December 25, 2007

merry christmas!

Presents are fun! But this one doesn't really smell promising. It's probably not for me. And what's with the goldfish?

You know, I really get to put up with a lot in this house. Nobody respects my dignity. Although I must say, I really look good in orange. Always have.

Oh well, I got a new collar. Big deal. I prefer FOOOOD. Although I must say, I really look good in green, too.

Ah, finally! Something to eat! I figured out myself which one of these was for me. My people tell me I'm a clever dog. Tell me something new!

Frohe Weihnachten!

December 24, 2007

drop till they shop

Have you ever come across a shopdropped item in a store? Now that I know what shopdropping is, I think I actually may have:

Otherwise known as reverse shoplifting, shopdropping involves surreptitiously putting things in stores, rather than illegally taking them out, and the motivations vary. Anti-consumerist artists slip replica products packaged with political messages onto shelves while religious proselytizers insert pamphlets between the pages of gay-and-lesbian readings at book stores.
Self-published authors sneak their works into the “new releases” section, while personal trainers put their business cards into weight-loss books, and aspiring professional photographers make homemade cards — their Web site address included, of course — and covertly plant them into stationery-store racks.

[...] Jason Brody, lead singer for an independent pop-rock band in the East Village, said his group recently altered its shopdropping tactics to cater to the holiday rush. Normally the band, the Death of Jason Brody, slips promotional CD singles between the pages of The Village Voice newspaper and into the racks at large music stores. But lately, band members have been slipping into department stores and putting stickers with logos for trendy designers like Diesel, John Varvatos and 7 for All Mankind on their CDs, which they then slip into the pockets of designer jeans or place on counters. “Bloomingdale’s and 7 for All Mankind present the Death of Jason Brody, our pick for New York band to watch in 2008,” read a sticker on one of the CDs placed near a register at Bloomingdales. “As thanks for trying us on, we’re giving you this special holiday gift.” Bloomingdales and 7 for All Mankind declined to comment.

Ingenious marketing? Cool gesture of anti-consumerism? You decide. This, however, is neither:

For pet store owners, the holidays usher in a form of shopdropping with a touch of buyer’s remorse. What seemed like a cute gift idea at the time can end up being dumped back at a store, left discretely to roam the aisles. “After Easter, there’s a wave of bunnies; after Halloween, it’s black cats; after Christmas, it’s puppies,” said Don Cowan, a spokesman for the store chain Petco, which in the month after each of those holidays sees 100 to 150 pets abandoned in its aisles or left after hours in cages in front of stores. Snakes have been left in crates, mice and hamsters surreptitiously dropped in dry aquariums, even a donkey left behind after a store’s annual pet talent show, Mr. Cowan said.

December 23, 2007


The NYT has an article today on "buzzwords 2007". I don't think there's anything particularly 2007 about most of them. Take, for example, truther ("Someone who espouses a conspiracy theory about the events of 9/11"). Cool word, but why a buzzword 2007? In 2006, it was all over the place at the University of Wisconsin, when Kevin Barrett was hired as a lecturer for a course on Islam culture and history. And nose bidet is not a buzzword at all, it's simply a euphemism for neti pot -- a sinus-cleaning device that figured prominently in an episode of Six Feet Under in 2004 (Ruth threw a fit when her husband George turned out to be a neti pot user).

December 21, 2007

eyes, ears, where's the difference?

Mitt Romney has a thing for metaphors. When he said that he SAW his father march with Martin Luther King (which implies that it happened and that he was actually THERE, which he wasn't), what he actually meant was that he HEARD that his father marched with MLK (which doesn't imply either). Hence:


''I saw my father march with Martin Luther King.''

-- ''Faith in America'' speech, College Station, Texas, Dec. 6


''It's a figure of speech.''

-- News conference, Fort Dodge, Iowa, Dec. 20

[as reported by AP]

December 20, 2007

holiday sweaters are for cat people

Every December, the Times has a seasonal article on that dreadful American Christmas tradition, the holiday sweater:

[E]nough time has gone by that Kathy McConnell, the senior vice president of product development at Coldwater Creek, the women’s fashion chain of unpretentious, professional-looking clothes, felt it was safe this year to invite the cat back.

