Monday, August 31, 2009


Have you ever wondered what every pair of shoes I own looks like? No? Too bad, because you're going to find out*. That's because I have decided to dedicate the month of September to bringing you pictures of them all, for your comments, snark, criticism and, in some cases, threats of theft (you know who you are).

This. . . is. . . Shoetember!

*Unless you stop reading this blog. Which is a real possibility.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Project Hairway: The Return

Back by Popular Demand (by which I mean, Mary mentioned it), I bring you my traditional commentary on the new season of Project Runway, in which I judge the new crop of contestants strictly by their hair. I'm shallow, but consistent.

Christopher Straub:

Has grown a beard that outlines his face, without actually contributing anything to it. Is willing to expend a lot of effort on pointless details, which should serve him well in the fashion industry. Or he'll just end up putting borders on everything.

Johnny Sakalis:

Johnny is a recovering meth addict. We know this because, in the one episode we have seen so far, seemingly every time Johnny has encountered a camera, he has told it that he is a recovering meth addict. Therefore, the most reasonable explanation here is that he heard that traces of drugs can persist in a person's hair, so he cut it all off so that, in a moment of weakness he did not shave his head, grind up the hair and attempt to inject it directly into his veins.

Louise Black:

Hmm. Severe, retro haircut, dyed black. Pretty, with strong, equally retro makeup in bright colors.
Let's just hope a love of the twenties isn't the same kind of crazy-indicator as a Bettie Page obsession apparently is.

Ra'mon-Lawrence Coleman:

Because why have ordinary hair when you can lay out a tiny hedge maze on your head? Sure, it can be annoying when the tiny people get frustrated and try to hack their way back to the path, but that's just the price you have to pay for being an innovator.

The stupid little beard, however, is stupid.

Irina Shabayeva:

Ah, the "shampoo model caught in a windstorm" look. Dramatic, but difficult to maintain. Do you suppose she travels with her own wind machine? Because that could get awkward in the workroom.

Ari Fish:

It's cute hair, spunky hair. Unfortunately, it is also hair that does not know what a geodesic dome is (hint: it's not an ugly top made out of hexagonal quilting pieces), so sadly, it is also eliminated hair,

Qristyl Frazier:

Hey, we live in a post-racial era now, right? So I can totally comment on a black woman's hair without coming off as insensitive, offensive, condescending, or all three, right? Because all those problems are over now, and we have nothing to worry about.


Nicolas Putvinski:

Fun fact: This is exactly the same haircut that I had when I was four. Based on that, I would say that he is going to spend a lot of his time making up stories about his two Breyer horses who eat meat and are named Mary and Jesus. This may be a detriment to his chances in the competition.

Mitchell Hall:

The classic "trying so hard to look like I'm not trying" hair. Cut obtained for two hundred dollars at a salon with a one-word name, crafted to meticulously imitate the appearance of one obtained at Supercuts with a coupon. It must be so complicated to be a guy.

Shirin Askari:

See, being a girl is a lot simpler. You just say, "Give me pretty princess hair, and make sure it's all bouncy and wavy. I'm going to sit over here and practice posing for my eighth grade class pictures. Wait 'til you see it with the lasers!"

Gordana Gehlhausen:

It's a pity Runway has moved to Lifetime from Bravo, because this hair is crying out for a starring role on one of those Housewives shows. Can't you just see it, swanning around whatever enclave of the somewhat wealthy the producers have invaded this week, flitting past the manufactured dramas and dismissively flipping at the various antics of women whose guiding principle in life has been, "Just be nice to the gentlemen, Fancy, and they'll be nice to you."?

No? It's just me? Okay, never mind.


Dear Absurd Little Caucasian College Boys who are trying to prove they are cool and alternative and in touch with African/Caribbean culture by not washing their hair and hoping that it ends up looking like this:

It won't. Accept your limitations and invest in some shampoo and a pair of scissors.


Carol Hannah Whitfield:

Ah, the grandeur that is Southern Hair. The volume, the gleaming blondeness. Is it something in the water? An extensive selective breeding program? The effects of long-term exposure to heavily sweetened iced tea? I'm afraid we may never know.

