Sunday, February 26, 2012

Wear it Right Now

I'd heard plenty of people bigging up the Topshop Unique AW/12 show and I'd seen a couple of images but I hadn't got round to have a proper look through. Having now seen it I can add an assenting voice to the choir - it is lovely. It isn't ground-breaking, it isn't going to change the world but it is lovely and I want to wear it right now. Love the colours, love the textures, love the outerwear. I don't trust this current, wonderful warm snap; it is going to get miserable again soon and this is what I want to be wearing. It would segue so smoothly into my existing wardrobe. Looking forward to seeing where they go next season with Kate Phelan, she feels like a steady hand, particularly after last season's car crash (Elizabeth Taylor obviously excepted). Please can this go straight to stores? I don't want to wait. 
Topshop Unique AW/12 c/o

In other news, I listed a whole BUNCH of stuff on ebay today - Topshop Unique (speak of the devil), Vanessa Bruno, Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, Motel... You name it. I've bought a lot of stuff on ebay before but I've never sold anything and, gosh, it is boring and time consuming! How do people manage it? It took me hours! I'm broke to the nth degree though so needs must...

Any excitements this weekend?

Chuck x

Friday, February 24, 2012

Article Reading Group

Robert Doisneau
Drapé de Grès, Paris, 1955

I've read some excellent things since our  first (kind of) meeting. What about y'all? Let's compare notes.
  • Sasha Pasulka on Why She's Not Okay with Chris Brown Performing at the Grammys. There is, rightfully, a lot anger flying around the internet about the whole Chris Brown situation and this is one of the best pieces I've read. Very coherent.
  • Maria Bustillos's awesome article on Romance Novels, the Last Great Bastion of Underground Writing. It takes me right back to my wasted teen years. It also reminds me of the amazing 2 hr BBC4/More4 documentary on Mills & Boon that was on British TV a year or two ago. Did anyone see it? SO good.
  • A strange and gripping article from the New York Times by Charles Duhigg on How Companies Learn Our Secrets. All about marketing and maths and privacy. Possibly that sounds boring but it is not. Supermarkets can tell from a sample of 25 items whether you are pregnant and what trimester you're in. That is some crazy shit! Also, some interesting and useful things about the human mind and habit formation.
  • I think I might have read David Foster Wallace's 2004 Gourmet article, Consider the Lobster, before but it deserves to be read again, possibly yearly. I have to admit that I've never read a DFW book but every piece of journalism I've come across has been brilliant. This one is funny and perfect and thoughtful and haunting. It won't leave me alone. Everyone should read it.
  • Jack Stuef's article on being The World's Worst Sperm Donor made me laugh. A lot.  He makes Millenial revenge by sperm donation seem like a perfectly reasonable choice although that may say just as much about me and my resentment as it does about him. Admittedly, this might not be one to read if you are currently trying to conceive through sperm donation (good luck to you)...
Here's to the weekend and trying (and possibly failing) to be efficient.

Chuck x

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Consumer Collages

Things I Want. 

A special Things I Could Plausibly Buy (if I was less broke) edition:

Cap + ASOS Jumper + Kurt Geiger Boots (on sale now)

Cap + ASOS Dress + Zara Parka (on sale now)

So, it turns out I want a cap. Who saw that coming?

Chuck x

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Still like Water

Just saw Silja Magg's photography over at Geeks Dig Me (great name) and, phew! Such beautiful stuff. I'm consistently attracted to strong portraiture. To be able to tell a story in a close shot is such a skill. And the fashion editorials. And the water shots. So mysterious yet timeless. She is a 50s screen siren and still totally contemporary. Magg is clearly interested in women and water - there are a lot of naked (and sometimes alarmingly slim) girls frolicking amidst waves and pools on her website. I vaguely remember there being a lot of existing theory on women/water/oceans. Mermaids and selkies and the like. Dangerous, powerful, unpredictable, hidden currents, salt, vitality.... Doris Lessing's strange book, The Cleft, re-imagines the creation story with strange, coastal, seal-like women as the beginning of it all. There are no men and births are controlled by the moon and the tides. Bizarre and fascinating stuff. In early civilizations the mother figure is all-powerful, how/why did she get lost? Need to get my history/sociology/anthropology on...

