Thursday, July 31, 2008

Project Runway Episode 3: Bright Lights, Big City (Or, Are The Judges Blinded By the Light?)

Last week, it was Kenley who got gypped. This week, it was Leeanne in favor of Kenley.

Kenley's nightmarish green/purple dress with the bulb of ombre purple tulle forming half the hip of the dress? We're supposed to be impressed with a cheap-looking, garish color scheme and a bubble skirt that looks like she ran out of fabric? Incomprehensible. But then, I don't get Marc Jacobs, either (well, except for the handbags).

With Leeanne's design, you could see the inspiration of the grate around the tree, and how it came to fruition in fabric - just superbly conceived and designed, if a bit literal. (But why she continued to say the shapes were "organic" when it was clearly a man-made iron grate? I mean, if she'd modeled it after the tree trunk, I could see, but I didn't understand that reference.)

With all the interviews with Keith, I thought for sure that the reality show editing-clue machine was out in full force, and thought the kiss of Death was Michael Kors likening his god-awful dress to a swirl of toilet paper.

And then they go and diss Emily for an errant ruffling, albeit over a dress that was clearly well-made, with some shape? I was no Emily fan, but she got totally screwed.

It's a topsy-turvy world, this season.

While I'm the first to admit I'm disconnected and out of touch with club fashion, I must be really far gone. Because although I have been a Terri fan, I just did not understand her outfit. I thought the top looked incredibly dowdy - like the front half of a mother-of-the-bride dress that someone bought on sale.

Although honestly, Terri's design was not nearly as dowdy as Jennifer's clock-watcher dress.

And whoops! Heidi dropping the bomb that she just didn't care to see any more of Jennifer's designs, seemingly evar?! That made me worry for the bookish-looking, earnest girl who somehow found her way to Italy.

Tip: If you consider Salvador Dali an inspiration ("My design style is Holly Golightly meets Salvador Dali!" she eked out, when under pressure from the judges to explain herself), you'd better have melting, dripping clock faces on your garment, not a literal translation of a clock design on a sleeve.

And what of Jerrell? Didn't see a peek at him other than with his nighttime face mask, and then he shows a ruffly display of respectability? While not exactly night-life fare, I say good for you, Jerrell! He kind of came in from left field.

Suede's dress this week looked stiff and cheap, like something you'd find smushed in the racks at Forever 21. The longer he refers to himself in the third person, the more insufferable he becomes.

The Mad-Max themed fire hydrant-inspired outfit that Kelli designed looked interesting, but the detailing got lost on TV, what with all the matte-black fabric that just soaked up the light. It looked interesting, what little we saw of it.

Blayne, surprisingly good and better than anything he's done so far. And I like that when compared with his inspiration photo, you could see where the color ideas came from, although nothing I could ever imagine anyone wearing in reality.

Daniel, shiny-blah lame pageant gown cutoff? Joe, you literal-minded man, you! Eh, let him stay. Korto? Again with the black fabric that we can't really see the detail, but your silhouette looked good. You can stay, too.

But talk about silhouette, and staying true to your vision? The silhouette of Stella's garment showed she was totally in her element with this challenge... Despite not being able to turn on her camera for much of the allotted inspiration-capture time.

(How the woman doesn't set herself aflame is beyond me...)

Sure, it's likely an act, or it could be sleep deprivation, or all the partying she did in the 80s. But girlfriend knows her way around a grommet mallet and managed to annoy the heck out of some of the show's most annoying people, so Stella? Bang away!

What did you think?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Casing the Joint

Although I am really enjoying my iPhone, I must admit: I am an uber-klutz.

More than once, its shiny smoothness coupled with my Butterfingers means I nearly drop the thing every time I use it. And I'd be sick to see it crack into a kajillion pieces.

So I ventured to the local Apple store (which STILL had people lining up outside it to buy iPhones).

The Apple store teenager-slash-salesperson hanging by the cases was showing a bunch of people the virtually indestructible case he recommended, made by Contour. Of course, the Apple store was fresh out of their cases, he said, because they sell out as soon as they get them.

I chatted with another person who was looking for a case, whose iPhone sported a big, weird, flappy leather cover type of case, that kind of defeated the purpose of the small form factor. But he said he'd lost his first iPhone, then dropped his replacement, and was now on his third (still a 1G), and he wasn't taking any chances.

So because I need something, fast, I just ordered this geeky case. I've rationalized that the grippy sides will make up for the added bulk. And I don't care what anybody else thinks: I already look like a dweeb, handling my phone so gingerly.

