sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

October 30, 2010

Getting Robbed

Filed under: society, taste, tv — Tags: , , , , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 11:06 pm

Mondo got robbed.  I don’t care much for this year’s winner of Project Runway.  I don’t like her aesthetics — the latest Free People catalog does a much better job bringing the late sixties back again… and again… and again.   I feel like I’m too young for Gretchen’s clothes, and I’m no spring chicken, and a mother of two, to boot.   Her Bryant Park show was uneventful — no single piece stood out.  I think it’s funny that she described the extra look as casual, because in her mind everything else in her collection is evening-wear.

Mondo, on the other hand, was sensational.  I’m absolutely in love with the much-maligned bubble dress.  It’s whimsical, and elegant, and fun, and flattering — totally amazing!  Nina Garcia said something along the lines that there is a fine line between circus and edgy.  Yes — and Mondo knows just how to walk that line!  It was very smart of Mondo to showcase the bubble dress as much as possible, because the dress is an iconic Mondo.  I’m curious to see how well it will do in the auction.  It’s not just a single outfit, of course, his entire collection was very memorable.


It was a bit unreal to hear Garcia and Kors advising Mondo how to make his show boring.  In their opinion, apparently, that’s the direction in which fashion is going.  Is it because they feel that the recession is here to stay, and there has to be a direct relationship between the economic cycle and style?  Part of the problem, I think, is that Heidi Klum and her little friend, who both liked Mondo, weren’t making their point very well.  Anyhow, the competition wasn’t even close.

The main reason the hippy woman from Portland should not have won is because she’s a sub-par designer.  But there is another quirk.  Earlier in the season Gretchen revealed that she has a personal debt.  Since then she mentioned several times that if she wins, she intends to use a part her prize money to pay it off.  How much she owns she doesn’t reveal, but for her to whine that she just wants credit cards companies to stop calling her, the figure must be in the tens of thousands.  Project Runway offers 100K to the winning designer to start his or her own line.  100K might sound like a lot of money to a financially irresponsible person.  Yet, I imagine to start her own business Gretchen will need every last penny of it: She’ll be working full time, contracting employees, traveling, buying copious amounts of fabric and last but not least paying taxes.

Is it smart to award the money to somebody who does not intend to put it to good use?  There might be already a provision in Gretchen’s Project Runway contract that would not allow her to use her prize to pay off her debt.  A better way to deal with potential problems would be to run a credit check on all contestants prior to the competition.  And so, did Project Runway get robbed?

You know who else got robbed?  Michael C.  He didn’t present very convincing pieces from his collection to the judges to secure a spot in Bryant Park.  But the judges should have known that although somebody like Michael C. might not understand very well what makes a collection cohesive or how to select a representative outfit, he is sure to showcase a few amazing creations.  They picked Andy instead — a safer choice, but his show, like Gretchen’s, turned out to be a snoozer.


October 27, 2010

Metrolite Recall Musings

Filed under: everyday — Tags: , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 8:34 pm

I should have held onto it — I’d have my money back now.   A couple of month after I sold mine at a garage sale, Graco Metrolite stroller is under recall.
With two million strollers sold we have 4 strangulation deaths as well a number of cuts and bruises. How did the deaths occur? Entrapment. What does this mean, exactly? The baby got trapped between the seat and the tray.  My youngest was riding without the wonderful-sounding five-point harness once.  He turned on his tummy and tried to slide out, right in the middle of an intersection.   So yeah, I can see how this kind of “entrapment” that prompted this recall can happen.   Still, at the rate of 1 in a half a million, can we call this a “freak accident” and not sue?  After all, many more drownings occur each year, and we are not recalling the pools and bath tubs (although we still find reasons to sue ).
Our household proudly owns several Graco products.  They are not necessarily the cutting edge in baby gear style and technology, but they are very user friendly, and there are some really cute styles.  I can see why their most popular models remain on the market year after year.  And eventually freak accidents will happen.  Graco products would be much cheaper, I’m sure, if the cost of potential recalls did not need to be factored into the prices.

October 22, 2010

What *Was* He Doing on NPR?

Filed under: Uncategorized — edge of the sandbox @ 8:53 pm

So Juan Williams got fired from NPR, and he says that NPR was looking for a reason to fire him.
After graduating from college I used to listen to NPR religiously: It was just like school! Seriously, that’s what I was saying at the time. And I used to think that Juan Williams and Mara Liasson were their token Republicans.  Not nasty Republicans like Kenneth Starr or Rush Limbaugh, but decent Moderate Republicans, as appropriate for nice, thoughtful, decent public broadcasting.

Then 9/11 happened, and the Intifada, and yada-yada-yada, and before you know I was tuning in to Fox.  And there they were: Mara Liasson and Juan Williams, Fox News contributors.  And self-described Democrats.  Ooops!  You mean, there is more diversity on Fox then NPR?