Logan Neitzel:

"You think I am just going to offer up my hair here, for you to judge? Do you know who my hair is? And no, I am not going to cultivate any sort of face-fungus to help you out here. If you want to know something about me, you are just going to have to read my bio, or watch my videos, or actually remember who the heck I was from the premier. Don't just think that I am going to give you anything."

Malvin Vien:

I don't care if it's an expression of your artistry. I don't care if it's ironic. I don't care if it's the way your mom cut your hair when you were eight and you loved it so much you never wanted it to change.

Dude: You have a mullet. It's time to rethink some life decisions here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Bad-Ass Greasers of Harajuku

You know how sometimes you read something that just sticks with you, for years after you read it? Something you wish you could see, only you know that the chances of that are very slim? But every once in a while, you do. . .

I've been a big Dave Barry fan ever since I found a collection of his columns in the back bedroom where I would sleep when we visited my grandparents (I think my aunt and uncle gave it to them). I bought every book by him, read his columns online when I went to college and the LA Times didn't syndicate them, and I'm still a big fan of his blog.

One of my early favorites of his books is Dave Barry Does Japan, which I bought when it came out in 1992 and I was fifteen, and which probably informed more of my ideas about that country than I am comfortable admitting. It was, and is, very funny throughout, but this passage in particular is one that stuck in my mind:

. . . But after seeing what passes for hipness in Harajuku, I felt like Jimi Hendrix. I felt cool enough to be on the cover of Rolling Stone.

I started feeling this way the instant we arrived, because the first thing we saw was the Bad-Ass Greasers. These were young men, maybe a dozen of them, deeply into the 1950s-American-juvenile-delinquent look, all dressed identically in tight black T-shirts, tight black pants, black socks and pointy black shoes. Each one had a lovingly constructed, carefully maintained, major-league caliber 1950s-style duck's-ass haircut, held in place by the annual petroleum output of Kuwait. One of them had a pompadour tall enough to conceal former president Carter.

. . .

One of them turned on a boom-box cassette tape of "Heartbreak Hotel." The circle started clapping to the music; one of them got up, went to the middle of the circle, and began dancing. The dance he chose to do was-- get ready for the epitome of menacing Badness-- the Twist. He did it stiffly, awkwardly, looking kind of like Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd doing the wild-and-crazy-guys routine, except that he was deadly serious. So were the guys clapping in the circle. They clearly believed that they were too hip for mortal comprehension. They did not seem to sense that they might look a little silly, like a gang of Hell's Angels that tries to terrorize a small town while wearing tutus.

And the great thing is, seventeen years later, they're still there:

Fewer than there were, and they seemed to be more aware of themselves as a tourist attraction, but otherwise exactly as described. Plus, they possessed the only American car in Japan:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Possibly Excellent Restaurant Deal

As you may have gathered, I'm a little obsessive about watching out for the travel deals (see: New Zealand, Japan, etc.). One of the ways I do it is by subscribing to mailing lists, and one of the ones I subscribe to is Travelzoo, which, in addition to the expected travel deals, also sometimes lists things a little closer to home, like show and event tickets. And sometimes the deals are better than others, but this one is good enough and potentially generally useful enough that I thought I would share.

In a nutshell (for people who don't like clicking through all unawares), it's a discount on some discounted gift certificates at various restaurants, searchable by location. I tried it out and found two places in San Mateo that I like, so I got fifty dollars worth for $8.25. Still not totally sure there's no catch, but I figure that's an amount of money I feel okay risking.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Living Dangerously in the Mysterious East

It started as a simple mission: to find and observe the weekly gathering of Tokyo cosplayers on a bridge near Harajuku. Only, because it turns out that people who spend their weekends dressing as insane schoolgirls are not the early risers of the world, and because the map from my guidebook was not strictly accurate, we ended up wandering around, confused, near the entrance to Meiji-jingu park (which we also visited, but that's another story, involving parasols and clapping), during which we couldn't help noticing a fairly major police presence in the area.

(It's not immediately obvious, but there's a roadbock there where the street bends; just beyond it is a police bus with barred windows and cops in riot gear.)

