Friday, September 23, 2011

I never knew pop and that's ok

I was so popculturally ignorant as a child that I didn't know if that popular singer was PAUL Abdul or PAULA Abdul. I never listened to pop radio, so who knew if we were talking about a man or woman? I didn't.

I grew up listening to classical music in the car with my dad. It was turned way, way up. He liked it LOUD. Also, then we didn't have to talk because we could just be moved by the music and that was enough communicating for a day.

And with my mom driving, we listened to nothing. We were silent. Because she was *nervous* and *concentrating.*

So that was that. We had no MTV because we could just pick up channels with our tv antenna, and why would you pay for tv? We got no newspaper except for the Sunday paper, and then I pulled out the comics and tried to understand Doonesbury. I tried to understand them all-- Cathy, Family Circus, Foxtrot, Blondie. But I never got any of them. I always skipped to the puzzles at the end.

And I grew, and it didn't seem to really matter that I still wasn't a big Top 40 person (and haha, I've gone through much of my life not knowing what Top 40 even is). I'm just not. I still love Beethoven more than anything. I love folk music, including folk rock, jazz, blues, hip hop. I can appreciate a rad MC. I really really love analyzing films. I love live performances-- modern dance, modern ballet, storytellers. I love architecture. I love beautiful books and winding stories. I love being in old theaters. I *loved* being a house manager back in the day. I have a dream to be not just a donor but a patron of a dance company one day.

I don't love Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift, I don't get what's great about their songs, and I don't want to hear music that sounds like that. That eliminates about ten thousand other singers. I don't love boring models doing boring poses half naked on beds, motorcycles or a zillion other cliches. I don't love fashion UNLESS it's beautiful and/or meaningful. I do love fashion and makeup as art. I especially love political fashion because that is bold and necessary. I love food that has been loved in the making.

Why write this? Because for some years now, I've really loved being me and felt like it might make life fabulous to just love the things I love, and a fabulous life deserves some examination to determine what thoughts and values and choices make me me.

It's way beyond what I like and what I don't like in art, music, etc. There's work and work ethic, there's politics and food and education and science and religion and all the ways we advance.

But then this becomes a post that is way too long and self-indulgent, and while it might be said that the nature of wordydoodles, like the nature of drawing doodles, is self-indulgent, well, 1. I myself wouldn't say that, and 2. I would like wordydoodles to be a good read and a good place to start a conversation.

And so: Do you deviate from the mainstream in some ways too? Do you love it?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Missoni for my Soni: Class, Glamour, and Globalization

Posted by Priya at:

