Thursday, October 30, 2008

Clever Costumes

Over the years, I've admired the creativity of my colleagues at certain Halloween-celebrating organizations, friends, colleagues and kids who come to our doorstep seeking candy. Among the best have been:

* Washer/dryer set: this involved some boxes and white paint

* Windswept guy: he'd gelled his hair to the side and wired his ultra-baggy clothes to stick out in a westerly direction, tie askew, crumpled leaves and newspaper stapled to his outfit, which he topped off with an inside-out umbrella

* A creek: a colleague's kid did this one, by attaching blue and green cellophane to a navy sweatsuit, gluing goldfish crackers, leaves, rocks and sticks to mimic the topography

* An thermometer: a foil-wrapped bike helmet, a white sweatsuit, some shiny silver duct tape for the mercury and black electrical tape for the measurement markings.

* "Tree man": Self description offered by a four-year old who just toddled up to my steps just now - in a brown sleeper and hoodie combo, festooned with multi-colored fall leaves and sticks and glitter affixed all over.

Truly, I love those clever, homemade costumes the best.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Words I Like

  1. Kodachrome
  2. Estuary
  3. Vermillion
  4. Sanctuary
  5. Fortitude
  6. Exacerbate
  7. Elan
  8. Silverado
  9. Sublime
  10. Surprise

Monday, October 27, 2008

Maple Leaf Rag

Fluffy piles of them are all around, in various shades of orangey-brown.

Maple leaves the size of your face beckon to me in nearly every neighborhood I drive through, lately.

There's something about the size that is enchanting and beguiling.

Maybe because they remind me of the times I've jumped in those piles as a kid.

Or the fact that I am just obsessed with driving through leafy lanes where the golds and the reds of the fall season remind us that summer really truly is over.

Sign of the Times?

Saturday was awash in rain, one of those weird fall storms that just rained on and on and on.

All told, I drove about 15 miles that day. I seemed to loop in and out of pockets of everything from torrential rain and light sprinkling showers.

That didn't stop me from driving around, doing errands.

And as I drove past the train station I used to take into the city, I stopped at a light.

A few feet away, a fully opened red umbrella sat in the middle of the street, like symbolism in a dream.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Calendar Girl

It's that time of year, again. Staring down the barrel of 2009, I walked through the bookstore the other day and spotted a few calendars that looked interesting.

The obligatory Paris landmarks. A few beachy ones. A snarky Ann Taintor. And miles and miles of animal calendars. (Why?)

But I'm jazzed about finding one I like. I get the same textural "ooh!" opening up a fresh calendar as I do cracking open a new notebook and taking a pen to page.

Clean slates, and all that. And print on paper.

(Basically, I've had an attachment to office supplies of all kinds for my whole life, so there's some deep-seated psychological thing going on here, I'm sure.)

Partway through this year, I started a new job. At the time, I didn't have a spare calendar to stick in my cube and it was so late in the year, none could be found.

As a result, my decor is extremely minimal; I moved in amidst the accoutrements left behind by my predecessor and have slowly been ditching the things that aren't helpful.

Things have been so busy, that taking the time to fully move in has taken lower and lower priority.

So the calendar will be the linchpin; when I find one of those 16-month versions, I'll tack it up and really feel like I've moved in and taken root.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Project Runway Episode 14: TGIO (or, Thank God It's Over)

Zip it up, this season's done! I can't remember a show where I've been so bored for so long, wondering why I was still watching, week after week.

I am glad that the winner was Leanne. But then after seeing Korto's clothes in action, I was a bit bummed she didn't get the nod. Korto's big, statement-piece jewelry really made the looks, and since she made them, even more snaps for her.

Don't worry, Korto. You've got talent, and winning that prize doesn't always amount to much (Sorry, Leanne!). You'll be fine and someone will back you.

Kenley's garish colors were just cheap-looking. Purples and fuchsias together? You'd see dresses like that at Kohl's, or on the clearance rack at Marshall's. Although spectacularly made, the dresses themselves were over- (or should I say under-) whelmed by her atrociously immature color story. I was so glad to see her summarily dismissed by Heidi once the decisions were made.

(Was I the only one, though, who thought it odd that Heidi didn't deliver the typical commentary about what earned the designer the auf before she bestowed the kiss of death? Oh, well. Guess it doesn't matter.)

The colors in Korto's line were sophisticated and bright without being manically happy. I loved them. The sheen was such that I couldn't envision wearing anything in her line, but I loved the feel, the consistency, the creativity.