Anyway, I'm easily distracted. All I really wanted to say is that Silje Magg is a brilliant photographer, with a website full of exquisite images and she is one to watch. Love.

Chuck x

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Love and Tragedy

I find it interesting how we are drawn to tragedy in art and literature (and life?). And tragedy and romance are so often entwined. WW2-Romance is a thriving genre and I've read a bunch that range along the scale of conventionality from 22 Britannia Road to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society to Coming Home. They are super popular but it hardly started there. Not to state the bleeding obvious or anything but Romeo and Juliet. Love in a time of (gang) war and turmoil - love and death - liebestod. Definitive love, definitive death. The originals are more absolute than contemporary popular fiction but they still have things in common. I guess they represent times and states of heightened emotion. We are more aware of the good because the bad is so obvious? Do we love more fiercely under the influence of fear or is the same love simply illuminated more brightly in contrast? And why do we read these things? What is it that we crave from them? Perhaps reading about danger is comforting because it reminds us that we are (comparatively) safe. Perhaps it is a thrill - perhaps in our perfectly padded, air-conditioned office/supermarket/sofa world, where all our material needs are more or less met, we need to read about death and risk to feel alive. Maybe it is tragedy as catharsis. We all need to cry and these stories offer a safe and 'legitimate' opportunity to do so. Or are we jealous? Jealous of that love in the face of death, love until the death, death defying love? It is ridiculous and possibly immoral to be jealous of people who live with tragedy and war and horror and yet the love and the proof... Most of us will (I hope) never have to face these kind of situations; are loves will (I hope) never be put to these kinds of test. We will (I hope) carry on in relative peace and obscurity and die quietly in our old age of natural causes. Well, that is a bit optimistic, there will be cancer and car crashes and cheating and children or no children, there will be a thousand tiny cuts. But there will also be Sunday afternoons and washing up and video nights and long drawn out discussions about everything and nothing in particular. And that is a joy, a special, lasting kind of bliss, yet we'll never know for sure. We can't know for certain what we would do. Could we die for the person we loved? Would they die for us? What would we do, who would we be, what if, what if? We want to know and we want to believe that our love would pass these tests.

Well, I do. A tiny part of me. Obviously the vast majority of me (approx 99.99%) knows that this is ridiculous and wants 0.001% to simmer down and stop asking for trouble. 99.99% knows that tragedy is a BAD idea and mundane, suburban happiness is where it's at. But 0.001% can't help but feel curious when it reads books like Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay which is partially set in Soviet Russia. Why aren't more books set in post-war Russia? (Or maybe there is loads of brilliant fiction set in Communist Russia - please forward books/recommendations my way). It was so awful and we need to remember it and re-imagine it more often lest we forget. Really I wish more of Russian Winter was set in Russia, it was the most interesting part of the novel. The novel is split (mostly) between Russia in the late 1940s to early 1950s and contemporary Boston. Personally I could have lived without the Boston section but I see how you need it for perspective. At the centre of the book is Nina, an octogenarian ex-ballet dancer who defected from the USSR in the 1950s with diamonds in her cold cream, which she is now auctioning for charity. Ok, there are a lot of buzz words going down, specifically 'BALLET', 'RUSSIA', 'DIAMONDS'. The combined effect is rather sparkly; sleek ballet buns and pointe shoes gleam, sequin embroidered tutus sparkle; Russian fur coats gleam, Russian white winters sparkle; Baltic amber (a plot device) gleams, pre-Revolution diamonds sparkle. All of these words and ideas are immediately turning you on to or off the book. While I'm not such a purist as to be against any of these things individually together I find them cloying. It makes me feel like I'm being marketed at - women like ballet and fur and diamonds, so pretty so sparkly, BUY THIS. And you should never realise you are being marketed at, that is bad marketing. And there is a dusty pink cover with an attractive woman staring wistfully into the middle distance. Seriously, wistful stare-y women are the worst, please stop putting them on covers Publishy People. They make me embarrassed to be seen on the Tube with your book!

