Archive for Almost Yogurt

As the eye gets lost

“Sensuality, elegance and creativity are the key words of the stiletto creator, whose objective is to highlight a silhouette, reveal a personality or a style, through shoes and accessories collections combining sophistication, seduction and innovation.”

This quote jumps out at you from the Web site of Charles Jourdan, shoemaker. M. Jourdan himself died in 1976, and the company continued to be operated by his family until 2002.

During his later years, Jourdan commissioned fashion artwork from surrealist photographer Guy Bourdin. If Bourdin did his job, you spent twice as much eyeball time on the Jourdan advertisements, which, were they released today, might be considered to have a high WTF factor.

This fall-1979 picture for a relatively conservative dark-green pump is a case in point:

Guy Bourdin for Charles Jourdan, 1979

The downside, of course, is that you spend most of those extra seconds not looking at the shoes, but wondering how the bloody heck Bourdin did that.

Comments




Blame the Boomers

Something wrong with the world as you know it? It’s those damned Baby Boomers:

Their generation essentially froze the music business in place for the better part of forty years. Consider the fact that “classic rock” stations played ten-year-old music in 1980 — but in 2010 they weren’t playing the rock hits from 2000. No, it was still all about 1970. The music, movies, and art made by the post-Boomer generation has been relentlessly derided and criticized as “disco-era garbage” for my entire lifetime. Mick Jagger has been essentially canonized for making a fool of himself on stage; Neal Schon has become a punchline for the same kind of swaggering behavior. The only difference between the two is the fact that the Boomers were teenagers when the Stones were hot and they were callow thirtysomethings when Journey was selling records.

Our entire culture has been semi-permanently held hostage by the teenaged preferences of people who are now in their early seventies. A 1957 Bel Air became a classic car when it was seventeen years old, but a 2000 Impala is not a classic car now. Hollywood carpet-bombs the theaters with 65-year-old men “playing young” for action roles. Jimmy Page’s touring Les Pauls are worth maybe fifteen million dollars each; Neal Schon’s touring Les Paul was a no-sale at a thousandth that amount.

And it’s not just the performing arts and the motor vehicles, either:

This may all seem like a trivial matter but I would like to suggest that depriving multiple generations of their own storytelling is far from trivial. It perpetuates the comfortable and enfeebling subjugation of Generation X to its parents. We sit around and listen to our parents’ music, watch our parents’ favorite movie stars, and indulge in feeble hopes that Mom and Dad won’t burn through every penny of their seemingly effortless post-war wealth before they die. Modern couples work one hundred and forty hours a week to live dim shadows of the lives their parents enjoyed courtesy of Dad’s 9-to-5. The California homes that Boomers bought easily on fifteen-year mortgages are three-million-dollar bubble beasts today. There are no pensions, no retirements, no ends in sight.

The good news is that it will all come to an end, and remarkably soon. In ten years the Boomers will be effectively powerless. Their cherished possessions will be estate-auction junk, their oversized homes will sit empty, their taste-making abilities will dwindle to nothing. The much-derided Millennials will be the beneficiary of it. They’ll have the chance to reimagine their adult lives in their own images. They won’t be interested in your vintage Les Paul or your Yenko Camaro or your McMansion.

And if a radio station in 2027 is playing BTO’s “Takin’ Care of Business,” what format will that be? For that matter, will there actually be a radio station in 2027?

Comments (7)




Pockets of incompetence

A five-minute animation about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, narrated by David Dunning himself:

And he should know, right?

(Via Ed Driscoll.)

Comments (7)




On the giving of thanks

Wisdom from Roger on a possible difficulty on Veterans Day:

“If you want to thank a veteran, be considerate, be genuine, and be willing to listen or have a conversation. Dr. [Nancy] Sherman suggests simple alternatives that may actually contribute to repairing the military-civilian gap. If the service member appears to be willing and able to talk with you, you should invite a respectful conversation.

