!), and the ultimate in emphasizing the good and downplaying the not-so-hot aspects of one's physique.

While Varla kind of annoyed me with her Ann Margaret persona, she looked smokin' in that pink jumpsuit! So, Joe, my hat's off to you!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Project Runway Episode 5: Bungle in the Jungle

Well, product placement is the name of the game with Project Runway, but promoting Lipstick Jungle? I thought that show was doomed!

Anyway, Brooke Shields is just lovely, and I'm glad she's back to work... although when I saw her do that hands-together, Namaste move as she exited the room after explaining the challenge, I rolled my eyes skyward.


Pairing up the designers this early was interesting, to highlight the personalities and see how people do under pressure.

If it were the winter Olympics, I'd compare this to pairs skating.

You know, where one team member is holding the group together and the other is the artistic yet emotional wreck of a human being?

Or the two are high-energy showstoppers, like some hell the Energizer Bunny hath wrought?

Or they're stone-faced and stoic, methodically plodding along to the end of the routine where you wonder how the heck they got here?

Alas, it's not winter, it's summer Olympics time, and all the team summer sports just don't inspire the same metaphors in me, so there goes that...

Anyway, it warmed my heart to see Jerrell welcome Stella with no pity, just open arms even though he had last pick and she was the one nobody wanted on their team for kickball again. (Sorry! Schoolyard flashback!) Something about the way Jerrell totally rah-rahed up as Stella sidled up to him, noting that he had leather in mind and could use her skills? "That Jerrell is a good egg," I thought to myself.

After his laughable, Annie Get Your Gun meets Holly Hobbie ragdoll getup for the Olympics last week, I really thought he was a goner. But while he juuuust squeaked by last week, his design this week should have won the challenge, hands-down. The colors were sumptuous, and that belt around the middle was just divine.

I'm thinking Brooke simply doesn't have confidence in her own post-baby midsection and shrank back at the thought of cinching the waist. But Jerrell? Well done!

Keith's design, I don't know. Those angel-wing sleeves in that drecky print? (Kudos to Tim for steering them away from the sing-songy Kohl's blouse print that Kenley was gunning for - awful!) I just don't see what were the judges oohing and ahing over, with this dress. I just don't get why a skirt of shreds looks modern.

When I see unfinished, shredded chiffon, I think, "How long will that take to unravel?" But then, I'm practical, that way. (And what is it with all clothing taking on that planned obsolescence, made-like-crap so you can toss it after a season business? Who has time or money to constantly replace their clothes? I have a shirt I've worn three times that I noticed the collar was already coming apart - as in shredding away from the seam!)

It strikes me that Terri is the type of control freak who will simply self-destruct if she has to work with others. Heck, at least Suede was honest about his hesitancy to cut a blouse free-form when he knew the fabric was at a minimum - and all she did was berate him for it when it didn't turn out well (I guess it was she who saved the day with the gathered neckline?). While I don't like Mr. Third Person, I think Terri needs to take a chill pill. Outfit score? Just eh.

I'm going to call Korto the Volumizer - everything she makes has gigantic quantities of fabric. This jacket looked like a leftover costume from the local dinner theater performance of The King and I, while the dress was totally ill-fitting. With a plain-Jane sheath, it's all about the fit.

Oh, Kelli-Kelli-Kelli. True, that leopard-trimmed getup for a show with the word "Jungle" in it was way obvious, and the execution was a little mall-diva-wear-ish. But I think Michael Kors was a bit strong with the "Slutty, slutty, slutty!" reference. I've seen sluttier on this show - at least it wasn't short. At least she made Daniel re-do the skirt. At least she made a jacket (although this show's photography is awful when it comes to black; the light is just absorbed by the fabric and you can see Zero details over the tube). She would have done better leaving the leopard in the pile at Mood, and finding inspiration in the teal and black fabric.

Blayne should have gone home - they kept him simply for his weirdo-ness. His outfit was inappropriate for day at a high-powered office or for night. And sure, Leanne should have spoken up. But what makes a good designer isn't necessarily their ability to commandeer and direct and steer a group project in the direction that they solely want it. But at least he had the ethics to stand by his design and insist he'd be the one to go home if voted the losing design.

Personality trumps design, yet again.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Part of Who We Are

For the past few weeks, I've been thinking about underpinnings. Infrastructure. Support systems. And then I go and start my weekend off with dinner at a friend's house. This friend is a marvelous cook -- a modest one, too -- so if she ever read this, she'd cluck a "tut-tut" and change the subject immediately.

But there were five of us girlfriends there, each with her own story to catch up on, and in some cases, seek advice on.

The air was electric. I'm convinced it's the important people in our lives who make us greater than the sum of our own parts. And each of these women is remarkable on her own. But collectively, we're a supportive force to be reckoned with.

When I'm enjoying myself fully in a social situation, there's a moment where I sit back and mentally take stock of the moment.

This time, I was grateful to be part of this circle of friends, who met by chance but stayed together by choice, a bunch of early-to-bed types who started this weekend by staying up well past midnight because the energy in the air crackled and the food was beyond compare.

I made a resolution right there, that rather than veg in front of the TV, to take action and really start my weekends on Friday nights. No Ashley Paige reruns, or Project Runway obsessing, or even Jamie Oliver food shows (a staple of our weekend downtime).

That fun-filled evening laid the foundation for a restful respite from hither and yon errands, and I felt more contented than I have in a long time because I felt more fully present in each moment of the last 48 hours than I have in a long time.

