You Can Wear It Again, Part 2: Cover Her Face

August 21, 2008

It was a very proper wedding. The bride was elegantly dressed – the two bridesmaids were duly inferior – her father gave her away – her mother stood with salts in her hand, expecting to be agitated – her aunt tried to cry – and the service was impressively read by Dr. Grant.

– Jane Austen, Mansfield Park

Trying to trace the history of bridesmaids and the beginning of their existence is about as easy as tracing any other wedding tradition; between frustratingly unsourced statements and a tendency towards misty assertions like “For thousands of years, brides have …” when what’s really meant is “Every wedding I’ve heard of had this” it’s hard to say anything with complete confidence that it can’t be contradicted. The same is true of wedding veils; people obviously wore them, and still wear them, but there are gaps in the history which can’t be easily filled in. Interestingly, one of the few things about which we can be fairly certain is this: bridesmaids and bridal veils were originally intended to serve the same function, which was to protect the bride above all else.

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Watching the Watchmen Trailer Being Watched

August 17, 2008
Watchmen Cover 12

Watching the Bloody Watchmen...

OK, so if you’ve been hanging out in geeky circles and in chat-rooms the past several weeks, you’ve obviously been hearing about the same awesome thing over and over again, with rave reviews and ululations of delight emitting from people’s oral cavities and keyboards.

That thing, of course, is Joss Whedon’s mini-series Dr. Horrible, which hopefully you caught while it was free between July 13th and July 20th.

Seen it? Good. There’s also that other awesome thing you’ve been hearing about over and over again, etc., which is the Watchmen Trailer and the topic of today’s blog.

“Watched” it yet? Great!

Before I get into the content of the trailer itself, a word on the discourse of its reception. “Discourse!?” you yell, arming yourself against the approaching Foucauldian logic of Ivory Tower cultural studies. Fear not! Discourse is merely the socially accepted boundary of what can be said about any given word and/or topic. The word itself is actually derived from the chariot racetrack in Roman arenas which served also as the boundary between spectator and spectacle, demarcating what is to be within the bounds of the games and what is out-of-bounds. It is perfectly OK within the socio-linguistic discourse of “movies,” for example, to say “I like all movies” or “those movies all suck bad” or “I haven’t seen movies in my life” or “You only find that in the movies,” whereas it’s outside the discourse to say “I would like to wear a size 32 movies for pants this summer.”

So, the sensible discourse of the Watchmen trailer among geek circles seems to revolve around two particular positions. These are the following:

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You Can Wear It Again: Wedding Clothes Past And Present

August 13, 2008

Wedding season has been going on for some time, but enough of it remains that hotels are still being booked to capacity and people are sweating in unfamiliar airports in order to spend a weekend witnessing one of the oldest continuous rituals in existence. Like most other long-lasting rituals, it seems at first glance unlikely that many of our ancestors would recognize our version of it, and one of the major reasons for that – though far from the only one – is the change in dress involved. The North American standard today is what a place like Indiebride would refer to as a cookie-cutter wedding; poofy white dress, tuxes, champagne, rented ballroom, embarrassing DJ who plays YMCA, even more embarrassing bouquet toss and garter removal. It’s true that there are a lot of them out there – one summer I spent as a caterer’s minion involved serving about three weddings per weekend, and most of them blended together pretty fast because so little about the basic template changed. However, enough people go non-cookie cutter to support a pretty large alternative industry (not to mention a lot of websites), and a common theme here is that the Big White Wedding isn’t even that traditional – the white wedding only started with Queen Victoria. Another criticism frequently leveled at the white dress is that it’s supposed to be an advertisement of the wearer’s virginity.

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It’s great to be back at Goodwill

August 6, 2008
'goodwill' by bluecinderellee on Flickr

'goodwill' by bluecinderellee on Flickr

I love Goodwill. I worked at Goodwill stores for two summers when I was 18 and 19, and I learned a lot about each aspect of running the store. More importantly, I learned how to shop there. Before Goodwill, I’d never much cared for shopping, and shopping in thrift stores seemed particularly unconducive to the “get in, get what you want, and get out” approach that I’d thought was the only tolerable way to go about it. But after working at Goodwill and seeing how carefully donations were inspected and sorted (a lot of stuff doesn’t make the cut), I stopped seeing the store shelves as a disorganized dumping ground for junk and started seeing them as a lovingly curated collection of potential treasures. Very reasonably priced treasures. And my 20% employee discount didn’t hurt either.

Goodwill stores are all over the U.S. and Canada, but I was living in middle America when I worked there, and so I tend to associate Goodwill with that part of the country. Maybe that’s one reason I never went to Goodwill during the three years I spent living in Portland, Oregon. But as of six days ago, I’m back in the Midwest — Bloomington, Indiana, to be specific — and I’ve got a limited budget, a new apartment to furnish, and some free time. Where do I go? Do you even need to ask? In six days, I’ve already made three Goodwill trips. It’s great to be back. Here’s what I’ve found so far, all of it essentially like new:

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Twilight turns to dusk

August 1, 2008

Hmmm, I’m not sure I’m going to have time to write up a full-blown book review today, but instead, here’s a passage from the book I was reading earlier today that caught my attention:

Sixty minutes later the sky in the east was a dark navy blue, almost black. Visibility was fading fast. Years before, a pedantic schoolteacher in the Pacific somewhere had explained to Reacher that first comes twilight, and then comes dusk, and then comes night. She had insisted that twilight and dusk were not the same thing. If he needed a generic word for evening darkness, he was to use gloaming.

Gloaming was what he had right then. Plenty of it, but not quite as much as he would have liked.

-Child, 407, Bad Luck and Trouble

Assignment for the weekend: Find a way to work gloaming into conversation naturally.