And it's particularly irritating and reductive marketing because the book isn't all pretty pink and sparkly. Yes, there is a boring contemporary romance that ends happily but there is also a powerful representation of what it is to be in an artist in a totalitarian state. Nina is a lead dancer in the Bolshoi Ballet, her husband is a poet and his best friend is a composer. They had to be registered and could only create art for 'the people' - they couldn't even obliquely criticise the Party or be influenced by 'bourgeois' art (i.e. all other art). How can you create art if you don't have intellectual or physical freedom? Art and totalitarianism are fundamentally incompatible and watching artists trying to maintain creative integrity while bowing to political restrictions is heart-breaking. And the surveillance, the constant fear and lack of trust. Kalotay shows how relationships first between the individual and the state and then between neighbours and colleagues and then between friends and then between family slowly crumble under the constant pressure of distrust and scrutiny. People are constantly 'disappearing' or being threatened with punishment if they don't hand others in. A misplaced word in anger or jealousy or pride can have deadly consequences and what of human relationships within this environment? The arc of Nina's marriage feels very honest and considered and tragic. That gets me specifically back to romance/tragedy. The decisions she has to make are awful. And captivating. Why? Why? So hard, so necessary. I was actually quite impressed that Kalotay resisted the urge to tie things up neatly at the end of the book. Soviet Russia was messy and it would have been wrong to present it otherwise. Questions are left unanswered, things are left unsaid and judgements are suspended and I think that is appropriate.

It amazes me that anyone survived Stalin's reign. The hunger, the pain, the cult of personality... It is horrendous and baffling and we should remember it more.

Chuck x

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What the Internet Does Best

Wes Anderson video collages. Say what you like about his plotting (and I do), the man has an eye for beauty.

Also, breaded cats.

Chuck x

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Notorious L.D.R

I know, I know, if you are anything like me you have read so many articles on Lana del Rey in the last six months that even the sight of her initials makes your eyeballs bleed a little. I'm not sure what it is that forces me to keep clicking through on links to blog posts and articles. I guess I'm searching for something I haven't found yet in the commentary on the singer-turned-cultural-object. I'm sick of the pointless debates about her authenticity, her stage name, her uncomfortable SNL performance. She is a pop star, obviously she is inauthentic, it is the nature of the beast. Name changes and stage personas are hardly news. From Norma Jean Baker to Stefani Germanotta, performers (and specifically female performers?) have been making active choices about how they present themselves to the public for a long time. While perhaps we should question this as a trend we need to stop behaving as if Lizzy Grant murdered our first born. And enough of this whining about her usurping indie culture. A) 'Indie' isn't a member's club - there is no governing body, you can't just exclude people you don't like. Anyone and everyone is entitled to interact with culture however they choose. B) 'Indie' is practically premised on usurping historical and minority cultures. Do 'they' (this mythical governing body) not recognise that the current nostalgia bent is totally reliant on purloining and exploiting existing cultural references? LDR is just an inevitable stage in the life cycle of indie trends: latch onto obscure object/style/image/sound, smugly bask in your sense of exclusivity, watch its effect ripple towards the mainstream, disown it as tragic and uncool when it eventually becomes popular, repeat. Interestingly this process happened in fast forward to the woman herself. Feted, popular and disowned within about a year.

