27 September 2007

Uh Oh

A problem with the home computer (whrrrCLICKwhrrCLKCLKCLK *bluescreenofdeath*) will delay our weekly review of America's Next Top Model, in which we place the burden of living publicly with mild autism squarely on the shoulders of one exceptional-looking young woman, and in which it is revealed that it is best to not only not care about what others think of you but also try to find a way to get along (the first of many, many ANTM contradictions).

Thank you for your patience.

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24 September 2007

Monday mailbag*

Dear iPod headphones,

I realize that, as ear-bud style headphones, you are essentially disposable, but really--already fuzzing out at what I would call normal listening volumes during what I might think of as normal levels of bass? On the fourth day of use? Come on. You'd better hope it was, indeed, an isolated incident of this evening's commute and not a distinguishing feature, for I find it vexing.


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Dear "Extra Hot" horseradish,



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Dear Antony & The Johnsons,

Holy shit, y'all are good.


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Dear dishes,

Do yourself.


*not a regular feature

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20 September 2007

It is everything I hoped it would be

Oh, my new iPod. I have made a protective sock for you from an old cashmere sock and pinned a 1" hipster button on it (aspirationally--who knows if I'm still a hipster?). I have named you, and you are called JUMP THIS iPOD. I would hate to meet you in a dark alley, my broad shouldered friend. The first album I ripped to my iTunes was The Clash's S/T.

Just as AF suggested, I used you to listen to Elvis Costello during my commute, and I thought of the last time I had tunes in my commute. I was waiting for the #22 bus in Chicago, southbound, 6:00 in the morning, going to my opening shift at the Big Corporate Bookstore. This was five years ago, and a lot of music's been made in the last five years, and I have a lot up on which to catch.

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19 September 2007

In which I blog a pop culture item

America's Next Top Model.

Yes, you heard Nora right, cousins. America's. Next. Top. Model. I've been hooked for years. I think it started when there was a Real Live Lesbian on the show (not a great model, I'll say). After that I just kind of...stuck around. Through the relentless self-focus of Tyra Banks, the totally empty platitudes of guest judge Twiggy, the concerted mugging of Janice Dickinson (lest we forget! The First! Supermodel!), the over-the-top Ms. and Mr. J (up there to different ends, certainly, but still both highly stylized), and the unselfaware, unselfconscious, unworldly, marginally entertaining antics of the Hopefuls--I've been there, cackling away on my couch, drinking beer, yelling, analysing, and trying not to let on to my coworkers that I follow a television show such as this and yes, I would love to talk about my opinions of the ways in which each girl enacts her idea of OBJECT, MODEL, WOMAN and even ADULT.

If you want a first episode recap with names at this point, may I direct you to Television Without Pity? I don't keep track of names until I can tell them apart, and the good lo' knows I cannot yet tell one horse from another (without a program...). To me, most of them have blank faces on which other faces can be writ, wax tablets for the stylus, blank canvas for the paint, empty hangers for the clothes. And isn't that what a lot of modeling is? Being the background frame on which the thing of interest is actually displayed? Apart from the very notable exceptions in high fashion, the bulk of the workaday models are nameless and unheralded. It's a job, I guess.

Now, on to this week's cycle premiere ep.

As with previous cycles, in the first episode we get a stream of "candid" interactions and situations in which the many initial girls size each other up for friendship or competition in completely forced situations like, say, on a cruise ship. And, as with previous cycles, it takes almost no time for the girls to be shown eating and talking about eating. The viewers are shown enough footage of food entering mouths to assure us that most of these girls are okay about food, but the girls' conversations, veering invariably as they do toward the subject of eating disorders, indicate something different to me: these girls are very much not okay about food. Even though they might couch it as competitive trash talk or in an "I'm just playin'" tone, or even "I'm so okay about food that I can crack wise about eating disorders," I see a group of young women who know that what goes in the mouth reflects--badly--on what walks down the runway. A sharp audio edit from tonight's ep gives us a voice, "Does anyone want any more bacon?" up against a few sideways glances from several Hopefuls, as if they're thinking Who does that pig think I am? Her? Of course I want no more bacon, this toast and coffee are plenty for me.

