Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Pix from NY Comic-Con: Group 2

Click on picture to enlarge.

Row 1.
1) This is one of the not-for sale figures from the MOCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art)restrospective of Spawn's famous artist-creator, Todd McFarlane. MOCCA displayed some pieces from the show at NY Comic-Con. Spawn.com actually has a cool mini-exhibit of the retrospective with audio tracks by McFarlane.
2) This was another display of manga princesses. Notice the gravity-defying bust on the right.

Row 2.
1 ) Autographs are big business. Whether artists, porn stars, or Peter Scolari, all kinds of people were there selling photos and their signatures. There was a long line for this bald giant, a former 3rd-grade teacher who's wrestled as Diesel 2, Kane, Unibomb, and Dr. Isaac Yankem, though he's probably better known to his accountant as Glen. He was there in support of his soon-to-be-released horror flick whose working title Eye Scream Man I prefer to See No Evil which is how you'll find it at your local multiplex in May.
2) As I noted in my Group 1 post, the hyper-congested comic images (and walkways) made it tough for individual visual statements to jump out at me as special. Therefore, it was not just about my fanatical affection for almost anything toasted, but I was attracted to the visual simplicity of Mr. Toast in Outer Space. And then, while getting the blog links for my FantasyBookspot article about getting published that the bringer-of-dragons-to-the-Napoleonic-era Naomi Novik paneled, I got a kick from discovering that she picked up a Mr. Toast herself. Dan Goodsell, the creator of The Imaginary World which includes Mr. Toast also has a blog where he talks about the show.

Row 3
1) Perhaps because it was hanging from the ceiling unobstructed and large enough that I could really see the details, these were my favorite character images as art. I looked around, but I'm still not sure where they're from or who made them. As I said, I'm an ignoramus. Please feel invited to enlighten me.

Pix from NY Comic-Con: Group 1

All of these will be enlarged by clicking. Pix first, descriptions row-by-row further down, because I haven't spent much time figuring out how (or whether) I can more selectively place images with text.

Sorry about missing yesterday's post here. I was finishing my write-up of the session called HOW TO WRITE SCIFI/FANTASY/NOIR AND GET PUBLISHED. It's now posted with other convention stuff on the front page at Fantasy BookSpot. Go read it. Or don't. But please.

I didn't take a ton of pictures, because the crowds precluded being able to back up for framing or even getting a clear sightline. People instinctively backed away from costumed characters to allow easier photos (or perhaps from discomfort even fear) so that's what I got. It's my excuse and I'm sticking with it. Still, I hope these give some flavor of the event. Apologies out of the way, here we go.

Row 1.
1) The shivering line around the Javitz from the crowds I described here.
2) In the registration foyer, a towering Lego Batman astride a Lego gargoyle. Another cool LegoBot was inside the exhibition hall. There were banners, figurines, and racks of comics sticking up everywhere as well as roaming paid and voluntary costumed characters creating cartoon-colored visual overload.
3) Most of the comic vendors, and they were legion, had some variety of this display. Piles upon piles of cardboard boxes filled with plastic-sleeved comics sorted by type and title. Many also had arrangements of action figures, trading cards, or other collectibles. Must be a huge pain to inventroy, set up, and take down. Even if you knew what you wanted, it could take hours to check every haystack. Only a hardened comic browser could brave all the stalls and bargain tables and booths.

1) I actually recognized the UglyDolls, though not by name. This one is Wage who works in his apron at the local Super Mart and smiles on the inside. Most comics are meant to be pored over, up close, like old LP album art. So, from a distance, a lot of the jam-packed visuals don't read. Given my general ignorance, much of the content started to blur and I found myself drawn to simpler, less compressed forms like this.
2 & 3) Though I am a comic ignoramus, even I've seen Sailor Moon. This Sailor Venus cosplayer- the more formal title for dresser-uppers- is recreating Mina, the Sailor of Love from the wildly popular manga turned television series.

Row 3.
1) Given the violence, sex, and antisocial psychosis entertainingly on display in much of modern comicry, you may be surprised by my report of the relative warmth and lack of butt-kicking directed at the resident Smurf. People have embraced a meta-ironic approach to the Belgian Blues.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

NY Comic-Con: Mom, Can You Come Get Me?

Image of Imperial Stormtrooper dialing his ride courtesy of my own camera for once.

I've got more pictures offloaded but not webbable yet. So I'll have more tomorrow. For now, I can say it was a scene. A Mob Scene. If I can believe the many strangers upon whom I eavesdropped, the registrations were oversold and they had to stop selling new admissions by afternoon. When I arrived, fifteen minutes before the event's opening at 11am, there were long lines of others who'd been waiting to buy tickets for hours. Glad I didn't bother since the line didn't start moving until 11 anyway, but since the Bookspot guys I was meeting had Press Passes that let them breeze in, for Jabba's sake, I was still able to nurse my own bitter disadvantages.

If that weren't enough, now I have to write up the first session we attended as an article for Bookspot's Comic-Con coverage. Serves me right for visibly taking notes. Disrespect and Hard Labor, that's what I get. Kidding. It was a terrific session with authors and editors from Del Rey and Tor talking about how to get published in scifi and fantasy (and noir), and much of the guidance I've heard before for Mystery is echoed here. I'm now officially going to extrapolate and guess it's true for most genre and commercial fiction, except strict romance which I know is its own unique beast. If that's up your mental cul-de-sac, it'll likely be posted tomorrow and I'll link here.

Actually, the scene in the ticket line was an interesting one, too. I ended up waiting 40-ish minutes to buy my wristband with people in costume ahead of me and hypothetical chatterers behind. By hypothetical chatterers I mean the kind of people who keep themselves interested for many, many ticks by debating what kind of music Batman would have on his iPod and whether or not grooving in the musical coccoon would enhance his combat skills.