“‘I am grateful for your service. Where were you deployed? What was it like?’

“You might also ask: How is your transition back home so far? What is/was your job in the military? How is your family doing with your service? What do you want to do now that you’re back?

“It’s also true that many [vets] do have physical and emotional scars or moral wounds as a result of their service and are dealing (or not) with lingering feelings of guilt, shame, or helplessness, among others.”

Of course, the nature of the military is that some of the troops are in harm’s way and the rest of them aren’t. I didn’t face a whole lot of threats to my very existence. The guy whose best bud got taken out by an IED will have a far different story to tell.

So I’ll probably do what I’ve been doing all along, which is giving the knowing head nod, hoping that it’s adequate, at least for the moment.

It’s fine with me. Someone else’s mileage may vary.

Comments (2)




Floating below C level

One has to feel some sympathy for the instructor who had to grade that:

Very bad research paper

No, there’s nothing you can do for extra credit.

(From reddit via Miss Cellania.)

Comments (2)




Each replacing a thousand words

Start the video, and you get:

Of course, it’s not just the Times. Almost all printed media have done the same. (So has this Web site, which in its earlier days might run one picture a week. Today, it’s more like twenty.)

Comments (2)




Wanted: New Mistress of the Dark

Oh noes!

Elvira is retiring as a live performer after nearly fifty years in the entertainment industry, according to The Gazette. She’s set to appear in her final show at Knott’s Berry Farm, where she’s been headlining Halloween performances for 21 years, on Tuesday.

“I just decided that, you know, doing live shows is really difficult and it takes up a big chunk of time every year,” Elvira, born Cassandra Peterson, told The Gazette.

Not that she’s going to disappear into the darkness or anything:

“I have three projects I really want to concentrate on. One is an animated TV show that I’ve been working on for a long time. One is my autobiography, which I’ve been working on forever and if I don’t set some kind of date and finish it, it’s never going to happen,” she said.

“And one is a possible television project. I’m working on getting all of those out and really also need to free up some time to concentrate on those because when you take three months out of the year ever year, I feel like I never get anything done.”

And 66 is a reasonable retirement age, right?

(Via Fark.)

Comments (3)




I give it seven weeks

And honestly, I’d be surprised if it lasts that long:

Man Enough is described as a weekly dinner party that brings together familiar faces from Hollywood to have deep (and sometimes uncomfortable) conversations about what it means to be a man today. The show aims to be a provocative and heartfelt look into the minds [of] men, as they explore their insecurities, fears and dreams. The initial run will consist of eight 25-minute episodes. [Justin] Baldoni created the series and will exec produce with Ahmed Musiol, Sam Baldoni and Farhoud Meybodi.

The idea for the series stemmed from Baldoni’s own identity issues and difficulties with male stereotypes in his teens and 20s. (The Jane the Virgin star is also expecting his second child, a boy, with wife Emily Baldoni.)

“We have all the shows in the world that empower women to talk about these things — which they should exist by the way because, let’s be honest, women deserve a safe space to have these conversations — but men don’t talk,” he says. “Even the idea of this show made men scoff, like, ‘Oh, who’s going to watch men talking to each other?’ That’s how rare this is. This is not The View for men. This is a conversation show. This is a show where men create a comfortable space for each other to go deep and have a conversation and we hope that this stuff happens in real life, too.”

Okay, I’ll bite: who’s going to watch men talking to each other? A real-life televised conversation among men wouldn’t last long enough to air two 30-second commercials. (Generally, one would be for a trial lawyer, the second for an arthritis drug.) This is a Henrietta Higgins premise: “Why can’t a man be more like a woman?” While we’re at it, how come wombats can’t fly? And as long as we’re asking dumb questions, why can’t all trans women look like Janet Mock? Nobody is going to watch this, especially not Kim du Toit:

[M]en don’t talk about their feelings, body image or dating relationships. We already have a comfortable space; it’s called a pub or bar, and it’s there where we discuss our problems: the broken transmission on the truck, the dickhead boss, why [insert sports team of choice] sucks so badly this season, why we did badly in [insert relevant competition] last week, and why we have to call off the annual fishing trip (because the doctor says that the wife’s going to have the baby prematurely, or some such bullshit).

