October 26, 2006

mail-order puppies

Christmas catalogs are arriving in the mailbox. As every year, I ask myself what the mail-order industry would do without golden retriever puppies. Puppies under blankets, puppies on window sills, puppies in the snow, adorable puppies held by adorable chlidren, you get the idea. These two are starting off the season for LL. Bean:

Here we see an example of shameless exploitation of puppy cuteness by Lands' End (the company with the idiosyncratic apostrophe) for the purpose of selling perfectly uncute sweaters for humans.

However, let's give them credit for not limiting themselves to retriever puppies in their catalog.

October 22, 2006

fabulously glamorous milkbone

Laura Bennett is not a dog person. Yet she seems to be very fond of one particular brooch. Doesn't it look like a glammed-up milkbone?

ETA on Nov. 4: Trust the Project Rungay guys to provide the answer (scroll down until you get to the close-up picture of the "buckle", which, as it turns out, is a vintage piece by Boucheron).

And another dog-related snippet: according to this post on blogging project runway, the name of the piece Ulli Herzner* chose as soundtrack for her runway presentation is "doggy fun". How perfect is that, considering that she won the dog challenge?

* Uli Herzner now has a website and a logo. The logo is her name, "Uli" (presumably short for "Ulrike"), encircled by a heart, which is very appropriate, considering that the German word for "heart" is ... "Herz".

October 20, 2006

your papa won!

Finale. Finally. It's there. And guess what? No drama, no twists, no questionable decisions -- the designer with the strongest, boldest collection won. It was as simple as that.

Harrison Detroit*, stop crying, your Papa** won!

Who could put it better than Robin Givhan (Washington Post)?
Sebelia stood out because he sent fashion -- something personal and challenging -- down the runway. That was a risk because fashion often alienates more consumers -- or viewers -- than it excites. Bennett and Herzner simply offered the audience nice clothes with obvious commercial appeal. It is a subtle distinction, and the fact that the judges went looking for fashion -- and rewarded Sebelia for producing it -- distinguishes "Project Runway" as a reality show that tries to reflect the standards of the industry it mines for entertainment.
All was harmony. Laura I-didn't-mean-to-question-your-integrity Bennett had to accept that the judges were just not that into her Alexis Carrington collection, Michael was cool with his clothes not being so hot after all, Uli concluded that No. 2 was just right for her, and Jeffrey ... well, it's all just a bunch of vibrations!

All's well that end's well. Bye, bye PR3, we're gonna miss you!


* Linguistically, this episode was't very interesting. We didn't get to see a lot of Tim Gunn either. Hm, perhaps there's a correlation? So, let's at least say something about the most striking middle name ever: Detroit's (the city!) name used to be "Ville d'Etroit" (literally: city of the strait), named after a narrow strait that led to it. The name was at some point simplified (and anglicized) to "Detroit". Of course, it's now going to become a popular name for boys (think "Madison", which now ranks consistently among the top ten names for girls, though not in Wisconsin itself). Check back here next year, and you may not read "Detroit is not in the top 1000 male names for any year of birth in the last 15 years. Please enter another name".

**"Papa" (with stress on the first syllable) is the German equivalent to "daddy". Heidi Klum's children probably address her as "Mama" (again, stress on the first syllable) -- they're so lucky to grow up to be bilingual!

October 17, 2006

pun and punishment

Or: Beware, my lord, of cellulose!

Yes, I'll admit it. I don't like puns. They seem to shout "look how clever I am", and usually I don't find them so clever. So let me list some that are so awful that they seem to be stuck forever in my brain.

  • "O-Cel-O" (product name of an kitchen sponge)
  • "The Mane Attraction" (name of a local hair salon)
  • "Try one of our new Moolattes" (advertisement for some dairy queen concoction)
  • "Lettuce all work together!" (slogan in local grocery coop)
  • "Pawtisserie" (name of bakery for dogs)
  • "Sole Mate" (name of some sort of shoe bag)
  • "Pee-pee tepee" (you need to see it to believe it)

To be continued! (for sure)

October 16, 2006

puppy threat

From the "Metropolitan Diary" column in The New York Times: How do you make sure parents won't let their children run around unattended in your shop?

