Saturday, January 31, 2015

Let it Snow

Here I am back on the frozen shores of Lake Michigan having a picnic. I found this as I wait for what everyone told me today was going to be a big snow storm. I haven't seen it yet. Do I doubt it? I'm sure that I will wake up and snow will be on the ground, but as far I can see now, it isn't happening as people prepared for it. Absolutely everywhere I went to today, someone made mention of the snow storm. I wonder what we've become in this age of Doppler radar and meteorologists who predict the weather. Good lord, what did we do when there was not warning? Now we are warned so often that I am beginning to disregard it altogether as what is predicted only comes to pass maybe fifty percent of the time.

Here, I remember that I was cold. I didn't know what would happen next with the weather, and we went ahead with our picnic on the frozen tundra that was the beach on Lake Michigan. What a lark.

Note: though I don't have that coat anymore, my mother still has those blankets in her linen closet. I was in college at the time, and everything that your see would have been courtesy of her. I wasn't cold because who I was with kept me warm.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Dolce and Gabbana Celebrate 30

Harper's Bazaar January 2015

This, they call the 'Queen of Hearts;' it is a pictorial to celebrate the 30 years that Dolce and Gabbana have worked together to create loveliness. Typically, in a D&G advertisement, the black lace that is one of their signatures is fashioned in an Italiano tableau where mama, papa, and the whole family are hanging out on the square deep in a bright mourning of some sort or another. Here, the dress floats down a standardly expected whisp of a girl, but it is done beautifully. Her bee-hive hair a balance for the bell that the dress becomes at the bottom. Bellissimo!

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Louis Vuitton Sky

Harper's Bazaar January 2015
I am not in love with the NYC skyline. It's the definitive concrete (and steel) jungle sprawled on a island that had lost any of its uninhabitiveness through hundreds of years of starting points. But what I love about this picture is the sky. It leads a different existence than what lies beneath it as it struggles not to be overtaken by the waste of the concrete and steel. It is what is alive in this picture with movement, color, and change. When we build, it is. In Nature, it is never the same twice.

The dress is pretty too.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fleetwood Mac's Midnight Special

This video was featured on today... I wondered if I saw it in 1976 as "The Midnight Special" was a show that I never missed, and I think that I remember something of Lyndsey Buckingham's kimono.  And Stevie Nicks would have surely captured me with her feathered hair, floaty costume, and story telling. She is Sienna Miller boho chic of a few years back, but the real thing almost 40 years ago. I saw Fleetwood Mac last year. Stevie was still weaving her witchy magic 'round her microphone. I usually think that Annie Wilson of Heart is the queen of rock n' roll, but in this performance, I think that Stevie has the title by knock-out. The rawness and intensity of her performance is one that would be hard to best.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Madonna's Rebel Heart

Oh Madonna. How do I love thee? I took a chance and with fingers crossed purchased the newly released songs from your upcoming record, "Rebel Heart." I had heard that you were up to something and surrounding yourself with talent ... but one never knows with you. Like Prince, I'm not always sure that you take council outside of yourself, and that can be a dangerous thing as musically, though widely successful, you may not have all of the skills to put a solid record together on your own. Although I had a brief affair with "MDNA," your last record, it was fleeting and left repeat quickly.

But I will always give you a listen 'cause I love you. And bitch, you're Madonna.

On the first listen of any Madonna record, one has to make peace with the fact that Madonna is not a poet. And since lyrics are what drives many of my favorites, it is difficult to digest the trite that Madonna serves on the regular. One of the exercises that I like to partake in is identifying symbol-trends in various artists' lyrics. In U2, you'll find the sea often woven into the songs, which makes sense because the boys, in particular Bono who writes the lyrics, are Irish-islanders. It is a cultural connection that is very literal and often mythical. I like it. In Wilco, especially when Jay Bennett was in the band, the idea of a photograph/camera is in many of the songs. Since Jeff Tweedy sort of is a tour guide of his heart, his city, his life ... this makes sense, and I enjoy finding it in a crazy Where's Waldo exercise. For Madonna ... Catholicism, heartache, and partying take precedence over all. Just like a prayer, she finds any excuse to get on her knees, call to Mary, and at the same time, try to piss God off. On this record, she sings about partying a lot, and at the same time, she warns of how that interferes with what is really at issue: finding spiritual peace. But that's Madonna and, dare I say, women. In Ireland, the tradition is that women are virgin, mother, whore. It's a triptych that is a challenge to uphold, to serve. If Madonna was more the poet, maybe she would be more successful in tying that together and weaving it through every 4 minutes.