The case hasn't even arrived, and already, I'm thinking: How boring! Black rubberized iPhone case on top of the glossy black iPhone? Bleah.

So here's an open call to all you industrial designers out there: go make a rubberized, grippy holder for the iPhone that protects it from the impact of accidental drops, in an interesting color combination, or a texturized outer edge that doesn't make me feel sorry I'm adding to the phone's heft.

Right now, I embarrassed to say I stow my phone and all its cords and plugs all zipped into a quilted case that I toss into my purse. As a result, I've missed a bevvy of calls all because it's muffled by this doll-bedspread of a bag.
Can't get much worse than that, right?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Project Runway Episode 2: Attack of the Zzz...

Well, Project Runway episode 2 just had to wait. After sitting on the sofa, watching the torturous ascent of the Tour de France riders up L'Alpe D'Huez, I was zonked out. And it was only 9:45!

Anyway, today I watched the recording and feel that this episode should have a warning label that reads Caution: Objects being filmed are more boring than they appear.

Now, having the models act as both client and fabric shopper certainly posed some potential for conflict. But actually? All that happened was a whole lotta whining. Stick a bunch of control freaks in a room with stuff they didn't choose and a client that may or may not have ideas, and it could be a recipe for disaster!

But really, aren't the real-world constraints that designers have to work with pretty similar?

You're new, you're just starting out. Your backer won't pay the millions you need for silk shantung, so instead, maybe you have to go with the polyester his brother Jerry just got a big shipment of at his warehouse in New Jersey.

Or maybe you're established, or at least have a name worth licensing, and so you farm out the work to China so you can manufacture your stuff in the quantity that Target needs to deliver to suburbia USA. But... something goes horribly wrong in the translation.

It's probably the most realistic aspect of this challenge.

Throwing in the "Green Fabrics" aspect made it just too overwrought, just like Wesley's dress. And toss Natalie Portman in as a guest judge? Oh, dear.

That's why I'm convinced that unless she sends another trashbag down the runway, everyone's favorite kooky biker/rocker chic Stella is going to be sticking around for quite a while - the producers have got nothing else. At least you want to see what kind of antics she's up to with her wheatgrass shakes and her crazy musings. Is it me, or is Stella like the two-face girlfriend they referred to in Seinfeld? In one shot, she's the slacker kid with no makeup and pigtails who looks like she needs some allergy medication, and the next, she's in full makeup and vixened out for a night on the town.

Stella's dress did manage to inject a little bit of her own style into a cocktail dress, and it looked reasonably well-constructed.

That's more than I can say for the Suede's garment. While I liked the strips zig-zagging all over the place, reminiscent of Eddie Van Halen's Frankenstrat, I didn't like that the straps looked uneven at the shoulders, that the top fit her poorly in the bustline, that the hem seemed uneven and the crinoline was too poufy.

While Suede's persona/character is incredibly annoying (enough has been said about his third-person references), there is one thing for which I will give him a pat on the back: his admission that all he was thinking about what was his Mom would say when she heard he won. OK, you redeemed yourself a bit! For now.

Blayne's dress was just eh, with the black hole on the side threatening to eat the model's spleen.

Daniel's dress: too short, too shiny, but the sleeves were cute.

And talk about short? Emily's dress was a flashing waiting to happen. Too high a skirt, too low a bodice. Too little fabric overall.

Jerrell's model looked like Jennifer Lopez during her Puffy days, a dress cut down to her pupik, skirt too hairy, just all wrong.

Jennifer's dress surprised me - in a good way! Aside from making her model look like a spokesmodel for ING Direct, I loved the fluid, drapey lines and the way the gray and the orange interacted.

Keith's dress looked like slick, satin drapes you might see in a New Jersey McMansion. Too high in the front.

While Kelli's dress wasn't awful, it showed none of the creativity and kick-down-the-door thinking that garnered her first place last week. But then, without having control over the fabric choice, I guess she didn't do too badly. Hers looked like a shorter, mini version of Betty Page's. I mean, Kenley's.

For me, Kenley's dress deserved the win. It was wearable, it was thoughtful, and she utilized the materials her model bought in a measured way.

With a midnight blue (or is it French blue?) to work with, Terri's design definitely stood out... but what I really like was the ruffling at the neck. Nice work! The rest of the design was kind of blah, but hey, having to work with someone else's fabric selection had to have eaten into your design time, right?