Maybe it was the advertising campaign, maybe it’s the nature of a fashion blog-addicted culture, maybe it was a minor eruption of euphoria in the depths of a darkening recession, maybe it was an attempt to shop away memories of the previous night’s Republican debate. Any way you look at it, the launch and liquidation of Target’s Missoni line last Tuesday was unparalleled in both popular excitement and subsequent news coverage and analysis, much of which I consumed in an attempt to make sense of my own enthusiastic yet ambivalent response. (When I write this, understand that even as I seek to examine the affective and political contexts within which I live, think, and dress, I hold myself accountable.)
Of all the rather superficial commentary and outdated theories of class behavior (I’m thinking of you Patt Morrison audience) this observation by marketer AnnaMarie Turano stood out:
“Now that the expensive knitwear’s iconic images (Missoni’s zigzags) are within the reach of the mass audience, Missoni may unfortunately experience backlash from their consumers who were loyal to the brand pre-Target. These Missoni loyalists might stop shopping and might stop wearing Missoni if they are concerned that others might confuse the boutique offerings with the made-for-Target line.”
Fashion has a very long history (some would date modern, commercial fashion in the West to as early as the 16th century), one driven by what we would refer to as the class interests of elites to visually display their power and prestige. As sumptuary laws governing the dress of people according to their rank and position faded, and luxurious imports began flowing in from Europe’s growing empire, dress, jewels, and other sartorial practices were utilized to indicate wealth, power, and a studied lack of attachment to the vagaries of the human body. Once the middling classes were able to mimic the crazes of their social superiors, these same superiors found new forms and practices to demonstrate their membership in the vanguard. More interesting, however, is that along with the development of a fledgling fashion discourse and industry, we have the development - erratic, marginal, anarchic, and awesome - of “punk” responses to the consumer identity machine. If the European colonizers perfected the art of using dress as a marker of racial membership and prestige, the colonized excelled at appropriating dress as gestures of challenge, mockery, and then later, outright resistance.
Clearly, the onset of industrialization, and now the technologies of our contemporary age, have sped the fashion cycle so that nearly anything is available in copycat form almost immediately upon its debut on the catwalks of Paris, Milan, and New York. There are entire industries built around the imperative to make high fashion trends available to those who simply cannot or will not spend the time and money necessary to purchase true haute couture. True, these are not punk, in fact they are very much party to the normative bourgeois culture that instantiates class differences and capitalist accumulation while at the same time providing an outlet for participation and the semblance of nose-thumbing, but let me have it, even if for a moment.
So, in response to those commentators who argue that the mass production of high fashion: 1) upsets those who spend money on the “real thing”; and 2) relies on the ignorance and naivete of lower and middle-class consumers who cannot tell the “real thing” from its more cheaply made version I say:
1) The joke’s on you if seeing us makes you rethink your purchase of a “real” Missoni sweater. Our enjoyment in partaking in a little bit of color and design that I refuse to spend any entire month’s pay on has nothing to do with your own enjoyment of the luxury item you have purchased, since they are obviously NOT THE SAME:
2) Nobody believes any more that they are somehow vaulting the social ladder by buying a striped sweater, no matter how cute and colorful it is. The habitus of class are much more complicated than media would have us believe. Dress is not simply a garment that one puts on, but a collection of behaviors, bodily modifications, interpersonal and intertechnological relations, and ways of being that subtly shift our everyday practices as we navigate our way through the myriad and shifting social groupings in which we move.
Additionally, complaining that the Target Missoni craze forebodes the end of our society - as a number of Morrison’s commentators did - because it represents (hysterical) young women’s shift in priorities toward consumerism and away from politics misses the imbrication of these two forces, and also misses the way in which glamour is the texture of our world, the very affective (pre-subjective, emotional) environment in which we move. I think the fashion writer who called into Patt Morrison’s show had it right when she argued that the Missoni line at Target tapped into a cultural zeitgeist - a desire for a little color, fun, and design in the midst of the general awakening of most Americans to the realization that education, hard work, and ambition no longer necessarily lead to wealth, let alone a job that pays a living wage (if it ever did, of course, is something we could discuss).
There was a sense of participating in a communal event to experience pleasure, affinity, and a sense of camaraderie with other like-minded and like-despairing people who cannot afford to spend hundreds or even a thousand dollars on items but refuse to relinquish style nonetheless. This camaraderie, this feeling of pleasure, is not even necessarily something one thinks about in a measured, rational way. Rather it is the opening up of our bodies to our environments. Environments in which color, light, sound, scent, the placement of objects and bodies, technological apparatus, text, all combine to construct spaces of community and subjectification through practices like being in-the-know, sharing this knowledge with others on social media, waking up early to purchase online or head to the local Target, sharing knowing looks and even finds with others, receiving envious looks and scoring a sought-after item, feeling the rush of adrenaline, and creatively incorporating items into one’s extant wardrobe. 
Now, a much more measured and thoughtful critique of the hype and frenzy surrounding not just the Missoni launch at Target but the entire project of budget styling would follow through on the comment made by the Women’s Studies professor, Michelle, who called into Patt’s show (the requisite “feminist killjoy” to use Sarah Ahmed’s phrasing and theoretical construction). How is it, she asked, that we are able to purchase clothing and other items so cheaply? What is happening in the invisible process of production and distribution that allows one to buy a Missoni-designed sweater for $29.99 or a Missoni-designed luggage tote for $50? Parsing out the relations among fashionable elites and middle and working-class consumers (with the lens being implicitly focused on the West/Global North) is not enough. Rather, we need to expand our mapping of the relations of production, consumption, and dress to include an examination of relations of power under globalization. Who is making these items? What are the conditions of their labor? Looking at the label and seeing that the luggage was “Made in China” tells us something, but not much. An initial foray into researching the line has led to little information about where the original line was produced, and almost nothing about where and how the Target line was produced so cheaply, besides the obvious: cheaper materials, etc. But what about the people (most likely young women)?
I came home to find out that my prize luggage tote had a Prop 65 warning. “Wash hands after using,” it reminds its potential user. That this potential user might very well be someone utilizing the tote as a diaper bag (as one reviewer planned to do) is worrisome (I’m returning it). But even more disconcerting, what is the level of lead exposure the people manufacturing the bag (cutting and treating the material, stitching the bag, attaching the handles) are exposed to? What is their relation to, their desires or lack thereof for, the products they make? It is not an accident that information about manufacturers and suppliers is very hard to come by. The difficulty of finding out this information abets the invisibility of labor and allows for the consumer fetishism glamour functions through.  
So, what’s the verdict? I don’t think there is an easy one. I do know that it is too easy to simply dismiss participation in such cultural moments, just as it is too easy to ignore the conditions of commodity production. Doing either misses the complexities and mechanics of biopower and globalization as they operate today and relinquishes fashion and culture to those who refuse to take it seriously and/or manipulate it for their own ends.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Using up tomatoes-- fabulous salad dressing!

