Friday, January 30, 2015

favorite song friday: style

The kid loves Taylor Swift, and as pop princesses go, she is definitely one of the best. Her latest album 89 has been topping the charts for weeks, the only grumbles coming from her recently being declared New York's global welcome ambassador. This last complaint coming from long-time New Yorkers, who despair at how New York has changed in recent years to a playground for the rich. Swift is hardly responsible for that, as New York and much of the rest of the country has been enamored of and catering to big bucks for more than just the last few years.

89 has also been declared her first pure pop album, but that seems wildly inaccurate, too. Swift's songs have had a pop sensibility for quite a while, just as 89's songs still show traces of her country roots. The first two songs released off the album, "Shake It Off" and "Blank Space" became instant hits. The latest offering, "Style," may be a little slower in its take-off, but it is the first one that seems to me from a more mature sensibility to me. Maybe that's why my almost 11 year-old hasn't taken to it as quickly as the other two songs.

So it goes
He can't keep his wild eyes on the road
Takes me home
Lights are off, he's taking off his coat
I say, "I heard, oh, that you've been out and about with some other girl, some other girl." 
He says, "What you've heard is true but I
Can't stop thinking about you," and I...
I said, "I've been there too a few times." 
'Cause you got that James Dean daydream look in your eye
And I got that red lip classic thing that you like
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time
'Cause we never go out of style
We never go out of style

Taylor's confessional tone is still engaging, and keeps her fans and critics guessing - exactly who is this song about, anyway? She gets far more flack for writing about her past and present loves than the equally anecdotal Ed Sheeran. Sexism is alive and well, as always. But mostly "Style" is a great song.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

throwback thursday: college collage

Some friends on Facebook have been posting old art school pictures. It's great seeing everyone again, and also some of the great art everyone did. I dug up a few images of my own. I used to do a lot of collage.

collage - Toby Dammit

collage - Rothko

collage - Marcello

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

two very different takes on traveling

I watched two very different movies that have travel as a theme, lately, The Darjeeling Limited and Non-Stop. Both were entertaining, engaging, and very, very different from one another.

Always an impressive and imposing film presence, Liam Neeson has taken over the action movie genre in recent years, with his successful Taken franchise, and movies as diverse as The Grey and The Lego Movie. In Non-Stop he plays an alcoholic air marshal with major personal issues, who is targeted on a flight by a potential terrorist who threatens to start killing passengers unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore bank account. The story, if one tries to think too hard about it, is wildly improbable, but the movie is so edge-of-your-seat-fast-paced that you are unlikely to worry about plot holes until the credits have stopped rolling, and by then you've had too much fun to care. Julianne Moore is very appealing as one of the only passengers on the plane who may not think that Neeson has gone completely bonkers, and Michelle Dockery and Lupita Nyong'o play flight attendants.

Moore and Neeson try to determine who is texting all those nasty messages

Sometimes you need to change your surroundings to help get rid of your excess baggage

For a real change of pace I then watched the über laid-back The Darjeeling Limited, Wes Anderson's beautifully shot film about three brothers, Francis (Owen Wilson), Jack (Jason Schwartzman), and Peter Whitman (Adrien Brody), on a spiritual journey across India. The trio haven't spent time together for a year, since their father's funeral, and try to work out their many comminication issues during the trip — with each other as well as their mother (Anjelica Houston). The movie is melancholy, but ultimately hopeful, and although as quirky as other Anderson films, also gives one a more peaceful, wistful feeling. It also features a killer soundtrack, with songs by The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, Joe Dassin, Peter Sarstedt, and Satyajit Ray. If you can't take a trip and travel across India, The Darjeeling Limited is a nice alternative.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

the birds

During the week I try to fit in a walk on the beach after I drop the kid off at school. I can't be sure, but a few of the gulls seem to be treating me like a regular lately, not skittering off as soon as I get in their vicinity.




Monday, January 26, 2015

johnny depp's mortdecai ...

1. Sure has bugged a lot of people.
2. Didn't do his usual huge box office.
3. Is another one of his "eccentric" characters.
4. Was dumped in the late January movie release graveyard.
5. Isn't all that bad.
6. Was inexplicably given an R rating (in the U.S.)