Concurrently at the Javitz Center is also the New York Times Travel Show. I don't care what their website promises, there was not nearly the rush at the windows for this show as ours. Since the different registration areas exist side-by-side in a grand foyer, the snaking, ever-extending line of the comics crowd was somewhat impeding flow toward the almost-empty travel show registration kiosks.

Result: Bellowing security guards threw all the comics people outside to wait in the cold in a line that wrapped the edges of the building. They must have run out of instant cordons and been incapable of organizing a new line configuration without an existing pattern like the sidewalk to follow. Sure, some comics folks had long since checked their coats, and were wearing skimpy Manga style costumes. Let them face the wind chill, they're degenerates! It was crucial that the travel crowd (well, what would have been the travel crowd had anyone shown up) have primary access to the heated interior spaces. The people that might-have-been versus those present. You may bet it also had to do with the relative age and stuffiness of the travel crowd versus the feeling that the oodles of teens and college-age kids could be more easily inconvenienced and pushed around. But as a crusty old buzzard myself, I was planning a travel-agent style hissy throw-down about it, but it started moving before my head of steam built to Krakatoan levels.

Surely, the numbers must've been a big surprise to the organizers and Javitz staff, but they didn't have to seem so raggedly panicked and pre-emptively a-hole about it when calm would've done the job. The actual law enforcers on hand, with real Smokey-the-Bear hats, were smiling and relaxed. The Rent-A-Cops appeared drunk and belligerent with the momentary thrill of something beyond tedium. The whole day we were ALL in the excuse-me spot, but I found the diverse crowd to be doggedly friendly and ready for fun. I was disappointed by security staff persistently yelling and bossing and threatening at the bottlenecked spots as if the attendees were convicts-to-be, not people paying good money to attend and who were, despite their non-conforming souls, basically following the rules and being cooled out.

Proving my endless point about genre crossover, (until all naysayers cave, I'll keep asserting it), I was pleasantly surprised to find other die-hard Mystery cronies at the Comic-Con session on publishing that I'll have written up by tomorrow. Seated a row in front of me was Joe Gulielmelli, co-owner with Bonnie Claeson of the fantastic Black Orchid Bookshop near my apartment, who will be awarded this year's Raven Award by Mystery Writers of America for outstanding achievement outside creative writing in honor of years enthusiastically supporting Mystery and its authors. Also on hand was Charles Ardai, publisher and author for Hard Case Crime which specializes in forgotten, hard-boiled reprints and originals in small paperbacks with wonderful new covers painted by classic pulp artists. (At $6.99 for consistently great work- including Stephen King's Colorado Kid written especially for the imprint- there's a lot to love for afficionados of lurid, portable, and cost-effective crime.)

It seemed they were there in support of Charlie Huston, a noir guy who also writes Marvel comics and a series about a vampire P.I. See what I'm saying about genre fluidity? I asked him which book he wanted me to review for BookSpot, and he said Caught Stealing. So I will, though it's not his newest. It's flying along so far, a very smooth read like slitting your wrists in a warm bath. Public Notice Served: I'm also going to try to get a profanity-filled interview from him for Mystery Bookspot later. I think it's a good plan to partially fill up the emptier mystery cupboard with authors who might also appeal to the fantasy, horror, or comic site visitors. Brad Meltzer, whose session I also attended, writes D.C. comics plus bestselling thrillers like the ones he based in the Supreme Court and White House. I'm not weird after all, merely a spectacularly unsuccessful example.

Could there possibly be more to say? Tune in tomorrow. Less of the booky-booky, more pics and mise en scene.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Waterboy Inspires Me To Diligence

Click to enlarge the weirdness.
Perhaps not your first thought, but this art piece is called Temple of Waterboy, a self contained liquid-suspension environment. See the rest of the crazy pics, and buy your own unit here.

If I want to become my own hero, I've got to spend some time this afternoon producing novelized squiggles. So, I briefly leave you with this slightly Waterboy-sounding, feel-good story.

In this real-life tale, an autistic and not-tall high-schooler had settled for serving diligently as team manager for the varsity basketball team rather than playing...until their last game of the season. Having a comfortable lead, the coach let him suit up and hit the court. In Jason McElwain's debut on the hardwood, he whiffed his first couple shots and then scored 20 points in the next 4 minutes, including six 3-pointers. Tremble, Kobe! You're en fuego, J-Mac! I hope the movie-of-the-week deal pays for your college.

Tomorrow, with some of the crew from BookSpot, I'll be attending the first annual New York Comic Convention. Since those guys have actual press passes, they've been contacted by such a motley crew of presenters and attendees offering interviews that I'm very encouraged the whole scene will be a mirthful panoply of cool art and freaks. I will report. I'll even bring a camera.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Who's Not Clever and Who's Skipping Gym

From Pam Spaulding's loving tribute to her days at Stuyvesant High. Scroll for great pics and to see her now-famous writing teacher.

UPDATE: If you like Havarti cheese or simply the right to speak your piece without fear, gather calmly and cheerfully with Hitchens outside the Danish Embassy in D.C. tomorrow.

1) She's a long post, but there's fluff at the bottom. I'll just leak out my objections to the blogging articles I linked yesterday, really primarily to the tone and content of the Financial Times article. Notably, however Glenn Reynolds has the jist of something when he quotes himself in TCS (how vain) as saying "Beware the people who are having fun competing with you!"

I don't think most people want to see newspapers or television news disappear. They want them to be better, and to check the kind of online resources that many of us amateurs routinely use to provide solid facts. If only two experts on a given subject answer their phones before a deadline, should other verifiable experts in the field want to broaden or balance the conversation with online follow-up, that seems of benefit to most of us who (like journalists) aren't necessarily subject matter experts ourselves. Last, if you don't consider the video and voices coming through blogs from the previously unreachable parts of the oppressed world are revolutionary, you misunderstand the word entirely.