Hi friend. You and I understand each other. We are going through the same thing, and that is the shared pain of being buried under the end of summer tomatoes. You don't want to waste them, I don't want to waste them. Someone put a lot of sweat into growing the things. The least we can do is eat them. Right? Right?!!

photo credit: Jon Fravel

Easier said than done. This is the time when it seems like tomatoes go on forever. I am on-my-knees grateful to live near a farm in suburbia that provides perfect quality tomatoes (and other produce!). But when the supply seems near endless, it's time to go no-holds-barred with our very creative tomato ideas.

Happily, I'm not going to subject you to a #tomatofail (my sadly unbalanced salsa in which I indiscriminately also threw in some tomatillos of varying ripeness). On the other hand, this is tamer than the roasted red pepper/asparagus/pineapple sauce. Here's what I made: Salad dressing!

Who would have thought? Tomatoes *in* salads, not *on* them. And since at least two of the four people in this household won't touch mayo or creamy dressings, we don't do 1000-island or French dressing person. But tomatoes in the vinaigrette was delicious. I used the heirloom tomatoes from our farm share, but any flavorful, meaty, umami-laden tomato will be perfect. Or use imperfect. Whatever you've got. It's worth a shot. (This is my kitchen mantra.)

Simple Tomato Balsamic Vinaigrette

Makes about 2/3 c.
5 minute prep (that's how you know I made this up; short prep!)

1 large (.5 lb) or 2 medium tomatoes
1 small shallot
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. balsamic vinegar
2 T. whole grain mustard (I used Murietta's Well mustard w/ garlic, which was great)
2 T. chopped parsley
salt, pepper

Roughly chop the tomato(es), shallot and parsley. Throw them in either a blender or the cup for your handheld stick blender (which I love because it's so much easier to clean than the blender, especially for smaller amounts). Add the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard on top. Blend away!

It's so good as is, but feel free to add salt and pepper as needed.

This dressing was fabulous on green salad (with tomatoes!) but I think it'd be a lovely addition to a purple/yellow potato salad as well. Have fun!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

when you've got red pepper, asparagus, and a random can of pineapple

You can throw them together for a fabulous sauce!
No, really. This isn't just end-of-summer CSA insanity born of one too many nightshades.

Well, maybe it is a little bit. But! This sauce really worked. Roasting red peppers gives them that seductive smoky roasty flavor. Asparagus, either roasted or grilled, brings a fresh green bitterness. And pineapple, very surprisingly, mellows them both and brings them together. And, like the earlier roasted veggies recipe, it was really easy to make.

Here's my cooking-by-intuition recipe:

- Preheat oven to 400 F.

(c) 2011
- Toss some sweet red peppers with olive oil. Pierce each with a knife and lay on a cookie sheet covered with parchment or foil or a Silpat. (I highly recommend just getting yourself a Silpat and saving the money on all that parchment or foil.)

- If you don't already have grilled asparagus left over from dinner the night before like we did, go ahead and toss your asparagus with olive oil too.
- Let them sweat in there for, oh, 25 minutes? Until they look roasty. If you're cooking in shifts and going to try and get work done while you cook, set your timer for 15 minutes and check in on 'em.

- When the peppers look good and scorchy, and the asparagus look bright green and crisp-tender (which might happen earlier, or might not, depending on the size of both your peppers and your asparagus), take it out and turn off your oven because you're all done with that.

- Let everything cool a bit. Then pull off the peppers' stems, squeeze out the seeds, roughly chop the asparagus, and throw them in a food processor. Add a splash of olive oil and a dash of sea salt.

- Then! Behold your can of Trader Joe's pineapple chunks in juice. Eye it the way I eyed our already-open can. Think about how badly you want to bring out the roasty goodness of the red peppers. Then have no fear in tossing in 5-8 pineapple chunks into your food processor.

- Whir it up until only somewhat chunky, kind of smoothish.

- Dollop onto pizza. Serve with chicken. Stir into vinaigrette salad dressing. Add to sandwiches. Stir into hummus. So many possibilities!

What we did was to dollop onto Trader Joe's organic three cheese pizza. Along with a broccoli-tomato puree I had made a week ago. And extra shaved parm and asiago on top. Not a bad dinner.

And we USED UP our CSA share of peppers! Until I get more tomorrow. :)

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Chocolate review: Poco Dolce, olive oil and grey sea salt

In the delightful Terminal 2 at SFO, I found a chocolate to swoon over. And coffee to revive myself, but that's for another post. I might have to do a whole post in love with Terminal 2. I'm not the only one! Sunset mag did an ode to it, as did SF Chronicle.

