Sunday, April 29, 2012

Madonna Party Mix

Rolling Stone April 26, 2012
Cheers, old girl. Who's party rockin' now?!

As I've listened to this record over the last few weeks, I have come to LOVE it! My sister says that I just want to like it ... because it's Madonna. But it isn't that. Her songs just latch on like a slug and make me want to move my body.

As I've been listening to it ... in the car, in the house, at my birthday pj dance party ... I've also been playing a heavy repeat of the video for Girls Gone Wild. I found another video on YouTube that shows choreographers working the dance part of it out, and many different dancers taking their turn at it. I, naturally, have assumed some of the moves in my work. The bit that I like best, is at the chorus as the tempo changes (and note that I am making this up because I don't know what the break or the tempo or any other such music jargon is), in other words, it is at the point of the song where it changes, words are repeated that have been sung before, and the music is different. In the video, the dancers throw their hands up in the air and dance sort of like they are gorillas. Doesn't sound right, does it? Well, play the song, throw your hands up in the air, and move like a gorilla at the part of the song that changes, words are repeated, and the music is different ... and you'll feel ... like Madonna! It's freeing. It moves the WHOLE body. And what is better than that?!

Madonna is after all just a girl. Her *^%$-you to Guy Ritchie is apparent. She wants to 'bang, bang' shoot her lover in the head, and she does it. But not with a gun, no. MDNA does it by getting up to dance and pulling 359,000 others with her.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Doc Martin

Doc Martin
Good old Doc Martin. A rather unlikely romantic figure, but one that I haven't been able to get up off my couch and walk away from for the last week. I first set my eyes on him a couple of months ago on a local PBS station. My mom recommended the show to me, and on first view, I wasn't impressed. I think that I actually dozed off midway through the episode. But I gave it another shot given that it is British, and the town it is filmed in is lovely, and wham! love at ... well, he's grown on me, and that can be the best kind of love.

Of course my local PBS television station was sure to be showing old episodes, and I had missed a lot of the series. Naturally I went to my trusty Netflix and found two pre-quel movies, and seasons 1, 2, 3, and 4! The pre-quels were interesting, but mostly quite different from what has become what I imagine to be a beloved series. I am very satisfied with what they've done with the story line, and that they left Doc and the town intact.

Portwenn, Cornwall
I live in a big city. And I love my city. But if I were to twitch my nose and be transported to the place of my dreams, it would be to a town like Portwenn. The show is actually filmed in Port Isaac, but since this is a fantasy, I think that I would rather live in the fictional town. I am not one for a big house. Or a wood house. I would love to live in one of the old stone houses that litter the bluff around Portwenn's bay. In the series, Doc lives and works in the same building. The ceilings are low and as he walks through to his surgery, he has to take care not to hit his head on the door frame. It is so charming, that. Of course, when it comes to cottages, stone cottages, I have to think of the one in the movie The Holiday that the character Kate Winslet plays lives in. I imagine that as the interior of my new space. Her cottage is in the Cotswolds, but I think that it easily transfer to a fictional village in Cornwall.

Doc's house is the darker one int the middle.
When I went to college, a few times I had enough the money to take the train back to school rather than finding a ride on the 'ride board.' The 'ride board' was always a tricky proposition. One never knew who would show up to drive the six hours back to or from school. Once I was driving back with two guys who were so drunk that they wove all the way back home. I cowered in the back seat with my head in my friend's lap. The train was much less risky. And if I travelled during the day, I loved rolling through the corn fields that connected the big city to the small town where I went to college. At a few of the stops, the station was right in the middle of the town. I would imagine moving to one of them, living in the little apartment above the shop where I worked. I always imagined working in the shop. Shops have always fascinated me, and I know that when I left college, I went to work in a big shop to satisfy that desire. I worked in retail for ten years, and I was ready to leave and move on to something else. But I still think, what if I lived in a small town, and worked in a little shop? That would be grand. And I believe that I would not do this in a small town in the middle of a corn field ... too dusty. And the houses and buildings are made of brick or wood. No, for this fantasy, I want stone. Sturdy, cool to the touch, stone. And I definitely would prefer an English garden to a corn field or dusty marigolds.

