Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cold Readings

It's been freezing here in New York City, which makes reading a book while waiting for the train a lot more difficult, but definitely worthwhile. You may lose sensation in your hands, but at least you will have escaped into another world.

This last week I finished two little books, The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke and The Tsar's Dwarf by Peter Fogtal.

I found the Ladies when I was working the corner of Prince and Mulberry for the Young Designer's Market this last weekend. It was hidden away in the SALE section of the amazing McNally Jackson Bookstore, and of course I was attracted to its very old school spine, all charcoal gray canvas binding, black embossed letters, and pale pink neaveau flowers. It's rare to find a book that is made with such quality nowadays. After perusing the pages I quickly realized it was authored by the same person who scribed Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a huge book that was noted by the NYT as being the 'adult Harry Potter' and stayed on several bestseller lists for several weeks--one that I loved and gifted to my younger brother Anthony for Christmas this year.

It is a collection of short stories and fairy tales that casts Mary Queen of Scots alongside an eighteenth century Jewish doctor, a handsome clergyman, and Jonathan Strange. My favorite from the stories was Mr.Simonelli and the Fairy Widower-- a haunting tale about a clergyman who winds up in a little town on the moors solving all sorts of mysteries. Ms. Clarke expertly weaves humor, magic, and romance into these little gems.

Each of the stories is separated by gorgeous black and white illustrations by Charles Vess--whose work in this book is reminiscent of Arthur Rackham, a timeless fairy tale illustrator from the turn of the century. The above pictures are some of his other various projects--he is mostly known for his work with Neil Gaiman- The Sandman anyone? Check out his (ironically poorly designed) website here.

The Tsar's Dwarf was originally written in Danish by Peter Fogtal and translated into English by Tiina Nunnally. Again I was shamelessly drawn to this novel by it's chic cover art and well merchandised location in the New Fiction Section at the St.Mark's Bookstore. And after reading the summary- it became an immediate must have.

The intriguing storyline is set in late seventeenth century Denmark and Russia, and follows Surine, later Surinka, a cynical dwarf born to a priest. She is haunted by her past, a child, and a world that is unable to see past her stature. By her wit and wisdom she earns a place in the King of Denmark's court, and is later given to the Tsar of Russia as a present when the two countries join in an allyance against Sweden. It is a short novel; but it is Surinka's voice which transcends the translation and enraptures you. She is scathing, bitter, and soulful. She hates the world and aches with love for it at the same time. An amazing new piece of work. And it actually gave me some insight into why my Swedish friends make fun of Danish people all the time.

Go judge a book by its cover-- you just might find something you like.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Turn off the TV

My roommate and I have decided that we are going to watch less television when we are together. There will still be plenty of America's Next Top Model in the future, but until the new season starts, our remote control will remain in the off position.

So we decided to go back to our Utah roots and instill a spontaneous game night. Since TWISTER was out of the question (I was very hung over and Erin was enduring the middle of her Master Cleanse.) our next best option was Rainbow Jumbling Towers. A blatantly homosexual rip-off of Jenga, Rainbow Jumbling Towers can provide almost an hour of fun building and de-constructing of a small tower comprised of colorful wooden blocks.

Erin contemplates red.

The catch is, there is a dice that determines which block should be removed and jumbled. Which can be very difficult if one consistently rolls the same color again and again.

Which I found out the hard way, when I dealt the fatal blow that brought down our tower, causing us to shriek louder than when we're confronted by any one of Tyra's grimaces via ANTM.

Sad Men

Okay. I get it. No one can find a job. The stock markets are the new black markets. The dollar is the new dime. We're in a recession depression. And now we're supposed to start dressing like it?

The latest in menswear from Milan has been BLEAK BLEAK BLEAK. Almost every single collection marched down the runway has been filled with sad stockbrokers, angry gangsters, hustlers living off their unemployment checks, and the occasional junkie.

My clicking at men.style.com rapidly grew frantic when I happened upon a desperately boring Costume National collection. Usually Capasa can pull something complex and gorgeous out of a somber black palette. There were a few interesting baggy pants, but the whole thing made me feel very...sad.

Things didn't get any better at Burberry either. Christopher Bailey usually says something new and exciting in his interpretation of the trench, but this season, it was...safe. The styling was spot on, and I must admit the enlarged classic Burberry print had a touch of something refreshing- but it was like eating a HALLS of medicine when it's cold outside. Your breath might not stink, but it's still cold outside and your nose is still running. Mr. Bailey frankly looked like he stopped having fun. I understand his higher ups were probably putting the pressure on him to make the clothes look saleable, as every design house seemed to be recessing back to their signature looks in the hopes of making some money this year.

But does that mean we all have to look like we just got out of prison? According to Alexander McQueen, the answer would probably be yes. This particular look seems more akin to just escaping a mid nineteenth century medical college to cut up young prostitutes. The McQueen Man has always had something of the acutely disturbed element about him, but this season, I have a feeling some of those front row editors were fearing for their lives.

