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Archive for May, 2009

It probably seems silly and even a little pathetic to waste time being angry with a retailer.  And yes, I am aware that “J. Crew” is not a person.  Honestly, it doesn’t eat away at me, but when I stop to think about it, I can’t help but feel annoyed.  Here’s why:

* This country is in its worst economic crisis in eighty years.  So why is J.Crew sending me obnoxious emails that tell me to spend $175 to get free shipping?  Really?  Free shipping?  Gee, thanks. If I could afford to blow $175 on high-end khakis, then chances are I could probably pay for the shipping myself.

* They have the audacity to romanticize a shade of brown I once saw inside of a diaper by calling it “Root.”

* I have been insulted not once, but twice by their salespeople.  Once, I was shopping for my very petite sister and asked the salesperson for a size 2.  The woman looked me up and down and patronizingly said, “Are you sure?” Another time, I overheard a conversation between two of their associates, where one asked the other, “Aren’t you from Medford?,” to which the other scoffed, “I’m from the right side of the tracks, thank you!”  I know this was not directed at me, but it was still an unfair slam on my underrated hometown.

* A lot of their clothes suffer from what I like to think of as the “layering effect.”  They only look fabulous and chic when layered with other over-priced items, also conveniently from J. Crew.  Individually, they seem sort of boring.  Of course, I never realize this until I get my purchase home.  In the store, I am brainwashed.

* More than clothes, they are selling an unattainable lifestyle.  It is a lifestyle of impossibly skinny, beautiful people who seem to spend a lot of time in the Hamptons and can afford $25 t-shirts.  I used to want to be one of those people.  Now I realize they probably don’t exist, and if I they did they would be the kind of people I don’t like.

Perhaps I am putting a little too much thought into this or taking it too seriously.  I think, among the other disappointments of grown-up life, I am just bummed to now know that the J. Crew lifestyle is really just a yuppie fairytale complete with a snazzy catalog.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to order a dress from jcrew.com.

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Vanity Plates

Lots of people in California have vanity license plates. This is not something I would ever think to do.  But, license plates here can have up to 7 characters, which does give you a lot more freedom to make words and cryptic phrases.  Some of them are very clever.  Some are stupid.  At any rate, since over half the time you spend in your car in LA you are probably stuck in traffic (not an actual statistic, but I’m probably not too far off), trying to figure out the meaning of these plates becomes like solving a puzzle and gives you something to do besides getting pissed at other drivers. 

Here are some of the notable ones I can remember:

* LAKER R:  First, yes, you can use a heart symbol in your license plate (stars are also available). This is odd to me.  Second, this person is obviously a fan of the Lakers, as also evidenced by the Lakers flags covering the outside of the car. Lakers fans are REALLY obnoxious.
* IANIM8: This car belongs to one of the animators at the studio where I work.
* GDLTLCAR:  I could be wrong on this, but the car was very old looking and proudly displayed a bumper sticker that said it had over 150,000 miles on it.  My guess is “Good Little Car.”  This was a few years ago, so it’s probably dead by now.
* GRR888T:  Tony the Tiger, perhaps? Idiot.
* GLF WHR:  Now, this was actually one I saw back in Massachusetts.  It stumped me – the best I could come up with was “Golf Whore.” I’m open to other suggestions on that one.

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Has anyone read The Pillars of the Earthby Ken Follett?  I am nearing the end. Finally.  It might be the longest book I’ve ever read.  One of my clients suggested it because she was reading it with her book club ( it was also an Oprah book – she’s right about everything, isn’t she?).  That was over a year ago.  Initially, its length seemed like a positive.  It’s nice to read a great book and not have to worry about coming to the end too quickly.

Not to say this book is not great.  There’s all sorts of stuff about cathedral building and architecture, which I’m sure is fascinating if you’re into that sort of thing.  The characters are well fleshed out and their stories mostly interesting, if a bit soap-opera-y.  My issue is with this formula:

* Prior Philip/Aliena/Jack Jackson experience some sort of adversity
* Prior Philip/Aliena/Jack Jacskson figure out how to overcome their adversity
* William Hamliegh/Waleran Bigod decide to spitefully and vengefully derail any one of the three aforementioned characters’ triumphs
* Prior Philip/Aliena/Jack Jackson are momentarily thrown off track by said derailment, but will ultimately prevail

I’ve lost count how many times this cycle occurs in the book.  It makes me want to hurl all 983 pages of it across the room – in fact, I would if I weren’t paranoid that the size and weight of it would do permanent damage to my furniture and newly painted bedroom walls.  