Which of the above statements most accurately fit the latest film offering from Johnny Depp? How about all of the above. Mortdecai, although far from the greatest movie you'd ever see, is not nearly as awful as critics and Hollywood would like you to believe, either. It's a little film, an amusing comedy, about a quirky, larcenous art dealer and his wife Johanna (Gwyneth Paltrow) and the escapades surrounding a valuable painting by Goya (and its more valuable trail that leads to a huge Swiss bank account.)

It's not hard to know why Hollywood is mad at Depp. The film didn't gross over $60 million (its reported cost) — not anywhere near that. But is that burden solely on Depp's shoulders? Why should every movie he make be a blockbuster? Anyone during development who might have read the script or heard even the vaguest description of the film should have known that this wasn't going to be another Pirates.

Charlie's latest acquisition, a moustache that would put Hercule Poirot to shame, only arouses the gag reflex in his wife Johanna
The look of the film, accented in a bright, ruby red throughout, is quite attractive, as are its talented cast, including Ewan McGregor as an MI5 investigator who has been smitten with Johanna and loathed Charlie since their college days; and Paul Bettany as Mortdecai's fiercely loyal, put-upon, and impossibly studly manservant, Jock Strapp. Although the title character is being compared to Peter Sellers and Austin Powers, Depp is clearly riffing on classic British funny man Terry-Thomas, complete with gap-teeth. The movie has the relaxed, goofy vibe of many of those caper comedies that were so popular in the '60s, and the filmmakers may have done better to have set the story in that decade rather than the present day. And what's with the R rating, which certainly didn't help get people into the theater? A little risqué humor, and the two F-words (that could have been reworded) and a PG-13 rating may have helped its box-office potential.

Mortdecai is mainly harmless fun, not the horrible disaster that will end Depp's career. Will it become the franchise that Depp so clearly wanted it to become? Not likely. It was based on Don't Point That Thing At Me, the first of three novels featuring the Charlie Mortdecai character by Kyril Bonfilglioli. But like another excoriated film starring the actor, The Tourist, it really isn't as bad as folks would have you believe. Depp should be able to appear in smaller, quirky films, too. Maybe just scale back the paychecks and the unrealistic expectations.

Friday, January 23, 2015

favorite song friday: vinyl makes a reappearance

Going through a closet the other day I found some old 78 records of my mom's and probably her mom's. Most of them are recordings of historic events, like coronations (my mother was born in England and she and my grandmother lived there for the first five or six years of her life). I realized I had nothing to play them on, and picked up a turntable that can also convert them to digital files, if I wanted.

As I was showing my daughter how to play a record on the turntable I realized that I really missed my old record collection. I gave them to my cousin years ago, when I moved from DC to NY. Through the years I have replaced a lot of them on CD and now those have been replaced digitally. But there are some whole chunks, like my Kinks collection, that have never been replaced. I realized the other day that I don't want to buy digital Kinks. I'd really like to hear some of those albums, scratches and all. Watch them spin on a turntable. So I guess I need to start hitting garage sales ...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

throwback thursday: morning stroll

When we first moved down here four years ago I was walking everywhere after dropping the kid to school. I need to get back in the habit, as you can see some pretty cool things around town.



Pink Steps

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

more gorgeous sky

I can't get over how painterly the sky has been lately.






Tuesday, January 20, 2015

bewitching stitching

I recently came across The Embroiderers' Guild of Victoria's Facebook page. So many gorgeous images. My grandmother taught me how to sew and embroider when I was pretty young, and off and on through the years I've worked on some pretty cool projects. These lovely pics have made me want to break out the needles and floss again.

Detail from the hem of an evening dress worn by Empress Alexandra, the last Tsarina of Russia, in 1900.

Monday, January 19, 2015

tiny time traveler

My daughter sometimes writes herself a note to remind her about something for the next day. This recent one is a favorite of mine. Could this be the result of watching Dr. Who?

Time travel

Friday, January 16, 2015

favorite song friday: an unlikely hit

In the popular young adult movie franchise Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Jennifer Lawrence plays Katniss Everdeen, a reluctant symbol of a revolution. in one of the strongest (and most quiet) moments in the film the haunted Katniss sings an old folk song as she and her rebel crew are relaxing by a riverside. The song has a folk music sound to it, which is appropriate, as Katniss is supposed to hail from a part of her post-apocalyptic country of Panem that closely resembles Appalachia.

The lyrics to the song were written by The author of The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins, and were included in her original Mockingjay novel. The music was composed by Jeremiah Fraites and Wesley Schultz of American indie folk band The Lumineers.

