Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tim Gunn Is Wrong

Tim Gunn--style guru and the "good cop" on Project Runway--has made a serious error. I'm sorry, but it is true. Tim, if you ever read this, I apologize. You are a gentleman and a scholar and an all around good chap, but stay away from the absolutes. Especially about women.

Mr. Gunn appeared on the Oprah show with his list of six things women over 40 should never wear. While I don't have his style cred, I do have some strong opinions, and here they go:

According to Tim, women in their 40s should always try to avoid the following:

1. Horizontal stripes.
Is this an age thing? Or a weight thing? I mean, horizontal stripes are obviously tricky, as they tend to make one look wider than one is. But why are horizontal stripes a problem for women over 40? What about men over 40? Men and women under 40 but more than 40 pounds overweight? Marcel Marceau wore horizontal stripes well into his 80s--and what about French sailors?

2. Jackets that hit at mid-thigh.
Clearly, Tim Gunn has never had to get into a car that was sitting outside overnight in -20 degree temperatures. 'Nuff said.

3. Pleated pants.
Does anyone look good in pleated pants? Discuss.

4. Double-breasted blazers.
Why? I don't see this one at all. What about pea coats? Trench coats? Why is the moratorium on double-breasted limited to blazers? Again, is this an age thing, or a breast thing? Women with large breasts really don't look well in double breasted blazers because the line is all wonky. I don't see what age has to do with it. Especially not in the presence of competent foundation garments.

5. Capri-length pants.
This is debatable. I can see the point, in that there is something about that length that tends to exaggerate the derriere, a feature that is often not the best feature once one has passed 40. But what is the alternative? Shorts? Knees can be problematic as well, and there are plenty of women of any age who prefer not to expose their thighs. Are Bermuda shorts any better? What is a woman to do?

6. Low-rise jeans.
This one I can see--but I think there are plenty of other people who should not wear low rise jeans either. We don't want to see thongs when you bend over, nor do we want the "refrigerator repair man" look either. Call it "back cleavage" all you want, but in the final analysis, it's a butt crack and no one should have to see anybody else's in public. Low rise jeans are fine for models and in movies and television, where things can be edited out. Otherwise, low rise jeans are only appropriate when you are NEVER going to sit down.

See, I do believe there are things that are just not appropriate over a certain age, and 40 is as good a starting point as any other. Long hair, for example. Women over 40 with long hair should wear it up, or something. Hanging down long hair just looks ridiculous to me, like somebody hasn't noticed she is not still 19.

Lower back tattoos for another. Frankly, I think these "tramp stamps" are wildly overdone generally, but ladies--don't go get one after about age 30, and if you already have one, think about having it removed. AND don't wear low rise jeans.

Tankinis. I don't think I even need to explain that one.

I'm sure there are more, but I'll leave it at that for now. Anybody else have suggestions?

Books and More Books

Thanks to the lovely women over at Fertile Plots, I had the opportunity to read this article by Scott McLemee: Bookshelf and Self.

It is definitely worth reading, if only to consider your own rules regarding the bookshelves. The article starts as follows:

“It is unacceptable to display any book in a public space of your home if you have not read it.” So runs the “prime directive” for bookshelf etiquette, as issued by a blogger for Time magazine named Matt Seligman.

A counter proposal is issued by Ezra Klein in The American Prospect (also cited in the article):

“Bookshelves are not for displaying books you’ve read,” says Klein; “those books go in your office, or near your bed, or on your Facebook profile. Rather, the books on your shelves are there to convey the type of person you would like to be. I am the type of person who would read long biographies of Lyndon Johnson, despite not being the type of person who has read any long biographies of Lyndon Johnson. I am the type of person who is very interested in a history of the Reformation, but am not, as it happens, the type of person with the time to read 900 pages on the subject. More importantly, I am the type of person who amasses many books, on all sorts of subjects. I’m pretty sure that’s what a bookshelf is there to prove. The reading of those books is entirely incidental.

McLemee does not endorse either of these views--as he astutely points out, both Seligman and Klein assume that there will be somebody else who comes and looks at the books on the shelves, which is just not the case for McLemee. The "prime directive" for books at his house is that there shall be no books on the floor.

Which makes me wonder about my view on bookshelves and books. Many people look at books as room decor: a nice set of leather bound anything, preferably with gilt titles stamped into the spine goes so well with the sofa and curtains. I am not one of those people. My books are generally and aesthetic disgrace.

