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Clothes Line

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Yesterday a friend posted this video

on her Facebook page along with this statement from David Bowie:

It's not as truly hostile about Americans as say "Born in the U.S.A.": it's merely sardonic. I was traveling in Java when [its] first McDonald's went up: it was like, "for fuck's sake." The invasion by any homogenised culture is so depressing, the erection of another Disney World in, say, Umbria, Italy, more so. It strangles the indigenous culture and narrows expression of life.

In the first comment, she added, "Holly, I can't hear any DB without thinking of you."

This of course made me very happy. If someone is going to hear an artist and always think of you, well, it might as well be Bowie.

Pockets of Sense


Here's an article I read with interest because it vindicates something I love: Pockets.

You might think pockets need no vindication--after all, they exist, they're useful, and some articles of clothing seem to have a surplus of them. But you'd be wrong, because there are people who HATE pockets.

I encountered one such person at that absolute bastion of absolute evil, the Missionary Training Center. One evening a week all sister missionaries had to attend some lecture on clothes, hair, makeup or some other aspect of personal grooming. With one exception--a really useful demonstration on the best way to pack a suitcase (something you really need to know before you try to cram enough clothes to last you 18 months into two bags with a 44 lb weight limit and still have room for all the books the church makes you take along on a mission)--the lectures were not only useless, but insulting.

Semi-Precious Sunstone


One reason I like going to Sunstone and functions of its ilk is for the opportunity they provide to dress up. One complaint about Utah Mormons I’ve heard from people I grew up with is that the Utah Saints apparently tend to be far more casual about what actually constitutes “Sunday Best.” I can’t speak to that with any authority, as the only times I ever went to church in Utah were A) when I was at the MTC and B) my second mission president’s homecoming. But I do remember that we had to have NICE clothes for Sunday. It wasn’t enough for guys to wear white shirts and ties; they were expected to wear dress trousers if not suits. Nor was it enough for girls to wear skirts; we wore fancy dresses and heels.

Getting so spiffed up was both a gesture to the specialness of Sunday and a frivolous and vain indulgence in personal adornment, and I LOVED it. This might make me sound shallow, but one loss I genuinely mourned when I left the church was that I no longer had a reason to get really swanked up every week. Not only that, but there was no longer even a reason to buy certain kinds of dresses with the frequency I’d needed them when I had to wear fancy clothes every Sunday. It was a real bummer.

So when I go to Sunstone, I dress up--not exactly in clothes I’d wear to church--not quite that spiffy--but certainly something a little nicer than I’d wear on an average day. And one of the ways I make my outfits special is with jewelry.

I love jewelry, especially big, dramatic jewelry, something that becomes obvious to anyone who knows me at all. And one of the things I love about Sunstone is that it’s not only an opportunity to wear cool jewelry, but a chance to acquire it.

Naked Guys at the Johnson Museum

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A couple weeks ago I took my last trip of the summer: I went to Ithaca, NY, to visit dear friends.

Ithaca, in case you didn't know, is in a singularly beautiful part of the world. It's part of the finger lakes region of New York and has both rolling hills and steep valleys. At the Wegman's in Ithaca you can buy t-shirts proclaiming that it's "gorges." It's worth going just to survey the scenery, but there's also stuff to do. There are state parks, for hiking and swimming and boating. It's the home of the Moosewood Restaurant. The downtown is decent for hanging out. There's also the art gallery at Cornell university: the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

Admission is free, and the top floor of the museum (which houses a decent collection of Asian art) is a great place to get a panoramic view of the entire city, including Ithaca's own personal lake (the name of which I forget). But what will really stick with me are the statues of two naked guys that are the first piece of art you encounter when you walk in the door.

They're these life-sized bronze figures arranged to illustrate the name of the sculpture, which is "Conflict." To be frank, it's not an especially remarkable piece of art, but for some (OK, well, a fairly obvious) reason it has become the mascot of the museum, and the coffee cart and pastry case in the lobby of the museum have been dignified by the name of "2 Naked Guys Cafe," because they're only feet away from the naked guys.