However, if we're talking about blogging as a purely commercial activity, like the Financial Times does- perhaps forgivably- we conveniently but insensibly eliminate the vast percentage of people who create and surf them for fun, with no expectation of or even desire to quit the full-time gig. These people are joining larger online conversations or debates as they're inspired or have relevant contributions, but mostly they're hanging out with their favorite things. What they're doing with their leisure is connecting to other people of like minds and interests. "Creating insular zombie group think!" some accuse. Balder-goldarn-dash. No more than joining the Jaycees.

Most of the people buying movie tickets and renting DVDs aren't the rich big-wigs producing them. A lot of avid readers don't write books for sale. Not every organic gardener starts a co-op or commercial farmstand. But even those who do don't stop being consumers for what else is out there. In fact, small theater and home redecoration usually cost, rather than earn, money for participants. But since when did what we do for leisure and personal satisfaction become so easily dismissed as not-worthwhile or not a financial opportunity for someone? In the meat world, retailers and manufacturers and service providers rabidly chase such disposable time and income, so if this pool of idle pleasures hasn't been commercialized the way it one day may, I'm still not labelling my fun a sink hole of futility.

The Financial Times article further makes the argument that blogging can only confer perverse success. The people who've made money in blogging- primarily through book deals- have left their blogs to do it. What about Reynolds' Army of Davids which has been so robustly promoted and inventively linked to every Instapundit post in recent memory? (I'm not against the shilling, for the record- the activity or the coin.) The publishing date isn't here yet, but there are pre-orders that could be counted, I'm sure. Although Publisher's Marketplace doesn't list his advance size, there was one, I'm also sure. The fact that he's repped by an ICM agent leads me to believe at least they, not known for their charitable advocacy of small fry, thought there was serious money to be made. He's not declared that he's leaving his faculty post or his blog, in fact he's added podcasting, and that makes the FT argument "to make it in blogging seems to mean making it out of blogging" stupid. Sort of like "it's impossible to become a global beverage company", well except for Coke or Pepsi or Starbucks or Coors. I'd be interested in the chart of James Lileks' books sales over the time he's been bleating. I'm just asking.

What about when the FT states, "The inherent problem with blogging is that your brand resides in individuals." Oh, do they mean like with professional athletics, clothing design, celebrity chefs, media, art, and the ubiquitous Oprah? I can see where that might be inherently limiting to profit.

Even though Reynolds is cited as having one of the top blogs, his story of a person pursuing lots of parallel creative activities within a given realm of topics isn't told, and I believe it's far more representative of most people's online experience. Blogging isn't its own pure activity to be measured independently like how many people tried snowboarding last year. We're blogging ABOUT things, and those fascinations and experiences still "count" even when we're online. I'd like to know how many hobbyists, for example, also check or create online content. That would more compelling to me as an indicator than the fact that the Gawker crowd suffer from cutting edge ennui, and rue that despite all their efforts to create unity (?), humanity remains panoramically individual and diffuse.

The FT's three-card monte shows numbers proving that most blogs will never be read by anyone or group of significance to the Financial Times. The demographics of current webizens have been measured (as is possible) toward the higher ends of income and education, and the necessary equipment and literacy might have predicted that. But as stuff becomes ever easier and financially accessible, I'd extend the idea of blog demographics to something just as useful, the loudmouth factor.

I'm saying that the kind of crochet-fiend who braves Blogger or even learns html for the purpose of sharing her work and reaching out to other yarn-craft fanatics is exactly the kind of loudmouth Malcom Gladwell leveraged to market The Tipping Point: curious, willing to explore and learn, willing to invest effort and expense in new things that dovetail with current interests. In adult education, this is the profile of the lifelong learner, and the kind of person who tends to vigorously promote what she's enthusiastic about. In this context, it doesn't matter a bit if you're only reaching thirty crochet artists with your blog. If they're the ones who teach classes and go to conferences and disseminate to the world at large, the ripple your contribution makes could be big within a realm that matters deeply to you.

Again, seems like nothing to the Financial Times, but I've known many small businesspeople who would top their goals with just a few more sales a week or month. An extra hundred dollars or so a month from a new crochet hook innovation that you originally made for your own use won't blip the GDP, but to regular people, it can be a satisfying and enriching success story. For a large publication dealing with large summary statements of large numbers, it's easy to lose sight of the drip by drop intimacy of blog communications for most of us, but blogs and the internet offer a uniquely human-scaled experience that you can find simply by searching. You can deal with Amazon for its reassuring bigness or IM the author selling his own books online. You choose. It might sound funny when talking about often anonymized, faceless transactions online, but just compare the human contact of an energetic web conversation with a well-versed clothing enthusiast to dealing with the bored clerk at Eddie Bauer. Because people are choosing more intimate, individual exchanges doesn't make that trend an unimportant force, just way harder to measure.

So journos and quant jocks, earn your keep and figure it out. But please, FT, no more silly, unthoughtful, selectively calculated conclusions where you parrot the summaries of a tiny Baudelairean crowd while simultaneously mocking them. Such only strengthens the argument that you're ripe for overthrow. Just kidding, sort of.

2) If you don't care about my ruffled opinions, and you probably don't, here's a weird story about a gym teacher collecting a dollar a day (tax free!) from each kid that wanted to loaf. Did that mean they didn't have to dress out, either? I'm a fool. I never even tried bribing my way out of Jane Fonda or Combative Sports.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Portentous Things To Say Alright, But Later

Image excusing all laterness via The Moderate Voice.
Smell my feet, time cops! I'll post when I want.

I've recently read a couple of articles about blogging raising the questions: Is it a dead fizzle? Is it over? Is it (was it) a revolution or a waste of time?

Well, I've got plenty of ideas and counter notions, but I will drag my unpaid heiny back to face the keyboard LATER to distill a pithy, perspicacious response. At this second, I'm about the fun. (That's part of my argument, I think.)