And oh, no, Korto! What were you thinking, giving even your model fins? (For me, another Jump the Shark allusion.) The poor girl looked like a Buick! I have high hopes for Korto, and I hope she pulls it out next time. Because she's looking a little out of touch after this design.

That brings me to the sad, brown gowns.

The brown satin trio really took such different approaches. Joe's dress was cute, but not designer-worthy, just meh. Clearly, Wesley's dress was overwrought, with too-tight seams that rippled across the model's body, making her look dumpy in the process.

Leanne's loopy-de-do brown dress, I thought, was the best use of that crappy brown satin fabric of all three. I could have done without the pocket strip on the bottom, and instead if she did something petal-tastic with the skirt, in keeping with the layered theme she started on the top? She could have really had something there. But then, maybe there was a fabric shortage? (But God knows there was enough of it in the house, if not on her own design table. Surely Joe could have spared a square after he was done making his picked-up-at-the-mall gown.)

I'm exhausted. There's just something about the pacing of this and the first episode that just didn't hold appeal for me. It's as if Bravo has its interns doing the post-production, knowing that the show is destined for Lifetime next season.

Even Tim Gunn seems frustrated with this crop of designers. His make it work, and hot mess references sound so tired and shop-worn. This show needs a jolt!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Queen Was Right

"Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening me!"

Oof. Early this morning, waaay early, as in 3:00 a.m., a rollicking series of thunderstorms crashed through our part of the state.

The lightning lit up the bedroom, caused the power to flicker a few times, and then continued on for a good half-hour.

At one point sounding like a veritable explosion, complete with fiery orange brightness.

I thought something had been hit - a transformer, a tree, something? - and had caught fire. But no.

Did I mention that thunder and lightning scare the bejeezus out of me? They do.

Other people have told me, "Oh, we watched the most beautiful summer storm from the porch during vacation! We could see the lightning crackling all over the valley!"

Me? I'd be inside under the bed with my fingers in my ears.

This was the very annoying kind of thunderstorm, where just as you thought it would end, and you'd calmed yourself enough to get drowsy enough to fall back asleep, the sky crackled with power and boomed over and over.

So today, sleep-deprived and addled from the humid heat, feels like I've been operating on an even slower speed than usual.

Here's hoping I can stay up long enough to watch Project Runway.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Project Runway: Bad Mood Rising


Well, this recap is dedicated to fellow blogger FishWithoutBicycle, without whose Comment in my previous post, pointing out my goofball scheduling error, I would not have seen the show in real time! Thanks again, Fish!

Truly, I wanted to be able to stand up and say "Yeah!" in support of this show's last season on Bravo. The bizarro-world move to Lifetime I think is setting this show off its rails and I'm afraid that already, the shark has been jumped. Let me count the ways...
  1. Another supermarket challenge to kick things off? Yawn. You will simply not be able to keep the audience excited over something where they already know the inherent risks. We know food is a problem and that tablecloths end up kitschy. All right, already!
  2. Trotting out - literally - Austin Scarlett to introduce the challenge and judge? Isn't this guy's 15 minutes long gone? He so clearly tries to channel Yves St. Laurent whenever he shows up anywhere that it is just Annoying. Capital A.
  3. The Safety Dance: As you'd assume, the designers took one of two approaches: Use a fabric substitute and play it safe or go so far out on a limb that you can barely recover. Overall effect? Bo-ring.
  4. Saving Grace: Kelli, the Vacuum-cleaner bag savant. Spotting the full-sleeve tattoo-age I thought, Sweet P Part B? Then I saw her doing the dippity-do in a vat of dye or whatever she used with the bleach to paint her "fabric." "Oh here we go, another outer-space, artsy-craftsy Elisa," I thought to myself... And so she surprised the hell out of me when she pulled out the resulting marbelized skirt design! The browns and the greens were lovely together! The top was atrocious, those two snowflakey doilies at the chest? Blech. But that hook-and-eye closure in the back made of spiral notebook springs? Damn! What a way to lace up a corseted back! Creative in the extreme.
  5. Stellllllaaaa! Oy, if I had a dollar for every time Mr. Spandrel yelped this from the office, I'd be able to purchase a Louis Vuitton bag without feeling guilty. The girl's outfitted Blondie and Joan Jett and Sebastian yet she couldn't twist, wrap, slice, dice, twirl, tweak or otherwise beat into submission some trashy garbage bags? Shame on you, Stella! You strike me as a scrapper, and scrappers make do.
  6. The Yang to Siriano's Yin. Seattle's Blayne is the Season Four Boy Wonder's opposite in so many ways. First, there's the obvious West Coast/East Coast parallel universe. Then, where Christian had talent, Blayne is just a pretender. While Christian's patented catch-phrase generator helped establish his character from Day 1 (even I have mumbled "Looks like a hot tranny mess" from time to time over the past year, although Amy Poehler does it best), Blayne is just a me-too wannabe also-ran. Christian's pasty complexion belied his spending way too much time hunched over a sewing machine, while Blayne works on turning his skin into the consistency of tumbled leather. Don't get me started on his design. You rip up a few sweatshirts, splash 'em with paint and call yourself a streetwear designer? Please.
  7. In the "Oh my God, what have I done?" camp: Solo-cup boy (aka, Daniel, the sensitive Bird-Man) created something utterly unwearable. I mean, how on earth would this woman sit? Bend? Breathe? Jump on a bus--let alone slide into a cab?! He was saved only by the curvy silhouette and the model's dark hair, which looked fabulous against the royal-blue color of the dress, which, really, was more like plastic armor. There is no way this should have been considered a brush with greatness: the fact that it was one of the two best speaks more about the low-calibre of competition than its inherent goodness as a design.
  8. Give those girls a cookie. Is it me, or are too many of these designers "camera ready?" Too many lanky-limbed, coltish girls all look like they themselves were strutting down a runway a season or two ago.
  9. Enough with the quirky characters, already. The blue faux-hawked Suede? The Salt Lake City dude (Keith?) whose bio says he just sort of decided to be a designer one day after doing artwork for a shoot? The mysteriously bland-seeming Jennifer, who does embroidery for Blumarine in Italy?
  10. The Onion. Jerry's haircut was just distracting from the first time he appeared on camera onward. I once worked in PR for a client whose coworker was described as looking "Like an onion." This guy was a blond version of Jerry.