And naturally I would fall in love with Doc Martin. What is his particular kind of charm? Well, quite possibly, because he's not charming at all. He's brusk. To the point. Direct. All of the things that I am not! And that would be a good thing. I do get tired of myself. Life can't always be about over-explaining things, emoting all of mine and your feelings, expression, and too much 'yes' not enough 'NO!' Physically, Doc is sort of weird looking. His ears, his oddly large lips, his scowl. And he is always suited. That's not a bad thing. And it is endearing as he runs off through the village with his doctor's bag scuttling to an emergency. Something is always happening to his suit. Birds poop on it. Meat pies are thrown on it. Blood is smeared across the sleeve. But it always survives, and Doc is naturally unfazed by event. He's very hard to ruffle. And I love to ruffle feathers. I'd get a lot of that with him. Oh, I would rarely be successful in ruffling his stiff lip, but I would take great pleasure in the many hours trying to do so. Nothing stirs the blood more than trying to move someone who is screwed in.

Time for tea. I can feel the salt air caress my cheek. And I feel a bit of the damp. Before I come back to reality, I think that I'll make a cuppa, and sit a while imagining how the heck I'm going to get that tie off of ... Doc Martin!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Monsieur Lagerfeld

U.K. Elle April 2012
"Women buy dresses to be happy, not to buy a piece of tragedy made out of taffeta." Karl Lagerfeld in April 2012 U.K. Elle

Strange man, Karl Lagerfeld. Lives in Paris in a house. The house next door is his too. That kitchen is used. He doesn't want to live in a house that has a functioning kitchen. Strange. I guess that's one way that he keeps the girlish figure that he worked so hard for a few years back.

He can make a dress, though. And an empire. I remember reading that when his Tokyo store open, the lines started days before, and once open, the adoring Japanese fashion fanatics, bought it out. That day.

Well into his age, he works. He says, 'You know, working hard means you work 90 per cent for the garbage can. I'm a garbage-can person.' It's hard to believe that for all that he produces every year. It is food for thought. How much do I produce that goes into the garbage can? According to this standard, I would say it is an excellent one, I fail miserably ... my trash can is not overly used. Maybe I should start using it more.

He, of course,  is very French. The smock he wears to design in is from a 17th Century sketch; and his hair is fashioned after a French spy, who lived as a man and woman. He does not like to travel and says, 'I prefer to imagine the world from my window ... it's the idea of India.' In this, he reminds me of William Wordsworth, the English Romantic poet. Wordsworth wrote picturesque, pantheistic poetic portraits of his beloved Lake District. Byron, his contemporary, lashed out at Wordsworth's argument that he loved England more than he as he never left it; whereas, Byron argued he loved it more because he left and came back. Of course, Lagerfeld's love is not of nature, rather of ... design. He is, like the Romantics, an egoist. Whichever side, cosmopolitan as Byron was as he travelled through the world, or provincial as Wordsworth was as he sat in his chair and admired the view, both write about themselves in their world. They are not writing about what they are seeing, they are putting themselves down on paper. And I argue that Lagerfeld is the same. To look at him, we see a blank canvas. It can be said since he always wears the pony tail, and the sunglasses, and the exaggerated collar and cravat. But what he does ... ah, that is anything but blank.

 In the end, Karl says, 'there are perhaps a few ambitions one should not satisfy in life, so as not to be disappointed.' He makes more than he has use for, and denies himself all of his desires.

Isn't that tragic? Strange man.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

pussy willows

Easter morning. Walking by the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, then the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral, the mass goers stream out in waves down elegant steps and across streets on their way home with baskets of what I had always thought was blessed bread, and carrying pussy willow branches. Having lived in this neighborhood for many years, I hadn't ever thought to consider the symbolism of the baskets or the tree branches.

Pussy Willows
As it turns out, the baskets aren't necessarily filled with bread; rather, they hold the items that have been abstained from during Lent ... eggs, butter, sausage, etc. And the pussy willows? Apparently it was difficult to get palms to the Ukraine, so pussy willows took their place. I do like this alternative explanation for this practice as well:

There is another reason that willow branches are used: religious syncretism.  This particular ritual had a magical intent in pagan times. The willow tree had medicinal properties, was considered a holy tree, and was one of the first in the Spring to show signs of life. The people believed that by tapping each other with the freshly blooming willow tree branch, they could draw from it the same energy and strength which allowed it to come to life.

Wonderful notion this ... the idea that we can take energy from what is the same force that pulls out a bud from the branch. It isn't too different from the idea that I have felt all Spring ... the pull of light and warmth that draw my petals out after the dark days of Winter have passed.