This recurring plot device is also the reason that it has taken me so long to get through the book – I am never really enthusiastic about picking it up, and have read many other books from beginning to end since I started it.  Still, as I near the end, it is with mixed feelings.  It’s like saying good-bye to someone you don’t necessarily like that much, but but when they’re gone you realize they really weren’t that bad after all.

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Rather than having lots of bitchy and whiny entries on this thing, I decided to try to also write about stuff that is fun and makes me laugh (although, honestly, I do have a lot more to say when I’m bitching. That can’t be good).  That led me to think about this sketch from Saturday Night Live.

In general, I’m a huge fan of Jon Hamm – Mad Men is one of my favorite shows.  But who knew he had such a gift for comedy?  His stints on 30 Rock were hilarious (the visual of him unsteadily driving down the street on his motorcycle still cracks me up), and he was surprisingly impressive when hosting SNL

Anyway, when you first watch this sketch, you will think it’s stupid.  But let it sit for a while.  It is eight months later and I will randomly remember this and laugh out loud.

Enjoy!

http://www.hulu.com/watch/41101/saturday-night-live-jon-hamms-john-ham

PS: Apparently I am a moron and cannot figure out to embed a video in an entry, which is why you’re getting a link instead.  I will learn some day.

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As an incessant gum chewer (there are always several packs of Orbit on hand in my desk drawers), I have never understood people who chew gum with their mouths hanging open.  It annoys the hell out of me.  I don’t want to hear you chomping on your gum! And I don’t need to see it in your mouth!!  Some people even go a step further and somehow use their tongue to move the gum from one side of their mouth from the other (of course, with their mouths still hanging open), which is also repulsive.  It takes every ounce of self control to squelch my Highly Sensitive tendencies and refrain from whacking these people in the face, if for no other reason than it will make them either spit out or choke on their gum.

In the same vein, gum snapping also drives me to distraction. Especially at work.  You are not a twelve year old hanging out at the mall! This is a place of business!  You are supposed to be a professional adult!  Please act like one.  Thank you.

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One thing I should have included in my “Hate” list for LA is the lack of good radio stations. KROQ has caused me to have an irrational dislike of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Indie 103.1 was great until it was replaced by a Spanish-language format.  The local NPR station, KCRW, does play fantastic music, but only in between news and talk segments, which seem to be the only things on when I’m in my car.  Oh, how I miss WFNX and WBRU!!  The worst part, besides being in the car and not having anything good to listen to, is that it’s really difficult to find new music. Trolling iTunes for recommendations is now an activity of mine that will consume hours of a weekend.  Because of this, I do not have time to do it as often as I would like, and end up listening to the same songs over and over again.

This is why I am eternally grateful to people who give me music recommendations for bands and artists I would otherwise have never heard.  One such person is a Hipster colleague of mine, and he often hooks me up with, as he calls it, “what the kids are listening to.” 

So, here is the first of what will hopefully be many recommendations for good music that you may not have heard about.  Oh, and for the record, I love all sorts of music (with the exception of country and most hip-hop), but really, really love indie rock, folk and electronic.  Weird mix, I know.

Empire of the Sun – “Walking on a Dream”
Whitest Boy Alive – “Inflation”
Meiko – “Boys With Girlfriends”
Great Northern – “Houses”
Phoenix – “1901”
Theresa Andersson – “Birds Fly Away”

Now go pay it forward.

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Being Creative

I have long struggled with being creative.  At one point in my life  I actually would have classified myself as an artist, which seems funny now.  Certainly, none of the people in my life would see me that way.

