Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I Go Out Walkin' After Midnight

Trees are popular on Earth. Some trees are more popular than others. The oak tree is known as a mighty and strong plant. Pine trees are known as evil things that fall on your house during a hurricane. (They are also commercially grown, but only when planted in neat rows.)

But one tree I think most will love is the weeping willow. It shows up in country songs and Disney films. It sympathizes with us when we are sad, and provides shade when the hot summer sun beats down on our exceedingly white necks.

There are two willow trees outside the house I live in now. One of them appears to be dying, which is sad, but the other is still going strong. The dogs like to chase squirrels up these trees and think they have them trapped. I tell them they aren't hunting hounds, but they never listen.

In my imaginary perfect life, in which I own a house on a large lot, probably out in the sticks, there is a weeping willow in the back yard. I can go and sit under that weeping willow and pretend that I am in a painting looking thoughtful and pretty. I can take a book from my library (which has enormous bookshelves that are perfectly organized, and there is a butler in the corner who serves me tea) and read outside while my willow tree protects me from the elements.

Also, planting trees is good for the earth. We should try to take care of this place, not because we care about the children, but because we're terribly vain and care about what the children think of us.

Buy through the Arbor Day Foundation for $12.00. Unless you're a member, and then you can get it for $7.98, and a free red maple.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bully, Uga, Spike, Handsome Dan, and Lola

Paris Hilton recently informed me that dogs make great accessories.

However, my tastes in dogs differ from Paris's. Some small dogs are absolutely adorable to me. I think pugs are fantastic. And I would be happy to carry a pug around with me, except that if I did I would probably spend all my time cooing over it and telling it how cute it is. This would be bad for my image.

But if we're looking at squishy-faced, wrinkly dogs, let's talk about a dog that's good for anyone's image: the English Bulldog.

These guys are adorable, too. But they're called Bulldogs for a reason. They were originally bred to be ferocious, for the sport of bull baiting. You slap a spiked collar around that sweet wrinkly neck, and you have what looks like a killer on your hands. Why do you think so many colleges and universities have a bulldog for their mascot? Just a few are listed above, along with Lola, my niece, who is only the mascot of my heart.

My brother and his wife have the sweetest, cutest English Bulldog ever. I covet this dog. When I grow up, I want an English Bulldog of my own, one that will high-five and slobber and be adorable and ridiculous looking.

You can't buy these guys on the Internet. Buy from a reputable breeder for however much they charge you, and take care of your new silly-looking domesticated gray wolf.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Together, We Ride!

One of my favorite video game series is Fire Emblem, a series of turn-based strategy games. I won't go into a lengthy description here. In essence, battles are fought on a field overlayed with a grid. Various types of terrain affect the combat. Once units earn enough experience from fighting, they will gain levels and can eventually promote into stronger units. This is a type of gameplay that really appeals to me, though I am terrible at chess. one never has to play a battle the same way twice; you have to form your army and guide it through many battles, making the ultimate fighting machine that suits your approach to saving the world.

After years of not being as good at platformers as my brothers, I discovered the first Fire Emblem released in the United States: Fire Emblem for the Game Boy Advance. The game is also known as Fire Emblem 7 and Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken, particularly when it is necessary to differentiate it from all the other games in the series before it that were only released in Japan.

I heard about the game and wanted to try it, but not spend money on it immediately, so I downloaded the ROM and played it on my computer. After finishing the tutorial, about ten chapters centered around a girl named Lyn and an inheritance dispute, I decided I loved it.

So my next video game purchase, though not immediate, was the eighth in the series and second in the US, Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones, also for the GBA. (I eventually managed to acquire a used copy of Seven, with the manual, which was important to me. The game is now out of print.) Gameplay-wise, FE8 is very similar to FE7, with a few minor upgrades. Now there were branching promotion trees! Now my cavaliers didn't just have to be paladins when they grew up, but they could be great knights if they wanted!

Many have criticized number eight for being too easy. In most other games, once the army is done with a battle, it moves on. In Eight, players have the option of returning to towns and forests and liberating them from evil creatures over and over again, allowing units to earn more experience between battles, though if one does this too much, breaking weapons and no income can become a problem.

This game also has branching story paths. One may choose to follow Prince Ephraim or Princess Eirika early on. Eventually they meet up again and continue their campaigns as one. Touches like this, and the ability to play FE7 from the point of view of another character after completing the game once, are part of what makes the games full of replay value for me, as well. I am not the sort to play a game once and sell it back. If I think I won't want to play it more than once, I will borrow it or buy it later, when it is on serious sale.

Now that I own both of these games, it may seem a little odd for me to post about them here on a blog about coveting, but I'll try to justify it: the reason the series was even introduced to the United States was the appearance of two characters from previous games, Marth and Roy, in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Fans went nuts over these guys.