Discussion of dating relationships is of the “So, did you score last night?” variety, followed by a sympathetic shake of the head if negative, or a high-five if positive. If we talk about “body image” it’s of the “The Doc says I need to do something about this gut or I’m gonna die soon” type. That’s it.

Okay, maybe five weeks.

Comments (3)




The science is unsettled

Bill Nye is probably not the Antichrist, but that’s as much credit as I’m willing to give our New Age Dogmatists:

[T]he whole “Science: it works, b*tches” mindset irks me. I am (at least nominally) a scientist. I do research. I crunch numbers. One of the things I’ve had handed to me again and again is that it’s entirely possible to be WRONG about stuff. And also, an ongoing theme in ecology at least — what is the case in one system may not be in another system.

The people who talk about how much they “love” science … well, in a lot of cases, it seems to me that “science” as an amorphous concept is a replacement for whatever religious structure the person has rejected. Science is … in my mind, it’s more of a tool. It’s a way of relating to the natural world. The problem is, a lot of the “I ****ing Love Science” crowd seem also bent on sucking any of the mystery and wonder out of things, or at least that’s how some of them talk about it. And that makes me sad. Yes, I kind of understand what is known about monarch butterfly migration but STILL I look at them and am AMAZED that something that looks so fragile and is so tiny flies thousands of miles to a place in Mexico that they’ve never seen, to hang out over winter … and that they are phenologically different from the other generations of butterflies in that they hold off reproducing for MONTHS until they come back into the US in the spring … and it does amaze me and make me wonder at it.

Well, these two aren’t holding off:

Or it may be simply that, like plenty of organisms you’ve seen, they ****ing love ****ing.

Comments (5)




Where credit is due

You learn something every day.

(Via Dawn Summers.)

Comments




I’m guessing it’s S for Single

Then again, this is not at all an area in which I have any notable expertise:

The pitch:

Bridgette Bird is a smart, scrappy, young single mom trying to navigate life in South Boston with an extremely unconventional family. She struggles to make ends meet, which leads her to impulsive and at times immature decisions. Above all, Bridget wants to make a better life for her son. #SMILF takes on motherhood, co-parenting, and female sexuality through a raw and unfiltered lens. Don’t miss this semi-autobiographical half-hour comedy from the creative mind of Frankie Shaw, an original and fresh new female voice.

I dunno. After those 105 seconds, I think a filter might be useful.

Shaw’s CV is pretty hefty; the one item I did recognize was Season One of Mr. Robot on the USA Network. (“Dozens of people watch USA.” — Eric T. Duckman.) She played the regular supplier of irregular pharmaceuticals to Elliot Alderson (Rami Malek), a cybersecurity engineer and hacker who suffers from social anxiety disorder and clinical depression. (So far as I know, Alderson is not @SwiftOnSecurity.)

Comments (5)




Anti-dystopias

You say you want some “optimistic” stories for a change? How about this Bill Quick premise?

“Biogeneticist working to develop a new genemod technique to cure his young daughter’s terminal genetic malfunction doesn’t realize that in the process he’s created something that is transferable from person to person vial aerosols, and hence begins a ‘plague’ that bestows physical immortality on all mankind.”

Farfetched, sure, but I betcha I could make it work. And I plucked it from my fecund brain even as I type this.

Could I get one of the NYC Big Five to publish it? Probably not, unless I made the scientist a socialist battling against evil fascist conservative culture to save his daughter’s life.

Oh, and of course, it couldn’t be too original, or NYC wouldn’t know how to market it.

I like it. I don’t expect him to write it, necessarily, but Quick is a professional in the best sense of the word, and it’s sort of comforting to know that he can come up with a possibly salable idea in the time it took him to type it.