You may be thinking that I'm about to entreat you to focus on the music. But I'm not. I think Video Games is a good song, I think Born to Die is a bad song, Her live performances are inconsistent and her album is violently over-produced. I like the husky voice and moments of pseudo-adolescent clarity but find the majority of her lyrics painfully vapid. It all averages out to a kind of blah for me. What I do find interesting is her image. Everyday we make conscious and unconscious decisions about how we present ourselves and del Rey is making decisions that, in my opinion, warrant closer scrutiny. I know that she has a stylist but he is a relatively new addition and her style was established by her first youtube video. Maybe there was a previous stylist, maybe her look was masterminded by record execs, I'm going to give del Rey the basic credit but really I don't think it matters - ultimately the visual concept was condoned by all of the above. And it is a look that LDR herself characterises as 'Lolita lost in the hoods'. Seriously, that phrase makes me want to vomit. It is just so coy, eugh! It is simultaneously meaningless and manipulative, thoughtless and cynically considered. It is like soundbite politics; a single phrase designed to convey that she is fragile and childlike, she believes in fairy tales, but she is urban and sexual too. Oh look, the best of both worlds, woman as powerless child and woman as sexual object. Grrreat. But you can't label yourself as fragile and childlike - it is infuriatingly fake as well as obviously self-defeating. Awareness of your own image and attempts to manipulate it are incompatible with childlike innocence.

And since when did childlike/sexual become not only a socially legitimate combination but a desirable one? Since when did 'Lolita' become aspirational? It is a fascinating book but hardly one to embody. I know it has been going on for a while but I think it is getting worse. I find the Japanese Lolita girl look, where devotees enthusiastically style themselves as Victorian baby-dolls, a bit weird but at least they are doing it for themselves. They aren't dressing for men, they aren't dressing for sexual attention, it is bizarrely asexual. At least, I assume so, I don't know enough about the trend or Japanese sexual mores to comment authoritatively. I don't think I have the strength to research it right now. The word 'lolita' is blocked by Google SafeSearch and I'm going to accept that even though it is ridiculous that you can't even search for the book (or in fact this post). But Western interpretations of the Lolita 'trend' are actively sexual. Lana screams sex, not in the sense that I find her sexy but in the way that she loudly broadcasts sexual clichés. She is all pouting lips and come hither eyes and breathy whispered secrets and gratuitous car make-out sessions in the Born to Die video. But this is juxtaposed with childish affectations - flower crowns and cartoon t-shirts and plastic sunglasses. And these these aspects of her persona are enmeshed. It isn't that she sometimes presents herself as childlike and sometimes as sexy, they are always presented together and we are encouraged to view them as one.

(Don't even get me started on the right handed picture...)

And yes, I assert every woman's right to be contradictory. Every human's right. No one is defined by a single characteristic and it would be foolish to say that they are. And I believe that people should wear whatever they feel happy and confident in. I don't want to tell her how to dress but I do wish that she/fashion was a bit more thoughtful sometimes. Because, whether LDR started it or whether she simply rode an existing wave and in so doing became the face of it, sexy-child is in fashion and that is ridiculous and irresponsible. Fashion is transient and silly sometimes and there are more important things in the world but it isn't meaningless. It is all around us every day and it has a very visual impact. It/del Rey can't just go around fetishising and sexualising childhood and thinking it is ok. It is dangerous and it is not doing women or children any good. This annoys me in a similar way to Margaret Thatcher being 'on trend'. It is stupid and thoughtless and fashion should be better than this. It is embarrassing for me as someone who openly admits to being a fashion lover. There is just no consideration for the history or the consequences. Be better, people.

All this has been going around my head for a while. I think it helps to put it on paper. What do you think of Lana del Rey? Lover, hater, apathetic? In other news, I quite enjoy LDR when she is doing her trailer trash thing. Politically analyse that, please.

Chuck x

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday Night Beatz

Putting my make up on a Saturday night...

Have a good one!