But I don't want to hate. And though in the first couple of listens, I cringed a little at some of what Madonna sang, in a interview, she shed light on what each of the songs means for her. Her spoken word made more sense of what they were about. And that helped me in. Then, in reading the January 15th "Rolling Stone" interview of Nicki Minaj, who appears on Madonna's album, I found another clue. She says of her pop song writing, "I don't focus on lyrics in those kinds of records. It's meant to be like, 'If you don't speak English, you still know it's a fun song, just from the tone and the cadence."

So with tone and cadence, I went in and found the party. "Rebel Heart" is one of Madonna's best. It is a dance party, and it covers it. If you like a big gay anthem, it's there in "Living for Love." If you like her ballads, which she can do, you'll love "Ghosttown." And if you're into dub step and EDM, you've got it with Avicii at the wheel of "Devil Pray;" and Diplo with "Unapologetic Bitch" and "Bitch I'm Madonna."

"Living for Love" is one that I imagine I'm in a huge club, the bass is pumping, and I'm surrounded by hundreds of muscled men dancing all around me in various stages of undress. Madonna's heart is always broken, but she is always hopeful. She sings, "I'm going to pick up my crown, and I'm going to carry on." It's an anthem that is driven by Alicia Keys pounding on the piano and a gospel singer. What's more old school Madonna than that?

"Devil Pray" is the hardest to swallow and not because of the beats. Avicii is all over it, and I think that Taylor Swift would find the 'sick beat' that she's looking for if she asked someone who actually knows what that is. This song would be so awesome if Madonna had lost the chorus. It's dumb. "And we can do drugs/And we can smoke weed/And we can drink whiskey ..." Dumb. It works because the transitions that Avicii makes are Eastern-like. Madonna did this before with "Frozen." I don't think she goes here enough ... to the East and darker. She said in the interview that Avicii's writing team took her two places: light and dark. I like the dark; it works for her. And the religious imagery is fine, oh but the chorus. It's so teenagery. Leave that to Lourdes, Madonna.

"Ghosttown" is magnificent. Madonna can sing a ballad. It's "Don't Cry For Me Argentina." It's "Live to Tell." She sounds sincere. And there's a narrative that is believable. Billboard produces it with Madonna ... I'm not sure who he/she/what that is, but it's a beautiful song. After listening to it 50 times, I can begin to break it down, and one of the things that I love is that during the chorus there is a ghost of a man's voice singing with her. He is barely perceptible. It's magic. And it sticks in my head, and I hear it over and over again to my delight.

"Unapologetic Bitch" is pure Madonna. She sings about another boy leaving or being left, and she sings, "I'm popping bottles that you can't even afford/ I'm throwing parties and you won't get in the door/ Said it. Did it. Loved it. Hated it." I love it! I've seen pictures in the magazines of Madonna and her 'boys,' and I wonder what they must think? Cause they can't afford those bottles or get into those parties without her. She continues, "You know you never really knew how your selfish bullshit cost me/ oh, fuck you." If you have half a brain, you have to know that she is the power. And I love how she understands this about herself ... and is unapologetic. Plus, the song has beats.

"Illuminati" hits close to home. My students all think that Beyonce and Jay-Z are Illuminati. And you cannot persuade them otherwise. And here Madonna is spelling it out that the Illuminati isn't what you think it is, but if you want to say she is ... go ahead. And who produced this bounce ... Kanye! That makes perfect sense. Madonna raps on this track. And I like when she does it. The one tiny problem with this track is that she moves from her very monotoned, low toned rap to her Madonny-autotuned voice, which is too plasticy in contrast. I would have brought her down tonally. The repeat is infectious, "It's like everybody in this party is shining like Illuminati." I feel it.

"Bitch I'm Madonna" says it all. It's EDM'd out ... and Nicky Minaj is a great co-conspirator. They go together. I don't really like the word 'bitch.' But I don't know how else you would call it. She's partying again in this song, and wouldn't I like to be along for that ride "right up to the rooftop." I had a boss once in what I would call a 'young' business, and many would write him off because he was of an age. But that dog knew his tricks, and I learned a lot from him. I would say the same for Madonna, she knows her tricks, and she has pulled a huge, fluffy rabbit from her hat.

Repeat. Repeat. Often. This is my new year's jam.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Pretty as a Posen

Elle ... sometime in 2014
I haven't posted much lately ... responsibility took any free time that I normally have to put finger to keyboard. Plus, though I didn't spend as much time with magazines over the last six months as I usually do, not much really caught my eye. I do not sit here with a stack of torn pages saved to comment on later.

