Ragged Claws

Friday, June 19, 2009

The basics

Search completions suggested by Google, June 19, 2009.


Wants to be a millionaire (3 variants)
Is Mysterion
Moved my cheese
Is my congressman
Killed the electric car
Invented the Internet
Got voted off American Idol


Is Twitter
Is my IP (two variants)
Not to wear
Does my name mean
Time is it
Time is the inauguration
I like about you
Is love
Is a good credit score


Is Easter 2009 (two variants)
I grow up lyrics (two variants)
Does Twilight come out on DVD
Is the Superbowl (two variants)
Will I die
Is St. Patrick's Day 2009
Will the world end


The wild things are (3 variants)
Is my refund
I stood lyrics
Does the vice president live
Is the love lyrics
The hell is Matt
The red fern grows


Is the sky blue
Do men have nipples
Did the chicken cross the road
Do cats purr
Men cheat
Did Chris Brown beat Rihanna (3 variants)
Do dogs eat poop
Did I get married


To tie a tie
I met your mother
To kiss
To get pregnant
Stuff works
To lose weight
To make a website
To write a resume
Do you sleep lyrics

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Living in the future is awesome

As we all know, a good indication that one is living in the future is the presence of machines offering convenient access to exotic goods or services, such as Raktajino, or a slow and horrible death. Getting off the train tonight, I learned that Contra Costa County has inched a step closer to the glorious world of tomorrow with Library-a-Go-Go, a boxy blue machine that allows commuters to instantly check out library books, which can be returned later to the same location. The relatively compact, TARDIS-like kiosk tempts passersby with a wide selection of titles, including a number of children's books that busy parents can pick up on the way home from work. Library-a-Go-Go is an absolutely brilliant idea, a boon to local residents that might also increase public support for the CCC library system more generally. Congratulations county bureaucrats!

Another benefit of living in the future is seeing a global community of citizens begin to come into partial, hazy view. And although the electronic web binding this community together is still tenuous and fragile, its members are, sometimes able to support one another. This article from Wired offers a few suggestions of how to assist Iranian protesters who are using the web to organize and to tell their stories. While such measures mean very, very little compared to the actions of those actually risking their safety, it's still a little awe-inspiring to realize that such things are possible - that the social networking tools that have sprung into existence over the last five years might be transformative in ways we're only just beginning to realize. ¡Viva el futuro!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Tony Awards thoughts

-The Broadway musical really is a strange beast. (This is said with all love, as someone who can sing just about the entire score of Chess from memory - "I'm the arbiter, my word is law!" "From square one, he'll be watching all..sixty-FOUR!") There's something indelibly goofy about expressing social or emotional conflict through impeccable vocals and choreography, but also something very endearing about the sincerity with which the actors commit to that goofiness. That so many musicals are about starry-eyed naifs who are initially mocked for pursuing their dreams, but eventually win over the cynics with boundless enthusiasm, talent and moxie, can be seen as a comment on the form itself.

-Is it really worth showing only 5-10 seconds of each of the nominated plays? Some people are sitting around a dinner table, voices are raised, and we cut out. At that point you might as well go full-on conceptual - show the tableau, show the first speaker opening his or her mouth, and finis. It would make a point about the futility of trying to reproduce the vitality of a live performance in the impersonal format of an electronic broadcast, or something. (Because if there's one thing the viewing audience always wants more of, it's oblique allusions to the work of Walter Benjamin.)

-The "In Memoriam" photo montage was set to "What I Did For Love," from A Chorus Line. The original cast recording of this song takes three minutes and 44 seconds. This performance clocks in at 3:37. The point? That clapping enthusiastically for every photo shown during that span of time should not require onerous levels of physical exertion. It's ridiculously tacky to applaud only the famous departed. All of the photos represent people who contributed something to the community and presumably left behind loved ones; your palms won't become bruised and chapped if you applaud as much for a press agent or a character actor as you do for Bea Arthur or Paul Newman.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Walking clothes hangers

This week on The Fashion Show (aka Project Runway, with the silky unctuousness of Tim Gunn replaced by the exquisite cattiness of Isaac Mizrahi), designers were required to create clothes for “normal” women. (What “normal” meant in this context was clients who were not professional models, but who were still conventionally attractive, and generally slender to boot.) This sort of challenge was a staple on Project Runway as well, and while most of the designers are able to take it in stride, there are always some who seem genuinely confounded and indignant at being asked to design for bodies that can’t be described as “walking clothes hangers.” (One PR contestant even claimed that he wouldn’t mind being sent home during a similar challenge, because there was quite simply no way he could have prepared for it. Bear in mind that PR has also asked designers to create clothes out of items purchased at a grocery store, or garbage, which to the uninitiated might seem like a bigger stretch than “create an outfit for which a substantial customer base might exist.”) And although The Fashion Show is explicitly oriented around commercial appeal (eliminations are formalized with the phrase “We’re not buying it”), some of the contestants nevertheless found this week’s challenge to be an affront to their artistic sensibilities. The most vocal was probably James-Paul, who commented, “I’ve never believed that a person’s movement in fashion should be led by some…entity outside, and I sort of lost my voice as a designer” and “I don’t do normal – I’ve shunned it in my life.”

I think that this is a defensible position in some ways – there’s nothing wrong with wanting to create art in the medium of fabric and thread. If that’s the point, though, I don’t understand why living models are necessary at all. Why limit your creative expression to what can fit on a human form? Why not really push the boundaries with a dress meant for a creature with four arms, or an icosahedral torso? Or, if the goal is to allow clothes to hang as freely as possible, why not use a conveyor belt to whir actual hangers around the runway, dry cleaner style? That such options are rarely selected seems to indicate a baseline understanding that the fashion designer’s art requires fitting garments to actually existing human bodies, just as a poet writing a sonnet must develop his ideas within a specific structure. In that sense, I think comments like those above actually betray a lack of creative vision, an attempt to evade rather than embrace the challenges of a particular artistic form. There’s no reason why all poets should write sonnets, but if one chooses to make a career of doing so it’s silly to then complain about having to produce 14 lines, rather than 11 or 12.

That said, the episode also revealed some of the basic structural obstacles to designing for non-models. One of the most striking was that the contestants had to modify their dress forms by hand, adding batting or padding material in order to reproduce the body shapes of their clients. The fact that there is no easy or natural way to modify dress forms up to a size 10 or 12 speaks volumes about the basic assumptions of the fashion industry. Additionally, one contestant commented that another designer “just got out of school, so she hasn’t had much experience designing for real women.” (The school in question was the London College of Fashion.) While it’s common for graduate programs in many areas to emphasize theory over practice, it’s still more than a little baffling that advanced education in fashion would fail to provide students with the tools necessary to sell to a diverse client base. (Actually, maybe this is reminiscent of Ph.D. programs that assume all graduates will end up tenure-track at an R1, so teaching skills are irrelevant…but that’s not a model that should be emulated.) Although the just-out-of-school contestant ultimately won the week’s challenge, that seems to have been more a testament to her talent than to her training. I’m glad that high profile fashion TV shows occasionally acknowledge that people with BMIs over 18 might like to wear attractive clothes, but it also seems clear that not just individual but systemic change is necessary to make designers enthusiastic about serving those prospective clients.