Chuck x

Friday, February 10, 2012

New Love: Will Davidson

Sometimes it is wonderful to be the last person to know about something. Yes, it is great to watch an artist/musician/trend grow from the very beginning - to latch onto something tiny and shiny and new and gather fresh fragments of awesome as they develop over the months and years. You can nurture and support them and that is brilliant and special and I love it. But you know what is also great? Stumbling across someone with an existing body of work! They’ve developed their style and their style is amazing and there is plenty of it. Oh, the greedy greedy pleasure…

That is basically how I feel about Will Davidson, a (fashion) photographer who I have only just become aware of. He has worked a lot for Oyster and Russh, as well as Muse and Harper’s and Dazed. I don’t know how I missed him but I did and now I get to trawl back through all of his past work and, let me tell you, it is some good shit.

Muse Magazine, Winter11
Model: Lindsey Wixson
Photographer: Will Davidson
Styling: Sara Moonves
Hair: Shay Ashual / Makeup: Pep Gay
See more here.

Seriously, his portraits… Crazy beautiful. 

Oyster, #96
Model: Daisy Lowe
Photographer: Will Davidson
Styling: Stevie Dance
Hair: Chi Wong / Makeup: Hiromi Ueda
See more here.

Things I Love: i) He works with great people - Daisy, Lindsey, Stevie, Jessica. Maybe he had nothing to do with that but I think it reflects well.

Things I Love: ii) He seems to have a tonal eye. Does that make any sense? To me it is something more complex and subtle than just an ability to use ‘colour’. The tones in these pictures are just perfect.

Harper’s Bazaar Au, March12
Model: Marloes Horst
Photographer: Will Davidson
Styling: Jillian Davison
Hair: Alan White / Makeup: Kellie Stratton
See more here.

Things I Love: iii) How he so beautifully captures movement and the physicality of bodies.

Dazed & Confused, Feb11
Models: Ming Xi & Hyoni Kang
Photographer: Will Davidson
Styling: Joanna Sclenzka
See more here.

Yeah, I've run out of constructive things to say, I just couldn't not post these pictures.

Russh, #39
Model: Jessica Stam
Photographer: Will Davidson
Styling: Stevie Dance
See more here.

Things I do not Love: His bio. Yes, I want to know that he was David Bailey's right hand man for five years. No, I don't want to know that Bailey was wowed by 'his talent, youthful good looks and charm'. It makes him sound heinous. Similarly I don't want to be told 'Davidson’s oeuvre now finds itself in a peerless state' even if I might agree. Yuck.

But otherwise, beautiful, perfect, heavenly. Off to do some more archive rummaging now.

Chuck x

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sunday Roses

I wanted to post this yesterday but our internet was busted. It isn't being very reliable at the moment. This irritates me until R starts fondly reminiscing about dial up and I howl and cradle my dysfunctional broadband router. (Kind of). 

Roses - £12.99 reduced to £1.49. The joy! Two inches off the stems and plenty of fresh water and they have perked right up.

Yesterday was simultaneously peaceful and efficient. Sundays are good days. I watched the grey London skies roll by and admired the snow from the warm comfort of a blanket. I also read lots of excellent articles; I've enjoyed both Molly Fischer's piece on ladyblogging and the multiple responses to it, especially The Beheld's; Jill Lepore's brilliant and lengthy New Yorker article on Planned Parenthood (American attitudes to abortion freak me the hell out); Caitlin Flanagan's amazingly open-minded analysis of teenage girls' love of Twilight; Anne Helen Petersen's post on why Channing Tatum is her favourite doofus. Omg, he was a stripper! And there is a video! Who knew!?! Just to, you know, lower the tone a trifle.

Any good articles you can recommend? Ages ago I remember Jo (a cup of) discussing the idea of an articles reading group, like a book group. I don't think it ever got off the ground though which is a pity because I think it sounds like am excellent idea. Fancy it?

In other news, I've finally gone and got a Twitter account. I haven't really got the hang of it yet and I don't know if I'm going to use it for much more than following other people but if you want to help me settle in I can be found here.