So here, via Hugh Hewitt's blog, is a database of the Billboard's #1 song on any given date. What were the hip kids groovin' to while you were busy emerging to join the existential party? Suffice it to say, if my mother could've held out another week, I'd have been way better off. My birthday's theme song is, sadly, a ridiculous, non-catchy ode to tragedy among the illiterate that I've always hated. It's now the kind of thing not even a drunken 50-year old truck stop waitress picks from the Carry-okee songbook anymore.

Still, my Pimp Name turned out much better. Which do I love more? Reverend Henway Flow or Professor Truth Twingo Large. Macktastic! You betta recognize!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Reviewing Craziness, Food, Newly Discovered Authors

Via Drawn!, this image from Penelope Dullaghan's site is part of a collaborative visual anthology of Best Advice. I use artist Mikela's project submission (5th over, 4th down) in honor of the frequent potty breaks taken by the heroes of Immune Response and recounted by the author for readers' edification.

1) I just posted a new book review at The Bookspot Family for Steve Perry's medical thriller Immune Response. You can search by reviewer (Henway), title, or author (pick the first listing).

This is my first review for them that falls under the mystery umbrella, and I'm sorry I didn't like the book better. The writing was smooth enough, but I thought the storyline didn't make much sense to the premise, and hinted, to me at least, the author might rather have tackled a Kerouac-style road trip book for today's boomers worried about impending mortality.

2) Christopher Hitchens sites absolutism where free speech is concerned, and I completely agree. We should be standing up for Denmark and loudly. The proper response to offensive speech is another competing form of speech, not destruction and murder. For others to imply that running the Danish cartoons was inciting such immoderate, extreme reponse' and not knowing that was unforgivable stupidity is like saying the girl shouldn't have gone outside in a dress if she didn't want to be gang-raped. "If I'd only gotten his dinner on the table on time, I know he would'nta knocked out my teeth." The defense of uncivil, immoderate, unreasonble, not in-kind, violent response by blaming the peaceable sharing of opinion (and gender and ankles and sexual identity) is the kind of Euroweenie, battered wife talk I've come to expect from those hypocritically claiming the mantle of Enlightenment. No discernment, just dissembling.

3) Via Althouse, what about this latest study discussed in the NYT? Certainly, the words "new research shows" have preceded many serious corruptions of fact and widespread misunderstandings, but if the way you feel about your food impacts the nutrition you receive from it, it will be a real gut-punch to the people who think health is better achieved through sorrow than joy.

4) Amazon has added this feature where authors can add profiles and even blogs, but I hadn't experienced much content until last night. However, reading a recommendation of The Man With the Iron-On Badge at I Love a Good Mystery led me to Lee Goldberg's profile and blog (scroll down for lots of posts).

Not only is Goldberg a funny guy who's written TV shows I've enjoyed like Monk, he's also produced them, seems to be an unrepentant hack who wants first to entertain, values a quality life above status as a Type A striver, and posts frequently from inside the belly of the Left Coast beast. Now, I'm going to read his book for sure. I'll even buy it...retail. Are you hearing me, Lee? It's worth the effort. In my mind, you've gone from another unknown quantity to a pleasantly anticipated discovery with only a little word squirtage, which is presumably your strong suit anyway.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Presidents' Day Lament

Too Many Directions Stress Bot Picture courtesy of lisa beebe's Futuristicky blog that I love for its forward thinking and plentiful robots. See her current posts and related Metroblogging NYC for examples of sassy, provocative, engaging posts that wouldn't dare abandon you for a holiday weekend because of vocational indecision.

I hate to break up your doubtless very personal and elaborate P-Day celebrations with my diffuse gripes, but I haven't posted lately, and navel gazing is what I've been doing instead.

As I've hinted at least, I've begun working on a new kind of mystery for me, unlike the completed (and I think good) tragic thriller that I'm still trying to sell despite the resounding lack of response from those receiving my queries and even from who've specifically requested samples. Could it be that I've created the ultimate weapon, the manuscript version of The Ring that kills or nullifies all who read it? Probably not. That I've created yet another manuscript that causes profound indifference, generating something that is really nothing, is more likely. Still, I have another noirish notion on tap if someone's interested in a two-book deal, and I haven't given up. Firing more queries off the starboard side, Captain!

Anyway, the new opus-in-progress is an absurd, darkly comedic mystery. It's bleak but grinning, and has a surreal slant that may work well or fall flat on its face. It's not plotted far anough ahead for me to know yet, though I generally the chapters written so far, and the critiques have been positive.

This weekend, I also began working on a- and I don't know how to express this without shuddering- contemporary romantic comedy or romantic suspense. Yikes! I began thinking about this one because a dear pal assured me that together we could do way better than the craptastic movies we've seen lately. I think my new premise (already more comprehensively plotted than my Absurdity) is relatively original as these things go, inherently dramatic, topical, and makes the lead characters interesting adversaries before they're succumbin' to the lovin'. The subplots are amusing and scary. The whole thing is rather cinematic and lends itself to the romantic chemistry through snappy, urbane patter that everyone aspires to convey. I don't know if I can succeed any better than the vileness I've read lately, but only attempting it will answer the question. This hasn't exactly been my choice of genre before today, but it is after all a story about characters under increasing external and internal pressures leading to dramatic cataclysm or resolution. And that's what I write. Somehow I believe I can write this thing rather quickly and that it's very marketable and might even be fun. But what the dagnabbit am I thinking careerwise?

Not every agent looks fondly upon genre switching. Nor do readers or publishers. This variety assortment approach could leave me looking like hack-of-all-trades, master of none. However, I don't exactly have an established career to shoot in the foot, do I?

Between competing general advice to pick a genre, write more, write different, I don't know exactly what I'm up to. I just feel in this moment like developing a lot of work for sale, seeing what sparks, and going from there. I also feel approximately at the point where I'm not going to fret so much about craft, just tuning the story elements and dynamics and letting the endless wordsmithing slide a little for the sake of productivity. Perhaps a bad direction, but I've taken the quiz, and I'm not an artist, I guess. I'm a Hack.