In the end, aside from the interesting petal details (an evolution of the noodle!), Leanne's slipping in that she'd used sustainable fabrics probably gave her that added green edge that made her line more marketable, or more newsworthy.

Ultimately, of the three, Leanne's designs are the ones I could most covet. (I mean, probably not the bulbous skirt that overemphasized the model's hips, but that belted, multi-hued petaled-skirt/corset combo? That was hot!)

So, in the end, one of the best designers won, so at least the season ended on a slightly higher note.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Project Runway Episode 13: Beware the Temptations of Asymmetry

It's the difference between a perfectly executed hairstyle and a 'do where the stylist decided she needed smoking break halfway through but declared you done, pumping you up with talk of the cutting-edge style represented by your new "asymmetrical cut."

Haircuts and clothes, especially, require a solid understanding of the rules so that one can break them effectively. Coloring outside of the lines first requires being able to see the lines and knowing why they exist.

It takes a tremendous amount of skill to pull off asymmetry in design. What looks like randomly placed elements typically treads a fine line between desirable and disastrous.

Jerrell's wedding gown represented the latter. From the grayish, shabby-looking tulle, to the swirl of taffeta crinkled around the model's body like gold-sprayed craft paper, not to mention the disaster of a bodice with the flaps over the chest... it was just one poorly executed idea after another. (And don't get me started on those gems plopped in the middle of the chest.) I liked the colors and textures he chose, but little else. The bridesmaid's dress was, well, I hate to say it, but it was dreadful - cheaply shiny and with fake flowers to boot.

Sadly, I knew in my heart, as soon as I saw Jerrell's wedding dress hadn't changed much since Tim's critique, that his days were numbered on the show. Like a Saab driver in the 90s, Jerrell goes his own road, and much of the time it involves piling it on and piling it on. He needs to learn editing so that he can let his creativity really flourish and sing.

Korto Loses Her Way
Korto's wedding gown seemed lumpy in addition to overwrought... with that weird tiered effect at the waist and knees - she actually made the model look chunky. The bridesmaid's dress was only bridesmaid-y in that it had been hacked down to look different in length from the bridal gown. Meh.

Her collection, from the Tim visit, looked very Korto-esque. Well-made. Interesting to a point. But in the end, predictable. She is not an over-the-top, make-a-loud-statement designer.

Kenley: Little Girl Lost
Here's my biggest problem with Kenley's outbursts. First, if you're involved in fashion, you just simply cannot say unequivocally that you're not inspired by a particular designer. Especially if someone far more experienced and knowledgeable calls you on it.

If they see something, there must be something to see, get it?

Sure, you may have steadfastly ignored the videos on the web showing McQueen's similar dress, or held your hands over your ears when fellow fashionistas regaled you with tales of a similar dress, all while shouting "La, la la - I can't hear you, la, la, la!"

But Kenley, tell me you didn't page through a magazine or accidentally click on by some coverage, or spy even a flash as you clicked past the Style network? You're in the business, for crying out loud.

Even if you didn't, just wait - let the judges speak.

Kenley's head-shaking over the McQueen comparison was childish, as was her previous behavior in reaction to the judges' comments. She needs to learn to listen and then defend. It's far more powerful if you hear people out, and then defend yourself with a well thought-out argument. Best comment from Heidi all season came for Kenley's wedding gown: "It's Crazy Good!" Admittedly, the kooky feathered wedding dress was impressive. But from what I saw of Kenley's painted prints, the color scheme for the collection overall seems far from sophisticated.

Leanne: Variations on a Noodle
Leanne's architectural, nature-inspired creations? What an interesting set of ideas she put out there! Those wavelike flaps with the different colors, fluid lovely draping, emphasizing movement in a modern, sleek and interesting way. Love it.

(Actually, I kept thinking that they looked more like ripples on water than waves. But wave is a much cooler and sleek-sounding word to use when explaining work that's inspired by water and how it flows. So kudos to her for thinking like a marketer.)

Leanne's complete rework of her wedding gown, and her willingness to learn from her superiors, to take valid criticism however harshly or randomly it appears to be dealt, to incorporate what's relevant into her solution, and most importantly, press on? That is the mark of a professional.

And even if she doesn't triumph in this trumped-up contest?

She has an interesting career ahead of her, for certain.

