Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Clothes Off My Back (9)

So, I was really good last week and managed to get photos of all my workaday outfits first thing in the morning! Excuse the faces I'm making in most of these... because you know how pre-coffee morning faces are made in the desperate, pre-coffee hours of weekdays. Allons-y.

This dress is courtesy of Laurie in Collections Development. She stopped me at the Non Fiction desk of our mutual workplace last week, mentioning that she was moving out of her house and into a condo in the near future and had some things I might be interested in as she purged the house of extraneous vintage goods. Was I ever interested! I bought three dresses from her for about $10 a piece, the first of which was this awesome wrap dress. Wore this to brunch with our new best friend Joe at Garden Brunch Cafe on Jefferson Street (possibly the best brunch I've ever had? No contest?). The bracelet is from Pangaea, which I always go to with the intention of buying gifts for others, and which I always leave with maybe gifts for others, but definitely gifts for myself. I'm in a kicky charm bracelet phase, as you'll see later in the post. Do you see the movie camera on tripod? Our visit to the rife-with-imports-and-tchtcokes boutique was enhanced by the rare appearance of the store dog, a black and brown Chihuahua who nervously stamps through the aisles, face piquant with an expression of "You guys? AGAIN?". Adorable.

The "L" was in the 99 cent bin at Rivergate Goodwill...and I tell you, despite being the most recognizable single monogrammed initial, grace à Laverne and Shirley, a simple capital "L" is the dangedest letter to find! Much pleased.

This dress, from the Hendersonville Goodwill, has almost made its way back into thrift store circulation about three times. I always get it to the trunk and then pull it out of the plastic bag just before it makes the donation bin. It's too short (hence, the black underskirt), it's too wide at the waist (hence the black belt), and it's too big in the bust (hence the awkward ripple at the left of the frontpiece)...and yet, I love the color and the weird neckline decoration too much to get rid of it. Le sigh. I found the Beatle charm bracelet at right at Great Escape back when they were still at their Broadway location a few years ago, and just squealed all over the place, flashing back to my deep and passionate middle school crush on John Lennon. The backs have raised-letter reproductions of the first name of their signatures. I die.

If I keep up with my clothing posts, you're probably going to see a lo-o-o-ot of this middy, short sleeved black cardigan. Indispensable. I don't like full length cardigans because they obscure that wasp-waist silhouette I'm always trying to get, and ninety percent of my wardrobe is spring/summer oriented. Solution? With this $2.50 Merona cover up (East Nashville Goodwill, half-off tag), I can transition to fall without pulling out my winter wear boxes from storage. The dress is Isaac Mizrahi for Target, also from Goodwill ($7.99, I think also Hendersonville). The lobster pin was an estate sale find last weekend ($3), and the gold flower brooch is part of an earring set that pinches the worst of any earrings I've ever owned. I keep meaning to get those padded guards! I keep forgetting.

We're on a Target-via-Goodwill spree! Another Mizrahi, this one in oversized houndstooth print that feels modern without looking too out of my regular retro wear. The little deer pins ($3) are from the same sale with the lobster... and that was on the second day of the second weekend! I can't imagine what was there on the first day. The cashier had mounds of similar figural pins in little Ziplock sandwich baggies, and I dove in for the ones you've seen. I wore this same outfit to karaoke at Lipstick Lounge, where Bab and Joe and I sang and drank and sang and drank. I took it upon myself to melt faces with the most earnest version of "Total Eclipse" ever sang, in front of the friendliest karaoke crowd in Nashville. Serious. Great night.

Black and white ensemble! I've had these (I think men's vintage, because there weren't many six foot tall glamazons like me tramping around in the fifties', and definitely not with size 10.5 feet) Willis-brand saddle shoes, sitting around the house unworn, for way too long ($5.99, Hermitage Goodwill, via A MIRACLE). Solution? Black, early sixties' dress with black-stitch flowered embroidery (totally can't see it in this light), white beaded necklaces, and the shoes. With black , slightly swooped framed sunglasses, I felt in charge. :)

Below, this dress was one Laurie sent home with me after I inquired after the dress in the first photo, and another I ended up getting. It was a "buy two get one free please take this dress off my hands and into a good home" situation, and was I ever happy to oblige! I tried it on, it FITS like a dream (minus a busted zipper at one side, which I've just safety-pinned and belted into wearability) and features a gorgeous red-on-black flower pattern. I added the ribboned belt of another dress as an impromptu bolero, my ever cinching black belt, a black underskirt for volume, and black heels for height (I'm sick of wearing flats, d'ya hear me! There are so many cute heels out there... I'm going to take some out for a spin, by Godfrey). Wore this to an Unknown Hinson show at the Exit/In and karaoke at Twin Kegs for Frankie and Eddie's engagement party (congrats!).