I really really wanted to love the Gucci collection. Frida impressed me last fall with her fur loving rocker chic. But this season, I fell into a deeper depression when I saw her horrors skulk down the runway. The beginning of the show was all black and boring, and then when it exploded into a melange of shiny pants and scarves, I started to feel very nauseous. Now, everyone who knows me knows I love a good skinny pant with metallic accents. A jacket unbuttoned down to there to show off my tattooes. BUT THIS WAS BAD. DID SHE EVEN HAVE FITTINGS WITH THESE MODELS? She actually disproved the statement 'skinny people look good in everything' with her pants that hit all the wrong places, and the jackets that looked built for a junior high school Rockettes performance. Where has all the good Gucci gone?

The only collection that made me somberly smile was that from Missoni. The patchwork sweaters in red and blue made me want to save my money(money? what money?). The styling was perfect. The boys were cute. At least someone thinks that if you're going to be depressed, you might as well look good.

Friday, January 09, 2009

In the Midst of Avalon

Just finished reading Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon and I'm sad that the adventure is over. It's been over a week and I still find my thoughts wandering back to the multi-dimensional characters, intriguing places, and beautiful story.

It's an engaging retelling of the Arthurian Legends from the point of view of the female characters, and deals heavily with the western transition of Goddess worship to Christianity during the Dark Ages. The book found itself on The New York Times Bestseller list for months and months and has been hailed as one of the top 25 pieces of fiction of all time. It was originally published in 1984.

From Wikipedia,

The Mists of Avalon is lauded as one of the most original and emotional retellings of the familiar Arthurian legend. Bradley received much praise for convincing portrayal of the main protagonists, her respectful handling of the Pagan ways of Avalon and for telling a story in which there is neither black and white or good and evil, but several truths. Isaac Asimov called it "the best retelling of the Arthurian Saga I have ever read", and Jean Auel noted "I loved this book so much I went out and bought it for a friend, and have told many people about it."[2] The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction calls the book "a convincing revision of the Arthurian cycle," and said that the victory of Christianity over the "sane but dying paganism" of Avalon "ensures eons of repression for women and the vital principles they espouse." It won the 1984 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and spent four months on the New York Times best seller list in hardcover. The trade paperback edition of Mists of Avalon has ranked among the top five trade paperbacks on the monthly Locus bestseller lists for almost four years.[3]

The book has been criticised in some Christian circles for being nothing more than thinly-veiled feminist propaganda, as the stereotypically strong female lead of Morgaine is placed next to weak women like Gwenhwyfar and tortured male leads in the characters of a hapless, confused King Arthur and a Lancelet living in denial of his bisexual attraction to Arthur. Additionally, Christian fantasy fans have blasted the book for having anti-Christian sentiments, for portraying Christianity as oppressive and misogynistic, and also for including sexual themes like incest, rape and ménage à trois.[4]

In Germany, Mists of Avalon has been included in the "Bild Bestseller Bibliothek" of the Bild, Germany's highest-selling newspaper; it is a list of what Bild calls the 25 finest pieces of popular fiction of all time, alongside other classics like Shining or The Silence of the Lambs.[5]

While I was finishing the book over the holidays in Ye Olde Utah, I realized my parents had a copy of the DVD of Excalibur a film made in 1981. So naturally, I took it with me back to New York. The only good thing about this disgusting flick was the opening credits when the title is illuminated in gleaming steel letters. Other than that, the thing is a terrific piece of trash. Maybe it's because I was feeling all feminist and holy while reading the book; But this film is disturbingly chauvinistic and aggressive. It does have some noteworthy appearances by young versions of Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson, and Patrick Stewart (all of whom were HAWWWT!) and a particularly sexed up Helen Mirren, who is the spitting image of Cate Blanchett with a touch more severity.

There was a TV miniseries for Mists, but I haven't been able to find time to look for it, let alone watch it. I am already puzzled by the casting of Juliana Margoleis as Morgaine, the heroine of the layered plot. Oh well. If anyone has seen it, and read the book, please feel free to comment below.

La Vida Lohan

My first Lindsay post in a while. She's been getting a lot of flack from the press for doing...nothing. Pick up the January issue of INTERVIEW. Lauren Hutton does the questioning, and her intro is amazing.

I have no justification for my mild obsession with her. I just want someone to give her a chance in a fabulous period romance where she gets to go ballistic in some petticoats. If you check out the interview, she obviously has some envy issues with Scarlett Johannsen, and if anyone can recall the bathroom stall scrawling incident, you'll know this is something that's bothered her for some time. It's easy to see why, Scarlett is the definition of underwhelming. She's just so blah. I would have traded her for Lindsay in half a second in any one of her roles. She was alright in The Boleyn girl, but I think La Lohan would have done a MUCH better job as Natalie's sister.

And do I even have to mention how adorable her and Sam Ronson are?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Photo Diary: Holidays 2008

The holidays came and went in what seemed like a brief hallucination filled with mountains, snow, food, and one particularly rough evening with red wine. I managed to escape from my fur slave labor in Astoria into the suburbs of West Jordan Utah, to spend Christmas with the family.

Our Christmas Tree in Brooklyn.

Utah Style.

New Kitchen, New Dog. Noonoo is his name.

Winter Wonderland, 9" of snow on Christmas day.

Le Nouveau Warehouse

Adam with Long Hair, mon petit frere.

Smoggy SLC from the Airport

Yes, all of that is her hair.

Anne Frank, waiting for the kill, back in Brooklyn.