Ah, but this Spring season has found me immersed in several traditions, religious and secular. And in a very simple way, I see that we all have traditions that may have very different meaning and experience at the heart of it, they are celebrated very similarly.
First I celebrated Narooz, the Iranian (Persian)New Year, which has been celebrated on the first day of Spring for over 3,000 years. My Iranian friend has always invited me over for her Narooz dinner. On a table in her home, she has assembled items of significance that are always put together for the holiday. I never seem to remember what the symbolism of each item is, but I know that she always has coins, a flowering hyacinth, grass, and do I remember a gold fish artfully arranged on a beautiful Iranian tray. On, it listed several of the items that are included on this table, though they can be different based on each family's tradition. Plus it suggested the symbolism of each item: mirror-sky; apple-Earth; candles-fire; Golab (rose water)-water; grass-plants; goldfish-animals; and painted eggs-humans and fertility.

 Of course the main attraction of the celebration is the food for most of us who are there and haven't grown up with Narooz. And my friend is a fabulous cook, who always enchants her guests with her special rices and Mediterranean fare. One of my favorite treats are the cardamon cookies that she always bakes for the holiday! Cardamon being a spice specific to the holiday.

Next on my tour was my first invitation to a Passover dinner. I was very excited about this opportunity. One, I was happy to meet more of my friend's family, and I have always been interested in Jewish custom/practice. Embarrassingly, I really wasn't even very sure what Passover was all about. Last year while in NYC during Passover, we were by the pickle guys on the lower eastside,and one guy was shaving horse radish on the street. He held his out hand and said, 'hey! try this girls.' He explained that he was busy filling orders for the Passover Seder. Wasn't I delighted when I showed up for Passover and horse radish from the NYC pickle guys was on the table! As the Seder began, I understood ... not much. I was so overwhelmed by all of the readings, and traditions, and ceremonies ... it was lovely. In addition to the horse radish, I dipped my finger in wine and tapped it on my plate, I ate the bitter herb, I ate the matzoh, and matzoh ball soup. 
My sisters and I dying Easter eggs with Dad (I'm the one with the bangs!)
 All of this has me thinking on this Easter day. The celebration of the Resurrection of Christ is the religious Spring tradition I was raised in, and I wonder if it isn't that very different from what is really happening in the Iranian household during Narooz, or the Jewish one during Passover. Now I will tell you from the git go that I am not an actively religious person. On a morning program today, experts were interviewed about the theory that it was the Shroud that gave an illusion of Christ (a hologram?) coming back to life (simply stated ... by me), and not a resurrection. And I thought, ok. That doesn't wipe out the whole belief for me. One of the scholars interviewed even suggested that several of the disciples said that Christ was not resurrected, and that the idea of it is meant to be symbolic. I don't really want to consider the religious aspects of this ... most of what I remember was not associated with the religious event, but involved activities that had nothing to do with Christ.

My brother and his sisters on Easter morning (I'm the one with the white socks and shoes!)
When we were young, my Dad worked a lot. Heck, he just worked a lot always. Even on Saturdays. So you can imagine how excited we were on the night before Easter ... but we had to wait until he came home. Ate. Made a drink. Relaxed. And I'm thinking that we probably were sitting at the table above at 9 p.m. just getting started with the egg dying. Dad was always a good one with the dyes. He made the prettiest colors and patterns. We were a happy bunch ... I don't know where my brother is in the picture?!

After we dyed the eggs, we would arrange them in our baskets with the candies that Mom had bought. We each had our own basket, separate and distinct from each other's. When that was finished, I'm sure that it was late and so went right to bed. In the night, the Easter Bunny would hide our baskets for us to find the next day. Our Easter Bunny would take jelly beans and make patterns on the floor that would then lead to the baskets ... eventually. Of course this was tricky since we had cats. The cats, once the rooms were bunny-free, liked to bat around the jelly beans.

The family goes to Church on Easter.
 Not unlike other families, Easter was the one time when we would get new clothes. I believe that my Iranian friend said this was true of Narooz as well. I can clearly remember many of the pretty dresses that my Mom would buy for us. In the picture above I wore a dress that was white eyelet on top, and an A-line shaped yellow skirt. A luxurious velvet black ribbon wrapped around in an empire waste. My sister had a matching dress. In the dress left, I think that I was doing Annie Hall before her as the dress had a silky paisley'd tie that was worn outside the pink jumper. Super cool. Too bad you can't see it in this picture.

Of course the day was about food ... and liquor for the big people. As we got older, the one element that I remember most were the daiquiris that my Dad would make when we got home from church. Children were always allowed a sip or two, and there was something about the pretty green slushy elixir that I found to be intoxicating ... well, I suppose maybe I was actually a little buzzed!

I spent this Easter at my Mom's house. She roasted a lamb. We drank wine. I did not have an Easter basket filled with candies, but the sweetness of home was there.