If none of the above musing interests you, here's info about the new wave of napping sweeping the nation. Here's the MetroNaps NYC location with Wake Center lotion and music at the Empire State Building. You may buy me a nap pass for P-Day.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Kind of Thing I Should Jettison

UPDATE: Thanks to the always interesting Apostropher for linking to this image as an exemplar of poor critical judgement vis-a-vis Mardi Gras resplendence.

I'm still getting myself together. Being unintentionally released from my usual routine has me questioning which parts of it I want to keep. Belated New Year's Resolving. I'd like 2006 to be a year of writerly productivity. More stuff written means more stuff to potentially sell, and that's my chief concern. To mix metaphors shamefully, I've almost got my life boiled down to a few potatoes, all orbiting the galaxy of my fondest ambitions. Now, I've got to decide how best to spend my time. There are things that relate to my hopes which still don't edify me much. Things that waste my time. Things that bum me out. I'm considering jettisioning that clutter. While I ruminate, look at this horrific picture of gals at Mardi Gras sent to me by Belle Noelle and think what you will.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Back and In The Red

Buddhists claim that a single hair from Buddha keeps this boulder from rolling off the edge.

Almost revivified, having been pushed face first into some deadlines and right over others by blizzards and airlines beyond personal control, I'm hustling a bit to scramble back on top of the rolling boulder of administration I call a life.

And yet, unexpected, enforced vacation applies a certain liberation to one's mind, and I'm feeling as loose as the replusive stringies still ejecting themselves from my lungs.

Catch you on the flipside, monsters.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Still Stranded in SD, CA

Ah, the perversity of lucking out while accursed. Blizzardwise, our flights home were cancelled, so we got an extra almost two days where the weather is currently as close to ideal as I can imagine. But, as the health isn't all green bars yet, it's been a bit less awesome than playing hooky usually feels. Who wants to take a sick day for being sick? At 4am Tuesday, we'll start the 12 hour airslog home- healthier, wiser, and poorer, having had a nice time on Leper Island.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

San Diego's Different

After what may be the most uncomfortable 12 hours of ear-popping, cough stifling, non-breathing, head-pounding travel I can remember, I arrived in San Diego, where the blessed humidity comforted my ragged lungs. There are black rocking chairs interspersed through the modern airport and people using them. The local magazine has handwriting analysis of the city's leaders and includes info on the mayor's favorite jeans and "hike". In Cornwall in the UK, Charles Winpenny posts pictures from the tops of cliffs and hills after what he calls "walks" though I'm sure they're miles long and serious footwear is required. Aside from his camera, I've never read him discussing his gear. In California, it's not sport or exercise without a gritty name and pricey, specialized equipment .

The beach here on Coronado Island is lovely. The hotel and grounds are lovely. What I've seen so far of the city is also very nice, but I've been dragging everyday, and it's been tough working up the steam for activities. I've seen a lot of terrible movies from the room and chased away the housekeeper until afternoon every day. During evening social occasions, I'm trying not to let on to the bridal couple that we're bringing typhoid to their nuptials. In the fog of plague, I forgot to pack most of what I intended and have been acquiring temporary replacements from here and there, but I feel like a hanging sleeve- un together, unfabulous. Still, my health keeps improving, even if I feel I'm wasting some of the beauty and fun on supply here. Two days ago, I only wanted to live. Today, I'm well enough to feel cranky and resentful. This is progress. I hope I'll get to the zoo today, if only briefly, just so I can say I did and get a monkey picture. Till later. With apologies.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Fashion Week: Top Line Post

UPDATE: My feverish croaking self will be hoisted to fly upon the big iron to infect the rest of the passengers and crew. I hope to post while away, but I now know that technical difficulties abound when I'm traveling that can make pithy commentary rough going. I'm going to blot my sweat with my flannel PJs and have a shower. May you all have a glowingly healthy, lovely weekend.

I've felt a bit embarrassed about my craptastic coverage of Fashion Week shenanigans to date, and therefore, decided to incinerate my already flayed retinas to offer opinions, to discuss, to make assertions of judgement from outside the tent. I realize I'm judging from photos, and they don't reveal the same things as seeing it all in motion, but I must do what I can.

All my pictures come from New York Magazine's splendid slideshows, launch pad here. Look for yourself, and subscribe of course. I seek merely to augment, not replace. Applicable posts will start with FW: and go by designers. Only my thoughts. Worth what you'll have to pay.

I care about actual wearability, since this is supposed to be ready-to wear after all. I care about anchors of fit and proportion and the mood something evokes.

I'll highlight in individual posts the trends that crossed collections which worry me. So far:
Urban Dominatrix
Robin Hood
Blousy Eggplant Shapes
Transparent dresses layered with bodysuits and leggings
Preppy with a Twist
The Slattern

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

FW: Jenni Kayne and Ruffian

I liked both these shows, but I'm clearer about the reasons for Jenni Kayne. Her proportions were elaborated, but remained pleasing. This was, to me, one of the most wearable collections I saw. I liked the truncated sleeves on this jacket (top left), the layering of garment lengths and colors- yea for yellow!- in outfits, and was excited that the extra draping she scalloped over the hips didn't move the clothes toward slatternly or unflattering. This dress is sexylicious (top right).

Ruffian got a little more extreme in proportions and prints, especially using the questionable Eggplant shapes in fur and velvet coats (middle right) and dresses. They have a somewhat roaring 20s feel which I know I'm responding to, but I think the variety of color and texture, while echoing some of what I've seen in other shows, created a more cohesive look than in some. There were a couple of wonderful dresses like this in gray (middle left) and black velvet (bottom left).

Am I nuts? Look at them both. See what you think.

FW: Jasmin Shokrian and LaCoste and Oakley

These were mostly a wash for me, exemplifying trends I know I'll see later, but won't be wearing or enjoying. Full shows here.

