July 26, 2006

Project pooch, live-blogging (sort of)

It's Project Runway day. Is there anyone who is not addicted to this show? Anyway, the previews indicated that this episode would be about "one of the hottest fashion accessory", and there was a lot of speculation about which accessory that would be. [Spoiler warning!]

The consensus on Blogging Project Runway was that the accessory would be a dog, and while the notion of a dog as an accessory makes me flinch, the actual sight of Tim Gunn in Central Park holding the leashes of 13 dogs (all little dogs, I'm afraid to say) was ...priceless.*

There were a miniature poodle, a Boston terrier, a Yorkshire terrier, a pug, a Chinese crested, a Pomeranian... and some other dogs, mostly terriers. One contestant said that basically every designer picked the dog that was a canine version of herself/himself. I think I would have picked the Corgi. What does that say about me?
The Pembroke's brave, steady temperament, physical agility and easily-kept, compact size are paramount characteristics of the breed.
What would Queen Elizabeth II have to say about her beloved Corgis being categorized as fashion accessories?

The challenge for the designers is to design a dress for a woman who could be the owner of the dog that they picked - and also some kind of, er, garment** for the dog. Can it get any sillier? Ah well, let's just roll with it. There's a German designer on the show, her name is Uli, and she picked a pug named "Einstein" (she pronounced it the German way, /'ainshtain/). I haven't seen any of the designs yet, but I think I'm rooting for them, they're a cute team. Make it work![to be continued]

So here they are, the models and the dogs are strutting down the runway. Einstein looks happy enough. He wears some kind of giraffe-print sweater, and the model who walks him down the runway wears a flirty halter dress in an interesting combination of prints. Cool. Hm, here's a dog that looks as if he's in diapers (ah, it's actually a hoodie he's wearing). The Yorkie is fitted with a silly hat he absolutely wants to get off. Vincent, when will you learn that "kooky hats" [>>see update below<<] are just not your thing? Some dogs are carried down the runway. Well, I think it would have been better if the model with the poufy pink taffeta bubble skirt (decorated with "little rosettes"***) would have been balanced off by something natural...like a dog walking at her side.

The judges smile. That's the dog effect! Models may make you think "wow", but dogs make you smile.

Eventually, six designers remain on the runway - the ones with the highest and the lowest scores. That means that once again Michael and Laura are almost invisible. I quite liked Michael's design -- too bad we haven't really seen a close-up of his work. The coffee filter dress was outstanding!

The designers tell their story -- what kind of woman were they imagining when they designed their outfits? Uli and Einstein go first. She thinks he's "a funky cool guy". And he is! The judges love both the model's dress and like the dog's outfit. Very playful, a quirky combination of prints. And the model even has a jacket. Well done, Team Germany! The judges stress that "she thought about the dog". They also like Team Poodle, a woman in an elegant white dress (also with a jacket!), accompanied by a white poddle in a white vest. Nice construction, but no quirks or surprises here.

Surprise -- they praise Bradley's design (Stanley - is that a Cairn Terrier? He's totally adorable**** and very vocal!) and call it "the most original" -- he was struggling with it all through the challenge and was simply relieved that his model didn't have to walk down the runway in the nude, and he can't seem to believe his luck (plus it's his birthday). Frankly, I didn't get why Vera Wang like the outfit so much, but I'm happy for shaggy Bradley and his shaggy little dog. Keith made no outfit for the dog. But he put a lot of thought into it! (His dog was the Chinese crested -- just the kind of dog that you really want to see covered in something.) The design with the pink bubble skirt gets called out. The story about the woman - assistant director at an art camp for children in Paris? - is preposterous, and the outfit looks skimpy. Nina Garcia "really didn't like this at all". Ivanka Trump - she's no Hilton, don't mess with her! - thinks the model looked like a streetwalker.
"One of you will be named the winner, and one of you will be out."
Yeah! Uli and Einstein won! The judges loved the design and the choice of colors. Herzlichen Glückwunsch! Click here to see a picture of the design.

Katy, who designed the green outfit with the very simple dress for the model and the very complicated doggie hoodie that looked like a diaper to me, is "out". The judges called her design "poorly executed and uninspired". The dog will be happy to have it stripped off.

Click here for Tim's Take.

*The dogs were recruited through a dog agency in New York and their owners or trainers were present in the background.

Garment goes back to Old French garniment ("equipment, armor, vestments"), so does garnish. I was surprised to learn that garnish was used by Shakespeare synonymously with garment in The Merchant of Venice ("So you are sweet, even in the lowly garnish of a boy"). The original meaning of the noun garnish was that of "a set of vessels for table use", derived from the verb to garnish, meaning "to supply with men, arms, and provisions" [Oxford English Dictionary].