Comments (3)




Yellow and porous

Clearly this explains the absorbent little fellow’s enduring popularity:

Didn’t take too long to find this one:

Whelk Attack: He and the rest of Bikini Bottomites are eaten by infected whelks.

This, however, is something to savor:

Jellyfishing: A jellyfish stings Squidward while he is riding his bike, causing him to lose control and ride off a cliff, with an unusual and unexplained nuclear explosion as he hits the ground. The incident leaves Squidward in an electric wheelchair with a full body cast that prevents him from any body movement. And during the welcome party SpongeBob and Patrick had thrown, Patrick blows piping hot soup in his face. Then during when SpongeBob, Patrick and Squidward are at Jellyfish Fields for jellyfishing. Patrick stabs a jellyfish net through his casted hand and when Squidward got a jellyfish he got zapped by a giant jellyfish. This leaves Squidward in an even fuller body cast on an electric bed and at the end of the episode the giant jellyfish returns and zaps Squidward again breaking his body cast.

Littlest Pet Shop, it isn’t.

Comments (2)




Aesop 2000

The fable, of course, is familiar:

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks he’s a fool, laughs, and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.

CBS, NBC and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.

America is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

You can pretty much guess the rest of the story.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

Comments (2)




Kitty and the Colonel

So I was thumbing, to the extent one can be said to be thumbing with an optical mouse, through the Sanrio Hello Kitty Wiki, and happened upon this unexpected page:

Colonel Sanders goes to Japan

KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) are a popular international chain of fast food restaurants specialising in fried chicken. Its headquarters are in Louisville, Kentucky in the United States. Its brand ambassador is Colonel Sanders, an American business man who was the founder of the KFC company and appears on the KFC logo.

There follows a list of nine KFC stores “promoted by” Sanrio, four in Tokyo proper and five in Saitama Prefecture. By no means is this the extent of KFC’s distribution in Japan; there are literally a thousand more locations. And their biggest sales day, every year, is the 25th of December, as Japan Today has explained:

The tradition of eating KFC at Christmas [began] when an expat customer at the chain’s Aoyama store observed that, in a land bereft of Yuletide turkey, fried chicken was the next best thing. The store’s canny manager was paying attention and passed word on to the higher-ups, leading the company to launch its ludicrously successful Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii! (“Kentucky for Christmas!”) campaign in 1974.

Why wouldn’t Sanrio want a piece of that? Or maybe an 8-piece bucket.

Comments (3)




Violet no longer shrinks

I’ve heard some muttering along these lines myself:

I know, the more men’s-rights inclined types have complained that “why do all girls in shows have to be smart and tough, now?” Well, my bros, it’s because in LIFE you have to be smart and tough to survive, both for boys and girls, but ESPECIALLY if you’re a girl a lot of the time, and arguably, that is partly something you bros have wrought in the world. So there. You don’t like that we’re suspicious of your motives? Stop doing stuff that makes us suspicious of your motives, and teach your brothers to be the same way.

It’s an ongoing process. In 1961, Marvel Comics introduced the Fantastic Four, a quartet of unwilling superheroes who’d had superpowers thrust upon them. The three guys all were capable of kicking butt should some supervillain or Yancy Streeter give them any problems. Then there was Sue Storm:

The Fantastic Four pin-up page

Sue had essentially two functions: stand there and look cute, or stand there and look like empty space. This worked for a while, but the lack of character development dragged down the series. Gradually Marvel built up her powers and her backstory, but it was 1981 — specifically, issue #232 — when John Byrne took over the title and realigned everything. What most people noticed was that the Thing had gotten his own magazine; but Byrne’s version of Sue was arguably the most powerful member of the troupe, and she has remained so ever since.

Comments (6)




Meet Songbird Serenade

Sia wrote this song for the My Little Pony movie, and also provides the voice (and, well, the mane) for that particular pegasus, a pop star in her own right.