In the end, I've spent three very lovely evenings celebrating with friends and/or family. I wore a dress to all three occassions. Drank wine at each. And enjoyed lovely company and great food. I do feel hopeful as Spring awakes and I find that all of us, though simply told, can enjoy a re-birth, a resurrection, a release from what has been behind us.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

la dolce vita

Vogue April 2012
If I were a rich girl ... I think that I would dress in Dolce & Gabbana exclusively. So many times when I'm dressing for a mood, the above, pictured in the ad, is my target. I love the Italian aesthetic. Classic black, managed messy hair, red lips, oh, and a cross. How beautiful. So full of life. So serious. The Italian woman is all: virgin, mother, whore. Certainly it isn't only the Italians that wrestle with those expectations; one can find evidence of the trichotomy in any Catholic culture, but it is the Italians, who portray it most convincingly.

Not long ago, I rented an Italian movie. The Italians don't make the best movies ...  but what I love about them is that they, more than anyone, love their women and treat them all beautifully. Although the ad above shows only the young woman, in many of the Dolce & Gabbana advertisements, all ages of women wear the clothes. Italians do not seem to have the same hang-up as certainly Americans do for age, size, wrinkles! In the movie, the lead actress was far from being the ingenue. She was a woman of a certain age that wrestled with the same issues and complaints. I couldn't keep my eyes off of her throughout the film. She had a way, effortless, sort of off-kilter, but put together at the same time. Her clothes were just tight, and her shirt barely contained her bosom. But she didn't look slutty. No, she looked ripe. And who doesn't like a piece of fruit that is right at its most delicious stage.

Of course the Material Girl does Dolce & Gabbana wonderfully. She has done their ads for a couple of years, last year most notable. I have a picture on my vision board in front of me. She is not laced, but she is in the requisite black and in the determined fit ... the garment is not the focus, it is rather the support for the force of which is this woman wearing it.

Yes, these are perfect clothes for making spaghetti, yelling at a man, and then making him feel like he is the only man in the world who can make her purr.

said bottle
Of course I would be remiss if I didn't have something to say of Italian men! Oi! The last time that I was in Italy, I was on a mission to find a plastic Virgin Mary bottle like the one my Irish friend carries around with her from country to country. Her's is from Lourdes ... filled to the brim with holy water, it protects her in all of her travels. I wanted that same protection. While at St. Peter's Basilica, I found one in the gift shop. It was not filled with Holy Water, so I took it out to the church, and submerged it in a Holy Water font. Well, apparently that's not permissible, and two handsome men whisked me away to the back. I was worried that I was being separated from my mother, who was travelling with me, but their rush was intoxicating. One asked me in perfect English, 'what are you doing?' I explained that I was only trying to fill my Virgin Mary with Holy Water to take home with me. Oh my goodness, they were so handsome, gorgeously suited, and smelled like men should smell. Oh dear. Arrest me if you are to be my jailers! But instead, one took my statue to the back and filled it ... probably with tap water is my guess. And then too soon, they returned me to the nave.

Maybe it was later that day, or another ... Roman days blend. We were on our afternoon gelato break sitting on the lip of a fountain in a square full of artists. The scene was very pleasant. Soon, a gentleman started to talk to me. He was an artist on the square. Soon, after realizing that I was not in the market to buy a painting, he started to try to buy me. He moved closer and closer. And his kisses, oh yes he kissed me at hello, moved from my hand, to my cheek, to .... 'hey, you're getting kind of fresh with my daughter,' my mother said. To wit, he responded, 'so what am I to do, take my kisses away?' And he moved backwards across my landscape taking back his kisses. In conversation, he realized that he had a friend who lived in my city, and perhaps he should visit. Hmmmm ... he was a hairy beast. Big bushy beard and head of hair. He was ruggedly built and quite the contrast to the men I had met earlier. Soon, my new friend, Georgio, was building our life together. He said, quite sincerely, that he was, '95% certain that he could make me happy for the rest of my life.' Our gelato finished and the conversation getting too ... crowded, we moved along. Several times we ran across the square in our wanders through the city, but chose to by-pass it.

I'm wondering if I didn't make a mistake that day. No one since has said that he was 95% certain that he could make me happy for the rest of my life. From this I learn, don't just wear the dress, live la dolce vita. Oh how I try!

Sunday, April 1, 2012


The best thing about Madonna's new album?