What do you do, to make your weekends really last?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Project Runway: Que Sera, Surreal?

With the Olympics about to begin, what a surprise that the designers were ordered to create women's wear for the opening ceremonies. This could have been an interesting challenge if we had the designers from last season, wouldn't it? Just imagine what the edgy, Kit Pistol would have come up with--or some of the other more talented Season 4 designers?

Let's see...
  • Chris's design would have employed human hair on the shoulders of a track suit. Like fringey epaulettes.
  • Alisa would have imbued the fabric with the sweat of athletes of years gone by. Then after the ceremony it would be recycled into ribbons for the rhythmic gymnasts.
  • And of course Christian would have come up with something fabulously skinny and unwearable that only David Beckham would have been able to pull off, most likely featuring denim.
Lucky for the Season 5 designers, they didn't have to actually work with Olympians who would wear their designs... I can't help but think that having to fit athletes, with their various built-up muscles, would have been an exercise in futility. Well, except for Joe's ho-hum skort and jacket combo (and am I the only one who thought the flap on the front looked like a dinner napkin she'd tucked into her front?).

About Jennifer, last night's auf'd designer, Nina was kind by noting that Jennifer has a hard time letting go of her own style, and she was absolutely right about that. And Jennifer was glad to get back to her "surrealism." Honey? We saw no evidence of your surrealism. Unless you were hiding a dripping clock in a petticoat somewhere. Last I checked, the element of surprise was one of the harbingers of a surrealist painting. Maybe it was a surprise to her that she was auf'd?

Still, I couldn't see anyone tucking themselves into Korto's winning, color-blocked leather vest and yet another extremely wide-legged trouser (yawn!) completely lucked out that so many people got so many things wrong last night. Terri rocked it more than Korto, I thought, with her gorgeous jacket -- I would buy that in a heartbeat; loved the seams.

Jerrell? You have got to be kidding me, with that Holly Hobbie getup you threw on that model? You are lucky that somebody in that judging room thought the mix-and-match fabrics meant you had a clue. (And what was with the Robin Hood costume? Unless you actually steal from the rich and give to the poor, you should just give that hat the heave-ho.)

Keith's dress with the puff at the bottom should be burned. That was an insult to women athletes, everywhere. Heck, an insult to women.

The gladiator outfit that Stella wrought wasn't as awful as I'd predicted.

There is something about Kenley... I'm not sure if it's pure evil, or if she's just picking apart the competition. With immunity in hand, she clearly saw Daniel as a threat, and I can't help but think she meant to lead him down the rosy path of ruin by suggesting he avoid the Wonder Woman cliche, when it could have been the very thing to save him! (Poor lad, he looks sick to his stomach in every episode; I hope this doesn't do him in.)

Something about Kelli's outfit makes me think, 70s homemaker Mom, smoking a cigarette out back before her kids come home from school - probably the farthest thing from an Olympian outfit you could put out there, aside from Jerrell's monstrosity.

A circle skirt? Really, Suede? Hm...

Leanne, stop adding things onto your clothes. Just make great clothes. Period.

Actually, that's a tip for all of you! Make it sew!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Progress: Incremental

I guess it doesn't count for my own list if it's Mr. Spandrel who successfully grows the tomatoes.

With no vacations on the horizon, and a lack of area volcanoes, I'm not sure how feasible #54 is right now. (And heck, even #58, 69 and 70 are looking like 2009 at the earliest.)

On the plus side, specifically #37, I have been making more sandwiches, including last week's killer grilled cheese with asiago, havarti, tomato, basil, a drizzle of honey, all fried up to golden perfection.*

As for #46, I'm reasonably certain we've added 7 more recipes to our collection, mostly focusing on asparagus, zucchini and spinach.

With my new job, #39 is definitely advancing. I'm all about using my strengths, these days. Although I should also add weight training to the list, because my physical strength seems to be sapped (or maybe that's from the heat?).

And yes, I did do #74, although sadly, I don't have a photo of said gift. So you'll just have to take my word for it.

*Disclosure: I heard of this combo on Oprah, as she talked about her friend Gayle's obsession with sandwiches.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Losing Track of Time

This weekend, I had the fortune of meeting with a former coworker for lunch.

We went to one of my favorite haunts - a breakfast-and-lunch restaurant in a converted greenhouse, serving fresh salads and delicious baked desserts. I dug into an excellent greek salad with wheatberries and barley, the healthiest thing I've eaten in eons.

We laughed, we caught up on office politics, asked about the folks in each others' lives and heard all about her friend's new babies (twin girls - what a hoot!).

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that the table beside us seemed to turn with alarming frequency. But our waitress gave us breathing space for a leisurely lunch, and dropped the check to be paid anytime, and kept our iced teas full.

We even picked at carrot cupcakes with real cream cheese frosting, the likes of which I've had nowhere else.

Suddenly, we realized they were ready to close, so we settled up, and sauntered outside. I glanced at my new watch (a birthday-gift purchase to replace my battered old one).

When I saw it said 2:30, I thought, "Hm... that was a nice, long, two-hour lunch."

We meandered up to the bookstore, I bought a gift for a friend. We continued our chatter a few more blocks to where she'd parked her car and said our goodbyes.

When I got back to my own car, I dug through my purse, and retrieved my phone to call Mr. Spandrel.

As I clicked it on, I noticed the time on the phone: 4:30. That's odd? Why is it so far off? Then, as I started up the car, I noticed the clock on the dash registered 4:30, too.

So while it hadn't stopped, my brand-new watch seemed to do something more nefarious: it lost track of time.