Comments




You must be this old to pull this crap

I’m not sure what the reading is supposed to be on one’s personal odometer when it happens, but most assuredly it does happen:

There’s a dimension of latitude that comes to some of us with age. It would be a mislabeling to call it “freedom”; typically, an individual is just as free before he turns decrepit as afterward. It’s more about the lessening of some of one’s personal inhibitions. Other people’s opinions of us and our choices matter less. We no longer worry as much about “setting a good example for the children,” whether our own or those of other parents. Some of us get a little careless about a few things — vocabulary, associations, flirtations, certain indulgences we carefully limited in our younger years — and become rather insouciant about them.

It’s certainly that way with me. (Send $20.00 and a stamped, self-addressed envelope for the details.) As I look a bit younger than I actually am, I draw a fair number of dubious looks and disapproving comments for it. My usual response to those bothered by my little ways is to shrug, smile, and say “Too bad for you!”

The mistake I made was believing I’d reached that point half my life ago. And back then, there were enforceable penalties for insouciance.

Still, I suffered no consequences even then for peccadillos at this level:

I sing along with the music in retail establishments, at least if I know the tune and the words. I can carry a tune, and I’m told my voice is decent, so I get some pleasure out of hearing something I know from years ago and joining in. The way other shoppers look at me is often enough to blister paint. Now and then, one will actually approach and upbraid me for it.

Which is remarkable, since I couldn’t carry a tune even if I sewed a handle on it. That said, I do have one mitigating factor on my side: I usually know the words. People who don’t know the words will typically concede me a couple of points on that basis alone.

Comments (7)




George of the Palace, young as he can be

This week Prince George, having turned four this summer, started primary school at Thomas’s in Battersea. To the school, he’s just another student; there will be none of that His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge stuff. Nor will he be listed as George Alexander Louis Mountbatten-Windsor or anything that complicated.

What to do, then? Scarcely any American publication is more royals-obsessed than People, so People gets hit with the question:

Prince George's official school bag

[T]hough that is technically the royal family’s last name, it’s rarely the one members of the family use in day-to-day life. For example, Prince William and Prince Harry went by William Wales and Harry Wales during their own school days, as well as their years in the armed forces. Why? Because their father, Prince Charles, is the Prince of Wales. It’s an homage to their father’s title, for occasions when “Prince” just feels a bit too formal.

So what will George do? “Wales” might make sense, as that’s what his dad did — especially because, most likely, George’s own father will be the Prince of Wales himself one day. But William now has a title of his own: Duke of Cambridge. So just as William took his own last name from his father’s title, so will George — and he’ll be George Cambridge in his school records and to his peers and teachers.

And that teensy little tag on George’s school bag indeed says “George Cambridge.”

Comments (2)




Now fictionalized

Most issues of Hilde Lysiak’s Orange Street News carry a short story. Now, though, she’s writing at book length:

Her new book, Hero Dog!, co-written with her father, Matthew Lysiak, a former New York Daily News reporter, is the first in the new Hilde Cracks the Case series from Scholastic, which is currently being developed into a TV show. This book, like others planned in the series, follows the mostly fictional exploits of real-life reporter Hilde, who made headlines herself last year when she scooped every other media outlet and was the first to report on an alleged murder in her hometown.

I hope she has time for all this and can still maintain the News back home in Selinsgrove.

Comments (2)




A bear of very little history

“And furthermore,” I said, “how come Winnie the Pooh has a girl’s name?”

This is the kind of argumentative brat I was circa 1960. Long after the fact, the worst that could happen has happened: not only was she a female, but she was black:

Canadian author Lindsay Mattick has a brand new picture book out called Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear. In it, Mattick tells the story of her great-grandfather, Harry Colebourn, who was a WWI veterinarian on his way to London to treat battlefield horses. Just before getting on a train, he happened to spot a li’l bear cub tied to a pole, and “followed his heart and rescued [the] baby bear.” Colebourn named the bear Winnie, after his native home, Winnipeg, Canada.