This sign appeared in a new cheese shop on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn:

“Unattended children will be given an espresso and a free puppy.”

October 15, 2006

the power of chartreuse

tim gunn's use of the color term "chartreuse" didn't surprise anybody. you'd expect that any self-respecting gay man (to quote tim gunn) knows some multisyllabic color terms, such as vermilion or turquoise.

in her classic book "language and woman's place", linguist robin lakoff pointed out that knowing color terms beyond the primary or secondary colors is normally considered typical of women. she herself for the longest time wasn't sure if "chartreuse" was in the pink or green family. but then, she's not a fashion designer.

[aside: try to read out the following lists of color terms. which list is easier to read out, the first or the second?]
  • red, green, purple,orange,turquoise, black
  • blue,purple, yellow,periwinkle, orange, yellow

but there's more to colors than social stereotyping of speakers. for a long time, there has been a discussion on whether or not (and if yes, to which extent) language shapes (or even determines) our perception of reality.

let's say your mental dictionary has only one word for all shades of green ("green") and that of your friend, the fashion designer, has 10 different words ("green", "chartreuse", "olive"...), does it mean that you will not be able to perceive any differences between chartreuse and olive, but your friend will? not quite. you only need to visit your local hardware store to realize that we all perceive things we don't have any names for.

but imagine the following experiment: you are presented with a card on which squares in different colors are printed. one of the colors is different from all the others. your job is to name the color of the square that stands out. in the picture to the left, it's the square at the bottom left (which seems more bluish than the others). will you recognize the odd color more quickly if it does not only look different from the other swatches but also has a completely different name, say, chartreuse?

here's the description of exactly that experiment:

Many of the distinctions made in English do not appear in other languages, and vice versa. For instance, English uses two different words for the colors blue and green, while many other languages — such as Tarahumara, an indigenous language of Mexico — instead use a single color term that covers shades of both blue and green. An earlier study by Paul Kay and colleagues had shown that speakers of English and Tarahumara perceive colors differently: English speakers found blues and greens to be more distinct from each other than speakers of Tarahumara did, as if the English “green” / “blue” linguistic distinction sharpened the perceptual difference between the colors themselves. The present study essentially repeated the English part of that earlier test, but also made sure that colors were presented to either the right or the left half of the visual field — something the earlier study hadn’t done — so as to test whether language influences the right half of our visual world more than the left half, as predicted by brain organization.

In each experimental trial of the present study, participants saw a ring of colored squares. All the squares were of exactly the same color, except for an “odd-man-out” of a different color. The odd-man-out appeared in either the right or the left half of the circle, and participants were asked to indicate which side of the circle the odd-man-out was on, by making a keyboard response. Critically, the color of this odd-man-out had either the same name as the other squares (e.g. a shade of “green”, while the others were all a different shade of “green”), or a different name (e.g. a shade of “blue”, while the others were all a shade of “green”). The researchers found that participants responded more quickly when the color of the odd-man-out had a different name than the color of the other squares — as if the linguistic difference had heightened the perceptual difference — but this only occurred if the odd-man-out was in the right half of the visual field, and not when it was in the left half. This was the predicted pattern.

Earlier studies addressing the possible influence of language on perception tended to look for a simple yes or no answer: either language affects perception, or it does not. In contrast, the current findings support both views at once. Language appears to sharpen visual distinctions in the right visual field, and not in the left visual field. The researchers conclude that “our representation of the visual world may be, at one and the same time, filtered and not filtered through the categories of language.” [this link will take you to the text from which this excerpt was taken.]
in other words, according to this experiment, knowing the word "chartreuse" will change your world (or at least the perception of half of it).