Thirty three Hopefuls begin. First, a quick test of their walk with Ms. J, performing her only function on the show: one, maybe two sessions as a runway coach. This time around, our divine Ms. J (my grandmother's nickname for me when I was a wee pliant thing, by the way) settled for instruction through making fun of the less polished walkers. Not that shame isn't a powerful teaching tool; I just wish Lady J would earn her bread with a more constructive role on the show. One walk, one interview. The interviews are always the real gem: the Hopefuls get to shine or make total fools of themselves. Most of them squeal, and many of them cry. A surprising number, in fact, which is interesting to me. And they open up to Tyra, the Js, and Nigel Barker (often called a "noted fashion photographer") in that way that reality television participants have of speeding through stages of intimacy to arrive immediately at "revelatory confessional" level. This is why people on reality television participants seem more screwed up than our friends and ourselves: they merely tell us much more quickly the things that we would tell each other eventually.

One Hopeful's literal sob story (not to make light) consisted of a confessional coaxed from her with nearly no effort from Tyra: my mother was, like, a crackhead, I was raised by my grandmother, she just passed away. A second unsolicited breakdown was from my favourite Hopeful, the M-name from Alaska. She had a certain Grace Jones masculine-feminine quality about her to which I responded, and a strong face. But oh! I was so let down last cycle by Jael, another less plain Hopeful whose promise petered out, for me, even a little before 50 Cent shoved her into the pool at the party. Anyway, M-Hopeful had lived a very legitimately hard life, to which she confessed in what seemed, again (after editing for television, I'm sure), about the 40th second of being in the presence of Tyra Banks. I did wonder what might lead a 23-year-old, very attractive African American woman to a life in Anchorage, Alaska, but I'd of course included little details like "summer job on a fishing vessel" or "romanticized the Iditarod as a girl and ran away from home to train sled dogs." The truth is less like a Gary Paulsen novel: rape, molestation, hard times. Hard times revealed for two of our black female Hopefuls. And I hope the edit that followed M-Hopeful was a conscious one, and I cannot decide if it was brilliant or crushingly stupid: cut from a life of knocks to a girl--a white girl--who actually says that her life's been so good, she never cries or feels bad. She tries to keep it upbeat. She thinks crying is a waste of time. A few contestants later, a white girl (from Florida? I think this was the one who announced she was from the horse capital of America--and I thought, "oh, Kentucky," but it was Florida) says she feels like she's had, like, a normal life, her parents aren't even divorced. Ah, television: teaching us that black girls have hardscrabble lives and modeling is a ticket out; while white girls are blessed and, in the case of one particularly odious Hopeful, self-proclaimedly "built inside and out" for modeling. It's definitely interesting to me how privilege plays forward like this.

One Hopeful is from Boston, my current locale. In an interesting turn of events, she is a burlesque dancer in her real life. She's accurately sized, and this creates trouble for the judges: she's too big for a fashion model, but just on the small size for a plus size model. Mr. J opines, "wouldn't it be nice if we had a category for real size women? Like, 'Real Size Models.'" This nets him a hi-five from Tyra who definitely says "I'm Real Size!" How nice, this handout from modeling for women like myself: if we get a label, we must be acceptable! This little interaction follows nicely from last cycle's inclusion of two (two!) plus size models, of whom Whitney was the clear best candidate (sorry, Diana! You started strong but failed to evolve!). Tyra is known for her advocacy for more healthily sized fashion models, adding her voice to the chorus in the industry speaking out against rail-thin models worldwide. Note, however, that last cycle's winner, Jaslene, has a body like a one-by-six, and if you don't know what that is, feel free to leave me a comment and I'll be happy to explain some basics of carpentry to you. Ah, America's Next Top Model: if I can't have lip service, I don't want any service at all.
In a moment of "ahem, this is on television?" one of the Hopefuls gives Tyra a little demo of what she does for a living. The Hopeful performs bikini waxes, and is understandably pumped for the opportunity to simulate one on (a fully dressed but still a little too...ah...expository?) Tyra. The words "cheeks" and "spread" are employed, as are the phrases "kitty cat" and "get in there." This disturbs me. The girl is, however, no doubt well groomed. (I'm sure I'll get the opportunity to discuss my feelings on hair before the end of the cycle, so I'll hold off here. I do hope the make-over ep doesn't take long to arrive, however.)