And it was tremendously lovely of Nintendo to release for us Rekka no Ken. Truly. But that game, my friends, is a prequel to number six, Fuuin no Tsurugi, the game that featured Roy as its main character. Years later, they remade the first game in the series, Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Tsurugi, and gave us Marth, but we still haven't seen Roy on this side of the pond, aside from dedicated bilingual fans providing a translation patch for ROMs.

In conclusion, I think Nintendo should hurry up and release Fuuin no Tsurugi over here. The end.

Buy Fire Emblem through Amazon for varying prices.

Buy Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones through Amazon for almost fifty dollars. Good God. It was thirty at Target when I got my copy.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Where to Sleep Tonight?

You guys may have noticed that generally, I have been keeping up with Cate's schedule. She writes about certain things on certain days. Including "People We Covet" on the twenty-fifth. I'll do that later. You may also have noticed that I'm not a big shoe fan. I like my Chuck Taylors, but that's about it, and Cate already wrote about those. It follows, naturally, that I am not much of a handbag connoisseur.

My deviation from Cate's carefully-planned schedule has begun, and today's bag is better than all the ones Cate has covered here, combined.

Today's bag is a sleeping bag in the shape of a tauntaun.

"What in the world is a tauntaun?" some of you may be asking.

Well, a tauntaun is not in this world--they come from the cold, cold planet of Hoth. The cold, cold planet of Hoth where Luke Skywalker and his tauntaun mount were attacked by a wampa. To make a short story shorter, Luke escaped the wampa, but succumbed to the cold. Han Solo saved him by using Luke's lightsaber to slice open his own dead tauntaun, so that its warm, squishy innards would envelop the freezing young man, giving him life in its death.

This sleeping bag almost accurately recreates the experience of sleeping in tauntaun guts--the inside is printed with intestines. The outside feels like tauntaun fur, and includes the saddle that carried the noble and handsome Han Solo to Luke's rescue. The sleeping bag is complete with a soft tauntaun-head pillow. The zipper is in the shape of a lightsaber, so that you, too, can slice open a tauntaun and shove your friend inside to save him.

The only thing that's missing is the smell.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

The One Nice Thing I Do for My Feet

There are two things I don't mind having on my foot: socks and flip-flops. I don't like shoes very much. I don't like shoes with heels, I don't like shoes that cover my entire foot, and I don't like shoes with heels that cover my entire foot.

I make exceptions to these rules on Sundays and during winter. I like warm feet more than I like free feet.

But whether I'm wearing shoes or not, I do like socks. My favorite types of socks are toe socks and fuzzy sucks. Imagine my surprise, then, when, while searching online for socks, I discovered a web site called Sock Dreams--that sold fuzzy toe socks.

I won't get into the many other socks that Sock Dreams sells. Right now, it's all about the fuzzy toe socks. These guys come in black, purple, and pink, and are made of polyester and spandex in Korea. I'm sure that all means something to those who are more concerned about their clothes beyond, "Is it fuzzy?" But my sock dreams are simply thus: to have socks that are fuzzy and treat each of my toes as individuals.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Far from the Hills of the Sea-Swelled Carolinas

I'm a sucker for true love, the nineteenth century, and dead people who don't deserve to be dead.

But today is music day, so we are not going to talk about Julia Quinn's trashy romance novel, When He Was Wicked. No, we are going to talk about the Civil War. The one that happened in the United States. The War between the States. The War of Northern Aggression.

I don't think I've ever heard any southerners refer to it as the War of Northern Aggression. Only people who think southerners refer to it that way.

So, I read this webcomic, Dovecote Crest. It's about a fictitious group of Civil War reenactors in Arkansas. It features crinolines, ghosts, ladies dressed like men kissing men, and short blogs and updates from the creators.

One day last year, author Hailey provided a link to a song by a band I had never heard of before. "Yankee Bayonet" is a duet between a dead Confederate soldier and his still-at-home love, referred to often as "the widow" by many fans. Whether they were ever married is up for debate, I think, but I am also a fan of trashy romance novels, where marriage is often unnecessary, and sometimes a hindrance.

When I'm in a good mood, the song is sad but good, a reminder of how terrible the Civil War was in the south without the time investment and Scarlett O'Hara-ness of Gone with the Wind. When I'm in a bad mood, it's something to put on while sitting in bed and eating a pint of ice cream. And bawling, if it comes to that.

Buy through Amazon for $0.99.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Scientific Progress Goes Boink

Hi there! I'm Maureen, Cate's friend. I'll be blogging for you while Cate's out being an adult or whatever. Now, on with the post:

There are a few people you can blame for me. My parents, of course, and my older brother, who showed me films like Heathers (remind me to write about that one) before I was old enough. Even Cate has encouraged me to be a happy Lady Gaga fan and helped keep me Presbyterian in the face of Baptists.