Have I sold you on bolero ties and saddle shoes? Which dress do you think packs the most "oomph"?

Thanks for listening to the shameless self promotion of my wardrobe. More to come!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life (2010)

Having yesterday afternoon completely off, I was put in the unique-to-me situation of going to an actual movie theater by myself, a feat I don't think I've undertaken since early college (when Cronenberg sent me out solo to the theater to see History of Violence). With the rapid decline of movie house manners, I'm loath to go spend seven to nine dollars of my hard earned, earmarked to be spent at thrift stores money on tolerating what usually turns out to be the REAL spectacle when you enter a theater. My list of grievances in recent memory include:
  • Listening to old people discuss which member of the cast is which at a voice just below a yell ("Is that Gypsy[Rose Lee, when it was obviously a much younger actress that looked nothing like her]?" "No, I don't think that's her. Well, it could be! She's supposed to be in this movie!" "I think I'd know her if it was her." "Well, I said it could be her! I don't know!" ---> screening of Nicholas Ray's Wind Through the Everglades)
  • Listening to teenagers talk about, oh, whatever's going on in their lives, having nothing to do with the movie, at a voice just below a yell ("Well, what Tabitha said was she was gonna break up with him but then it turned out, it turned out she didn't even know they weren't together when he was supposed to have cheated on her and all, but what did Nick have to say about--" --->; screening of the first Paranormal Activity movie)
  • Listening to that one dude with some kind of respiratory illness that you'd think would preclude his leaving a medical facility, much less his house, much less to attend a public function, try, unsuccessfully, to dislodge whatever he's been trying to clear from his throat since BEFORE THE MOVIE BEGAN.
Again, being burned so many times at the altar of paid, in person movie going, I thought I would skip a solo viewing of Gainsbourg: Vie héroïque; however, halfway towards beating a path home after some junk purveying, a pang of sentimental loyalty towards arguably the most influential French musician/composer of the twentieth century made me curtail my homeward route and drop into the Belcourt for the last viewing that would fit into my work schedule.

Serge Gainsbourg was born Lucien Ginsburg in Paris, in the year 1928, to Russian Jewish parents. After jettisoning a career as a painter, he took his wild facility with language and double entendres, added razor sharp musical sensibilities, and produced a string of verbally challenging, auditorily pleasing jazz-ish numbers, including "Le poinçonneur des lilas" (Roughly "The Subway Ticket Taker", about a Metro employee whose monotonous job punching tickets makes him want to punch his own ticket), "Un violon, un jambon", "Le javanaise", "La chanson de Prévert" (actually about the song "Autumn Leaves") and "L'eau a la bouche". He also penned several hits for girls of the yé-yé pop movement (think...a go-go-ish Motown with white French girls) including France Gall ("Poupée de cire, poupée de son", "Baby Pop", the relatively infamous "Les sucettes") and Françoise Hardy ("Comment te dire adieu"). After two marriages and notorious love affairs with the likes of Brigitte "Possibly the Sexiest Person I Can Think of Off the Top of My Head" Bardot and Juliette "Friends With Miles Davis and Jean Cocteau/Super Bohemian Sex Symbol" Gréco, he met Jane Birkin, with whom he would spend the next ten years of his life.

Jane Birkin was the daughter of Noel-Coward-intimate and well-known West End stage presence Judy Campbell and a WWII espionage agent. She had already married and divorced James Bond theme composer John Barry before leaving England to shoot a movie in France. Hopeless at the language (as she would notably remain for many years... imagine her French sounding as much influenced by her first language as Desi Arnaz's English on I Love Lucy, for a good point of reference), Serge Gainsbourg recalled their first meeting as seeing a gorgeous, boyish girl with the shortest skirt and the longest legs he'd ever seen, walking down a hotel staircase. Jane's hemlines and fashion choices did defy the limits of even late 60's sensibilities, but if I had pin thin gams and a face that could and should be able to get away with anything, I would take it to the edge, too.

In high school, another student in my French class did a (oddly passionless) report on the scandal that accompanied the release of the Jane/Serge collaboration "Je t'aime, moi non plus", and as soon as I got a look at the sixties' super couple, I fell all the way in love with their style, sense of naughty fun, and surtout, the music.