By the end of the show, we have whittled away twenty girls to yield a field of 13 competitors. The girl with the wicked Boston accent is gone, as is the burlesquer. M-Hopeful did not make the second, critical cut; she put on a brave face. The nerd is in, the bitch from Chicago who looks Eritrean to me, the exotic dancer ("I'm not nude! I wear a bikini!"), the waxer, and a handful of other 18 to 23 year old aspirants to the title of America's Next Top Model, placed in proximity with each other to create tension and good television; worshiping at the altar of Tyra Banks (do we burn our bras here, rather than incense?).

We'll talk next week, friends and neighbours. I do hope you'll come along for the ride.

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16 September 2007

In which I join your so-called "future"

Attention, hep cats:
I have purchased my first iPod. I waffled for some time on the "8 gig Nano vs. 80 gig 'Classic'" question, even calling friend DS for backup. He wasn't there and I was in the very Apple store, completely overwhelmed. In the end, I went with the newly redesigned Classic.

I live in Today now.

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12 September 2007


The big news this week is that my nightly re-run of That One Show About The Four Single Gals in New York City has been replaced by...The Family Guy re-runs. While I applaud the decision of my local CW affiliate in this scheduling change, I really do wonder how they got from Sex in the City to The Family Guy. I mean, I did watch the former, and I do love the latter, and here are a few things I could say next: what kind of audience do they think they have that might carry over (apart from me); are they interested in a complete viewership update; and who cooked this up? A further wrinkle, as I write this: an ad for the SitC rerun just aired, at 11:21, claiming that the show is on every night of the week at 11:00. How very.

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Another change this week: the weather. Autumn is dropping some serious hints about what is to come. I love the cooler nights, the re-introduction of the blanket to the bed: all fine signs of fall. I've been out of school for some time now (6 years) but fall will always cue those back-to-school feelings. First, I feel like I need new clothes. Then, I want to buy a bunch of pens and notebooks. Finally, I settle into a soft melancholy about the passage of time, the loss of freedom, the narrowing of choices and chances that happens as one gets older. It's tough to believe that spring gets all the props for renewal and rebirth, when really it's autumn that actually holds promise, new beginnings, and the chance to be different this year. So many of my falls began with that thought--it'll all be different this year. Only a few of them were actually different.

And this morning the nostalgia was fierce, as I waited for my instant pod-pack of coffee to be pressed through its little pack-filter and into my cup (a step up from gas station coffee if ever there was one) and paused in unexpected remembrance of the first thing I ever ordered from Bob's Underground coffeehouse on my college campus my freshman year: one cafe au lait, from Theo Bott. That was a real new start, a real beginning, a real change.

Autumn and its fabulous, cooler, lovely sadder days. "Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow..."

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And just when you think you're a boring adult, your best girl moons you and unceremoniously announces that she's "in ur bedroom, doin' ur sudokus."

Turns out that since I didn't want to grow up, I pretty much didn't in a lot of ways.

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03 September 2007

Those grand days.

The salad says of an unsecured wireless connection with good speed are over. I think teh intarnets is broke, for me.

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Here's a little bit about career opportunities and going nowhere for now:

I felt bad about laying the odds against my manager's return from maternity leave, but when she gave her two weeks after one week back from leave, I felt both worse and right. And I decided to make a bold move and declare my interest in her position. I got my confidence up and went in for the Talk and was promptly deflated: they've got someone in line. But really, that's no bad thing--that they would have someone already in mind for the job had occured to me, especially in light of the recent Massive Reorg and Merge of My Big Corporate Explorer. The main thing I wanted to accomplish was to telegraph my interest in moving up soon and my intention to start putting in as things come up. I may have reached a bit above my position, but one of the things I've regretted about my current job is that I did not reach at all to get it. I settled for something that was a step back and I've been suffering for having done so. In the moment, I needed the job and I needed to get in the door with a new company in a new city. I should have stretched myself and gone for a challenge; instead, I took the safe path and the lesson is that when we chose safety, we do not prosper.

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