And then there's Bill Watterson. His newspaper comic Calvin and Hobbes began in 1985 and ran for ten years. I did not start reading as soon as I popped out in 1989, but somehow I was introduced to the comic at a young age, and Calvin's adventures and imagination have influenced me for some time.

I distinctly recall once turning a closet into a spaceship using only my mind and bringing a box of cereal with me as my rations for my Mars trip. This was, of course, inspired by my recent purchase of a Calvin and Hobbes collection. There are enough in my family's house that I cannot recall which one it was, but I'm not too bothered by it, because I graduated from college in May.

My mother told me to go to my bedroom after my return home. I did, and I found upon my bed a large, heavy cardboard box. I carried it downstairs, removed the packing materials, and what sat in front of me was this:

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes

I picked it up, hugged it, and said, "I love it forever!"

Buy through Amazon for $94.50. Or elsewhere for more, if you think places like Amazon will be the ruin of us all.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Clearly This Is Where I Should Sit

I like Chiavari chairs. From afar, they remind me of bamboo. Up close, they are quite nice--simple but visually appealing. Basically, they're just classic. So when I first saw the lucite Chiavari chairs, available through the Room Service Store, I went bananas. You remember my love for lucite, right? Well, turns out that it extends to housewares (I find Louis ghost chairs to be fascinating, as well). Can't you just imagine putting one of these in a black dining room with a white table and silver dishes? Absolutely stylish.

By the way, these chairs first came to my attention through My Little Boudoir, a favorite blog of mine. You should check out the website if you have any interest in boudoirs, celebrities, or lovely things in general! (I was especially interested to see yesterday's post, a photo homage to Madonna!)


PS This will be my last post for about two weeks; I will be out of town on business that will not allow for much blogging time. However, I will resume transmission on 6 July (a Tuesday). In the meantime, my friend Maureen will be taking over as the main attraction here; after I return, she will stay on as an author! Her style occasionally overlaps with mine--we're both big fans of Lady Gaga, for example--but her perspective is different, to be sure, and she's sure to entertain you with her witty observations and unusual finds!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Charming, Darling

All right, so, I'm a sucker for pink things, especially when they are of the hot pink variety. And when I walked into Henri Bendel earlier this month, I found that their scarf display was rife with magentas and fucshias and roses (oh, my!). The scarf that really caught my eye, though, was the Pixellated Charm, a large square scarf printed all over with chains and Bendel charms in orange and white on a pink background. It would make the perfect neckerchief to go with a little black dress, a great hair covering on a windy day, or perhaps even--if you have been blessed with an extra-slim waistline--a belt for a pair of white shorts. Whatever you choose to do with such an item, it is sure to brighten up a summer day!


Monday, June 21, 2010

"Did Bigfoot Take It?"

Every time I go home, there is something that I absolutely have to do. Some people go home to visit their friends or to see the doctor. Me? I always end up watching National Treasure with my mom.

All right, it's not the best film ever. But you know what? Jon Turteltaub knows how to craft a satisfying tale. As far as the cast goes, Nicolas Cage clearly enjoys the dashing character of Ben Gates, Diane Kruger is a sassy government employee, Justin Bartha's smart-ass sidekick is perfection, and Harvey Keitel's FBI agent is the right combination of intimidation and sympathy. Plus Sean Bean's bad guy is deliciously awful and Christopher Plummer's brief role at the beginning of the movie makes my night every time.

And this romp is just plain entertaining. Whether the bad guys are blowing up a 150-year-old ship or chasing the protagonists through Philadelphia, there is always something interesting to see or a funny piece of dialogue to hear. (For the record, when I visited Philadelphia last summer, I spent a lot of time walking around saying, "That was in National Treasure! Oh, man, this is so cool!") I am happy to revisit it every time I revisit my home, and I recommend it if you're looking for a brief trip away from your cares.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Orange You Glad I Didn't Say Zebra?

Few things cheer me up more than zebras. I don't know what it is about them, but they make me happy. Especially when I find zebra-print things.

This bag in particular is especially fun. It is a canvas tote (are you surprised?) that is available in both black and a bright. orange, and it is printed all over with prancing zebras. In fact, they remind me a bit of carousel horses, which, for me, exemplify summer. Why wouldn't I want to carry this?


Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Cure for My Summertime Blues

Leave it to Coach to give me a summertime lift. I can usually find something of theirs that will cheer me up, and today, it is the Caroline wedge with a cute beachy illustration from Pierre Le-Tan, whose whimsical style is really cute. The pastels of the graphics and the neutral straps give the shoes a sun-drenched feel that will transport you to a happy place even on the dreariest of days.