Melody Nelson
blew my little early college brain out of its case when I got to school and managed to find a torrent of it online (I mean, legally...buy it... in some form...), and soon I was down at the Honors computer lab abusing my free printing privileges to crank out voluminous interviews and lyrics in the original French, to pore over and assimilate. Just as my deep love of Truffaut movies (to the point of committing the dialogue to cassette tape and listening to it over and over again), when combined with my rigorous high school class, made me a relatively decent French speaker, trying to decode and translate the ever colloquial and terribly fond of double meanings Gainsbourg made me a better French reader.

Something about the music and the intricate word play made my mind light up, and I was beginning to know something of the artist via concert footage and interviews on ina.fr (kind of like a BBC archive, except French?) in these pre-Youtube days (hard to imagine, isn't it?). Talk about agent provacateur. Serge Gainsbourg's impish sense of thumbing his nose at society, whether it was making his intentions towards pre-Bobby Brown Whitney Houston known on national television, covering the beloved French national anthem"La Marseillaise" with a reggae band, giving press conferences from his hospital bed after a heart attack while drinking and smoking... even when his decadence seemed to be against his best interest, I loved his dedication towards pursuing it.

Where Gainsbourg: Vie héroïque is not, by any means, an amateurish film, I felt that it missed the boat in all major ways in terms of conveying that sense of anarchy and joy I loved so much about Serge Gainsbourg. Neither a straight-forward biopic nor a truly successful "jazz riff on the life of " style movie, Gainsbourg felt like a touring bus through some important moments in the life of its subject, while never making any kind of statement or even providing a coherent line between episodes in a vibrant and accomplished life. I was promised in the interviews that Joann Sfar, who comes from a background as a comic book artist, would give a more symbolic and interpretational reading of Gainsbourg's life, and I feel like that assurance was never fulfilled. Kept waiting; never came through.

There are moments of allegorical fantasy, as Gainsbourg's alter-ego "Dr. Flipus" follows him around in full-sized puppet form and pushes him towards pursuing his goals, or as a Nazi propaganda poster against Jews in France comes to life as a companion to ten year old Gainsbourg, following him down the streets of Paris as a constant reminder of his "otherness", but neither is used in a way that conveys deeper meaning. In a Gondry film, these fanciful, paper-mache type creatures might have served some purpose, but I felt like, in Sfar's film, they just didn't have much to do, except pop up and remind you that "you're not watching a straightforward documentary".

In trying to fit in every segment of his life, L-O-T-S got sacrificed in favor of pastiche, but I think nothing suffered so much at the movie's hands as the Birkin/Gainsbourg relationship, which had about as much screen time as the significant, but not nearly as enduring or important, dalliances with Bardot and Gréco. Lucy Gordon, who actually passed away before the film was released, is gorgeous, but doesn't really bring across the "dolly bird" look or style of Birkin, and the "deserves-its-own-movie" Birkin/Gainsbourg love affair takes up maybe twenty minutes of screen time. Do you see how slim and well dressed and glamorous they were? How happy them seem to look in every picture? None of that came through in the movie.

Another thing? The contextless-ness of the biographical information presented in the movie would be totally confusing if I already wasn't familiar with a lot of the Gainsbourg story. While everyone in France is more or less aware of who Gainsbourg was, what about the foreign audience? It would be kind of like if there was a movie about John Lennon, screening in a foreign culture who somehow has no prior knowledge of the Beatles, his solo career, Yoko Ono, etc-- and the narrative just assumed you knew the general facts about his life, and then presented them with that missing knowledge. Irksome.

You usually won't see me badmouth people, places, or things on this blog, it's just that I was morbidly disappointed in this movie, after a year and a half of waiting for a US/ Nashville release. I guess I was mainly hoping that the movie would catch the spirit of the man so that I could finally talk with other American, non-French speaking about HOW. GREAT. GAINSBOURG. IS. Overall, I feel like the snippets and fragments of music and life presented in the movie did in no way bring across the charming, contradictory, immensely talented subject, and that, again, really let me down.

But take a listen to a few of the tracks I linked to above, look at some of the great photos, and see if you can't fall a little bit in love with this couple the way I did. Movie or no movie, you know you want to!