***Tim Gun called them "crafty flowerettes" and felt reminded of Kleenex. In a preview of episode four we see them again. Angela, Laura, and Michael are working on an outfit, and Laura and Michael are both exasperated with Angela's continued love for "rosettes". In another preview, another designer referred to them as "mac(c)aroni art". As they say: Enough already. (
Crafty, by the way, is related to the German word for "strong" (kräftig). Nobody seems to be sure, though, how the word came to change its meaning in English.)

****In his podcast, Tim Gunn referred to Stanley as an adoringly "schlumpy looking Terrier", in other words, a dog version of Bradley. He had first been picked by Allison, who then noticed that Bradley and his poodle didn't make a good pair. So they swapped, and Allison designed an elegant outfit for Team Poodle, and Bradly cobbled together something for Team Schlump.
Schlumpy is of course a word from Yiddish, just like those other fantastic words beginning with this kind of consonant cluster (schlep, schmaltz, schmeer, schlock, and shlong). Shaggy, on the other hand, is related to the Old Norse word for "beard" (OED).

>>Update: You probably guessed this - kooky is related to cuckoo, which -- according to the OED -- was first used in the meaning of "crazy" in 1918. <<

July 22, 2006

dog sitters should never graduate

the good thing about "getting away from it all" is that, well, you get away from it all. the bad thing is that "all" includes your dog. so, what are my options for boarding il snofo when i'll be gone for my first more-than-a-week vacation in five years next month?

the most basic kennel offers this: "Your dog will stay safely in his own 4x4 sleeping quarters with a attached 4x10 exercise run...At the end of each section of runs there are large garage doors that allow fresh air to flow freely amongst the kennels". the dog will not be taken outside (unless booked and paid for separately, $5 for "up to 30 minutes playtime". up to? what is that supposed to mean?). costs are $16/day. affordable -- but not very tempting. plus, they don't take in dogs on sundays (my flight is on monday morning).

friends of mine recently boarded their dog at a kennel that charges $16 for a "kennel" and $25/day for a "condo" (10x10, with separation walls between them -- kennels are separated by chainlink fences only). kennels don't have an outside area, but the dogs get "4-6 bathroom breaks" and extra playtime in a 2 acre outdoor area every day. the pictures on the website don't look very inviting (it seems a very noisy place and not superclean), but perhaps i should go and see for myself.

the next establishment, one at which i boarded brandy a couple of times in the past (but never for longer than 3 or 4 days), has just raised its fees. accomodation in the "pampered pooch suite", which is much more basic than it sounds (it's just a small kennel with access to a small private outside area, separated from other kennels by a chain-link fence), is $25/day. dogs are let out in small groups into a larger playyard twice or three times a day (what's up with the "or"?). okay, that's better. and i actually know the place. and it's only a 20 min drive (these things matter if the dog in question becomes a whiny passenger after 5 miles) and yes, they take in dogs on sundays. let me send a reservation inquiry right away.

the next step up is a "pet spa" that has worked very well in the past. once one has cut through all the anthropomorphizing verbiage on the website ("Once they arrive in this country elegance, they will be escorted to their heated, tiled room plush with lamb's wool bedding"), it all comes down to this: accomodation is $34.50/day, and dogs are taken into a playyard in small groups about six to eight times a day. the general idea is to have them spend as little time as possible in their sleeping quarters during the day. they also offer romps in the park (see picture), but they are $7.00 extra. there is no check-in on sundays (although they are open and dogs can be picked up. i don't get it.). hmpf.

finally, also on the high end, there's a new luxury kennel, billing itself as a "hotel" (dogs are actually referred to as "hotel guests"!). the language used on their website is even more preposterous ("Imagine yourself curled up in a soft bed next to a crackling fire, being scratched behind the ears… you find a biscuit on your pillow and begin to drift off to the soft sounds of Mozart"), but what matters more is that dogs seem to get a lot of interaction (about 2 hours of play time per day), plus do they take dogs in on sundays. miraculously, they also charge $34.50/day (for a "bungalow", i.e. an ordinary kennel). perhaps i should have a look at this place? or would i be overwhelmed with all the mozart, chandeliers, and fireplaces?

decisions, decisions -- sometimes i wish our dog sitter would never have graduated!
(dear n., if you are reading this, i'm only kidding of course, i wish you the very best for your career.)