Buy through Macy's for $158.00.


Friday, June 18, 2010

The Resurgence of Dance

In honor of Kylie Minogue's new album, Aphrodite, which drops on 6 July, I thought I would share with you  a little bit of my love for her. Specifically, I want to talk about "Can't Get You Out of My Head," the lead single off of her fantastic 2002 album Fever.

When Fever was released, Minogue hadn't been big in the states probably since she recorded her cover of "The Locomotion." Like that song, most of the tracks on Fever have a sense of playfulness about them, including the title song. "Can't Get You Out of My Head" forgoes playfulness, though, in favor of a throbbing beat and lots of sexiness. Minogue's crisp, staccato verses and choruses contrast well with the breathy delivery of the bridges. She can't get someone out of her head, and I can't get her out of mine. I simply love this song!

Buy through Amazon for $0.99.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

How Delicious Is This Gossip?

When it comes to reading material, I try to keep an open mind. I'll check out poetry, fiction, biography, history, and so on. From time to time, I've even delved back into that fantastic area known as young adult fiction. YA fiction covers just as many genres as mainstream fiction: horror, thriller, romance, mystery, et cetera. My current favorite YA books combine romance with mystery and intrigue: the Luxe series by Anna Godbersen.

So far, I've read the first three books (The Luxe, Rumors, and Envy); the fourth and final, Splendor, is coming out in paperback at the end of this month. The series deals with sisters Elizabeth and Diana Holland and their fellow upper-class society kids Penelope Hayes and Henry Schoonmaker, their former servant Lina Broud, and a cast of many interesting others. Gossip, scandal, and fabulous parties abound, as well as family drama and societal infighting. Since the books are set during the turn of the last century, there's even a little bit of history. 

If you're a fan of romance novels, I think that you would enjoy Gobersen's books. They are long but easy to read and very addicting as well as beautifully designed. She even has a new series starting in the fall with the book Bright Young Things, set in the late 1920s; word on the street is that it will be another tetralogy. And if the Luxe series is any indication, I'm willing to bet that Godbersen's next endeavor will be just as juicy.

Buy The Luxe through Borders for $8.49.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rubber Duckies with a Twist

Flamingos are my favorite birds. As such, I've written about them before, of course. And I'm about to do it again. This time? I've found a pink flamingo rubber duckie. There is nothing about this item that I don't love. It combines a classic childhood toy with a fantastic animal! If I was a bath-taking kind of girl, I would definitely buy three or four of these to decorate the tub. How about you?


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lovely Lucite

Lucite is an interesting thing. It is an acrylic, lightweight and durable, basically the same thing as plexiglass. It can be used to make many different products, of course, but for my purposes today, it is very fashionable. Burberry, in particular, has put it to good use this summer.

They have a wide selection of acrylic bracelets available. My favorites are the fine check embossed bangles in the cheerful, summery shades of cyan, yellow, lavender, and mossy green. Can't you just imagine pairing these with a white bikini and aviators, or maybe a wrap dress and strappy sandals? The sound of them clacking gently against each other as you take a ride on a little speedboat? The way they shine in the sun at a barbecue? 

Okay, maybe I'm fantasizing about them a little too much for my own good. But they are beautiful, and I definitely feel that they are a great addition to any jewellry wardrobe!

Buy through Burberry for $165.00 each.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Green Dresses, Green Uniforms

There are few things that inspire more back-and-forth than film adaptations of books. There are books that never should have been adapted. There are books that are supposedly impossible to adapt (I'm looking in your direction, Tristram Shandy). There are bad books that have been turned into good movies. There are good books that have been turned into bad movies. There are bad books that have been turned into bad movies. The rarest creature of all is the good book that has been turned into a good movie.

Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Atonement.

Ian McEwan's novel of wartime England is chock full of familial strife, sharp details, and fully-realized characters. The book is so well-written that it is impossible not to feel like you are right there (although this may seem like an awful cliche, I can't help it--it's totally true). And the great thing about Joe Wright's film is that it takes McEwan's words and turns them into living, breathing, moving images that are just this side of indelible: when Briony is shocked to discover her sister with Robbie, the heartbreak Cecilia feels when Robbie is taken from her, the stark day of disaster Robbie endures in Dunkirk, and every moment in between.

I've heard from several people that they didn't like this film. They say that it was boring or that it wasn't true enough to the book. To both charges, I reply, like hell. If nothing else, it is a visual oasis. But, really, it is so much more. As far as the players go, Keira Knightley proved that she could act, the world was introduced to the precocious talents of Saoirse Ronan (late of The Lovely Bones), and I got to see my beloved James McAvoy (Wanted, The Last King of Scotland) again. Dario Marianelli's score, which made use of typewriter keys as percussion, is quite lovely and absolutely suited to the film. Cecilia's green dress is ridiculously beautiful. And, seriously, the single-shot Dunkirk scene is a stunning piece of cinematic work. In short, I love this movie, and I think you might, too.