But back to the chocolate. Behold Poco Dolce's olive oil and grey sea salt bar:

An amateur photo of expert chocolate.

Isn't it pretty? The simple, elegant packaging is your first clue you're in for something special.

This is a special photographic technique I like to call "squint and tilt."
The second clue is the list of ingredients- also simple and elegant.

But of course the real test is the taste test. I was slightly intrigued and slightly skeptical about olive oil in my chocolate (though I'm an enthusiast for sea salt with almost anything). Let's just cut to the chase and say: Olive oil in chocolate is *sublime.* Olive oil adds a rich, smooth, creaminess to the texture the way milk or cream would, but without introducing the whey and lactose taste factors that subtract from the chocolate intensity. (Milk chocolate fans would say that there's no subtraction going on, that the sum of milk and chocolate is fabulousness, and I wouldn't disagree too vigorously.)

What about the olive oil taste, you might wonder. Whatever olive oil they used, it wasn't highly acidic and I didn't have that telltale olive oil peppery kick in the back of my throat (which the olive oil expert in Copperopolis told me indicated a fine, fresh oil). But, and maybe I'm revealing my pedestrian taste in olive oil, that was ok by me. The chocolate's texture had a welcome silkiness, without any hint of dark chocolate graininess.

It doesn't come cheap. And as much as I love to savor a good bar, I couldn't make it last long. Ah well. There's got to be something coming up to celebrate with chocolate! Right? Right?!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

BlogHer11 - The meaning of life, drag queen style

This pretty much sums it up:
Ignore that men's room sign.
Life according to the drag queens of BlogHer11:
  • When you think you are doing your thing, wearing your fabulous flower, there will always be another who comes along wearing a FABULOUS FLOWER. And then there will be someone who is basically dressed as a flower. The point is, size does not matter.
  • Life is about leaving a lot of glitter, sequins and love in your wake. There are daily opportunities to be fabulous. Don't miss them.
  • These drag queens should eke a smile out of your serious little face, but if you're still feeling worn out or grumpy, go give someone a hug. Or if you're working, just think about it. It's better than retail or ice cream therapy. These ladies always have an air kiss ready; be generous with warmth and affection and it will come back to you.

It gets easier!

I love the It Gets Better project. I especially love the candid, unfussy videos and the honest-yet-loving tone that most of them seem to so naturally strike. I love the obvious care shown from older people to younger people, people who mostly don't know each other at all. I love that all kinds of people are finding hope in those videos and knowing that even some strangers really do care whether they live or die, and even whether they live well and happily.

I've been thinking someone ought to do this for new parents.

Let me give you an example. Last Thursday, I took the girls to shop for shoes, and it wasn't--repeat, was *not* -- a crazy challenge to round them up and try them on! I have usually dreaded shopping with them (grocery, clothes, anything) because they'd run off, lose interest, need to go potty every few minutes, lie in the aisles and cry, want to be carried (which I don't mind but often need two hands free and we're past Ergo age/weight), want things we're not buying (ie, candy), wander off and be in danger of getting hit by carts.... Now I'm not saying this shopping excursion was totally free of all that, but it was in fact easier than it was even 6 months ago.

It makes me happy to be able to report that. Because I know that if I read it myself six months ago, or almost three years ago after the birth of my second, or almost five years ago after the birth of my first, I would have held onto those words so incredibly tightly. Maybe printed them out and framed them.

In fact, I did receive these kinds of words of encouragement and wisdom. Not via a blog, but from a few beautiful souls who were complete strangers. I remember so clearly at least two times when I would be walking with my baby in an Ergo, and maybe I had some beaten down look on my face which I fooled myself into thinking could pass for the look of a peaceful, blissy new mama, and someone would stop me to say with delight and no small measure of warmth, "Oh, it just gets better from here!" And, "I have teenagers and it's only gotten better!"

Magical, beautiful statements that I believed that with every bit of belief that I had. It was easy to believe because I had already experienced incremental improvements with the parenting gig, especially the lessening of exhaustion. But I hadn't by then experienced what it was like to interact with someone who could express their personality using words and not just variations on "waaaahhhhhhhhh!!!" I had to simply trust that for some,and maybe even many, this business of caring for a growing person did get easier.

And it does. Not only does it get easier physically, for my money it also gets more fun. That is to say, more knock knock jokes than you could possibly imagine on your own. More koala pictures. More repetitions of "Happy Birthday." More eye rolls, but also more imagination, more giggles, more flat out breathtaking insights. Yep, from your three year old.

I have feelings about the end of the baby years. But I can't help but feel some miracle and wonder at what's right here, right now. And maybe just sharing that can be a light at the end of the tunnel for someone out there.

So I am here to report to you brave, tired new parents, from someone who is only slightly further along on this parenting path: It gets better.