This is because, where possible, I buy paperbacks rather than hardcovers, and I rarely buy books for their aesthetic value. I like paperbacks because they are less expensive--not only am I not paying for the hard covers, but then I can buy more books for the same price. Paperbacks are not nearly as heavy, and so I can keep one in my purse for any dull moment that I can use for reading. Paperbacks are also forgiving--I feel so bad when I get marinara sauce or catsup on a hardcover, but I'm not upset by dirtying a paperback. I'll even break the spines of paperbacks by folding them back onto themselves to make them easier to read. I read while I cook; I read while I eat--I don't actually read while I'm driving, but I might sneak in a couple of paragraphs while at a stop light.

My bookshelves? Most of them are full of books I have read, since I read so much and there are very few books that have come into my house without my having read them. There are some exceptions, of course: I have bought a few books that I don't seem to be able to get to reading--but I would estimate it as less than 5% of the total number of books I own.

Books make great souvenirs and many of our books are about places we have been. Our trip to London back in 2005 ended with us buying books about most of the places we visited--the pictures are better than any I would be able to take, and we get more history and interesting information from them than from the tours.

We installed a number of bookshelves upstairs in our house, in the hall which runs from the front of the house to the back. It is the single longest wall in our house, and we filled it with shelves to accommodate my books. And it is crammed full. A solid quarter of these shelves are filled with my daughters' books, and they are doubled up, with books balanced sideways on top of the standing books--anything to get more books in. Another quarter of the shelves holds our non-fiction collection. Which is smaller than even the kids' books section. Some of these are coffee table book sized, which means they are beautiful, but hard to store.

Back when I had time and a better book-to-linear-shelf-foot ratio, I used to organize my books by height and then alphabetically by author. Even when the girls were little, I had some books arranged by genre and then by author. So one section was mysteries, one section was "serious" fiction, one was humor, one was non-fiction. That is completely wiped out now--pretty much my organization is based on the principle of "where can I put this book so it won't fall out and hurt me."

I have dreams, of course, that I am going to go through and cull these books. My kids are in middle school--do I really need to keep the Eric Carle books? What about those books that I haven't ever read--am I certain that I won't read them?

But then I realize that if I have that kind of time, I could use it better by reading.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Backlash Whiplash

So the inevitable rise and fall story is smacking Diablo Cody upside the head. When it first came out, everybody loved Juno. So funny, so unique, so quirky! And so everybody saw it. And they liked it. And it made money, and more money, and more money.

Then, came the backlash. You've probably heard some of it: not very realistic; sixteen year olds don't talk like that; it's only because she used to be a stripper that anybody even bothers with her.

Well, I liked Juno, and I like Diablo's story, and it's not just because she is from Minnesota. More power to her--it's not easy to come from the Midwest and get a screenplay made, after all.

So, in order to foster a backlash against the backlash, I am starting my own little campaign. As of today, we are all going to try to talk like the characters in Juno. Honest to blog!

Got any problems with that, homeskillet?

Hell NO! I'm Not Old--Just Too Sexy For My Hips

So, here's sad news for the music world. Prince--the baddest boy to EVAH come out of Minnesota--is facing hip replacement surgery.

Now, correct me if I am wrong, but isn't hip replacement surgery the kind of thing you associate with your grandparents? "Yeah, Grandpa is getting his hip replaced." The New Yorker has a profile of Louis Auchincloss, who is about 206 (okay, I exaggerate--he's really only 90) and is just now getting out after hip replacement kept him housebound.

But Prince? Prince? Needs hip replacement?

The official story is that Prince has blown out his hip with all his sexy stage moves--his shows are always so energetic that it has taken it's toll on his joints.

So what does that mean to you and me? Mostly me? Are we getting that old? Hells to the no, I'm not accepting that conclusion. So, how about--this is one more reason not to go work out? Just sit in that comfy armchair, because vigorous activity will damage you?

Maybe you aren't old enough to remember Jim Fixx--a total advocate for running. He wrote a book called The Complete Runner--and he died of a heart attack while running. So much for cardio-vascular health, huh? I mean, he might not have shortened his life by running, but he sure didn't lengthen it either.

And now Prince with a titanium hip.

Getting old is NOT for sissies.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I'll Be Seeing You!

Wow--long time without posting. . .I didn't realize. I have been posting over at the Evil Book Blog, so I haven't been entirely silent.

I got my eyes checked last week. I thought I was having some trouble seeing, but it's only been about six months since my last check. Should I go again so soon? What would the insurance company think?

And then I realized that these were MY EYES I was talking about, and who cares what the insurance company says--I can't see, so I'd better go get them checked.