In fact, she invited several of them, as the central characters who pounce and lounge and play with string on several of the company’s annual holiday sweater designs. The most popular so far has been its “kitty cardigan” ($89.50), which depicts — in ramie, acrylic, nylon, angora, wool, rayon and sparkly Lurex threads — a tower of cats, one of which has a red string tied around its tail, as if to remind us of something.

It may be this: Sometimes, in our hoity-toity haste to malign a tradition that is seen as perfectly normal in just about every part of the country west of the Hudson River, we forget the true meaning of Christmas — and, while we’re at it, the true meaning of Christmas sweaters. We may not remember that there are real, sophisticated people coming up with ideas for these things at companies like Coldwater Creek, Talbots, Marisa Christina, Quacker Factory and Berek every year, not some committee of demented elves pulling subjects at random from Santa’s bag of tricks — i.e., ice-skating penguins, fiber-optic candy canes, halls-decking bunnies and so on. [...]

Cats, as a rule, do well as a subject of holiday sweaters, especially when playing with a ball of string. Cats are nondenominational. Most people, with the exception of dog people, think cats are cute. And fewer are allergic to cat sweaters than to cats.
I am a dog person. Still, I'll grant cat people that kittens can be cute (as long as they don't jump on tables, chairs, countertops, or my lap). But holiday sweaters? Never!

December 14, 2007

polyester makes me all verklemmt

Finally! A Project Runway challenge that required some creativity -- the clients this week were women who had lost a lot of weight (between 40 and 170 pounds) and the challenge was to turn their favorite pre-weight loss outfit (among them a shiny polyester wedding dress, a canary blazer, and a green velvet evening gown) into something that would be suitable for their everyday life and that, of course, would express the point of view of the designers.

The results were...shall we say "mixed"? If you were looking forward to metamorphosis of the poufy wedding gown into a sleek cocktail dress, you were in for a disappointment.

Sorry, Steven, but if you "just don't do polyester satin", you don't belong on this show. It's a little verklemmt*. What would PR be without great garments made of not-so-great materials, such as corn husks, coffee filters, or recycled paper? And what's up with the glue and the prayer that Steven relied on for holding his black-and-white nightmare together? Don't we know it's all about construction and execution? Gillian was confident that she would get away with a well-made dress that wasn't in line with the terms of the challenge -- as long as it was, well, a well-made dress. And not only did she get away with it, she even got into the top three. Unfair? Sure. Unexpected? Hell, no. This is Project Runway, the show where you can end up in the top three of the dog challenge without making an outfit for a dog.

Talking about unfair: This was also the episode in which Jack left the show because of a "staff infection" (hilarious misspelling on Bravo's website, at least as of Wednesday evening, it's "staph infection", of course, derived from the bacterium staphylococcus), which in his case (he's HIV positive) required treatment in a hospital.

I know my opinion will not be very popular, because Chris, who was brought back as a replacement, is such a popular guy, but I found it beyond tasteless that the producers didn't seem to waste an hour between saying goodbye to the sick guy and bringing back the happy-go-lucky guy. The King is dead. Long live the King. Also, if you want to do something tasteless, just go ahead and do it, don't try to justify it with crummy logic such as "We wanted to keep the level of competition high". That level doesn't exactly increase if you replace someone who has made it to round four with someone who didn't.

Chris was allowed to work through the night and ruined an acceptable outfit by tying a red bow around it (#5 in Blogging Project Runway's collage). A seasonal tribute?

Michael Kors felt reminded of "Shirley McLaine when she played a hooker with a heart of gold" and all judges considered the dress costumey** and "very cliché"***.

As sad as this was, it led to one of the best quotes of the season so far: Tim Gunn confessed that he himself had made more bad decisions at three o'clock in the morning than he could list. It makes you wonder if they also involved red sashes.

Sadly, Elisa (#2) disappointed with an inappropriate layered look that didn't exactly highlight the "increased sexuality" of her client that she had intuited****. What annoyed me more, however, was the judges pointing out the shortcomings of the design in front of the client. It's difficult not to feel dowdy if somebody tells you that you look dowdy in the dress you're wearing.