What kind of lowlife ties a bear cub to a pole?

And apparently the book is not quite as brand-new as our source says, but I hadn’t heard of it. (Maybe if it had come out circa 1960.)

Colebourn and Winnie became fast BFFs, and the two stayed together until Colebourn had to deploy to France. He knew Winnie couldn’t travel with him, so he took her to the London Zoo and asked if they could look after his cub. The London Zoo said yes, of course, and the two went their separate ways. Pause to cry a little bit.

Now dry those tears, because this story has a happy ending. Even though Colebourn left Winnie behind, she wasn’t alone for long. A little boy named Christopher Robin loved to visit Winnie at the zoo. Christopher Robin even re-named his own stuffed bear, “Edward,” to “Winnie.” And Christopher Robin’s dad? Writer A. A. Milne, who clearly took a liking to Winnie as well, because soon children everywhere were reading about the adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin in the Hundred Acre Wood.

And at that stage of my existence, I was telling jokes on the level of “What do Winnie the Pooh and Popeye the Sailor have in common?”

One last bit of Canadian content: this lovely, if sappy, tune by the Toronto band Edward Bear.

(Previous Canadian-content reference.)

Comments (5)




Table quarante et un

Joseph Suglia has written three novels: Years of Rage (2005), Watch Out (2006 — also a film by Steve Balderson), and Table 41 (2014). The latter does not exist in hard copy just yet:

My cousin K. and my internet friend “Moments” have persuaded me to publish my masterpiece Table 41 as a physical book. This will happen sometime in 2018 or 2019.

The novel will be self-published, unlike my previous work, which was released by academic presses and small presses. Who cares? The publishing elite is dead, and the stigma that was once placed upon self-published writing has been lasered away.

In the meantime, about half of Table 41 — down through Table 22 or so — can be read on the Web. (Later Tables are available, but password-protected.) The story is written in the second person, an unusual tactic, fine-tuned by Suglia to give the reader a point of view that lends itself to total immersion.

Should you take the plunge? Perhaps hearing Dr Suglia himself reading the first three pages might persuade you:

Maybe he should also consider putting it out as an audiobook.

Comments




Lord of the butterflies

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies has been filmed three times, twice in English. (There was a Filipino version, Alkitrang dugo, in 1975, which I’d like to see some day.) Now comes a new version, with the sexes reversed. SteveF has his doubts:

Drop a bunch of preteen boys on an uninhabited island with no supplies and no training in living off the land. You’d expect them all to die, and not to be very long about it either. Instead the boys in the story formed a neolithic tribe and figured out how to stay alive. Their customs were not pretty by civilized standards, but tribal customs never are. And the point is, they were not civilized. Civilization had abandoned them, so they had to drop its trappings.

Now imagine a group of preteen girls in the same situation. Would they drop the useless trappings of civilization? Probably. Would they figure out a new society that can live in the new circumstances? Maybe. I have my doubts about the much-lauded “female natural cooperativeness,” but it doesn’t matter. They wouldn’t have a chance to find out. Once the pigs figured out that eleven-year-old girls are prey, it would be game over. I doubt we’ll see that ending in the remake.

A happy ending, of course, is unthinkable. Or is it?

[O]f course I’m missing the point of the remake. It’s not to show a realistic or plausible outcome of a scenario. It’s to push The Narrative.

So what we’re likely to end up with, at best, is Heathers on Gilligan’s Island. Mr. Golding’s estate will be properly horrified.

Comments (3)




But you’ll only die tired

Golden eggs, you say? Let’s cut open the goose:

[S]omeone out there is floating the idea of Boba Fett and Yoda movies — and apparently chatter on fan boards suggests a Jabba the Hutt movie.

Yeah, but who would actually want to watch that sort of dreck?