The museum sells t-shirts for the cafe, and of course I bought one--I owed a birthday present to a gay man, and what gay man wouldn't want to walk around West Hollywood in a t-shirt like this?


Broaching the Subject of Brooches


Although I really love jewelry and often wear a lot of it, I never used to like pins. In fact, I actively disliked them. I thought they were silly, and I disdained people who wore them, because A) they were jewelry for clothes, not people; and B) they couldn't be worn on more delicate garments, without risk of ripping them; and C) they just seemed out of style; and, most importantly D) only old ladies wore them. Every so often someone would give me a pin or brooch, and I would exclaim, "Oh, how nice!" before putting dragging out a trunk I kept at the back of a closet, where I stored all my ugly, rejected jewelry.

Then, one day this summer, while browsing at a jewelry store while I had my watch repaired, I found this guy:


My Glasses


There are so many things I would really like to blog about: I want to respond to Major Steel's entry about the music he loved in college and discuss this review I read on Salon of this book I really want to read, This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin. I have written nothing about Sunstone except an intro to the synposis I plan eventually to write. I reallly do intend to blog about knitting some day, though knitting is for me like being in love in that I find it so rewarding that I'd rather do it than write about it. Anyway, those are among the many topics I hope to find time to write about soon, but in the meantime you're getting a picture of my new glasses (which I am wearing this very moment, having picked them up yesterday--they are less cat-eye-ish than I remembered but at least the rhinestones are really truly there) perched on the book I'm currently reading in front of the basket where I store my knitting, which is currently a sweater I'm almost finished knitting.


Itty Bitty Scraps of Fabric


My last two weekends have sucked, especially both Sundays. Some miasmatic malaise has come upon me while I slept Saturday night, bringing with it troubled and unsettling dreams, so that I awoke in a truly vile mood.

Today I dealt with it by being dutiful; I went into my "screw it; I might as well do stuff I don't want to do if I'm already cranky" mode and attended to some chores I've long been neglecting. But last Sunday I took a completely different approach to my bad mood.

Around noon I was sort of reading The Great Transformation, Karen Armstrong's new book, out on my back porch, and sort of thinking about how much I'd like to piece a quilt top but really shouldn't because it's so labor intensive and I just shouldn't take that much time off from uh, WRITING (like I ever really write anything significant) until I get tenure. I'd wander down to my basement as I do from time to time, and, just as a diversion, look through the half a dozen bins and footlookers I have stuffed with unused fabric. I also delved into the big crate where I keep the scraps I will one day piece into quilt tops. And I thought again about how I really shouldn't start such a major project when I have all this writing to do. And I went back out on the porch with my book.

And then I shut the book and went back to the basement and hauled my ironing board, my iron, my rotary cutter, my cutting board and armfuls of fabric up to my living room, and I got busy cutting and piecing, because why the hell not be creative when it's what you really want to do.

Holy Underwear


The Happy Feminist posted an entry about words and phrases she doesn't like, one of which is panties. I also hate that word, but I quit using it when I quit wearing conventional underwear and started wearing the temple garment, or Mormon sacred underwear.

This is a strange thing a lot of non-Mormons don't know anything about, and I've been accused of making this up. I swear to God, I am not. Anyway, below is the explanation of garments I provide in my book, which is forthcoming god-only-knows when. (Supposedly my agent has it at a couple of presses now.)


Because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, I had to begin wearing special long white underwear known as the temple garment before I could go on a mission. The temple garment symbolizes the status of Adam and Eve before God after they ate of the Fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Upon discovering their nakedness, Adam and Eve cover themselves with fig leaves, then hide from God when he visits the garden. When they finally come forward and confess, God first curses Adam and Eve, then replaces their flimsy fig leaf aprons with coats made from animal skins--which, as someone pointed out to me once, means that God had already introduced death into the garden, since he had the hides of dead animals to give Adam and Eve. It's those skins that the temple garment represent: a shield against primordial nakedness, a reminder of what can happen when you deceive or disobey God.