"Resident wunderkind******" (Tim Gunn) Christian won the challenge with another one of his tailored jackets (#1), only this time it fit the terms of the challenge, and his client, who had very specific ideas about what she would wear, also liked it. How fierce was that? And to add to the fierceness, Tim's Take is back (albeit with the unfortunate "staff" typo, for which I hope he is not responsible). Let's hope this means PR is back on track again. We want to hear more about Tim Gunn's bad decisions!

*You'll recognize that this is a Tim Gunnism. It's a German adjective, meaning "uptight".

**The root, "costume", is related to custom. Originally, costume related to the guise or habit used in artistic representations.

***Note that it is used as an adjective here ("so cliché"), similar to "fun" in "This is so fun!". The origin of the word is quite interesting. It's the participle of the French verb clicher, a variant of cliquer, "to click", as applied "by die-sinkers to the striking of melted lead in order to obtain a proof or cast" (Oxford English Dictionary). It then became the name for a metal stereotype block used for printing and from there it was extended to more figurative meanings.

****Don't you just love English for its backformations? A backformation is when you start out with a complex word and chop off a morpheme instead of adding one to create a new word (intuition -->intuit, emotion -->emote) The new word is shorter than the original word, which seems to be a reversal of the expected pattern (bake --> baker, happy --> happiness).

******German for "wonder child", used for exceptionally gifted children, especially in the arts. In German, the plural is "Wunderkinder", in English it is, quite simply, "wunderkinds".

December 13, 2007

"it's always good to see the scots doing well"

Alright, they're cheesy, those Barneycam holiday videos, and the humans are a pain to watch, but Barney and Miss Beazley are adorably unfazed by all the hoola, and I will venture to guess that George W. Bush would never strap them to the roof of a car (and brag about it, like Mitt Romney did).

I must not tell my dog that apparently those two may run straight from the snow into the White House without getting their paws toweled off. Presidential privileges!

[The title of this post, by the way, comes from a cameo by Tony Blair, who was born in Edinburgh]

December 11, 2007


I didn't see this in June....

NEW YORK, June 20 (Reuters) - J Crew Group Inc. has applied for trademark protection for crewmutts, a line of dog accessories, according to a filing with U.S. regulators.... J Crew, known for its preppy clothing, filed a trademark application on May 16 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for crewmutts, which would include dog products ranging from clothing, leashes and beds to food, bowls and toys.

....but I saw this in the Times on Sunday:

The puppy is adorable, but I'm not sure he loves his new $60 sweater. Nor do I think this Yorkie, given a choice, would model for Ralph Lauren.

But who am I to judge? My dog doesn't look too happy in her non-designer coat either:

December 10, 2007

woty season

It's Word of the Year season again.

When editors at the New Oxford American Dictionary recently announced that their word of the year was “locavore,” which means someone who eats locally grown food, they also became the very definition of publicity. [...]

“There are very few good ways to get publicity for a dictionary,” said Erin McKean, a lexicographer at Oxford. While publishers can rely on coverage for new entries in just-published dictionaries, some reference books go for as long as a decade between revisions. “We are constantly surveilling the language to see what new words people are coming up with,” Ms. McKean said.

Other publishers are also milking such gimmicks. [What's gimmicky about observing language change?] Merriam-Webster, a rival publisher, will announce its word of the year this week. The company enjoyed a flood of publicity after last year’s pick, “truthiness,” coined by Stephen Colbert of the “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central [Note: Merriam-Webster's word of the year is based on lookups in their online dictionary. And guess why so many people looked up "truthiness"? Because the American Dialect Society elected it WOTY in 2005.]

This year, visitors to Merriam-Webster’s Web site were invited to vote for one of 20 words and phrases culled from the most frequently looked-up words on the site and submitted by readers. Contenders include “facebook” and “vanity sizing,” the girth-accommodating practice of labeling clothes as the same size while actually making them larger. The voting ended Friday.