Buy the book through Barnes and Noble for $10.76 and the film through Best Buy for $9.99.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

In the Pink

Balenciaga is a name that we perhaps do not hear enough. The original Balenciaga, Cristobal, was a Spanish fashion designer. Although Sr. Balenciaga passed away in 1972, his house lives on, and the line is today designed by Nicolas Ghesquiere, who is considered by many to be one of the true luminaries of the fashion scene.

My interest in Balenciaga has to do mainly with their handbags, of course. (Although I do have to say that they have an absolutely stunning leather jacket for sale on their website right now, if you have about, say, $2,595.00 to spend.) This bag--which, by the way, is not a tote, exactly, for the record--is one of the house's most famous, the First. Coming in at thirteen inches wide and seven inches tall, it is a tad smaller than my laptop, making for a medium-sized bag, the perfect dimensions for a lady who needs to carry a few things around town but not her entire life.

A couple of months ago, Neiman Marcus announced that they had teamed up with Balenciaga to produce a limited series of both the First Classic and the City Classic bags as well as flat shoes in metallic leathers--brown, black, and a pale pink called Bois de Rose--in order to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Classic bags. (PurseBlog also featured this collaboration.) My pick is the Bois de Rose. It is shimmery and completely cute, like all of my childhood fantasies about purses come true. Can someone please buy this for me right now?

Pre-order through Neiman Marcus for $1,195.00.


PS I'd like to share another couple of updates with you!

1) Here's a link to a recap/deconstruction of Lady Gaga's "Alejandro" video on; another for a post about the video at; and a more political take from Video Ga Ga, a music blog on Yahoo!; this way, you might see some viewpoints that differ from or coincide with my own.

2) I totally forgot to let you know that I finally got myself the Zee Zee Top Zelda Clutch from Christian Audigier, which I first mentioned in this post. Because I kept running into it at the local TJ Maxx and the price kept going down and I kept fawning over it, I caved. But the good news is that I ended up snagging it for about 60% off the original cost, so it was a good thing that I passed on it the first two times!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ornaments for the Feet

The first time I ever saw a pair of Christian Louboutin heels with my own eyes, I was 21 years old and working as a Resident Assistant. I went around for room inspections one night, and a girl who lived in my section had a little too much money to blow. She owned a pair of Guccis, a pair of Diors, and then the Ones: black satin Loubs. And there was mud on the heels. I couldn't believe it. Blasphemy.

Although I can't go around dropping huge dollars on dreamy shoes, unlike certain other people, I might buy the Christian Louboutin Very Prive Platform Pump if I could. Although it's not a slingback, it does have a peep toe. And the red platform adds a nice pop of color. It would be the perfect way to spice up a little black dress or show yourself to be a staunch fashionista even in the most dour of workplaces.

I have actually had honest-to-God, real live Loubs on my feet twice, once last fall (peep-toe slingbacks!) and once last week (the Very Prive, in fact, and all for the sake of reasearch, of course). Both times, I was extremely dismayed to find that they run small in the toe area, making my 9.5/39.5-sized foot wince. (Of course, the fact that they didn't fit right went a long way in preventing me from impulsively blowing a paycheck on them.) But I am determined. I will own own a pair someday!


Friday, June 11, 2010

You Can't Hide This Kind of Love

Lady Gaga is one of my favorite singers. She has her detractors, of course, and understandably so, but personally, I love her. And the track of hers that I like the most is "Alejandro."

I wrote once that I very firmly believe that "Alejandro" is what Ace of Base would sound like if they had started recording this year instead of in the early 1990s. And it clearly owes a debt to Madonna's "La Isla Bonita" and ABBA's "Fernando." But "Alejandro" is more than just the sum of those parts. It is riotous, it is joyful, it is heartbreaking. It makes me want to sing and dance, maybe even in public (which I absolutely do not do).

On the other hand, the music video changes the entire tone of the song, as if Gaga is trying to make a totally new statement with the same piece. And why should she not? As the musician, she is well within her rights to do with her work what she likes. Oftentimes, that kind of experimentation goes awry. In this particular instance, however, the result is eye-poppingly good.