Jasmin Shokrian (top left) takes the title for Slatternly dressing. I could practically smell the stale gin and imagine the unmade beds.

LaCoste (top right) deserves credit for not toadying to the metallic brown/black palette, but there is such a thing as going too far. I preferred when they showed just peeks of color. This is Preppy with a Twist, complete with clunky boots and ducky shoes. The festooning of swinging lanyards for camp counselor chic looked designed to choke the wearers after getting caught in subway doors.

Oakley (bottom right) deserves mention only in its adherence to the Urban Dominatrix theme.

FW: Willow and Alexandre Herchcovitch and Luella Bartley

Willow did a lot with the Transparent Dress (top left) and layering theme. Sometimes it was sexy, sometimes seemed pointless, but they also included this czarina look (top right) that was interesting. I wish I could see the bottom, but I probably care most about the jacket anyway. I also liked their inclusion of some acid green in the collection and the double rectangle buckle belts.

See full slideshows here.

Alexandre Hercovitch had many sad and shapeless clothes in The Slattern mode (bottom left) that looked like they were made by a failed collective. In accessories, he had skull belts that, given my history, I wanted to adore, but the contrast with the clothes felt too contrived.

What I loved most about Luella Bartley was the complete outfitting that occurred (bottom right). Fully actualized ensembles with candy-colored accessories that were pops of color, shape, and whimsy. Too outre and chunky sometimes, but many Sassy points are awarded.

FW: Nicole Miller and John Batlett

Nicole Miller's patterns were, I'm sure, carefully chosen and placed, but I felt they were overwhelming the models and that there was just too much fabric sometimes. This is a version of the eggplant shape blousing over toothpick legs that many collections had (top left). Real waists were camoflaged behind blousing and puffing (some even showed muttonchop sleeves!) that recall the horrific ass-wrapped dresses of the eighties. I preferred NM's longer dresses in the crinkled material just because of the fit. A dress that struck me as idiosyncratic considering the rest of the garments was the buff-draped gown (top right), and the less exaggerated dropped waist and bloused front actually worked for me.

Nicole Miller made her own addition to the Robin Hood genre (bottom left) as did John Bartlett (bottom right). For the rest of Bartlett's show, there was a blog review which I can't find now- please send link if you know- that described it as mostly Abercrombie on the farm. Or traveling salesman comes to farmhouse, something.

Monday, February 06, 2006

FW: United Bamboo and Baby Phat and Keanan Duffty

So far, these win my prize for least serious collections.
Baby Phat (upper left) is not only silly, but unwearable, and made me feel a little sorry for the grimacing models make to look so unappealing in such overpriced bleck. The pieces all feel derivative of something more refined and interesting, and seem as poorly fit as assembled into ensembles.

United Bamboo (center) was mostly intent on showing the worst hairstyles, most disadvantageous to the natural shape and size of each model's head. When not ridiculous, the clothes looked low-rent.

But perhaps the king of the found objects was rocker-beloved Keanan Duffty (upper right) who had T-shirts made at CafePress and stole coats off homeless dudes. I do think it's nice if it looks like you couldn't have salvaged the outfits yourself, created the fabric effects in your own bathtub, or crafted them without fingers or eyes. However, he earns extra cool points for honing in on the urban dominatrix trend, which along with the slattern and Robin Hood looks was a prevalent spice in the stew. See whole shows for gawking purposes only.

FW: Naeem Kahn and Sass and Bide

I know it's for fall 2006. I know, I know, but I became bored viewing the endless brown, copper, bronze, gold, and pewter metallics, and we aren't even there yet. Some designers lightened with ivory or let the gold become real yellow. A few burgundies and true reds showed up, the merest dashes of greens and blues, but when I hit the Sass and Bide dress above left- which I don't adore for its style or faux sleevings- I still felt as refreshed as if I'd had a palate cleansing sorbet.

The Sass and Bide further exemplifies another mode of transparent dress that we'll see in a few collections, as well as a Ye Olde Hunt Robin Hoodiness in the center image that also pops up repeatedly across various- I say misguided- looks. This may make S & B my winner for most cross-trended collection. That's not the same as favorite.

While the sameness of color became tiresome very quickly en masse, relief was found in especially rich textiles, for which Naeem Khan (on the right) gets my vote for best use of body-hugging bands of texture and pattern. I also enjoyed the deliciously generous skirts on most of the gowns. The clothes were largely wearable, flattering and feminine, voluptuously sexy without losing clarity and precision. They provided a counterpoint I kept returning to after the angry, saggy slatterns of so many collections. Look at Naeem Khan's whole show.

Yesterday, Fashion Week Made Me Sick

Image from the Not-So-Old archives of Gick.

I did not go on Saturday. Saturday was rainy and miserable. Too yucky to be an uninvited hanger on. However, I did end up at both Saks and Barney's, and I can report that, attested love for ready-to-wear aside, not a single Lord or Lady of Design was at the stores fluffing their merchandise to make sure it was displayed to perfection. Sure, they love the ready-to-wear...I've got my doubts.

Yesterday, I did walk by in the late afternoon. It wasn't raining, but there was a cruel, cold wind. Surrounding the enormous white tent were only ancient trees, bare cobblestones, empty benches and bistro tables, all blasted by the pitiless gale. Around back, a literal handful of chilled amateurs lurked on an overhanging balustrade to echo the snapshots of the handful of professional photogs by the door below. No pictures were taken while I watched. No one of import came or went. But through any glass door I passed, I had the sense of a milling crowd inside.

On the front steps, a few tall and/or snazzily dressed types loitered. There was a cart nearby selling pretzels and chicken kebabs. I was so cold and agitated, I didn't even ask which one models preferred.