To be continued...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Project Runway Countdown!

Already, this is shaping up to be quite a busy week, with some gnashing of teeth and rapid-heartbeat projects at work... so I'm especially thrilled that:
  1. Project Runway ramps up this Thursday
  2. It will be shown at 9:00 p.m. Eastern (so I can keep to my regular sleep routine)
  3. It is still on Bravo, for the time being.
Tonight, I'll go in search of a nice bottle of wine to crack open to enjoy with the show. Any suggestions?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mission Accomplished

Fueled by an awesome bacon-and-eggs breakfast this morning outside while reading the paper (the ultimate!), I just couldn't wait.

At 9:30 a.m., I called the nearest Apple Store to ask about their inventory. While they couldn't guarantee there'd be one for me, they said they had plenty of the model we were interested in.

Hightailed it over there and got into line. While we waited, Apple store clerks told us what we needed (i.d., etc.) and thanked everyone for their enthusiasm about the product and apologized for the wait.

So often, the place where we stand in line - the DMV, jury duty processing, the bank - are really just a hassle.

People all around me were positive and happy and excited. I chatted with some interesting folks while in line. There was just a good vibe all around.

The whole process was quick and we were in and out of the store in 15 minutes. Yay!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Apple Bad, Chick-fil-A Good

It seems to me that Apple, along with AT&T, could learn a lot from Chick-Fil-A.

Unlike those either on summer break with hours to kill or in possession of dozens of extra vacation days they want to dump, I was not going to wait in line for six hours on a summer Friday, no matter how life-altering the iPhone would be.

So, relying on my local AT&T store was the first tactical error, in that the carrier stores are clearly the ones that got the inventory shaft.

But don't worry, they're happy to reserve you a phone - and charge you a "shipping fee" of varying amounts depending on how soon you want it. That is, it will be shipped to the store (sounds like somebody's trying to make up some lost dollars in the Apple deal. Ahem!). Shipping to the store? Isn't that simply getting more inventory?

I digress.

Chick-Fil-A was also having a promotion yesterday.

If you wore (or at least showed) the funny cow hat they handed out the week before, you could get a free entree. If you dressed entirely like a cow, your whole meal was on the house. (Nobody I saw dressed like a cow save for the mascot shaking hands with babies.)

Crowds of people gathered at the counter for much of the time I was at the mall. But the team behind the counter kept things moving. The inventory was piping hot and crispy. Activating the orders - unlike with the iPhone - was a snap. And they weren't trying to gouge anyone - in fact, the discounts were plentiful!

And when capped off with a shake - 700 calories of custardy fakeness (hey, I didn't have lunch, OK?) that makes it easy to forget that an iPhone was out of reach.