Katniss's song was one of the film's most powerful moments, so it is interesting that it is now climbing the charts as a dance remix. When I first heard it, the EDM beat spliced in seemed more than a little jarring. But the simple power of the song and its mood still shines through. "The Hanging Tree" seems to be the latest in a growing number of folk-inspired music. Neo folk?

Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Where they strung up a man
They say murdered three.
Strange things have happened here
No stranger would it be
If we met at midnight
In the hanging tree ...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

throwback thursday: why marilyn monroe ('s size) still matters

Her is one of my most popular posts, originally published in 2012.

A recent Slate article by Simon Doonan on Marilyn Monroe, "Marilyn Monroe’s Two Secrets," aroused the ire of many readers for its hidden title, "Was Marilyn Monroe Fat?" Doonan claimed to know the answer (No) because he was on hand (as an employee of Christie's auction house) to view some of her last possessions, including clothing:
"Right away, I discovered that Marilyn was shockingly and unimaginably slender. She was sort of like Kate Moss but fleshier on top. Didn’t see that coming, did you? 
When it came to finding mannequins to fit her dresses, I simply couldn’t. M.M.’s drag was too small for the average window dummy. Smaller “petite” mannequins existed, but I could not bring myself to place Marilyn’s iconic garments on these perky fiberglass dollies."
Doonan stacks the deck, because he writes about Marilyn being a size 12, but women's off-the-rack dress sizes have radically changed over the years. What he doesn't address is that most women, Marilyn included, are hardly the same dress size throughout their lives. We put on weight, lose weight, fill out, get pregnant, lose the baby weight, etc. Our teenage bodies are different from our 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, etc. bodies. If Marilyn had lived past 36, she would have continued to fluctuate in weight as many women do, and most likely in an upward trajectory. Case in point — Elizabeth Taylor. The author implies that Marilyn's curvy Some Like It Hot body would have been wearing the same little black dress she wore when she as Mrs. DiMaggio entertained troops in Korea. Photos show that this probably wasn't the case.

"When you look at Marilyn on-screen and — armed with the information I have just provided — you realize that the busty, ample gal brimming over Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot is literally one-third your size, you have every right to become suicidal. If she looks like that — zaftig, almost chubby — what on earth would you look like under similar circumstances?"
Way to reinforce body-shaming, Doonan. Just look at the black and white photo. She's gorgeous. Chubby? Why does that word even come up?

He also repeatedly calls her "tiny," based on the dresses he found among her belongings, but Monroe's measurements, according to her dressmaker, were 35-22-35 inches, with a bra size of 36D, and height of 5 feet, 5½ inches. I'm a shade under 5 feet 7 inches and people have always considered me medium height to tall. Marilyn was a classic hourglass, which would have been even more accentuated if she wore a girdle. The Fat Nutritionist has an interesting article about Marilyn, which points out that her "small" dresses might have been a bit of an illusion:
"Also, I’d like to note that a reason occurred to me why Marilyn’s dresses would seem so tiny when viewed in person: Marilyn’s dresses were often sewed onto her and, as Lena Pepitone asserts, her clothes were often so tight that they required regular mending of split seams and zippers. To get her clothing onto a dressform without ripping out seams and re-sewing them, they would have to choose smaller-than-Marilyn dressforms so that the dresses would maintain a normal amount of ‘ease’…though in Marilyn’s lifetime, she wore them without that ease. If you stuffed them as tight as sausage-casings, as she wore them, you could have an accurate 3-D depiction of her nude body size/shape (since it is reported that she didn’t even wear underwear [Lena Pepitone], let alone girdles and other shaping garments popular at the time.)"
But the real question about Marilyn is why oh why should it matter what size dress she wore when? Marilyn was beautiful, unique, and wonderful. No matter how many pounds this way or that. Why are so many people so concerned with the size of a woman instead of the shape? And why do we continue to put up with this sort of discourse? In the article Doonan talks about being gay, and generalizes on how gay men love tragic women, etc., etc. He also claims that gay men are just as obsessed with women being thin as women are. This isn't exactly news, as the fashion industry seems to push a thinner and thinner "ideal" woman every year. Why can't we ignore that pressure?

It is such a difficult situation. I have to admit to wanting to shed a few pounds myself. Who doesn't? We can never be too rich or too thin, right? But where does the simple desire to want to shed a few pounds to be able to get into some old jeans that are now feeling a bit tight, turn into looking at photos of actresses and models and feeling inadequate?

