Saturday, March 22, 2008

Write what you know


If you're at all like me, which you most likely are not, but I'm willing to overlook that, you love a good turn of phrase above all else. The trouble with newspapers and glossies alike, these days, is that they're trying so hard to keep up with our fast-forwarded culture that and average article now consists of less than 500 words; and NONE of those words you'd have to look up.
I'm a reader, no scratch that, a dweeb extraordinaire, and consume written items like additive-ridden candy. Given the chance, I like to read at least ten blogs a day, six online newspapers, one paper-version and as many magazines I can get my grimy mits on.

What I've discovered though, is that while there are many interesting writers, professionals and non-professionals alike, who cover a variety of topics, it's rather hard to find truly heart-felt and inspiring writing, on- or offline. Like everyone else, I too like to play favorites, and there is one glowing exception to the above criticism. Her name is Laura Barton, and she works for a traditional print media outlet, the rather subversive British newspaper The Guardian.

The first article of hers that I remember reading (though I may have read some of her band interviews before) is this gem of a story, where Ms. Barton compares the extinction of the mix-tape, to the dying language of Eyak, now spoken only by one 88-year old woman somewhere in Alaska. Reading the article was an experience akin to discovering amazing new songs, or poetry, or an author for the first time. This feeling is best described as finding a piece of art that seems expressly and exclusively made for you. Personally, I've felt this before, when first reading J.D. Salinger's short stories (oh the arrogance of youth! Millions upon millions must have had this same "intimate" connection with Mr. Salinger's prose.), Nicole Krauss' The History of Love, watching Lawn Dogs and The Virgin Suicides, hearing Joanna Newsom, Stars, Bon Iver (about whom Ms. Barton too recently rhapsodised) and countless other bands.

What makes Ms. Barton's writing stand out from the endless newspaper articles and blog ruminations, is that her writing bears none of the requisite journalistic removal of oneself from one's subject matter, nor the afflicted cool of bloggers writing about popular culture. Like a fiction author, Ms. Barton injects herself, her persona, her emotions, completely into her writing.

For how could one not love the writing of a woman who once explained her love for a crappy song like this: "Maybe it was something to do with a certain seasonal bonhomie, with those festive weeks when we all wear our emotions like an endoskeleton, vulnerable to cheap TV and soft-centered ballads."

Never mind that she confused endoskeleton with exoskeleton, read Laura Barton's thoughts on Whether Bears Are The New Boars, Driving in America, Mixtapes, Girly turkey twizzlers, TV, Redheads, The Dogs Cats and Pigeons Of War, among other things, here

(Image form this weird site...)

Listening to: Stars

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I can see your years in my reflection...

At this day and age, it may be difficult to imagine, but once upon a time, (the 1970s) in a place far, far away (mostly the United States) it was common place for fashionable young ladies (that'd be our moms and aunties) to wear flounce-y floral dresses in patterns last seen around the time Laura Ingalls Wilder was traipsing through the wild prairies of Kansas.
These fashions stemmed from a number of cultural sources; among them the ready availability of such styles in thrift stores, the popularity of folk music and the emergence of the back-to-the-land-movement, from the psychedelia of the 60s. The reason why this style went mainstream however, is a lot easier to pinpoint. It was the singular vision of designer Jessica Mcclintock, that made her label Gunne Sax the most important and copied maker of little-house-on-the-prairie-dresses. Soon girls were wearing them to the prom, to festivals and demonstrations. Feminists declared their right to birth-control and abortion in these superfeminine outfits. Until the power suits of the 80s and the glam-bunnies of the disco-era took over, prairie dresses and tiered skirts were everywhere. And now, thirty odd years later, you may have noticed that they're making a comeback.
The signs have been in the air for quite a while actually. Like so many other things stylish, this can be traced back (at least in part) to Sofia Coppola and her debut feature The Virgin Suicides. The girl's prom dresses embody the flowery femininity of Mcclintock's designs perfectly.

Later on, Gunne Sax dresses have been popping up all over the place and they're looking to take the center stage this summer, since the High Street seems to be flooded with 70s style designs.
Or maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part. I'd love to be able to wear some of the more eccentric pieces in my budding Gunne Sax collection without looking like I work at the renaissance fair. Sigh.
Here's Joanna Newsom in one of her almost-certainly-a-Gunnie's dresses.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mama, these wolves won't make nice

In the original folk-tale version of "Little Red Riding Hood" the wolf cons Little Red Riding Hood into drinking the blood and eating the flesh of her own grandmother. He then instructs her to remove all her clothing and toss it in the fire, before climbing into bed with him. Before the wolf has the opportunity to devour her, however, she sees trough his disguise and cajoles him into letting her go out, though he does tie a piece of string onto her, to stop her from escaping. In the end she gets away, with no help from any adult, such as the hunter inserted into the later version of the story.
The original version of the story is both more gruesome and terrifying, than the later watered-down version, but the basic moral of the story remains the same. The earlier version describes the dangers threatening a young girl entering womanhood; she wears the red cloak to signify her physical maturity, she drinks the blood and eats the flesh of the old crone, her grandmother, and thus concludes her transition from a maid, to a mother, a fully fledged woman. (Women in classical stories usually embody one of the three cyclical phases of womanhood: a maid, a mother, or a crone.) The later version of the tale merely warns children against talking to strangers, and still retains some of the tale's original creepiness. It's no wonder Disney never opted to adapt this dark little fable onto the big screen. Still, it's fun to imagine what the songs might have been like...I do have some suggestions:
Listening to:
Do be careful when you wear your red cloak, or your miniskirt.

Sources: Wikipedia,
Alan Dundes,
My Highschool Lit Class


Sunday, March 16, 2008

There's a tear in the fabric of your favorite dress...


If I was twenty-one, or not quite so lazy and shy, I'd have a style blog.
For a long time I've had a sneaking suspicion, that there must be a lot of smart, sweet girls out there, to whom clothes are a valid form of self-expression, as well as convenient way to keep out the cold, and since I got into style blogs a year or so ago, this suspicion has been happily confirmed.
As much as I love magazines, fashion editorials rarely inspire me as much as the styles of real, (albeit more often than not, really pretty) girls. While I don't much care for blogs who's main content is the writer's opinion on the latest runway styles, I love how a lot of bloggers tie current styles into their own looks, and enjoy recognising their influences and references.

In addition to this, the fashion industry being the oppressive monster that it is, I feel as though, in their own small way, these girls are taking something back from the stuck-up editors and over-priced labels. This, like everything about such a 'shallow' pre-occupation,
is of course, debatable. Maybe, they are just feeding into the conspiracy against young women's sense of self-worth. Maybe, I'm just insecure and vapid for being interested. If we were dudes though, gushing about, say soccer, there would be nothing ambiguous about our love for our chosen fascination. This is because our society has a way of elevating pastimes that mainly interest men, regardless of how inane, above those that women (and, in the case of fashion gay men) enjoy. While I abhor the the rampant consumerism and self-hatred often associated with style and fashion (and the redundancy of those words), I say: fly the flag of feminism by wearing a cute dress, if that's your cup of tea! I sure as heck will.

Other neat style blogs:

listening to: Great Lake Swimmers