July 20, 2006

another water dog

snapshot taken last sunday - a scottish dog (i believe this is a cairn terrier - they were first bread on the isle of skye) aboard a scottish paddle steamer (the "waverley") crusing along the coast of scotland. can't you just hear the accordion player play "step we gaily on we go"?

according to the oxford english dictionary, the cairn terrier is "said to be so named from being used to hunt among cairns", i.e. among piles of stones, but it sounds a bit ...folksy to me, especially considering that other scottish terriers are simply named after places, such as "scotch terrier" or "west highland terrier" (the cairn terrier used to be known as the "short-haired skye terrier", and why would one give up a name that evokes the beautiful isle of skye for one that focuses on a pile of stones?)

water dog

i don't much care for bottled water - if i need water on the go, i simply fill a water bottle with tap water, and that's it. but then, i'm not a water connoisseur*.

i am not surprised at all, though, that the bottled water craze has spawned a new product: aqua dog.
An Australian man has taken pooch-pampering to the next level with the launch of Aqua Dog. With one canine for every five Australians, the country has one of the world's highest dog ownership rates and a pet food industry worth Aus$1,2-billion ($890-million) a year.

For Andrew Larkey, that made the country the perfect place to start offering bottled water for dogs. "Most people think 'how ridiculous'. The irony is that this is 100% serious," said Larkey. "It's like a sports drink for dogs."

Larkey came up with the idea while working as the new products manager for an international beverage company. On his trips to the supermarket two things, he said, became clear. The fastest growing markets were bottled water for humans and high-value pet treats. Larkey simply wanted to marry the two together.

"Bottled water for dogs ... I just had to follow through with it," Larkey said. When the multinational didn't believe in the idea, Larkey left his secure corporate job and went in alone. Selling for nearly Aus$3 ($2,20) per bottle, the canine drink is more expensive than mineral water for humans. But in a nation of dog lovers, it is flying off the shelves.
although i just love to be distracted by brandy walking up to her water bowl -- the clack, clack, clack of her nails on the hardwood floor followed by the bored slurp, slurp, slurp of her exploration of the bowl ("see, this is all i'm getting here, boring old water") -- i'm not going to try to increase the frequency of her water bowl trips by making her think that some meat may be at the bottom of the bowl.

connoisseur goes back to the latin verb "cognoscere", which means "to know" or "to be acquainted with". it found its way into english via old french ("connoisseor"). in modern french the spelling is different (connaisseur) .

July 09, 2006

dogs and art

the art fair was packed. not much fun for dogs.

except for these colorful guys. they look pretty relaxed.

the artist didn't win the best in show prize, though. talking about which -- if you happen to be near greenwich, connecticut, you might want to visit this exhibition:

July 06, 2006

"You know you've arrived when you're in a dictionary"

Merriam-Webster is giving us a sneak preview of the words that will be added to the 2006 edition of the Collegiate Dictionary, among them: supersize (the verb), drama queen, unibrow, polyamory, and mouse potato. Mouse potato? I must admit I never heard that one. Which is bad because I probably am one.

According to the Associated Press, the verb google has finally made it as well. Note that as a verb it "lowercased" (ah, don't you just love noun-to-verb conversions?).

"We try to have a mix that addresses the wide range of people's information needs when adding new words," said John Morse, president of the Springfield-based dictionary publisher. "It could be a technical term or some light-hearted slang that sends people to a dictionary."

To make it into the dictionary, a word has to be more than a flash-in-the-pan fad. It needs staying power. "We need evidence that the word is showing up in publications that people are reading on an everyday basis," Morse said. Lexicographers comb through national newspapers, entertainment magazines, trade journals and Web sites in search of new words and phrases.

[...] Along with defining an intensive computer user as a "mouse potato" (a popular twist on the late 1990's "couch potato" entry), they have given formal definition to one of the Internet's most recognizable names. "Google is definitely a verb," said Dan Reynolds, a 35-year-old salesman at YES Computers in Northampton. "Google has become like a secondary brain for a lot of people. If you want quick info on something, that's what you do. You Google it."

Respectful of the trademark, Merriam-Webster lowercases the entry but maintains the capitalization while explaining that the verb means "to use the Google search engine" to retrieve online information. "We're defining a trademark as a verb, just like we did with the word xerox," Morse said. [...]

Environmentalists and alternative energy fans should be heartened by the addition of "biodiesel," which is a fuel made partly with vegetable sources. "That symbolizes to me that biodiesel is becoming a household word," said Jenna Higgins, a spokeswoman for the National Biodiesel Board. "You know you've arrived when you're in the dictionary."

If you would like to know which words were recognized as new words 200 years ago, follow this link. Noah Webster added loan words from Native American languages (such as skunk) as well as many terms relating to the sciences (such as psychology, nutrient, and ignescent). He is also known, of course, for simplifying the spelling of many words. Some of his suggestions, however, never caught on, among them wimmen (women), sley (sleigh), and soop (soup).

July 02, 2006

"Language exists to become language in great books."

...German novelist Peter Handke in an interview with Deborah Solomon for the New York Times magazine, answering the question "What is language?"

How very avant-garde.

July 01, 2006

lassie's lunch

another saturday at the farmers' market. dogs are not allowed, but they won't care, if you bring home some of "lassie's lunch".