We thought at first that it might have something to do with the large event that seemed to be going on in the nearby sports arena, but abandoned that theory when that turned out to be the Japanese national cheerleading championships (I think Cameron is still mad I didn't let him go.).

So, curious and without much else to do, we made our way towards the source of the police activity. Where we found. . . a Bangladesh culture fair. With booths selling curry and crafts (Cameron bought me a scarf, as I had not yet managed to get myself any cash.), a performance stage and, for some reason, a produce stand. The closest thing we saw to criminal activity was a man in short-shorts and a sparkly shirt on the stage, murdering the very idea of music. But the still-significant police presence didn't pay much attention to him, so that must not have been it.

In fact, they didn't seem to be paying much attention to the fair at all; most of the cops were concentrated around one area, where they stood in semi-guard across a pedestrian avenue through the park. But they weren't stopping people who walked through it, just directing them to use the designated walking-through area. So we went.

I will admit, it was nervous-making, crossing a police line into the unknown. But this was Tokyo, after all, where a rioting mob is probably calmer and better organized than your average Raiders luxury box. This particular threat seemed to consist of a couple hundred people with headbands and pinned-on bibs, sitting calmly on the ground and listening to a petite young woman exhort them vigorously. I couldn't understand what she was saying, but she clearly felt very strongly about it.

Based on the presence of a Che Guevara t-shirt, that icon of half-baked rebellion*, I guessed Communists. Which turned out to be the case, as far as the limited English of the policeman I marched up to and asked could explain.

And so it was that, having grown up in Berkeley, I attended my first-ever Communist rally in Harajuku. I can't put my finger on it, but I feel like there might be some irony in there somewhere.

*Although, without it, we would never have shirts like this one, so I shouldn't be ungrateful.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

For Everything Else, There's Puppies

Kitten, rescued from wild colony by Mom's friend: $0
Food, litter, toys and treats for kitten: $70
Veterinarian visits for kitten: $180
Bi-monthly baths/nail trims for kitten (to protect allergies and couch): $35/visit
New logic board for my laptop, to replace the one destroyed by kitten knocking over a glass of water onto it: $345
Pet ownership: *$^&ing priceless

Friday, August 07, 2009

My Best Discovery of the Santa Fe Craft Market

(I meant to blog this a while ago, but I forgot.)

On of the perks of volunteering at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market was the tremendous opportunity for people-watching it afforded. Mostly this consisted of spotting Women of a Certain Age wearing their purchases from last year's Market (Yes, it is beautiful workmanship, and it does look thrillingly exotic when the artists wear it. But you, Ma'am, are no Mongolian sheep herder, and I'm afraid it just doesn't go that well with your sensible sandals.), and older men with much younger wives, who often appeared to be of a different nationality. Which was all well and good, but what caught my attention was a necklace worn by a woman who came to my stall to make a purchase. It had a pendant that was a sort of a shadow box, framing a pearl that looked like a bird. I asked the woman about it and she said that she was a jewelry designer, and it was her work. She left before it occurred to me to ask for a card, but I must have been obvious enough in my admiration, because a few minutes later she came back and offered me one.

I finally remembered it today, and visited her website, which is indeed filled with lovely and unique jewelry.

In case anyone is interested, my birthday is October 15th.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Even the Buses Are Cute

Do the Japanese ever get tired of making everything adorable?

There's the coffees:

The public transportation:

The transvestites:

And they even sell adorable plastic poop. (Not pictured.) (You're welcome.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Jane Eyre and the Jackalope

(In an effort to hop on the classic literature/monster bandwagon (See: "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and the upcoming "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters") I present you with the opening lines to my new literary masterpiece, which I expect to earn me the adoration of the adoring masses and a honking big advance within the next week or so.)

Chapter 1

There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. Which was much lamented, because Eliza had spotted tracks the night before, and left out some whiskey to inebriate the beast, but now the chance of a hunt seemed lost. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning (poor cover, that, and a waste of time, since the creature rarely rose before midday); but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further hunting was now out of the question.

I was glad of it: I was a miserable shot, and the sorry little sawed-off shotgun I had received as a hand-me-down from John paled in comparison to his gleaming new rifle, or Georgiana's sleek crossbow. I never liked long hunts, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes, an empty sack and a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed.