Monday, June 30, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
It feels like November, and even though the sun isn't supposed to peek out until Tuesday, let's not forget that it's actually summer...July starts on Tuesday! While we wait for the clouds to go away, let's look at a key, key part of summer, one that can drive us all nuts: bathing suits! The bathing suits of the 50s and 60s are coming back in a big, big way. And why not? They're flirtatious, sexy, and super feminine. They put us in mind of a simpler time, a time before the anorexia epidemic [thanks, Twiggy!], hardcore porn, and Brazilian bikini waxes. Oh, if we could only go back!
Designers desperate for new ideas have heard our plea [sort of] and have trotted out an array of lovely one-pieces with ruching in all the right places and bikinis that spare us the ass crack. Even in Sephora stores, the summer displays take us back to pin-up glamour; the models are wearing those hot bathing suits with big flowers in their lovely curled hair. And they're selling makeup! Makes you want to curl up with an old movie, doesn't it? The movies...if it weren't for stars like Bettie Page, Betty Grable, and Marilyn Monroe, more of those bathing suits probably would've sat on the shelves. Those women made prudery a little less appealing. Being beautiful and sexy was something the girl next door could do, too. Eat your heart out, Donna Reed.
I read somewhere that bathing beauties and pin-ups were a fabulous byproduct of a war-ravaged economy that meant cutbacks everywhere, even on cloth. So hemlines went up and "legs became the new breasts" [I swear to you, I read that somewhere]. Instead of men ooh-ing and aahh-ing over a nice pair of boobs, they looked south to women's legs, you know, cuz they were more visible and really hot, come to think of it. And then, after the popularity of nose art [pretty women painted on war planes], WWII soldiers started receiving large shipments of cards and posters with pin-ups to keep morale high. Pin-ups like Betty Grable and her million-dollar legs in one of those demure bathing suits. The bikini debuted in 1946 and the rest, as they say, is history.
And now, some photos:
The weather's crap, but use the time for a bit of online [or, if you're super motivated, unlike myself] in store shopping for a retro bathing suit so that when the sun does come out, you can pamper your pins with a little sunshine. Add falsies and heels for the full effect. Cheers!
Baby Girl Boutique: more fun retro clothes]
A Brief History of the Bikini from Slate Magazine
Friday, June 27, 2008
And so, even if it's June and sufficiently into superhappysummer, I'm thinking of rainy day songs. A perfect one: In the Rain by the Dramatics. That was one of their biggest songs. They're a 60s male singing group in the style of the Temptations [but then again, who wasn't trying to copy and hopefully make money like the Temps?]. Sometime in the 90s, Xscape, another one of those girl groups [see previous post], remade the song for the soundtrack to "Love Jones". Not as good as the original, of course; it was watered down [pardon the pun, it was an accident I swear] and whimpy whereas the men of the Dramatics really seemed to be in pain. Absolutely amazing.
What are you favorite rain rituals? I'm sure iTunes probably covered this, but what's on your rainy day playlist? Let me know!
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I don't know if you got a chance to catch last night's BET Awards, but aside from being the usual glamorous, hood-rich affair we hate to love and love to hate, Ms. Alicia Keys gave us some nice surprises. She started out with 'Teenage Love Affair' in true 50s girl group style: one lead, 3 bubbly backups. After she finished, she suddenly went into 'Weak' by SWV. SWV was the girl group in the early 90s next to TLC...definitely 'sisters with voices'. Biggest hits include 'Weak' [duh], 'I'm So Into You', and 'Right Here', which samples Michael Jackson's Human Nature. These girls were queens of the New Jack Swing movement and they were gorgeous, changing style for women all over. They wore head to toe leather and pulled off street but sweet very well: Timbs, baggy pants and a whole lot of midriff. And those nails. Oh my God. You can see them here
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
According to the article [read it here] True Love Revolution, started in 2006, and its former co-presidents Janie Fredell and Leo Keliher are all about abstinence because "they're worth the wait." They believe that abstaining from premarital sex will make their marriages stronger, will save them from the confusion that sex causes, and keep them from worrying about STDs and pregnancy. Both Fredell and Keliher are Catholics, (Keliher is planning to become a priest), though True Love Revolution [TRL] presents itself as a secular group. And while the group professes not to outline what does and doesn't constitute abstinence--always a sticky situation, pun intended--it points to the danger of that sneaky chemical in the brain oxytocin released during orgasm and breastfeeding that causes bonding.
On the other side you have Lena Chen and her blog [Sex and the Ivy]. The wildly popular--and reviled--blog gives details of Chen's adventures that would make even Anais Nin blush and all the armchair philosophy that comes with them. It's raunchy, entertaining, and it made Chen "famous on the Internet for all the wrong reasons." She then started a new blog called The Chicktionary to take a break from the sex-soaked stories that got her attention she didn't want.
I read both the article in the Times Magazine and the one in The Improper Bostonian that takes another look at TLR and it really hit home, and not because I'm patiently waiting for my Prince Charming to pluck my virginal flower. Let me start here so you know where I'm coming: I am not a virgin, and I'm OK with that. I had sex for the first time in the context of a loving, healthy, monogamous relationship with 11 months of dating and 4 years of friendship under my belt, HIV testing, three months of birth control pills, and one brand-spanking new Trojan condom. The relationship ended 8 months after we first had sex and while it was tough breakup, I'm. Just. Fine.
But TLR would have us believe that I'm not fine and that's the biggest problem here: TLR and Fredell's comments in the Time article make it seem as though if you've had sex you're scarred and you're doomed to an unhappy marriage, during which you our your spouse will probably cheat. The abstinence club and Fredell's part in it comes from her arriving at Harvard and being immersed in "the hookup culture", where people take more people to bed than they take credits per semester. No one can deny that that's true, especially in high school and college, but abstinence as a reaction to the hookup is a bit extreme, especially when there's a happy medium. It's insulting for Fredell to imply that people who have premarital sex are victims--victims at the mercy of their overactive hormones heading straight for unhappy relationships. And if you're not a victim, you're a drone caught up in the casual hook up machine. No matter what, the group seems to say, if you've had sex, you're lessening your value. She seems to believe that a deep emotional connection is necessarily hindered by sexual contact but I disagree on two levels. First, I've had a really interesting conversation about God immediately after fooling around with my current boyfriend, which is the emotional and physical thing coming together very clearly. Plus, as a person in a long-term relationship herself, it seems Fredell should have acknowledged that there's a whole mess of stuff that can go wrong with a relationship besides sex, though admittedly sex does change everything and sometimes for the worse.
Citing oxytocin again, Fredell drew on her own personal experience to say that she bounced right back from breakups, thanks to keeping her goodies under lock and key. It seems, though, that if you were really invested in a relationship it would hurt like hell if it ended. Here we get another point in favor of smart premarital sex: we have about 80 years of life, and in that time most people will love more than one person in more than one way. It does the relationship a huge disservice not to fully explore it and yes, sex is part of that exploration. If I love a person and feel he loves me too, I see no reason not to have sex with him, and even if the relationship ends, you choose carefully so as to not have regrets later on.
Also, Fredell sees sex only in the context of marriage as something that brings sexuality full-circle, but what self-professed feminist ties her definition of sexuality--a part of her identity--to a single person? Doesn't this rely on the archaic Disney Princess version of sex? How do you define yourself by going based on one person? It's really difficult to know all about yourself as a sexual being with just one person. And for someone like Janie here who does not so much as masturbate, I find it damn hard to believe that on her honeymoon she's going to strike orgasmic gold. Healthy attitudes toward sex aren't something that can be turned on and off. And let's not forget that the high *value* of virginity til marriage comes from a time when marriages were essentially financial agreements and the best contraception and paternity test were scaring women shitless about being considered whores so men knew for sure their wives' children were theirs. In this new age where we generally marry for love, we owe it to ourselves to do everything we can to make sure we pick the right partner.
Fredell says that when she feels the need to do something sexual she goes for a long run. This is her way of asserting her power and self-respect. Her randy runs go hand in hand with TRLs belief that abstinence is the way to go to showing self-respect when it comes to sex and that seems a little one-sided. Yes, feeling confident enough to tell a partner what will and won't fly and stick to it is something that everyone should know how to do, even if they don't plan to wait to say "I do" before they do the do. We should all know our boundaries. But self-respect can certainly be manifested in having complete control over when, where, and to whom you decide to have sex with.
This isn't to say Lena Chen and people in her camp have all the answers, either. Sex and the Ivy talks about some activities that are making public health officials everywhere nervous. And while the hookup culture is really pervasive, I think it's only a matter of time before people realize that more than anything it makes them miserable. I've heard from guys and girls alike that casual sex 1) isn't casual and 2) can be awkward at best and terrible when it gets down to it.
Bottom line is abstinence can work for a time but it's somewhat unrealistic that everyone's going to make it to the marriage bed, maidenhead intact, whether they say they will or not. Abstinence pledges have been shown to prolong first-time sexual intercourse for about only 18 months, and when those people do have sex they often feel really ashamed. And though the TLR website wants to warn us that contraceptives and birth control aren't what they've cracked up to be for our bodies or minds, the best barrier method against herpes and heartache is accurate information and good judgment.
Responses from Times readers about the article
Monday, June 23, 2008
Stevie was brought out by his daughter Aisha, who is drop dead gorgeous. She also sings backup for him, and her daddy gave her a chance to sing a song on her own with only his accompaniment. When I heard him perform live, it really hit me that Stevie is first and foremost a musician and then a singer. The arrangements were great; he didn't just rehash the stuff on his records, although all of that is just fine. The band even covered Chick Corea's Spain, which they did beautifully (one of my favorite jazz pieces, and to hear it played at a Stevie Wonder concert was more than I could have asked for). They also did 'Dont You Worry Bout a Thing' with the faster middle section that's often found in Latin jazz pieces. But I think where he really killed it was the slower songs. I've heard 'Ribbon in the Sky', 'Visions', 'Knocks Me Off My Feet' and all the big slow hits a million times each but there was something I couldn't quite put my finger on that hit me in a different way.
Once Stevie took us through the slow, sweet stuff he brought down the house with cranked up bass lines and really solid grooves. He ended with 'Superstition', which was great. A contest winner from a local radio station sang it with him, which was sweet. She looked like she was about to die with happiness. I nearly died myself. The man has a larger-than-life stage presence, and you can tell that even after all these years what he wants to do more than anything is perform.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
1. Risky business sunglasses
They were ugly and clunky then and they're ugly and clunky now.
2. Asymmetrical haircuts
Don't say no to these across the board but a lot of them are horrific. What kind of sense does it make to have one side of your hair up above your ear and the other side is weave down past your shoulder? Something a little less dramatic works, though. Bianca from America's Next Model is currently sporting a nifty asymmetrical bob: one side falls maybe an inch below her ear and the other side is right by her jaw. Quite nice.
Another God-awful hair trend that needs to stay where it was. Are you kidding me? This one should be self-explanatory.
4. Tulip Skirts with Elastic Waistbands
American Apparel sells them [click here for an example] and they're going over well with the hipster set but I'm sorry those things are not cute. The billowy skirts our mothers wore during the summers of their 20s should not pop up nowadays.
What old school styles do you love? What do you hate? Let me know!
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Now Playing: Too High by Stevie Wonder
A Stevie song about drugs and the bad things that happen to people who use them plus interesting drug trip descriptions. Enjoy.
Friday, June 20, 2008
'Just Got Paid' by Johhny Kemp is stuck in my head like nobody's business because it is, in fact, Friday, and I am indeed getting paid.
My first thought when I saw the video is oh my Lord, why is this man so ugly? I'd never seen him before. Tell me what you think about the video. But more importantly, celebrate that it's Friday and if you Just Got Paid, even better.
And the Stevie song of the day: These Three Words from the Jungle Fever soundtrack. It's a great song with really sweet lyrics and it fills you with warm, fuzzy lovingness. And maybe a tinge of sadness. And don't sleep on the Jungle Fever soundtrack.
Have a great weekend!
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The Emmy wasn't for Obama, it was for Will.i.am who made the video but it's still cause for excitement. The exact award was a Daytime Emmy for 'Best New Approach in Daytime Entertainment'. I don't know how exactly it's daytime entertainment since it's on YouTube, and YouTube means anytime, any place but I'm not complaining. The video is great. It keeps the speech central, the singing is kept to a minimum, and the celebrities in the videos are believable as ones who are interested in social change. I don't know if you remember the 'What's Goin' On?' remake that came out sometime after September 11th. Didn't go off nearly as well as the Will.i.am piece. First off, anyone would be hard pressed to improve a Marvin Gaye song, and then the celebrities they picked were...questionable. Nelly may secretly be the next great philosopher but he sure doesn't show it in his music [and be honest: can you take a man with a grill seriously?] The video was sort of melodramatic, too, but not terrible. Will.i.am did something nice and understated, using a philosophy Hollywood doesn't seem to know a whole lot about: less is more.
Congrats, Senator Obama and Will.i.am.