I began to have the fancy of the tent as a shifting distending entity, distorted by the shapes of elbows and heads pressing against its straining seams, like a thousand Alices had eaten their cakes and were sprouting ever-longer limbs. I waited for a giantess' foot or a seven-foot nose to tear through one of the walls, but it never did. This flight of imagination should have been my first clue. The wicked west wind carried some feverish spore or beastie deep into my lungs, and today I have an unsettled cranium and a painful wheeze like a fourteen year-old model before her morning's first cigar.

I had planned to go back down to blighted Bryant Park on Tuesday for a nosier look, but we'll see how my nose cooperates. Further, in two days, I'm scheduled to plant myself into the upholstered Petri dish of a blood-clot inducing transcontinental flight. It will either cure me, or I'll at least leave this mortal veil of misery.

AlmostGirl is also feeling lame in her coverage, with much less reason may I note, and says the Glam forums are good. Perhaps I should take the medicine of the Wasabi Hangover Bath treatment at Fashion Tribes. You, on the other hand, can get legit, on-site coverage and FW podcasts there, too.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Opinions Must Be Safe.

Cool image from here. Link here for a Free Speech Quiz.

On this blog at least, I often traffic in opinions and make sport with subjects that are probably dear to someone's heart. I'm a curious person and I like a laugh, so how can I support any culture or state where others aren't free to do the same?

Taking a small break from the news of the odd and the fashioncentric blogging I've been doing, I finally have to comment on the (forbidden within Islam) Danish cartoons of Muhammed, scroll for pictures. The paper was right to print them, the cartoonists were right to draw them, and everyone willing to kill over them is wrong.

Bonus: extra fraudulent cartoons propagated by Muslim leaders from Denmark to further inflame the multitudes. "They think that's offensive?! That's nothing. They obviously have no experience with this kind of defamation. Demonic, pedophilic pig-snouted bestiality, that's what we need here."

So, I'm wading in with my futile 2 centavos because Denmark is now perversely getting more support from other parts of Europe than from us, the Free Speech freaks. Check out the most recent, weaselly State Department response to the rioting in Gaza over the issue:

"Inciting religious or ethnic hatred in this manner is not acceptable," Hironimus said. "We call for tolerance and respect for all communities and for their religious beliefs and practices."

Of course it's acceptable, because a peaceful expression of opposition or even humor is not "inciting hatred." People are vowing murder and destruction over CARTOONS! They're threatening to blow up Denmark over scribbles that mean nothing from outside Islam. It's absolute, fanatical madness, one of the reasons for our separation of church and state, and proves exactly the point the editors were initially making.

Here's response from part of the Muslim world (emphasis mine): Pakistan’s parliament unanimously voted to condemn the cartoons as a “vicious, outrageous and provocative campaign” that has “hurt the faith and feelings of Muslims all over the world.” Even Hamid Karzai, the Harvard alum, and president of Afghanistan says: “As Muslims, we have the big heart to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that insulting cartoons about Islam must continue to appear. They must definitely, definitely stop,” Karzai told journalists.

Please get over your hurt feelings on your own as everyone else does. My actions can't hurt your faith. You own it; it's your burden or winged shoes. Don't blame me for the state of your soul, and I won't blame the Muslim world if I eat a cheesburger on Ash Wednesday or fail in some more essential article of my faith. Also, I don't require forgiveness for not believing in Islam, and therefore, not following its restrictions. You may forgive me if you choose. I wish you would. Permanently, because that's how long my intellectual and spiritual resistance to this flavor of submission will last. I won't ever cultivate tolerance or acceptance for brutalizing women or gays just because they have the nerve to exist with bones capable of breaking and bodies capable of burning. However, I'd rather deal with my opposition to this tangible, historic violence with discourse and politicking. Where actions like community physical abuse of someone on moral grounds is legal, I'd like to try changing the laws and even the culture long before murdering and pillaging.

Further, and to the point here, I don't believe in violent reprisals against mere ideas which are not inciting unlawful action.

I am a proud member of one of the most mocked religions on earth, the Roman Catholic Church. We even make fun of ourselves, and yet the God we aim to serve, though ever falling short (and sometimes shorter than others- sigh) has not been diminished. If you can't laugh at yourself and your very large hats occasionally, you don't know your flaws well enough and haven't cultivated the humility which is virtue. You can tell who hasn't been living in open society, because the view of respect and tolerace only can be imagined flowing one direction.

There is a notion among the most radical Muslims of the Arab world that they can propogate hideous spew in cartoons about Jews, which Arab national leaders strangely claim impotence in controlling even as they pressure the Danish government. However, they insist their extreme tenderness of feeling must be enforced by other nations above all inherent freedoms. The promise of blood revenge for the trivialities of non-believers is anathema to building true respect for their faith from outside, as is recognized by some moderate Muslims. I have no problem with the boycott of Danish goods; others can pick up the slack in buying to express their support. But threats of murder are beyind the pale. And notice how it always starts with the gooey vulnerable artists: cartoonists, novelists, filmmakers. The level of artistic freedom is the canary in the coal mine of a civilization. That's why I strenuously defend- even as I'm bored by- the never-ending paroxysms of intentionally offensive post-modern art.

Of course, one bright Arab light I read quoted somewhere opined that this outrage might never have happened had they successfully murdered novelist Salman Rushdie after the fatwa issued for The Satanic Verses. He may be right. Yet, the number in Hollywood taking up the cause of slain filmmaker Theo Van Gogh? Still waiting.

You don't have to believe in my God; we'll get along fine. You don't have to agree with my politics; no problem. We don't have to agree about a single aspect of lifestyle or belief except that we each demand freedom to pursue our own aspirations and consciences under a common, civil law of equal protection. That's the ball of wax. There can't be any accomodation or moderation of this position without losing everything that democracy and freedom claim to offer.