The video is equal parts "Smooth Criminal," silent film, the White Witch, World War II, Dracula, steampunk, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tchaikovsky's "Arabian Dance," Catholic ritual, Terminator, David Fincher film, Alexander McQueen runway show, Christina Aguilera video, Devil's Night, Cabaret, marionette display, Casino Royale, Steven Meisel photograph, dystopia, The Last Emperor, Madonna ("Don't Tell Me," "Drowned World/Substitute for Love," Evita, "Express Yourself," "Frozen," "Human Nature," "Justify My Love," "Like a Prayer," "Nothing Really Matters," "Papa Don't Preach," "Rain," and "Vogue," at the very least, if not others, as well*) and, finally, Gaga. How you can even fit so many references into a single music video is beyond me. The level of synthesis involved is absolutely mind-boggling. And ultimately, this video is not as fun as "Telephone." It is not as batshit crazy as "Bad Romance." It is not as socailly critical as "Paparazzi." But it is beautiful, and every bit as epic as each of those other creations.

For now, this may just be a song that we all sing along to when it comes on the radio. (I have been known to do this once or twice. Or, you know, three times a day. Occasionally with my friend Maureen in tow. And always as loudly as possible.) Ultimately, though, I feel that both the song and the accompanying video will become touchstones for the dance and pop singers of the future as well as artistically-minded directors of music videos.

Watch the music video for "Alejandro" on Lady Gaga's website.

* There is a short article about this very subject on Read it here.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

"Come, You Masters of War"

Last summer, it was suggested to me that I should read, among many other titles, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges, a long-time war correspondent, in preparation for my new job. (It might seem a strange instruction, but it makes sense in the context of what I do.) At first, I demurred. I am what you might call a pacifist and, at the time, did not believe in warfare--which is to say, of course, that I realized it exists but I did not agree with the reasoning behind it in most cases.

Hedges has not changed my mind entirely. I still oppose armed conflict unless there are absolutely, positively no other options available. But War Is a Force is, for me, what some people would call a game-changer: that one piece of the puzzle that turned everything around: suddenly, the reasons why we do this to ourselves were much clearer.

Having survived his share of action as a reporter, Hedges has had a great deal more opportunity to study the causes and effects of warfare at first hand than most. His straightforward thesis, given in the introduction, is that 
The enduring attraction of war is this: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidness of much of our lives become apparent. [...W]ar is an enticing elixir. It gives us resolve, a cause. It allows us to be noble. (3)
He goes on to give examples of how those things end up manifesting themselves in the course of war.

Hedges also delves into the mythology, history, and causes of warfare and what happens when we do not learn our lessons from wars. And like any good reporter, he is not here to judge us, whether we agree or disagree with the idea of armed conflict, participate or remain unblemished. What he strives to do, instead, is share what he and others have experienced in an effort to explain why it is that we enter into combat and how fighting becomes necessary, not always as a political statement but often as a cultural one. He examines the life of the solider and of the society that endures--and perhaps encourages--war. Journalists are not exempt: 
Most reporters sent to cover a war don't really want to go near the fighting. [...]But even those of us who do go out are guilty of distortion. For we not only believe the myth of war and feed recklessly off of the drug but also embrace the cause. We may do it with more skepticism. We certainly expose more lies and misconceptions. But we believe. We all believe. When you stop believing you stop going to war. (143)
Even so, I think that with this book, Hedges has proven how invaluable the war correspondent's words can be, both during and after the fighting.

I cannot recommend Hedges' work highly enough. Political rhetoric is (mostly) avoided, and it will help to open eyes of readers on both sides of the line: pacifists and (for lack of a better word) combatants. It sure moved me, and I feel confident that it will do the same for you.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Juicy Little Touches

My kitchen is really incredibly small. Actually, I think that my bedroom closet is larger. And it consists of a single built-in unit of white enamel. No joke. But I have to say, it's not that bad. The tight space forces me to be conservative in my movements and ambitions. But it could use a little bit of color. 

A friend of mine gave me a shadowbox for Christmas, a street scene of a wine shop. It's cute, and I like it, but it's not nearly bold enough. I want more decoration. And I troll through websites looking for things that might do the job.

Enter the Don't Cry Over Spilt Pears dishtowels from ModCloth. The bright green graphic representations of my second favorite fruit (apples being the first) bring a smile to my face every time. I wish that I could have an apron made out of this same print! That, my friends, would be pear-adise. (All right, it's a cheesy joke. But sometimes, that's exactly the right kind.)


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Leaping for Joy

Every Tuesday on this blog, I write about accessories. I try to make sure that my covetousness covers all sorts of accessories--umbrellas, key rings, headbands, and so on. Usually when searching for accessories to discuss, however, I find myself drawn to jewelry. This week, I decided very specifically that I was going to write about a brooch. The problem is, many of the brooches I find scream grandmother or kindergarten teacher. I am neither of those things. So I popped on over to Portero, thinking that they might have some vintage piece that would appeal to me. Sure enough, they did: the Jewel of Ocean Frog Brooch.