I love initials. I call several people close to me by their initials. Madonna is brilliant at tagging herself. From Material Girl to Madge to MDNA. I have done it in my own way ... missmoran is, I suppose, my own tag. I should trademark it. Make it official. I would then have one piece of paper that makes something in my life 'official,' aside from my birth certificate, and, oh, my expired passport. Better do something about that.

I was ready to buy MDNA, the last Wilco record was getting over-played in Bridget (my car). I needed a new record obsession. I thought that the record was released on the 26th. A week before the wall in my neighborhood that is always covered with album release posters, MDNA was posted and it read MARCH 26. HA! Flying to a Target after work I was told by a khaki'd boy that I was wrong. I tried to convince him to give me the album a day earlier, but that didn't work. I didn't try really hard, maybe if I had, I would have gone away with one. But to wait is in itself tantalizing, and wonder if it sucked? And I didn't want to over-listen to it? One more day.

The 27th, I was ripping the plastic off in the check out line so that I could slip it in as soon as I got to the car. Do I need a bag? No, I don't need a bag! I just need to play this. And play it I did.

First listens are always difficult. There's so much more to it than just the music. There's expectation. History. Anticipation. Worry. Yeah, it's not going to be great on the first listen ... well, except for U2's No Line On The Horizon. As soon as that first song played, I was in. But that is another artist, another story. On first listen ... I thought, oh Madonna! Then I talked to someone who said, oh really, what did you expect. I shouldn't have called. I took a nap.

I woke up and thought, I wonder if there are any videos for MDNA, aside from the cheerleader one, and I found it on YouTube. It's for the first song of the album, Girls Gone Wild. And here I found the entry into this work. That girl can make a HOT video. I've had to watch it over and over and over ... and then again. It's beautifully filmed in black and white. Madonna begins with her prayer ... the most recurrent theme in her work, how can I balance being good when what I want is to be bad. Of course the bad is relative. Her bad is typically erotic. And how can that be bad? Oh right, she's a girl. No one wants to play Samantha in The Sex in the City game ... everyone wants to be Carrie, who manages to balance being thoughtful and sexual.  Samantha is a man sexually, and we know too well that we will not be successful striving for equality by acting like that. That's why no one wants to be Miranda either. She dresses like a man to be powerful. I don't even ever remember her name, and I had to look it up for this post ... that's a testament somehow.

Madonna has always pushed her sexual agenda on to the masses. From the first, whether rolling around the stage of the MTV Video awards as the virginal bride (1984), to the groom french kissing Britney Spears playing the virginal bride on the MTV Video awards (2010) decades later. I bought her Sex book. It's still somewhere around. I have the Erotica video on a shelf. I'm not always sure that she figured out how to do it ... right. It got a little too in your face, and then it was exaggerated. It went from good clean fun to soft porn. I suppose it was a conversation and she definitely opened up the opportunity for women, to own their sexuality, not a man's or girl's, but one's own.

Girls Gone Wild. The prayer. Good vs. bad. In her box, she seems like a fly on the wall,  similar to Coppola's Dracula. Bug-like climbing the walls. Strong. Physical. But as the fly suggests, a voyeur. A voyeur of beautiful men who are tantalizing and show just enough to imagine what it would be like to ... bite the apple they hold. The smoking gun image is interesting ... an ode to Guy Ritchie perhaps. He does direct the Sherlock Holmes movies (and those other English gangsta movies with guns in the titles), and smoking guns figure prominently in those stories. The gun has fired, and there is proof of it at any rate. Something has happened. Criminal? For some, a woman having a good time is that, but Madonna is pulling this trigger. She shows no remorse for having a good time. Naughty girl. Another fabulousness of the video, let's face it, is that Madonna knows some fancy clothes. She is beautifully outfitted. She counts on style, not absurdities to tell her story, and I appreciate that about her. Project Runway may begin with a few challenges of how to dress a model from the grocery store, but it always ends with a runway show at Bryant Park and couture. In the end, I don't need Madonna's band of boys to arrange artfully around myself as I consider the possibilities, but I do feel that I can own it, which makes that powerful for me in my story.

I don't have to go into this record song by song. It's Madonna. I'll hit 4 or 5 tracks hard, and skip others. It makes me want to get up and dance. I can sing along. Do I wince at some of her rhymes? Of course! Does it bother me that I can sing along to the cheerleader song? Yes, in the grocery store I found myself singing somewhat to myself, 'l-u-v Madonna! y-o-u do you wanna?' Why not?! It's not rocket science! It just feels good. And there is something about the power of that woman that is intoxicating. Is she a bubble of blond contradictions and pretenses, surely. But aren't we all just a little? Or want to be?