What’s strange is that NPR threw Williams out now when Democrats went far to the left of the general public and are about to be punished at the polls.  It seems like NPR should be angling for the middle ground, but instead they are creating headlines that are guaranteed to further infuriate the electorate.

How Not to Waste Your Youth

Filed under: society — edge of the sandbox @ 4:26 am

The printed version of National Review takes several weeks to come out.  Then it takes me something like two months to get to the last page, which happens to be Lileck’s piece.  And then I must-must-must write about it.  So here they are, my belated thoughts about “emerging adulthood”.

“Emerging adulthood” might be an invention of a clever sociologist, but wasted youth is nothing new, of course.  “My youth, my alien youth” — rhapsodized Russian poet Sergei Yesenin in… actually, I have no idea when. Iit must have been in the 1910s.  By the time he drunk himself to death at age thirty, Yesenin married about 5 times (once to Isadora Duncan), begot several children and wrote a number of celebrated poetry books.  Soviet school kids were required to commit his poems to memory (not about drunken debauchery, the other ones).  That, my friend, is a youth well wasted!

In good old days unwanted pregnancy tended to end wasted youth although some enterprising individuals, like Yesenin, found a way to keep wasting.  Now we don’t really get pregnant, and so youth lasts well into perimenopause.  At which point a face lift might or might not be an option.

Youth is an easy thing to waste in a capitalist society.  Some people have rich parents, but when I was young and without work, I called my temp agency, and had a job the next morning.  Then I’d quit and go to Europe.  I didn’t feel entitled to a year in an exotic Central European country, but I got to go anyway.

The idea of subsidizing wasted youth is very European; DH has stories about that, but these are his stories, not mine.  The way I see it, if you are going to scramble, do it your way.  If the government starts paying for your goof offs, there will  be strings attached:

How about expanding programs like City Year, in which 17- to 24-year-olds from diverse backgrounds spend a year mentoring inner-city children in exchange for a stipend, health insurance, child care, cellphone service and a $5,350 education award? Or a federal program in which a government-sponsored savings account is created for every newborn, to be cashed in at age 21 to support a year’s worth of travel, education or volunteer work…

Really?  You want an “emerging adult” “mentoring” at risk children?  And why devise complicated favor exchange system instead of, you know, paying people in cash?  And who will be paying for the substances?  And how is an “emerging adult” supposed to headline a show at 1 am if she needs to get up next morning to “volunteer”?  It’s like a  wasted opportunity to waste youth.

A psychology prof at Clark says that there is some sort of magic “age 30 deadline” by which “emerging adults” are supposed to get their shit together.  Says who?  DH pointed out that half of the people around here are nearing 40 and are still doing their arty little thing.  We are not talking wasted youth here, more like wasted life.

On the other hand, a capitalist society offers multiple opportunities to get one’s shit together.

October 13, 2010

American Ideas

Filed under: society — Tags: , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 4:32 am

Yesterday I read a great essay by Zombie that highlighted the similarities between the Tea Party movement and hippies.  Among them were:

  • A craving for independence;
  • A celebration of individualism;
  • Joy in the freedom offered by self-sufficiency;
  • And an acceptance of the natural order of things. (emphasis in the original).

Zombie  drew a chart where various ideologies spanning over the last half a century were mapped along more/less government control and innate/constructed human nature axes.  In the bottom left corner (bottom left?) she grouped Tea Parties, hippies, Libertarians and hobos.  All of those ideologies hold that human nature is innate and government control should be limited.  I want to put Declaration of Independence in the same corner though a bit closer to the center on the government control axis. Because:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. (Bold is mine, doh!)

So there you have it: both limited government and the innate nature.  If political bonds can be dissolved (and dissolved by the governed) then government control is limited.  If people are entitled by “Laws of nature and of Nature’s God” then there is something innate about humanity.  More on that innate humanity in the second sentence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Founding Fathers of course were no anarchists:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.  (Bold is mine again, doh!)

Hence closer to the Center on the Government control axis.

Tea Partiers, of course, consciously channel America’s founding principals.  That’s why Jonah Goldberg called them restorationist.

Growing up abroad I didn’t see any tension between United States’ founding and counterculture.  Both stood for some sort of expression of freedom, perhaps ideas I later recognized as Libertarianism.  When I later arrived in the US, I found it odd that many underground figures were so anti-American, but I filed them under “lovable eccentrics”.  After 9/11 I realized that gosh, I guess they really do hate the country.  Then I listened to what they were really saying and realized that they really are socialist.  It’s some sort of suicidal cognitive dissonance.

October 11, 2010

Shop Local?