There are currently eight Star Wars movies out now, with two more coming in the next nine months. Exactly half of those are worth watching a second time, and of those four only one — Rogue One — is outside of the original trilogy. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I can’t imagine that either The Last Jedi, due out in December, or next May’s standalone Han Solo movie are going to be added to that list.

The only person I can imagine who really really wants a Boba Fett solo movie is George Lucas, because it would get him off the hook for Stupidest Thing in Star Wars History, the creation of Jar Jar Binks. And if that don’t scare you, meesa got no hope for you.

Not even that can save George’s soul at this point.

Comments (3)




It’s still just a number

Some thoughts by fashion blogger Wendy Nguyen on becoming one year older:

So … I have this fear of revealing my age. Someone once told me that the entertainment industry is ageism (which is true) so letting people know my age will lessen my chances of working with some brands, growing my business, etc. I can understand why he grouped me in the “entertainment industry” category, this was before there was a “content creator/blogger industry” category. Thank goodness I’m not in the entertainment industry!

Spoiler: She reveals.

You may have seen her, from about here down anyway, in this video from last summer.

Comments (8)




A toot on the Yugoslavian crotch bugle

Author Alyssa Cole shares a piece of negative feedback:

Says Kirkus Reviews of this book:

A spy posing as a slave in Civil War Virginia risks her own life and the outcome of the war by falling in love with a fellow spy of another race. After being freed from slavery as a child, Ellen “Elle” Burns has one purpose. She is “going to help destroy the Confederacy.” But to do that, she has to do something she never imagined possible — pose as an enslaved woman on loan to a family of spoiled whites. Her “masters” are living the high life in spite of a punishing Union blockade that’s causing widespread suffering and starvation in Richmond, Virginia. Elle’s photographic memory makes her extremely valuable to the Loyal League, a network of black spies working to undermine the Confederacy. But her careful work is thrown into disarray by the arrival of Malcolm McCall, a detective in the Pinkerton network who is posing as a Confederate soldier paying social visits to the household where Elle works. Malcolm is a skilled spy and a good person, but Elle has a hard time bringing herself to trust a glib and charming white man whose job requires him to be a gifted liar. Little by little Malcolm wins her over, but the painful racial dynamics around them threaten to poison their relationship. Malcolm must treat Elle as less than human in front of others while convincing her in private that he values her as highly as any white woman. The first installment in Cole’s (Mixed Signals, 2015, etc.) Loyal League series defies genre stereotypes at every turn. It’s both a romance and a spy novel, with a healthy dose of adventure thrown in, and it offers a nuanced portrayal of Civil War-era racial politics. Any reader who thinks romance novels are pure fluff will be schooled by Cole’s richly drawn characters, who must overcome generations of trauma in order to let themselves love each other. A masterful tale that bodes well for future work from Cole.

It appears that Kirkus wasn’t overly put off by the phallic referemce.

(The YCB hardly needs explanation.)

Comments (7)




Upper-class twits of the year

Kim du Toit has seen enough of them for several years:

[O]n the way back I decided to take the No. 19 bus rather than the Tube because it was a lovely day and I felt like looking at London rather than at a tunnel wall.

Part of the route was along Sloane Street into Knightsbridge, and of course it’s on this street where you find all the Usual Suspects: Dior, Ferragamo, Versace, Hermès, Pucci, Prada and all those furrin names. As a place of wealth and ostentation, it’s difficult to top Sloane Street …

… except that it’s not. I’ve seen Sloane Street many times before, only it was called “Hofbahnstrasse” in Zurich, “the Golden Mile” in Chicago, “Kollmarkt” in Vienna, “Northcross Mall” in Dallas, “Champs-Elysées” in Paris and “Park Avenue” in Manhattan. It’s all the same stores, the same overpriced merchandise and (pretty much) the same customers, only speaking with different accents and languages.

Phooey. You can keep all that crap. Give me a street with character like King’s Road or Upper Street in Islington (further along on my bus trip) any day of the week. Luxury shopping isn’t just overpriced, it’s banal — and I want no part of it.