Although I rarely actually wear whimsical pieces, I do love to look at them. And the Frog Brooch is nothing if not whimsical. Two little frogs smiling like buddhas? Check. Clutching their bellies like they have been laughing? Check. Legs splayed out as if they are about to fall over from laughing? Check. Plus, it's beautiful. It is constructed of platinum and yellow gold, with pearls for torsos, emeralds for eyes, and diamonds for faces and legs. 

Word from Portero is that the retail value of this piece is a whopping $28,000. The good news is that it's selling for about a third of that. However, I don't know too many people--anybody, really--who have that kind of cash. But I sincerely hope that these little froggies find a good home; they deserve to be out in the world!


Monday, June 7, 2010

The Kids Will Make Themselves All Right

When I was in middle school, one of my favorite movies was Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I was introduced to it by my brother, and my then-best friend and I would spend all day reciting lines from it. Our favorite: "Not that I condone fascism. Or any -ism, for that matter. -Isms, in my opinion, are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism; he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon: 'I don't believe in Beatles; I just believe in me.' Good point there. After all, he was the Walrus. I could be the Walrus. I'd still have to bum rides off people."

And didn't we all feel that way a little bit when we were teenagers? Like we could rule the world if only we had our own set of wheels? Of course, Ferris' solution is to borrow his BFF Cameron's dad's sweet ride. And in doing so, he goes a long way toward curing what ails not only himself but, most especially, Cameron. Although Cameron is very resistant to Ferris' high jinks, they ultimately help him come to terms with his life as it stands. Ferris' carpe diem attitude also helps his sister, Jeannie, relax a little bit. In the course of the day, she skips school, gets arrested, falls in love a little bit, subverts a great deal of authority, and even finds a way to connect with her (previously hated) brother.

This film is a classic example of teenagers asserting their independence and finding themselves in the midst of upheaval while surrounded by authority figures who may be gunning for punishment  (the principal) or so clueless that they can't see what is really going on (the parents). And I think we could all stand to take a day off every once in awhile. Maybe that way, we could save the Ferris Bueller living inside all of us.

Buy through Family Video for $10.99.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

All Tied Up

All right, I will admit it: I really wanted to write about another big handbag today. But apparently the Fendi Black Zucchino Shopper with Pink Patent Trim does not exist on the Internet. I didn't even know that it was possible for something not to exist on the Internet until I went searching for this bag, which I saw in the flesh at Saks Fifth Avenue last week (unlike so many of the things about which I write, and in fact, if it hadn't been for the assistance of a very nice Fendi sales associate, I wouldn't have found out the name of that particular bag). Since I can't share that particular one with you, I've decided to go to the opposite extreme and write about a small bag, breaking my four-week tote streak.

As you might suspect (seeing as how I regularly write about handbags), I'm a pretty big fan of PurseBlog, and the ladies there seem to love The Knot clutch from Bottega Veneta. Most of The Knot clutches I could take or leave; they don't move me either way. But one does: the satin version in a very beautiful purple. Perhaps it's because I'm drawn to darker colors and jewel tones, and the combination of that particular color satin with a black knot on top is totally my style. Maybe it's that I'm ready for a sleek, sophisticated clutch, having been carrying totes around for so long. Either way, I can't have it because it's too pricey and too impractical for my lifestyle. But that doesn't stop me from admiring it and wishing I was the kind of girl who had a use for it.


PS You may recall my post about The Art of the Russian Matryoshka. I have since learned, thanks to a post on Lily Lemontree, that the April issue of Harper's Bazaar featured Demi Moore on the cover and her spread inside included a photo of her standing with a group of giant matryoshkas. The slide show is available here; the photo in question is number 5 in the series. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 5, 2010


You may recall that I recently wrote about baby Chucks. Cute though those shoes may be, they simply do not stack up to the originals: Converse Chuck Taylor All Star High-Tops. Ever since I discovered these in high school (like so many other people), I have worn them, loved them, and maybe even destroyed them a little bit.

As it stands, I am currently the proud owner of 8 pairs: black (2), navy blue, red, mint green, forest green, dark gray corduroy, and my much-loved flaming Chucks (not my picture). My goal is to have an entire rainbow someday; in order to make that happen, I will need yellow, orange, and purple, and perhaps pink and white for good measure. Or I could always pick up another special pair--I know a girl who has a pair with metallic stars, and I've seen plaid versions, as well as many other options.

I usually find myself wearing the blue or the black. My trusty (ex) intern Maureen seemed to favor the classic black ones, as well. Which Chucks do you like the most?

Buy the classic Chucks through Converse for $45.00.