Except for this one picture torn from an Elle as some point over the last six months. Certainly, it is the light, the photographer's eye, that truly captures the beauty of the gowns. I'm not really familiar with Zac Posen's work, and I'm not sure that he replaced Michael Kors well on "Project Runway" during the last season that I paid attention to that program; but here, he is brilliant. The structure of each dress would suggest rigidity, an uncomfortable stiffness; however, the layering and dreamy pastels make them appear gossamer ... floaty and ethereal. I particularly like the caplet on the gown in the foreground. The model looks like an angel; her wings softly floating as the light that emits from a formal up-do is lit as if it were an halo. She is an angel.

It is so pretty.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A Happy New Year

Trying to make fire fly.
If it's New Year's Eve, we must burn down the house. Or so it seemed with my family this year. Typically, my sister and her family have returned to their island home after Christmas to celebrate the New Year there; but this year, they broke the tradition to stay here. Naturally, we tried to incorporate as many of my brother-in-law's family's traditions into the party, and it went off with a ... sorry for this ... a bang!

My nephew and the burning puppet.
First, the puppet. Actually, the tradition of the puppet comes from an Ecuadorian family that Enrique, my brother-in-law, grew up with in Puerto Rico. I'm not sure at what point it was incorporated into his own family's tradition, but for as long as I've known him, they've jumped the puppet. The idea is to build a puppet that is representative of something bad from the year, not necessarily personal, to jump over from one year to the next, from the bad to the good. In Enrique's family, global events take precedence, so the puppet usual reflects this. After some discussion and a split vote, we decided to create a puppet of both Isis and Ebola. Commence the building of the puppet. Using a wrapping paper cardboard center, a hanger, newspapers, and an Internet picture, we fashioned the puppet. More importantly, as we taped, we stuffed bricks of firecrackers into the head and core so that we could really try to obliviate both Isis and Ebola. In Puerto Rico last year for New Year's, I had the chance to jump the puppet on a lovely, balmy tropical evening. Of course, in Chicago, the weather was a little chillier ... sub-zero actually. But that did not stop the tropical birds! We pulled out the fire pit, built a roaring fire, and used it to start the puppet's burn. Once it cracked off its many rounds of incendiary devices, it burnt low enough for all of us to jump from 2014 into 2015 leaving behind all that was bad of the year in the ashes of  the fire.

Eating grapes in the kitchen.
Another tradition brought to us here in the North this year was the eating of the grapes. One grape for each stroke of the midnight clock. Honestly, I have been in Puerto Rico several times for the New Year, and I have never seen this tradition carried out. But I may also have been outside, drinking champagne, and away from the old people who are more likely to gather in the kitchen and eat grapes. But we packaged them up and at the strike of midnight, gobbled up what is a Spanish tradition to bring prosperity to the New Year and to ward off general evil and witches. I'm always happy to ward off general evil. Witches? Yeah, I'm not too concerned about them as the Irish of me isn't so sure that they or the banshees aren't better to be a part of my life. I know to take care with concern to their delicate temperaments, so I'm safe from their wrath and protected by their charms.

One balloon that flew.
Every summer, my sister, Enrique, and the kids are in Chicago for the 4th of July. At that time, the boys do their best to blow up my mother's lot. I love fireworks, but I have to tell you that with so many and so close, I usually retreat to the air conditioning. All of that smoke is so hard on what has become a problematic asthma. Even with the Arctic blast, we also managed to conjure up a mini-4th with mortars and blasts that thundered in the New Year. Last summer, we discovered these precious lanterns that once lit sailed up in the sky. At the firework store across the state line ... yes, we are little law breakers ... we found gigantic balloons. Enrique insisted that we get one for each member of the family to set sail in the New Year. Of course, the conditions between the two months are so variant that the sail of said balloons was quite limited. Those big ass balloons just wouldn't take off from we presumed was the cold. One made it. Another, hit the tree and burned. I thought that we were going to burn grandma's house down. And one 4th of July, we very nearly did.
Burning Tree
I awoke in the middle of the night after a particularly explosive 4th, went to the kitchen for a glass of water and saw smoke in the window of the garage door. I pushed the button for the garage door to open and flames shot out. Very near to my car which is never parked in my mother's garage, three plastic garbage containers were on fire. One was already melted to the ground. I ran to get my mother as she is the most level-headed of the gang, who immediately shot up and said, 'I'll get my slippers.' With the balloons, I thought that we were bound to have another such event ... I tried the outside hose, but it was frozen. Enrique told me not to worry about. The fire would extinguish on its own and the tree was too cold to catch fire. I suppose he was right as the tree stands and only the deflated balloon is left in the tree, which we couldn't reach with the rake.

At the end of the fuse, I doubt if any crumb of badness from last year is left for the Moran/Ibanez households. We have burned the shit out of it. I can't but think that this year, 2015, is going to be a good time because we certainly had a blast making a start of it.