Leanne wins, Kenley is second, Korto is third.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Heaven in a Tinfoil Cup

Staying home from school with a sore throat, at least before my tonsillectomy as a six-year-old, usually involved a cadre of special "sick treats."

One of the best was Hanscom's egg custard.

Smooth as silk, it was topped with a golden brown haze of nutmeg dots, nestled in a tiny crinkled-foil cup. I'd scrape off the nutmeg bits and eat those first.

Hanscom's Bakery was a Philadelphia institution, with outposts even in the suburbs. For a while, I recall a corner of the Acme had a Hanscom's display, with treats stacked high.

My grandmother had treats from Hanscom's, too, from time to time. Although, with Nanny, I recall more frequently having a whole chocolate frosted Tastykake Junior to myself and thinking it the very definition of heaven. I don't recall her ever making my sister and I share; we always had our own slab of cake.

While I've always been a cake girl, those egg custards are the things I associate with Hanscom's, and which I miss dearly. Smooth and filling, they were a great comfort food.

I could really use one of those custards. Right. About. Now.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Nation of Whiners

When Bravo rewards Project Runway contestants like Kenley with more screen time and artificial praise for projects they have no right to win, merely to keep them in the game and potentially keep eyes tuned to the screen, it's cheapening the entire enterprise.

A competition? Hardly.

TV under the guise of competition? Now we're getting somewhere.

And rewarding the people who complain the loudest, cajole their colleagues and generally behave the worst -- all while trotting out the saved-til-the-end, made-for-tv sob story -- not to mention attitude for miles? Ugh, ugh, ugh!

When Project Runway's first season came to an end, and Jay McCarroll walked away with the well-earned first prize, I kind of mourned the show's newness.

At that time, with Wendy Pepper cast as a villain employing a strategy, most of the other designers, from what I could see, seemed to view the show more purely, as a means to establish themselves, build their businesses and get the word out about their design point of view.

Once the show aired, and a savvy auditioner could see that a persona could get you farther than raw talent, from that point onward, the die was cast.

Project Runway was no longer a competition based on design talent (if it ever was); rather, it was a competition to see who made for the best TV.

This isn't a new and startling development. But it's something that has hit home recently, since I've been tiring of all these reality shows.

And so that's it, with the Project Runway season finale, I'm swearing off of them, at least until I can stand it no longer.

(Thank God 30 Rock is waiting in the wings.)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Odd Man Out

Everyone feels it at one time or another, right?
Sometimes it can be a good thing, though.
Embrace your inner iconoclast.

Project Runway Episode 12: Pre-Finale Rip Job!

Dear Bravo:

What you deem "Good TV" just won out over good design. Fooey!

It's no longer a surprise - or even mildly intriguing - when you end the so-called competition without the number of winners you set out to. No laughing and high-fiving amongst the winners? (Mr. Spandrel even noted, while passing by the TV on his way to the other room, that "Nobody looks happy?")

That's because they weren't!

Kenley's poor-me impassioned pleas, not her talents as a designer, won her a reprieve for her godzilla-mermaid, flappy-scaled dress. Heck, every creative type has been an outcast at one time or another. I got news for you, Kenley, you are just -- just mean and unpleasant!

And tell me how you can justify allowing some trumped-up pageantry charge dangle Korto over the edge of the Auf Precipice. Just because the woman isn't a loud mouth, she should be punished?

My prediction for the selection of the real final three during the finale?

The designers show up with their collections in tow, but are told they have to make a wedding gown out of muslin or some other weird, restrictive fabric, proving who has the most vision and last-minute chops under duress. In an hour.

And either Korto or Leanne will explode in the pressure-cooker that is the looming-in-the-distance Fashion Week. Kenley will adopt that tough-girl-from-the-50s stance and blabber on and on and on and on until the judges say "Uncle."

Jerrell will summon some kind of kooky muse that inspires him to create something intriguing and over-the-top that gives him the win that legitimately gets him the Bryant Park show. With a tut-tut from Michael Kors and Nina Garcia, telling him he'd better be focused on finishing and touching up those raggedy hems.

And maybe Leanne's Judy Noodles garments will get the nod. Or maybe Korto's African-inspired big-look designs will get her in, all depending on how the nerves fray...

But to think that Kenley, with her Mad Men frocks and her wackadoo prints is showing in New York City with the imprimatur of the Project Runway Final Three?

It almost makes me want to not tune in.

But I will, because I want to see everyone else, and I mean everyone. I just may need to hit the mute button every time Mean Girl opens her big mouth.