Further Viewing:

Further Reading:

Guardian article
"The Secret World of Serge Gainsbourg", Vanity Fair, 2007
French blogger's take on "The Birkin Look", with great photos
Birkin vs. Bardot, Style watch (also French, but great photos for you non francophones)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cutco Cook Book (1961)

If a cookbook ever made this junior cuisinière feel the very vibrations of its frenetic energy before the stove was even on, it is the 1961 Cutco Cookbook. Behold! Marvel at is utter lack of cohesion when divorced from its text...who needs sense when you've got charm, charm, charm? Riddle me THAT.

Home to some of the strangest MCM illustrated tableaux I have possibly ever seen, this cookbook/advertisement for Cutco brand knives has been dutifully uploaded for your viewing pleasure:

Yes! I want to BE the lady in the painfully diamond-back patterned capris, top knotted kid at my hip, juggling dinner under an Eames-ian lamp fixture and the watchful eye of my fish wallhanging. You can find similar items and make my dream your reality here, here, and here:

Cutco's cook book is meat-centric, to show off the variety of products they have for slicing and dicing a variety of meats, opening the book with a anti-vegetarian declaration of purpose if ever I heard one:

"Down through the centuries, meat has always been one of the most universally liked foods. It is the heart of the meal, the center around which the menu is planned... Meat presents a mouth watering picture and its aroma and flavor tempt even the most jaded appetite..."

At which point the grandstands go wild. Meat! Meat! Meat! It's What We Wanna Eat!

Being a low-carb warrior, I have to say, I approve of this message. However, bab cannot live on bacon alone. How will I cook this meat? Whatever will I pair various meats with? Cutco has the answers.

The first chapter explains to us the "7 Methods of Cooking Meat" (which sounds suspiciously cult-ish to me, but I'll bite). You can see the methods, and a housewife holding an accordion of an elliptical number sequence, below. Illustrated are roasting, broiling, pan broiling, pan frying, deep fat frying, braising, and cooking in water. I felt bad in this section because I always wholly ignore whatever meat preparation suggestion sticker Kroger's places on their cellophaned packages and do what I wish with the goods, choosing cuts for economic rather than intended purpose. Sure, it's suggested that I braise this meat, but I don't have three hours to braise beef when I could pan fry it and be eating in twenty minutes. C'est la vie.

As is the usual in these cookbooks, merry little illustrations of the meat -bearing creatures in question dot the margins. I particularly like the little baby pig's handbag, but, as you'll see next, the pigs really are kind of the star of the book.

Pigs! Pork! Usually our porcine protagonists get the short end of the stick, but in this cookbook, the illustrations seem to go particularly out of their way to show you how much fun being a pig is. Before you're eaten, natch. At top, a little sooey snuggles up to one of my hillbilly ancestors for a barefoot-with-shotgun-in-reach snooze in the hills of Appalachia. This illustrates a recipe for "Baked Porkchops", so I don't see the connection, but we'll continue. At bottom left, a little pig smokes a hookah for, you guessed it, a page or two on the process of smoking hams. El cerdo español suns himself on a Mexican beach, unaware that he's touting the advantages of "baked ham". Ah, it's a pig's life. What's that I see at right in green, by the by? Could it be...a HAM in HAMLET? Oh, you sixties' cookbooks. You scamps.

Now, chickens don't fare nearly as well in illustrated treatment in the Costco book. The best a chicken does is maybe a little heat bath in the first illustration (though tell me how this doesn't end with his being dinner) or wearing a beret in front of the Eiffel Tower (for french fried chicken... get it! get it!).

Later, these whimsical doodles accompany a totally sick-out instruction sheet on how to "draw poultry", which, let me tell you, is a little beyond the skills of this non-Julia-Child-level gourmand. When "remove entrails" and "bend finger around intestine in order to vent" start popping up in the how-to's, I tune out, buddy. I tune out. What am I, Hannibal Lecter? Poor little chickens! Look how happy the one looks at middle left to be sharing a glass of sherry with me! And then removed his giblets. So sad.

Speaking of Hannibal Lecter: no. Annnnnnd.... NO.

In the interest of cheekiness, there are a number of international caricatures that were more or less inoffensive, and mostly cute:

And of course, where would we be without the happy atomic family pictures. Look at that tiny dachshund-esque puppy at the right. Oh, little guy, how I wish you could home with me.

The book concludes with a cute little dispan hands gal holding up her "finis" sign, but wait!

There's more!

An unexpected coda at the end of the book documents different ways of outdoor living/cooking. I am now guilty I never did get around to buying a grill this summer. :(

En garde, Bobby in the atom age shirt! En garde!

Looks like that'll do it for the Cutco book. Found any outstanding MCM cooking manuals lately? Do let a girl know! Til next time.


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