Turns out I was right--BIG change in one eye, both needed stronger lenses. I really hadn't been able to see!

Would I be a good candidate for Lasik? Not so much, it turns out, with that much change in my prescription. Am I doomed to juggling five pairs of glasses the rest of my life? Regular (bifocal) glasses, prescirption sunglasses, regular sunglasses, reading glasses and contacts?

Why no! The doctor told me jovially, Which wasn't a mode that suited him, as he was younger than I am, so "avuncular" is not really working for him. Anyway--he had a possible solution! It's called "monocular vision:" I wear the proper contact in my right eye, so I can see distances, and then I undercorrect the vision in my left eye, so I can still read!

So, that was last Wednesday, and I've been trying this monocular vision thing. Some people can't do it--it requires training your brain to only read the input from one eye at a time, and it makes some people seasick to even try it.

I can do it, it turns out--but I'm not sure that I really like it.

It's fine for days where I putter around the house--doing laundry, working on the computer, running errands. Thing that are generally happening in the middle distance. Yes, it's nice to be able to be able to read the directions on a package without having to stop and find my glasses, and I don't have to wear two pair of glasses on my head all the time I'm out (readers and sunglasses) or else find myself inside a store still wearing my prescription sunglasses, so I still can' t see.

But I have already noticed that there are times that it just doesn't work for me: Some things at a distance (like road signs) don't become clear as quickly as I'd like, and I don't get the advantage of both eyes to focus. Similarly, when I'm working with close and small items--reading, or making jewelry or something like that, I can only see with the one eye, and so everything is a little bit blurry because my right eye can't stop trying to focus.

Yesterday, I kind of got the hang of the mental part, and I realized how flat things looked. There is a richness to the world that disappears when viewed with only one eye.

Besides, if I do this monocular thing, I can add even more glasses to my collection: readers that correct only my right eye, with plain glass on the left, and driving glasses that would correct the left eye and be plain glass on the right. Plus, then I could have sunglasses made the same way, which would leave me with what. . .


We need to rethink this plan.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Step Away From the Internet Explorer and Nobody Gets Hurt

So, I my last post--about the dishwasher--had a small problem. Yeah, I was trying to be cute, doing a pseudo-HTML thing to emphasize the James Earl Jones/Star Wars thing. Totally forgetting--of course!--that Blogger IS an HTML based site, and so I just messed up the whole post. Royally.

I spent about another 10-15 minutes getting everything right--finding a new photo online to illustrate it, re-writing the entry, blah blah blah. Hit the "Publish Post" button and then viewed the dang thing in a different window. Hey voila! There it was!


The awesome JoMama sent me a link--all my edits didn't post in Internet Explorer. Weird. I do all my internet mashing on Firefox these days, and there was absolutely no problem with it. I went into Blogger from IE, and re-edited the whole post, and checked it--the post is there, but the whole page is messed up.

If you are reading this from an IE browser, you may have the singularly unpleasant experience of reading a post, with all the sidebar information now inconveniently posted BELOW the actual blog entry. Everything is still perfectly fine in Firefox.

Do you suppose that Microsoft might have "updated" Internet Explorer, and now it's no longer compatible with Blogger? Would they do such a thing? Really? You think so?

Well, all I can offer is that if this page is messed up for you--come join us over on Firefox.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Domestic Reportage

So, my new dishwasher is installed. You know, I chose it for the heavy insulation (quiet while it is running) and the nifty interior flexibility. But, all the controls and lights and buttons and screens and stuff on located on the top of the door. Once the door is closed, you can't see any of that, which leaves the dishwasher looking a little bit. . . .

. . . .stark. Oddly, it reminds me of the Imperial Storm Troopers from Star Wars.

Anyway, I have now run my very first load of dishes in it!

James Earl Jones voice: Behold the power of this fully operational Death Dishwasher!

Well, the quiet thing was really true. I loaded it, started the cycle, and left for a short errand. When I came back, I literally couldn't tell if it was still running or not. Not only was it VERY VERY QUIET, but with no buttons or lights or control screens on the front, nothing indicates if the cycle is still running.

Fortunately, those German engineers think of just about everything. There is a red light that shines down from the lower right side of the dishwasher, leaving a red laser light circle on the floor to let you know that the machine is, in fact, running.

It was so quiet that I caught the dog staring quizzically at the red dot, and turning his head from one side to the other as the tiny sounds of the machine issued forth.

Of course, it got the dishes mad clean--I haven't seen glassware sparkle quite like that outside of television ads.

This one may be a keeper.