October 13, 2006


so this was supposed to be the episode in which tim gunn would climb into the red saturn roadster to visit the remaining contestants in their hometown and in which we would get first glimpses of everybody's collections for olympus fashion week. however, in reality this turned out to be the episode that will be remembered for a cliffhangerish* use of the adverb "unfortunately".

but first things first. yes, tim gunn did climb into the saturn roadster and we saw some warm and cozy moments, with
children presenting turtle poop and tim gunn basking his untanned feet in the miami sun. yes, we did see glimpses of everyone's collection, but since detailed views of the collections have been available for weeks all over the internet, there were no big surprises.

as far as the clothes went, tim gunn was slightly underwhelmed. he missed uli's prints in her "tropical safari"** collection, wasn't keen on the "bling happening" in michael's collection and dismissed one of laura's outfits (see the picture on the left) as a "chartreuse*** popsicle****". the popsicle didn't make it to bryant park, but the belt did. at least we now know where that awkward greenish belt that camilla wore with her sparkly grey dress came from, it was a popsibelt!

tim gunn did not dismiss all things green, though. he was "in awe" of some of the details of jeffrey's designs, in particular his silhouette-accentuating placement of zippers. jeffrey had, as they say, pulled a santino, i.e. he had come up with a collection that was a lot more aesthetically pleasing than most of his pieces on the show. there were fresh dresses with polka-dots and candy-stripes, as well as some slim pants ensembles. here's a close-up of the candy-striped**** dress worn by marilinda at olympus fashion show. i must say i had not been aware that what looked like boring gold piping was actually a zipper. clever!

when laura bennet saw jeffrey's designs, she thought that their execution in general just seemed a wee bit too clever and she figured that he may have had help with the sewing. things were not well in the state of new york.

so laura talked to jeffrey, right? no, she talked to tim gunn first. (at least that's how it was portrayed.)
so then tim talked to jeffrey, right? no, he confronted jeffrey with the accusation in front of the whole group. (at least that's how it was portrayed.)
so jeffrey got really angry, right? no, he seemed more stunned than angry. (at least that's...)
so that's how the episode ended? no, we got to see tim gunn confronting the group again beginning a statement with "unfortunately..." and then we saw a shot of jeffrey collapsing in uli's arms. aah, those editors! (i don't believe for a minute that jeffrey would have been allowed to show his collection at bryant park if there had been proof of his having relied on someone else's mad skillz
. roadster, shmoadster -- showing at fashion week is the real prize in this competition, especially for someone who has already established a label, and we all know that jeffrey did show his collection.)

once the episode was over some serious ugly took place on pr-related discussion boards. people called each other names for calling laura or jeffrey names and hundreds of comments were made in a few hours. it shows you the power of a little adverb. and of clever editing.

anyway, let me end on a positive note, i.e. with two nice words i was fortunate to pick up on blogging project runway.
It's really hard to hold my cybertongue and not SCREAM at people sometimes, but that's not what we are here for. Anyway-you guys are great and we appreciate you. (praddicted)

we expect that the traffic will dramatically drop after next week and we look forward to chatting with all of you again by the blogside fire. (Tbone, BPR)

the rest -- is silence.

* "cliff-hanger" was first recorded in the 1930s. a more recent creation is the backformation "to cliff-hang" [oed]

** "safari" is the swahili word for "journey". [oed]

***"chartreuse" is the feminine form of the french adjective "chartreux", which means "
‘from the Catursiani montes, or from ... Chatrousse, a village in Dauphiné, near which their first monastery was founded". the name for a color is related to the name of a liquor made of herbs and brandy by the monks of the head monastery of the carthusians . [oed]

****"popsicle" is a proprietary name in the u.s. it was trade-marked in 1923. in 1977, on the occasion of vladimir nabokov's death, time magazine wrote "in nature, beauty is the beast...the delectable nymphet lolita has a cruel, popsicle heart" [oed, time.com]

would you have guessed that "candy cane" has been added to the oxford english dictionary only this year?