My struggles began early.  I will never forget being in kindergarten and feeling completely frustrated over an assignment to color in a photocopied sheet of stars.  I felt smug disgust as I watched my classmates fill their stars in with rainbow colors. Fools! When I handed mine in, the teacher was confused because it didn’t look like the stars hadn’t been colored in at all. I explained (probably with disdain) that I had colored them in white…because stars are white.  I took pride in my infallible logic.  The teacher then ordered me to re-do the assignment using an actual color, so I begrudgingly chose yellow, which seemed to be the closest acceptable color substitute for white as it relates to stars.  I remember this incidient with a mixture of amusement and sadness.  Clearly, from an early age the left side of my brain has dominated.  I am who I am.  But does that mean that there is no creativity in me?

Sometime in junior high, I decided I wanted to be an interior decorator when I grew up.  God only knows where that idea came from – Designing Women, maybe?  In high school, I took art classes from Crazy Miss MacMillan, and while I didn’t necessarliy learn a lot, I had a lot of fun. I’d never really been one of the “good artists” in class growing up, but the thought of it appealed to me.  There were some great influences for me in those classes and the friendships I made then definitely shaped who I became and what I my interests were.  I started obsessively sketching portraits of the beautiful models in Vogue.  At the time I thought they were great, but a look back reveals otherwise.   When it came time for college, I didn’t have the nerve to enter as an art major, so I went in Undeclared and took a basic drawing class “for fun.”  I lasted about a month and a half before I became completely crippled with insecurity at what I was drawing compared to everyone else.  I remember the professor looking at me with sympathetic eyes, and at one point telling me I was really “brave.”  Not a good sign.

By junior year, as pressure to figure out my major mounted, I had the brilliant idea to combine my love of art and my love of psychology to study Art Therapy. Besides the psychology courses, I had to start the studio art portion over again, which included basic drawing, 2D and 3D art.  It was a bad semester (yes, that’s all I lasted).  My drawing teacher was a notorious bitch.  We would draw for our 3 hour class, and at the end turn our easels around in a circle. She would walk around the room and point out the good and bad in the drawings.  She ignored me for weeks;  one day she finally stopped, looked at my drawing and said “Everyone see this?  Don’t do this.”  In 3D, I essentially learned I have zero talent for 3D art. The concept of making something look good from all angles is still a challenge for me (I am rubbish at arranging flowers). 

I never finished the 2D class, although I’ll never forget the day we had to “gesture sketch” a part of our face while looking in a mirror.  Having always been partial to eyes (I still doodle them to this day), I just went for it and didn’t really think about what I was doing. The concept of gesture sketching was lost on my fellow class mates (at that point, I was the “old” junior in a class of freshman) and I was amazed at what I’d produced in comparison to everyone else.  My instructor was also impressed.  I only bring this up because I wonder if there is something creative buried deep down inside of me, but my crazy, controlling left brain is too neurotic to let it out. 

Despite this high point, the rest of my semester was filled with confidence-killing lows, and I decided I just couldn’t handle the humiliation of not being good at something at which I desperately wanted to excel.  I approached my advisor, one of the Art Education professors, for a heart to heart.  I explained my struggles to him (I may have even relayed the kindergarten story), and he was very kind although he may not have truly understood and perhaps thought I was giving up too easily.  He then explained to me the notion of Jung’s theory of the Shadow Self.  Essentially, he said the things from which you shy away, or even the things that frighten you the most, are really the things you crave and need to feel happy and fulfilled.  He made me promise that I would always keep art as a part of my life.  I made the promise but have since broken it many times over.

I finished out college as a glorified Liberal Arts major, and was able to take lots of Writing and Art History courses.  Finding meaningful jobs post-graduation was a challenge, so I started in administrative positions and eventually ended up in marketing.  This is where I decided I had found my calling – what a great way to combine my fondness for wordsmithing with a desire to make things look pretty!  I did neglect to notice that sales is also a big part of marketing, and it’s really difficult to sell something that you don’t believe in – a position I’ve now been in many, many times.

At the end of the day, it comes down to challenging yourself to try something new, and daring yourself to do something that scares you.  Otherwise, how will you grow?  It’s hard to end this entry because I’m not sure how my journey ends – it seems I still have a long way to go.    In many ways, I’m still struggling as much as when I was five.  I guess I’m just hoping that somehow, I will find the courage to be creative again.

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