For the moment, at least.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Anticipation

A few weeks ago, I flipped open my ancient cell phone, to the worst possible effect...

It literally busted apart, springs and hinges propelled out of the thing, and one piece even hit me in the forehead! The whole scene was like something out of a cartoon.

So I've been without a cell phone for a few weeks, and it's very disconcerting, if only for safety reasons. I'm not constantly nattering on it, but I like being able to reach Mr. Spandrel in a pinch.

We'd been mulling new phones for about a year, now. It was all very three bears, with this one too small, this one too big, yadda-yadda.

Perhaps you've heard, but there's a new phone coming out today. We are going to see if we can snag one. For some reason, Mr Spandrel is convinced that in our area, iPhones won't be a big deal. That getting ours will be a cinch.

So we have a plan, you'd think it would involve military-precision timing so we can avoid any long waits. But no.

Let's see if it works!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Our Patriotic Duties

After a busy, rush-rush-rush week, we spent the Fourth of July:

  1. Sleeping til 9 (OK, 9:30 for me, actually).
  2. Reading books.
  3. Grilling dogs.
  4. Enjoying the view.
  5. Feeling the breeze.
  6. Not shopping.
  7. Chopping up a cherry tree.*
  8. Tending to plants.
  9. Using no gasoline.
  10. Flying the flag.

*Tree already long-dead.

Friday, July 4, 2008

You Never Know, Until You Ask

Back when I was in college, I had aspirations of working in the magazine industry.

How that was going to happen - I was a Philadelphia-area kid, with no aspirations of moving to New York - was anybody's guess.

But as a journalism major, one of our classes focused on production.

Our big assignment that semester was to produce a proposal for a new magazine. I modeled mine as a cross between People magazine and what was then Life.

My magazine, named Faces for the close-up photographs that would compose each issue, was to be an in-depth look at celebrities, popular culture influencers and other luminaries. It would feature artsy, black-and-white photographs of each article's subject. There were departments involved in each issue - involving what, I can't recall.

It was a flawed proposal, but still, it was mine. And I believed in it at the time.

As part of our research, the professor encouraged us to read about the history of various magazines' development, and if we could, interview a professional to get their take.

This was back in the 80s, before the Internet. So there was lots of reading and scrutinizing of microfiche in dark, musty corners of libraries.

Being a writer, I felt I could gain a foothold on the content aspects of my vision for my magazine. But because the visual aspect was something I was less adept at, I decided to interview a few people who knew what they were talking about.

But how?

At the time, I was an avid reader of Glamour and Rolling Stone magazines. The two could not be more dissimilar in terms of their design, or focus. But they were among the publications that inspired me to become a writer in the first place.

So, on a whim, I looked through the mastheads. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I called the main office number at Glamour, and asked to speak with a junior designer. I did the same thing at Rolling Stone.

Miraculously, both got back to me.

Even more surprisingly, each referred me to their bosses. To them, I explained about my project, the research I was doing, and my intention to speak with a professional who could provide some insights.

And art directors at both publications agreed to meet with me - simply because I'd asked!

It was a week before spring break, and I managed to find one day where I could coordinate both appointments.

Rolling Stone was in the morning, and I remember speaking with a woman with short, dark hair and straight-across bangs, who gave me all kinds of insights into photography and art direction and taking risks and establishing a visual voice.

During the Glamour meeting in the afternoon, I met with the publication's art director, who told me how photo shoots are concepted, styled, and shot. By way of example, he talked about an article about the perfect hamburger, and how the bun should be something more grand than the standard puff of white flour you get at the supermarket... that it should be glossy and seeded and the lettuce a more exotic variety than the usual pale, whitish iceberg because bright-green leaves would photograph better.

A few months later, I opened the magazine to see an article featuring just such a photograph, and I relished the behind-the-scenes information.

Each art director was focused on how the visual manifestation of their magazines' brands came through in every image that appeared in the magazine.

The photographs that appeared in Glamour would never look like Vogue's, the art director said. Each had a visual language they used to bring the editor's vision to life each month in a way that reinforced their brand.

So often, I worry about what people will say if I ask for something, but I try often to snap out of that way of thinking. What's the worst that can happen? They say no, and that's it.

I've had amazing things happen, simply because I've asked. When I look back, I realize that it's incredible what I've learned. What I've experienced. Conversations whose meaning and insight have stayed with me for half a lifetime.

If there's one thing I can say on this Independence Day, it's this: Go for it! Ask for what you want. Great things are bound to happen for you when you do.