October 08, 2006

will work for food

my dog is what they call "food-motivated". which is a good thing, because otherwise she'd be too lazy to learn anything. here she is in various states of hungriness on a sunday morning.

ca. 7.30 a.m.
dog is working for treats while out on morning walk.

ca. 7.45 a.m.
dog wants to get home. home is where the food is.

ca. 8.00 a.m.
food has been consumed. dog is in lazy sunday morning mode.

time for humans to reach for the sunday paper
(and a coffee treat, in this case a vietnamese style coffee, but with espresso)

October 05, 2006

turtle poop alarm and tim gunnisms

if you haven't seen previews of episode 13 yet (let's just say that harrison detroit sebelia -- the toddler of tattoo fame -- seems to own a pet turtle.. [edit: but see comments]), you may not understand what the title of this post refers to. you may, in fact, think that it relates to the most recent episode, the reunion show, in some way. and, on reflection, that might actually not be the worst way to describe it.

one of the few highlights of the show was a short review of tim gunnisms. hail to the person who holds up the flag for multisyllabic words on reality tv. so here, for your entertainment and enlightenment is schnaufblog's idiosyncratic version of

tim gunn's abc
of constructive criticism

[links go to merriam-webster online]

  1. ancillary (from the Latin word for "handmaid")
  2. bifurcate (from the Latin word for "two-pronged"-- the word is related to "fork")
  3. chacun à son goût (French for "each to his own taste")
  4. daunting (from Latin "domitare", to tame)
  5. egregious (from the Latin word for "flock", as in "towering above the flock")
  6. faux bois (French for "false wood")
  7. grievous (from French, related to "grave")
  8. haute couture (French for "high sewing")
  9. idiosyncratic (from Greek "personal mixing")
  10. joie de vivre (French, "joy of living")
  11. kindergarten play of camelot (from German for "children's garden", "camelot" is the name of King Arthur's castle)
  12. lexicon (from the Greek word for "of words")
  13. malfeasance (from French, "wrong doing", -feasance is related to "faire", "do" in French, or "facere" in Latin, which is the source for the English word "fact", "that which has been made")
  14. nominations sought!
  15. omniscient (from Latin "all-knowing")
  16. preposterous (from Latin the Latin word for "absurd, reversed", from "prae" + "posterus", "before" + " coming after")
  17. quilt-like appliqués (from Old French "cuilte", the word for "stuffed sack" or "mattress")
  18. reverie (from Old French, "rejoicing, rage", related to "rave")
  19. Sturm and Drang (from German, "storm and urge", the title of a play by the German author F. M. Klinger (1776), seized upon by the historians of literature as aptly expressing the spirit of the school to which the author belonged [OED], used for young writers characterized by extravagance in the representation of violent passion [OED])
  20. trepidation (from Latin, "trapidus", meaning "scared, alarmed")
  21. ultra-glamorous (from Latin, "ultra", meaning "beyond", first used in French in the combination "ultra-royaliste", related to "ulterior")
  22. voluminous (from Latin, "volumen", meaning "roll, coil")
  23. woeful (from an Indo-European interjection expressing grief or lamentation)
  24. x-uberant [sorry, had to cheat on this one]
  25. yawnur, project (from Old High German, "yawn", meaning "to gape")
  26. zaftig (from Yiddish "zaftik", "saftig" in German, meaning "juicy)

ready for some turtle-related trepidation next week?

October 01, 2006

sign language it is not

i meant to post this quite some time ago:
Sign language lesson for deaf dog

A deaf dog has been taught sign language in a bid to find him a new home in West Lothian. Border Collie Johnny became homeless two weeks ago after his owner died.

It is hoped the eight-year-old dog's new skills will make him more attractive to prospective pet owners who have been overlooking him. Johnny knows six hand signals and commands, with "sit" and "come back" being the most important to keep him out of danger.

just what exactly makes this news? every dog owner knows that some dogs will respond to hand signals much better than to spoken commands. that's what they are: hand signals. this is not "language" by any stretch of the term. (sign languages, such as american sign language, it should be added, are just as complex as spoken languages -- they have complex vocabulary and complex syntax, such as relative clauses and embedded questions.)

in any case, i hope johnny has found a loving home in the meantime.