Chuck x

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hotty McScorchio

Basically this is just an homage to Ava Gardner and her overwhelming loveliness in The Barefoot Contessa. She is crazy beautiful/crazy hot. The film is a bit rambling but it is very atmospheric and, as mentioned, Ava G is SCORCHIO. Every shot of her is heaven. She had a gripping life too - Anne Helen Peterson has written one of her great Scandals of Classic Hollywood articles on Gardner.

I mean, look at her...

The woman is a dream. I love Bogart too - he is so dour and brooding. Together they are the Beauty & the Prune!

Oh and the settings. Nightclubs in Madrid, the red carpet, Hollywood parties, yachts, the upper-class European party circuit, Italy. And the clothes! Gowns and stoles and wiggle skirts and high waisted shorts and wedding dresses and collared dresses with tiny waists and flamenco skirts. And the jewels. And that swimming costume! Definitely need one of those.

I also need a little mint convertible. That shouldn't be a problem, right?

The other women are pretty sizzling too.

'Oh hey, I'm Ava Gardner. Someone is just carving a sculpture of me. No biggie.'


Chuck x

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Zen and the Art of Home Hair-Dying

It all started in Camden when I was 13 (as is often the way). Stargazer. 'Lurid Fuchsia'. Cheap plastic gloves. Dying my hair in the garden so I didn't stain the bathroom. I still stained the towels - sorry, Muv. It was addictive. I had only intended to dye the tips (yeah, early 00s grunge kids were way ahead of the fashion curve) but then I put in streaks and then I gave in and dyed the whole thing. And it was awesome and I thought I looked awesome and, even now, I maintain its general awesomeness. I loved having pink hair. It made me feel unimaginably cool. Much to my disappointment it had all washed out within a week. The high and the awareness of the transformative power of hair dye stayed with me though.

Since then I have been highlighter orange, varying shades of brunette and a dark and glorious ginger. The latter was my favourite and the only one I repeated. I kept the henna up for about eighteen months and there were many things I loved about it. I used the amusingly named Lush Caca Rouge Mama henna and it smelt wonderful, during dying and for weeks after, and it left my hair in amazing condition with a bright but (relatively) natural colour. I still have half a block in my bathroom cabinet. BUT I haven't re-dyed my hair in months and months because, geez, it's a hassle. You have to grate it and then mix it up and then it is very runny and it goes everywhere and then I found that I had to leave it to soak in for 2-6 hours while my head was wrapped in clingfilm, which is neither comfortable nor attractive... I just haven't had the time or the energy to deal with that since I graduated. I feel tired just thinking about it.

Unfortunately that left me with some rather odd looking roots. They could have been worse but misc/mousy on ginger is kind of weird, particularly when your hair is up and you have a ginger bun sitting on top of your head! So when the opportunity to do an easy dye came along I thought, why not? Half an hour on a Saturday, bathroom un-ruined, you're done! I used John Frieda Precision Foam Colour and it was crazy easy and not that toxic. Seriously, after henna chemical dyes are such a relief. And my hair is soft and shiny, more so than usual, if slightly less so than post-henna. And so quick, so easy! (Clearly still feeling a bit overwhelmed by the ease of it all).

Admittedly the colour was a bit of a surprise. I wasn't expecting quite such vibrant purple tones from 'Medium Copper Brown'. I like my hair colour to like it at least could be natural (except when it is fuchsia) but, oh well. Lots of people seem to like this kind of colour - it must be quite popular. And purple was my absolute favourite colour aged 2-5 years old. Maybe it will illuminate a new aspect of my wardrobe. Being a brunette makes me want to wear bright and dark pinks, being a ginger makes me want to wear green, who knows what purple will bring? You've really just got to roll with it. That is my top tip for home hair-dying (as well as Vaseline on your ears and along your hairline). It will grow out or fade out and if necessary you can re-dye it but maybe see where it takes you. It might be somewhere unexpected.

Chuck x