Women Lousy at Designing Clothes for Women?



I've been taking a break from dealing with certain issues because well, because I need a break. I've been trying to work on a couple of posts, one on the whole nasty debate about a "man's right to choose" sparked by Dalton Conley's December 1st NY Times editorial on the topic, and another on the sexsomnia defense a guy in Canada used to beat a rape charge, but I don't get very far before I get too upset to continue.

Here's something I would dismiss as silly if it weren't for the fact that I really dig textiles and clothing. But the clothes I own are typically things I made myself or bought on sale, and I am of the opinion that haute couture is overpriced, wasteful and misogynist. This article made me think about WHY high fashion might be something the average woman doesn't want, need or have the money for. It's from the NY Times, about why women don't succeed as fashion designers. Among the arguments for why men, either straight or gay, are better than women at designing clothes for women, are these:

In some quarters, the perception exists that fashion's main consumers, women, are more comfortable taking advice about how they should look from a man. "Men are often better designers for women than other women," said Tom Ford, the former creative director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent, who more than anyone in the past decade built a brand on his own persona, that of a man whose sensual appeal is to both men and women. Whereas Bill Blass, Valentino and Oscar de la Renta founded their empires on the strength of a nonthreatening, nonsexual charisma, Mr. Ford aggressively promoted his sexually charged designs. "Of course there are many more gay male designers," Mr. Ford said. "I think we are more objective. We don't come with the baggage of hating certain parts of our bodies."

Some designers embrace an extreme version of this position. Michael Vollbracht, the current designer of Bill Blass, said he believes that gay men are demonstrably superior at design, their aesthetic formed by a perception of a woman as an idealized fantasy. "I come from a time when gay men dressed women," Mr. Vollbracht said. "We didn't bed them. Or at least I didn't. I am someone who is really pro-homosexual. I am an elitist. I am better than straight people. Women are confused about who they want to be. I believe that male designers have the fantasy level that women do not."

When women design for other women, Mr. Ford said, they proceed from a standpoint of practicality - not fantasy. "Sometimes women are trapped by their own views of themselves, but some have built careers around that," he said. "Donna Karan was obsessed with her hips and used her own idiosyncrasies to define her brand."

The Times' article purports to be an expose on the topic, but it doesn't include many women's voices on the matter. It does, however, let a designer named Dana Buchman respond to these arguments. Ms. Buchman "sees little value in such arguments. If men are more objective, she countered, then women are empathetic, which can be useful in understanding the consumer. 'I wear my own clothes,' she said. 'I have lived the life of my customer.'" Yeah, but that's precisely the problem, as Tom Ford kindly points out: she's too caught up in the practical issues of how clothes fit the real bodies and real lives of real women! And since she never wants to f*ck herself the way a straight man would and never sees clearly the aesthetic ideal women should strive to embody the way a certain type of elitist gay man would, she will never know as well as either class of man how to dress herself, or other women.

Taunt the Gremlins and They'll Taunt You Back Part I

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I finished a long day of teaching Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. I was tired and hungry but I still had work to do: I had to prepare to meet a colleague at 6:30 to discuss a panel on work and sex in Buffy the Vampire Slayer we're putting together for a Halloween horror conference. I sighed hard, sat down, and rolled my chair forward to my computer, rolling over and catching the hem of my skirt in the process. I disentangled myself, stood up to smooth my skirt, and noticed that my fingers came away from the back of it damp and tinged with red.

"Shit," I said aloud, though what was on my fingers wasn't shit; it was something else. I dragged my skirt forward and craned my neck back to inspect the damage and sure enough, smack-dab center on the back of my skirt, was a great big soggy blood stain.

I sat down for a moment, my face red as the back of my skirt, while I thought about the fact that the class I'd just finished contained a dozen freshmen boys and one freshman girl; if there was a group to whom I didn't care to announce my fertility, it was that one. "Let it go, Holly," I said, reminding myself that I'd been seated for most of the class, reading them instructions for a writing exercise, and that they never seemed to pay that much attention to me anyway.


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