Filed under: everyday — Tags: , — edge of the sandbox @ 4:34 am

One of the current trends in American crypto-socialism is extolling the virtues of everything local: food, music — what have you.  And so quite a few stores on the main drag here spot posters urging local shopping.  As much as I want to live next to a cute shopping area, I’m just not going to spend my money at a place that doesn’t offer the best product at the best price.  Still I can see the advantage of knowing what the local retailers are up to.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t always translate into knowing that they are trustworthy.

Without naming any names…  I find it a bit ironic when the “shop local” sign affixed to a messy storefront.  Keeping the store clean is probably a more effective way to attract and retain customers.

I know a lot of people around here want “sustainable” agricultural products, but why not also carry something fresh? Especially if that something is fish.  As far as “sustainability” is concerned, a supermarket chain is probably able to deliver goods producing a smaller carbon footprint.

Bait and switch is popular around here.  Retailers advertise a sale and fail to give the discount, mislabel their goods and refuse to honor coupons.  It’s probably illegal, though in most cases, I suspect, it has more to do with stupidity and confusion rather then evil intent.  If I were dealing with a chain, I’d ask to talk to the manager, but since they are local people, I don’t want to raise a stink.  I just don’t shop there anymore, and no placard will guilt trip me into patronizing their business.

I noticed that best small merchants rarely display “shop local” signs.  They don’t need to, of course.  I also noticed that quite a few of their customers come from out of town; if they were to embrace the “shop local” philosophy, they’d be effectively telling their customers to go away.

And besides, shopping local, isn’t it… xenophobic?

Look what turned up under “shop local” search terms!

October 4, 2010

When You Are the Establishment, Shouldn’t You Act Like the Establishemnt?

Filed under: environmentalism — Tags: , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 8:06 pm

Environmentalists have a problem.  And it’s not because the 10:10’s “No Pressure” is purported to be the most emetic, ugly, counterproductive eco-propaganda movie ever made.  Because while emetic and ugly, I am not convinced that the slick little slasher is counterproductive.  Sure, the video got people pledging to go out of their way to do things that don’t carry the Al Gore official stamp of approval.  I doubt they will follow through.  Plus, what constitutes a failure in this case?  The video is only counterproductive if 10:10’s upcoming big day is a flop, and, more importantly, the organization and people in charge of it will somehow fail to rake in more grants.

So far they have us talking about them.

So what is the problem of environmentalism?  The green message is preachy and dull.  It’s not just that they tell us how to live our lives, but that their pieties are petty and wonkish.  We are supposed to poor over the catalogs of front load washing machines, memorize which materials our local municipality recycles and calculate the carbon footprint of our sushi.  The eco message is so ubiquitous, that somehow “recycle” was one of my (my!) child’s first words.  To make matters worse, greens are pushing a worldview in which nature seen as benign.  It’s all fuzzy bunnies and furry kitties, even when the kitties are mountain lions.  And that’s just not very thrilling.  Show the evil humans thrashing the Garden of Eden — get a fine misanthropic drama.  A sadistic ways to chastise the villains adds a nice touch.

Oh, but look at some of the people most passionate about saving the planet — they are upper middle class whites, many of them parents.  See who shops at the local farmer’s market, rides bike to work and buys organic burpies.  Those people are about as exciting as furry bunnies.  And sure, every now and then an eco-psycho will blow things up, but the instances of eco-terrorism are few, and they are just not on the radar of an average American, like Al Qaida wasn’t before 9/11.  The face of environmentalist is an earth mama… or at the very least an earnest college freshman.

And take the 10:10 crew.  They listed their “guilty pleasures” in their website profiles.  So what are their “guilty pleasures”?  Out of season fruit, long showers and “having to drive”.  Fascinating individuals!  10:10 try to jazz themselves up, of course: Their campaign is exciting and global.  No doubt a people-lead alternative to corporations-driven globalization.  An authentic grass roots movement, sort of like the Tea Parties, right?  Right?  But wait:

The 10:10 campaign was founded by Franny Armstrong, director of the climate change blockbuster The Age of Stupid. The idea came to Franny while walking through Regent’s Park in London on her way to a debate with UK Climate & Energy Secretary Ed Miliband.

So a mainstream filmmaker who hangs out with government functionaries came up with a new project.  In no time she found some government and corporate money to finance her group, and hired a several film stars to sell her product.  They made a movie that manages to cross Reservoir Dogs with Triumph of the Will.  Filmmakers were faithful to the cannon of course, because environmentalists have a history with gory “consciousness-raising”.  But in No Pressure they outdid themselves.

I can see the rationale of a small grass roots group producing a shocking dark humor video to attract attention to their obscure but urgent cause.  I would give them some points for making the video on a cheap.  But why are establishment figures using establishment money to promote establishment ideas with the intent of shocking us into… what exactly?  Promising to reform our polluting ways?  An organization as well connected and financed as 10:10 should find a more respectable way to make themselves interesting.

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