Webster’s New World Dictionary was the first to offer a word — er, term — of the year for 2007. It was “grass station,” a theoretical place where cars could fill up with ethanol someday.

The word-of-the-year ritual probably started with the American Dialect Society, a scholarly association whose Web site lists yearly picks as far back as 1990. This year the society will vote in January; its 2006 selection was “plutoed,” which means “to demote or devalue someone or something, as happened to the former planet Pluto.”

Locavore is an excellent choice (just think of the success of books like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle), but I don't see that facebook is particularly new or original or that grass station has any staying power.

December 06, 2007

cohesive and relevant

That was the motto for episode 4 of Project Runway. It could also have been "been there, done that" -- another team challenge with rather uninspired results (due to the parameters of the challenge) and a predictable pattern (never, ever volunteer to be a team leader on PR!).

But let's talk about cohesion/cohesiveness (which the judges used interchangeably) a bit: The stem is related to the Latin verb cohaerere ("stick together"), but the two nouns don't mean exactly the same. "Cohesiveness" is the state of being "cohesive" -- the noun is derived from the adjective. "Cohesion" is derived from the verb "cohere", it is the act of sticking together, in particular the force with which molecules cleave together (OED). So, what the judges were looking for was cohesiveness rather than cohesion. Ah well.

It was also the night of mighty concern. Steven was concerned about Chris' upholstery-like bolero jacket, Elisa was concerned about miscommunication in her team (Ricky condescendingly translated tailorese into sculptorese for her), Kit was concerned that her fabric was too muted, and Tim Gunn just voiced a general concern: "It's not looking refined. That concerns me." He may have referred to a garment, but the statement can easily be applied to the whole episode.

Yet, Nina Garcia writes on her Bravo blog:
It was great to see how harmoniously some teams worked together and how other fell apart at the seams, literally.
I beg to disagree, what's so great about watching three people who can't cooperate? The only entertaining thing that came out of the Ricky/Victorya tiff was Ricky's complaint that V. "didn't have the balls* to be leader". Am I the only one who thinks this is an odd metaphor to apply to a woman?

The results? Three wrongs (such as pleather**, gigantic shoulder pads, and a zoot suit***) don't easily make a delightful right. Gillian won with a Charlie-inspired mini-collection in denim, and Chris was out because his sofa-fabric bolero wasn't deemed relevant (it earned the dreaded mother-of-the-bride label from Michael Kors), his collection wasn't considered cohesive, and "the totality of his garment [was] not flowing". Now, if you thought the last statement was a quote from Elisa, I have to disappoint you, it was from Donna Karan (who sounds just as pretentious, but completely lacks Elisa's sweet sincerity).

Wishlist for next week:
  • Please, no "most dramatic rose ceremony ever" stuff (which the previews seem to hint at)
  • Please, a challenge that will inspire the designers and that will be fun to watch (if not, there's always Project Runway Canada, thanks to the blessed Ms. RoyalT)
  • And as usual: Please, more air time for Tim Gunn (and for Elisa)!

*According to the OED, this metaphor was first used in 1928 in Lady Chatterley's Lover ("You say a man's got no brain, when he's a fool... And when he's got none of that spunky wild bit of a man in him, you say he's got no balls.")

**A blending of plastic and leather, coined in the early eighties.

***Reduplicating rhyming formation on "suit", first used in the 1940s.

push present?

In a more innocent age, new mothers generally considered their babies to be the greatest gift imaginable. Today, they are likely to want some sort of tangible bonus as well. This bonus goes by various names. Some call it the “baby mama gift.” Others refer to it as the “baby bauble.” But it’s most popularly known as the “push present."

That’s “push” as in, “I the mother, having been through the wringer and pushed out this blessed event, hereby claim my reward.” Or “push” as in, “I’ve delivered something special and now I’m pushing you, my husband/boyfriend, to follow suit.”

You just got to love the English language and the unabashed directness of its speakers when it comes to express the joy of materialism. (To add to the latter: When I looked up the article on the NYT website, there was a Tiffany ad next to it.) Because if not, you'll end up banging your head on the carpet, screaming "What's wrong with you people?"