Friday, June 4, 2010

The Sound of Heartbreak

One of the reasons I decided to compile a list of my Top 100 Songs, which I've mentioned several times before, is that I wanted to be able to easily access all of those songs for burning mixes to take with me in the car and give to my parents. I never even thought that it would someday come in handy for my blog, because I never suspected that I might write a blog. But it has been indispensable, and I find myself turning to it again this week.

For those of you who have never encountered DirtyVegas, I feel a little sorry for you. Their self-titled debut was pretty fantastic. "Days Go By" blew me out of the water, but when I sat down to listen to the album in its entirety, I absolutely fell in love with "Simple Things, Part 2." Based on Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2," it is a fantastic combination of acoustic loops and electronic flourishes, an aural odyssey.

This is a tale of love gone wrong, and it echoes the sentiments of millions of people across the centuries: "Thought I was something more, / But I'm a fool instead." Also, much more fatalistically, DirtyVegas has ripped a lyric from the Pink Floyd song they love--maybe the most famous line, in fact: "All in all, you're just another brick in the wall." Makes me wonder if that's all love is. But even with such a dark mood hanging over it, "Simple Things, Part 2" is a beautiful work of art, and I highly recommend it.

Buy through Amazon for $0.99.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

What Do You Eat When You're at the Top of the World?

In this age of celebrity, we are constantly updated on which pouty-faced ingenue is taking her shirt off on a certain social networking site, which Kardashian sister is involved in which shenanigans, which actor is verbally or physically abusing his daughter/wife/coworkers, and so on. My response to all of this is, who the hell cares? Your acting like a five-year-old does not affect the world on a larger scale. There are people I would much rather hear about. For example, historical figures whose lives remain somewhat mysterious to today's average American.

Hence the reason why I love the White House Cookbook. It gives us insight into what was on the table at (arguably) the most famous home in the world during the first half of our nation's history--in other words, it gives us a bit of personal information about our founding Fathers and Mothers without going overboard. The authors have also teamed up with doctors to modernize the featured recipes, the better to help those of us who strive to eat healthily. Such a cookbook not only makes my mouth water, but also puts me in a patriotic mood. I can eat what Abraham Lincoln ate? This is fantastic!


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Chop, Chop

Sushi is a wonderful thing. No, seriously. It's delicious. And it's not bad for you like so many popular foods. (While there is, of course, a risk of foodborne illness due to the raw nature of some of the ingredients, the vast majority of sushi restaurants are extremely careful about the way they prepare such items.) And while I love going out for a nice meal at a sushi bar, it is not always possible for me to do so, especially ever since my sushi buddy moved away. Sometimes, I am forced to eat my avocado rolls in the comfort of my own home. But, you know, eating sushi with a fork just isn't at all glamorous or even particularly practical.

Last summer, I had an awful lot of free time on my hands. So one day, I decided to go around town looking for packages of single-use chopsticks, like the kind you get at a Chinese restaurant, so I could have a better at-home sushi experience. No dice. I went to five or six stores; no one had them, not even  the ever-trustworthy Gordon Food Service down the road. That's when I started searching online. And I found this totally fantastic website called Mrs. Lin's Kitchen. Mrs. Lin, whoever she is, sells some pretty cool things. Among other items, you can find Asian tea sets, home decor, and--drumroll--a very fine selection of chopsticks. 

I bought a pair for myself, a very pretty rosewood set that has since been damaged (totally my fault) and can't for the life of me find on the website. If I am lucky, I will be able to repair them. If not, I will have to choose a new set. But with so many options, I feel confident that I can find another pair to suit my tastes.

Check out Mrs. Lin's selection of chopsticks and tell me which ones are your favorites!


PS I recently had a birthday, and thought I should give my small but dedicated readership an update on some previous posts, given some of my presents!

1) About two weeks ago, I discussed the iPod Nano from Apple. My brother, sister-in-law, aunt, and grandmother were awesome enough to chip in together to get me the pink one, and it is super-cute and fun!

2) In my second post ever, I bemoaned the discontinuation of my Corelle pattern, Scandia White. When my mother heard about this, she immediately snapped into Action Mom mode and found two of the serving pieces for me! Although I'm still upset that I don't have the Scandia White salt and pepper shakers, I am terribly thrilled to have these new dishes!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A First Best Friend

Last week, I wrote about But No Elephants, one of my favorite childhood books, something I had been thinking about because of my sister-in-law's pregnancy. But since that particular title is not suited to newborns or very young children, I thought that perhaps a parent might decide to start the baby's life out right with a sort of introduction to elephants with the cashmere elephant from Ralph Lauren.

One can only imagine how soft and utterly huggable this creature must be. It is made of cable-knit cashmere and comes in four colors--gray, white, pink, and blue--to suit either sex and any decor. Of course, like all good things cashmere, it is not inexpensive. However, for the spoiled and much-loved newborn, it is definitely the right choice.