Stevie Wonder Song of the Day Now Playing: As, from Songs in the Key of Life
This is another gem from Songs in the Key of Life. It's a love song without the sap because Stevie realy thinks about the comparisons on this one. The meldoy starts out more on the sunny side with the bright keyboard sounds we love the 70s for. It gets a little bit darker when you get to the choir parts in the chorus and the lyrics evoke great imagery.
TV sidenote: In the episode of Will & Grace where Will marries Taye Diggs' character so Taye can stay in the country [he's Canadian], Taye sings 'As' a capella to Will! It's really sweet. Find it online somewhere to watch. I know it's floating around somewhere.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Monday, June 16, 2008
So I recommend you dust off your favorite Stevie Wonder tracks and let the good feelings flow in. Or the bad ones, if you're listening to something like Lately, an incredibly sad song, even before K-Ci & Jo-Jo took it to church.
Now Playing: Another Star by Stevie Wonder from Songs in the Key of Life
The double album Songs in the Key of Life, released in 1976, is considered by some to be the height of Stevie's career. Easy to see how people say that since it produced a string of hits like Pastime Paradise [lyrics sampled by Coolio for Gangster's Paradise], Isn't She Lovely, and I Wish [used in Happy Feet, but it'd be sad if that's the only way you knew the song].
'Another Star' is just over 8 minutes long, long for non "art" music, but it is so worth it. It has a slightly darker sound than a lot of Stevie songs but it works because the lyrics talk about the seemingly perfect lover breaking the poor guy's heart. 'Another Star' is Latin-influenced. You hear a lot of congas, there's a jazz flute solo, and the piano parts, especially the ones in the beginning, definitely recall the Spanish Caribbean. All the while his heart is shattering into pieces, you can hear the dancing. Good stuff. Listen to some of it here.
Happy Stevie Wonder Week ^_~
Sunday, June 15, 2008
For the full story on vintage soft drink fun, click here.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
And on that note, Happy Pride!
Friday, June 13, 2008
Ladies and gentlemen, please do not sleep on Soul Makossa. Some call Soul Makossa the birth of disco, which is clearly before my time but that doesn't mean I don't turn it on before going out. But it's a lot of fun just for dancing around your room in your underwear [ssshh don't tell anyone I do that] or cleaning.
Manu Dibango is a jazz saxophonist from Cameroon. When this song came out in 1972, it went to Europe and was a huge, huge hit in clubs, which is fitting since Makossa means "dance". It hopped the pond and was the first song by an African to make it big on the Billboard 100 chart, but not before spawning something like 20 covers [at first no one could find the original so people tried to capitalize on the demand]. And can you blame them? It's a crazy-fun song with catchy horns and the strings of the 70s that got even the staunchest wallflowers on the dance floor. Then Michael Jackson jacked his lyrics without his permission! The nerve! They finally settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money (read: a lot) and Michael Jackson went on to have yet another hit. Dibango went on to have a successful career managing nightclubs and fusing all kinds of music to get something great. [Click here for more about Manu Dibango's career.]
So I wonder if Rihanna knows she ripped off a rip off of a 70s classic? Hmm...
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Looking around, it seems like jellies are making an even bigger splash this summer than they were last summer. Funny, because two or three summers ago when I first started holding out hope for jellies for growns ups after seeing all the Lucite sandals, I couldn't find a pair anywhere! It was awful. But last summer, I was finally able to pick up a pair, and even though I payed too much for them [a plastic shoe should not cost more than $10, and even that must give the company some sort of ridiculous profit] I was happy. And just as the summer ended, they broke and I'm back where I started. But if anyone asks, I jumped on the return of the jellies first
Ah, jellies. The shoes of summer past, the shoes of little girls jumping double dutch or in my case climbing trees. Before Marc Jacobs, Stuart Weitzman, and Burberry were turning out hugely overpriced versions to those just catching on, little girls were rocking them hard, with a different pair to match their outfits. Summer started when you got the first new pair of jellies. They made your feet hot as hell, but you wore then anyway. Jellies are a product of the 80s. During the original jelly quest I heard a rumor on some corner of the Internet that jellies originated in Brazil. That doesn't surprise me. The so-called Third World has a remarkable talent for taking unlikely material and making them into shoes. No matter where they came from, jellies made a big splash stateside in the 80s and the affordable, plasticy, glittery footwear has not looked back since. They started in a basic sandal style like this:
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Welcome to Now and Later…because old is new again *wink*
[A brief history of Now and Laters, thanks to Old Time Candy: ]