For all those who are persecuted and slaughtered around the world for their religions, we cannot elevate mere offense to the level of what the Sudanese and Burmese, as just two examples, have suffered by taking it too seriously. Real slaughters have been inflicted upon them in the name of unyielding ideologies of both church and state. If we are not going to protect them from being murdered for their identities and faiths, letting the wheel of fortune roll and crush them as it will, how can our capitulation of freedom of thought and speech by toadying to this vocal group of thin-skinned intolerants be anything but the vilest hypocrisy?

As a bonus, here's a nice article from a friendly Pagan explaining why pagans shouldn't get their cloaks in a bundle over mangled television portrayals of their values. Lots of reasonable people of all faiths get it. How can our State Department not?

I'm quite glad to have vented that. Back tomorrow, I hope, with my first on-site look at Fashion Week.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Balzac! It's All About the Coffee

This is a 150,000 gallon tank, water not coffee.
See how many giant coffee containers there are.

Perhaps I don't say enough how much I need coffee, how I keep my veins constantly pumping a heady mix of caffeine and wrinkle cream, how every morning I fairly squeal like a kitten in anticipation of my first cup. But I do.

So here's stuff all about the Joe for you fellow travelers.

1) Like the ADD suffering, self-medicating Demo Reel (where I first saw the quiz)
I am an Espresso:
At my best: straight shooting, ambitious, and energetic
At my worst: anxious and high strung
I drink coffee when: not sleeping

I debate the Caffeine addiction level: high (I tweak my daily dosage down low enough, even drinking- ugh- decaf, so that withdrawal headaches aren't inevitable if I don't get my am fix.)

See who you are. Make your own excuses.

2) Via BCCY, Coca Cola sales are down, and ready to drink coffees are up. Pepsi licensed the Frappacrap in bottles in the grocery so their heinies are covered, and it looks like Coke's entering the pod brewing arena with Far Coast. What about this as a campaign: Wherever you are, the coffee's coming from far away. Whatever your taste, it'll be far from good.

3) From Chin Music Press comes the highlight of the day, this beautiful and strange essay on coffee by a nineteenth century man of letters who didn't like to leave his dressing gown, and woke at midnight to write all night, sometimes for 16 hours, fueled by a special Parisian brew. Here's more about the eccentric and prolific Honore de Balzac, and here's a taste of the essay:

Coffee is a great power in my life; I have observed its effects on an epic scale. Coffee roasts your insides. Many people claim coffee inspires them, but, as everybody knows, coffee only makes boring people even more boring...

I have discovered a horrible, rather brutal method that I recommend only to men of excessive vigor, men with thick black hair and skin covered with liver spots, men with big square hands and legs shaped like bowling pins. It is a question of using finely pulverized, dense coffee, cold and anhydrous, consumed on an empty stomach...

I recommended this way of drinking coffee to a friend of mine, who absolutely wanted to finish a job promised for the next day: he thought he'd been poisoned and took to his bed, which he guarded like a married man. He was tall, blond, slender and had thinning hair; he apparently had a stomach of papier-mache. There has been, on my part, a failure of observation...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Fashionistas: Learn Lasting Love from Lemmy

After 30 years of rocking, Lemmy may not be beautiful, but he's not foolish enough to throw out his hat just because you've seen it.

As Fashion Tribes is hosting an ongoing Fashion Week blogtacular, I wanted to post a little something re: notions fashionable so you'd know I'll be on the case.

Especially as I live in Manhattan, I am intending to dabble in occasional, on-site fashion blogging during FW. However, as I'm unconnected and uninformed, I may have to satisfy myself with showing up to count the empty pizza boxes out back (you know you're curious) and asking security personnel and passersby if they consider my trousers Art.

But I can't commit to everyday, intensive focus, because dabbling is one of the joys of the bon vivant. The harum-scarum application of my superior taste is a far more delightful exercise than the sweat-coursed pretzel twisting so popular lately. Don't get me wrong. I like deep breathing, but only when luscious aromas merit. Today, I filled my quota through gasps of joy.

Only a few newpapers really leaned forward into the online winds, but the WSJ did and continues enhancing itself as a multimedia infentity. (That's the new word I made up for "informational entity". Don't Bogart my genius without attribution.) Today, only expanding my admiration, the WSJ free highlight is this Jim Fusili article on Death Metal! To recognize beloved names like Pantera, Sepultura, and Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead while reading about the techniques of Cookie Monster singing in the Wall Street Journal is an ethereal trip to paradise. Catch it!

I've drawn fashion lessons about cuteness from Funny Face for a previous carnival, but today, in examining the State of the Fashion Union, my lesson must be inspired by the artistes of metal.

What's so wrong with wearing something fabulous more than once? From Kiss's regalia, to David Lee's chaps, to Rob Halford's complete suite from International Male, we loved learning to appreciate and anticipate the look. It was not boring; it was delectable. Certainly, an exquisite couture garment has exceptional craftsmanship and detail that deserve to be savored and enjoyed. I'd adore seeing an eminent person of style wearing the same glorious apparel with different accessories or amplifying a different facet of the design. The best designs aren't any more one-dimensional than a great sculpture. There's room (and to me, a demand) for mutiple interpretations within the rich visual vocabulary they posess.

We hear the complaints about "losing" the traditional artisans of beaders, hatters, and glovemakers, but how can they survive when their triumphs of lasting excellence are treated like disposable fashions of plastic thread? Why should something made impeccably be worn once and shunned rather than celebrated in subsequent appearances and seasons? How can you expect to demonstrate the difference between RTW and haute that way? By refreshing contrast, your basic metalheads and rockers will have their perfect leather boots resoled ten times, and enjoy them every time they're worn. There is a relationship to and transformation of a person by exceptional garments. I'd like those lucky wearers who set fashion's course these days to cultivate signature style over whiplash variety, and to remember to revisit the oases of greatness in the current, vast desert of carelessness.

P.S. My pal BelleNoelle's not only blogging, she's added hearts aplenty for Valentine's Day along with her sophisticated, one-of-a-kind florals.