Then again, the Sloane Rangers themselves seem to have fallen on hard times:

By the 90s the Sloane style couldn’t have been more unfashionable. The accent, the language, the dress code, the “miniature stately home” interior styles were all wrong, wrong, wrong in the world of mild mockney, the “information super-highway” and mid-century modern. Sloane seemed archaic and unprofessional — only for the magic world of Richard Curtis rom-coms — in the new high-maintenance world of Big Money London.

And by 2000, the second great wave was underway. London was becoming the first international city of the global super-rich. Since then, London’s prime and “super-prime” property — particularly the best, biggest houses and flats in Knightsbridge, Belgravia, Mayfair and the top slice of Chelsea — were bought out by an extraordinary mixture of Russian oligarchs, Middle Easterners, new petrodollar types from Nigeria, Indians, Malaysians and, latterly, Chinese. These were people with money that dwarfed those 80s and 90s American bankers. People with hundreds of millions. People with billions. Driving up the prices of London property and driving all but the richest, most adaptable Sloanes further south and north — and some out of London altogether.

What goes around comes around, but the price never seems to go down.

Comments (1)




Spending in the purple rain

In retrospect, I’m kind of surprised it took this long:

Prince’s legacy and love for purple will live on thanks to Pantone. The global color authority announced that they’ve teamed up with the late singer’s estate to pay tribute to his life and legacy with a custom hue called “Love Symbol #2.”

As many know, the color purple held a lot of meaning for Prince and his fans ever since his song “Purple Rain” rocked the charts in 1984, and now the iconic shade will live on in a tangible way. “The color purple was synonymous with who Prince was and will always be. This is an incredible way for his legacy to live on forever,” said Troy Carter, Entertainment Advisor to Prince’s Estate in a press release.

Love Symbol Number Two by Pantone

If you saw “the color purple” and thought of Alice Adams, well, that’s all right too.

Comments (2)




This needs a name

But for now, I’m calling it “Miriam’s Law of Mystery Stories”:

In any room, no matter how little furnished, there is something that can be fashioned into a weapon in less than 10 minutes.

The wise murderer should modify his behavior accordingly.

Comments (4)




Or the dusky dusk

Entirely too many people out there have taken leave of their Census:

“Why so many blacks in ads?” is one of those burning issues that I was totally oblivious to until Frank S. Robinson, no relation to the Hall of Fame outfielder, as far as I know, laid it out recently.

He wrote that “I’ve made a point of tallying blacks in ads and commercials. And in fact they are way overrepresented, relative to their 13+% population share.” Oh, dear! And I thought we were supposed to be post-racial!

I’m not entirely sure why anyone would bother to count up these things. In the first place, it’s a waste of DVR space. (I’m pretty sure that no way has Frank actually watched them all, or even a significant portion of them, live.) Oklahoma City is around 15 percent black, I’ve lived here for 40-odd years, and I don’t recall ever being struck by the demographics of TV commercials, possibly because I have a long-standing tendency to run to the bathroom when the ads start — or possibly because Oklahoma City has been around 15 percent black for 40-odd years. (1970 Census: 13.7 percent.) This town is definitely less white than it used to be — 84 percent then, 62 percent now — and definitely less white than its reputation suggests, but the biggest in-migrations have come from Mexico and the Pacific Rim.

Meanwhile, Frank complains:

“That yuppie demographic is where the consumer-spending money is. And for them, blackness is actually attractive; connoting coolness, hipness, with-it-ness, knowing what’s going on. Not inferior but superior. And to this demographic, an America fully integrating blacks is a better America. Putting them in ads hence creates a positive buzz.”

Well, if that’s where the spending is, the most sensible thing to do is to cater to them, is it not?

The logical thing for Frank to do, presumably, would be to work on some serious reproducing, so as to help offset the general diminution of whiteness in the American population. But I guess that would get in the way of his TV watching.

Comments (5)