Hollywood and fashion have always favored thinner than thicker. Actresses have always been pressured to diet. Marilyn Monroe, who this year will have been gone 50 years, is still a female icon. She is being mimicked in magazine shoots and portrayed in current movies. Why it would matter to Doonan or anyone so many years after her death what dress size she wore shows how much the Marilyn mystique endures. And how much Marilyn is still viewed as an iconic female. She may really be the modern goddess.

As important as Monroe still is to us, her look, her hourglass figure, is not. Styles inevitably change, but we still seem stuck in the '60s. The fashion industry wants women to aspire to a Twiggy look, which is virtually impossible to achieve without the right bone structure. At the same time, we still seem endlessly fascinated by Marilyn, who had a look that can be more easily achieved — curves can be accentuated, waists can be cinched to approach an hourglass. Yet stick-thin is in, and people are talking about whether Marilyn Monroe was fat.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

fair skies

Some more fabulous skies and clouds that I was able to catch recently.





Tuesday, January 13, 2015

it's a mad, mad, mad, mad world

The kid and I just watched this the other day and it never gets old. What other film can boast so many wonderful, funny, fun people? The cream of the crop of comedy are all on hand — Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Dick Shawn, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, Jonathan Winters, Edie Adams. Actors like Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Dorothy Provine, and Ethel Merman although not known primarily as comics, are hysterical, too. Even the smaller roles are impressively cast — Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Peter Falk, Jimmy Durante, Jim Backus, Carl Reiner — the list goes on an on.

A lot of the humor is slapstick and action-oriented, but there is some pretty funny dialogue too.

From Terry-Thomas, as J. Algernon Hawthorne: 
"As far as I can see, American men have been totally emasculated — they're like slaves! They die like flies from coronary thrombosis while their women sit under hairdryers eating chocolates and arranging for every second Tuesday to be some sort of Mother's Day! And this infantile preoccupation with bosoms. In all my time in this godforsaken country, the one thing that has appalled me most of all is this preposterous preoccupation with bosoms. Don't you realize they have become the dominant theme in American culture: in literature, advertising and all fields of entertainment. I'll wager you anything you like that if American women stopped wearing brassieres, your whole national economy would collapse overnight." 
From Ethel Merman, as Mrs. Marcus, describing her son, Sylvester, played by Dick Shawn: 
"Exactly like your father: a big, stupid, muscle-headed moron!"




In the '80s I worked briefly for Troma Films and one of my coworkers brought in an a reel from the film and we watched it on lunch break. It was a blast seeing it in such large-scale, and in fairly close quarters. It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World is one of director Stanley Kramer's, who was known more for dramatic movies (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Ship of Fools, Judgment at Nuremberg, On the Beach) best-known films. It never fails to make me laugh out loud, which is the entire point of the film, and a real treasure, indeed.

Monday, January 12, 2015


I am still digging my macro-zoom attachments that I got for Christmas for my iPhone.

Can you guess what some of these lovely photos depict?


Friday, January 09, 2015

favorite song friday: ms. jackson

Today's song is a bit of a throwback, too. I guess the local Miami DJ and I like Outkast and André 3000, as it has been on fairly frequent airplay around these parts lately.

Me and your daughter
Got a special thang going on
You say it's puppy love
We say it's full grown
Hope that we feel this
Feel this way forever
You could plan a pretty picnic
But you can't predict the weather, Ms. Jackson


I'm sorry Ms. Jackson (oh)
I am for real
Never meant to make your daughter cry
I apologize a trillion times

Thursday, January 08, 2015

throwback thursday - grand-mère

Monday, January 5, was my grandmother's birthday. I owe her a lot. I live in her home now, and it is filled with many beautiful things she collected over the years, as well as some personally valuable family mementoes. Always a stylish, classy lady, I try to aspire to her sense of style, never quite getting there. But I can appreciate her.

Uncle Gydie and Mariette in Italy
On vacation in Italy, c. 1925, with her uncle

bathing beauty Mariette
Bathing beauty

Elegant Mariette2
Très chic, en Paris, c. 1930

exotic Mariette
In Hawaii, one of her favorite places

With mom, here, c. 1989, on the way to an event

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

baby boy is fond of dramatic lighting



Tuesday, January 06, 2015

the ornaments are put away ...

... and the tree is down. Always a sad moment.


But the lights live on (in a new location)!


That's my favorite (decorative) part of the holidays, anyway.