Saturday, April 30, 2016

String Cheese, Please: Guitar Hero Hits

Top: Merona, Target
Dress: Macy's
Shoes: Chinese Laundry, DSW
Bag: Betsey Johnson, Macy's
Belt: Marshalls
Jacket: BCBG, Macy's
Sunglasses: Kohl's

The other day I was unknowingly listening to a lite rock radio station.  I say unknowingly because I'd landed on the station at random, sucked in by Fleetwood Mac, Elle King, and Walk the Moon, all artists who I wouldn't expect to be reduced to elevator music cliches in the time it takes to play a jingle.  There's something shameful about the very words "lite rock."  Like it's imitation, less than, and wimpy, fat free fro yo instead of a chocolate milkshake.  I mean, you wouldn't hear Hendrix on a station that sets people up on blind dates or gives away tee shirts.  Or Green Day.  Or Weezer.  Or The Offspring.  So that, I guess, is the litmus test for artistic integrity: Hendrix or punks from the 1990s.  And also, perhaps, The Killers.  On (alternative rock) radio, I recently heard that Brandon and the boys, who hail from Las Vegas, couldn't perform in the casinos when they were underage and getting started, so they played outside in the desert.  The DJ was all excited about it, saying, "tell your children and children's children," but I don't have children, so I'm telling you.  If bloggers are diarists of cyberspace, then DJs are bloggers of the airwaves, sharing their thoughts and anecdotes and emotions and putting their stamp on all things pop culture for the sake of the weary masses trudging to work.

So, as a shout-out to DJs and rock, lite and hard and every beat in between, I give you this bonus track of a one-hit wonder post rife with guitar riffs.  (If you close your eyes, are real quiet, and meditate on the pretty pictures, then I swear you can hear them.)  The playlist includes three renditions of the guitar, this perhaps most visually pleasing of musical instruments, the colors converging in perfect harmony upon the canvas of one boldly striped dress.

On that, ahem, note, I've also got a flashback to Tuesday's post -- more Flash Charms, sing-a-long style!  Because good things come in flashes: flash sales, flash mobs, flashes of genius, and, if Sheldon Cooper has anything to say about it, The Flash.  (Admittedly, some bad things come in flashes, too, such as hot flashes, flash floods, and flashers.  But their kind isn't welcome here.)  This necklace has got more than a medley of fan favorites, including a record, headphones, a microphone, a record player, a guitar, and even a harmonica.  It's a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll -- and a whole lot of loud.

Speaking of which, let's get loud by waxing poetic about the powers of FM (also, of freeway fries) in this not-quite haiku:

Drive-thru dinner, scarf it down.
Blast those jams all over town.
Lip-sync, twitter, warble, strum
Belt out, carol, intone hum.
Uncork spirit, fancy free.
That's what music means to me.

Hmm; with lines like these, it's no wonder that video killed the radio star.  So now for some sound bites from others, one sticky, one sweet, neither involving Def Leppard lyrics:


Mindy Kaling: "No ones wants to hear new music, ever."  (Snarky but true, as evidenced by my greatest hits collection.)


Sheryl Crow: "It it makes you happy, then it can't be that bad."  (As apt a theme song for humankind as any.  Feel free to apply it to those fries.)

It's times like this that I wish I had a keytar, Jem and the Holograms style, or at least one of those inflatable guitars you get at the circus.  You know, to lend some levity.  That, or a live action feed of The Wiggles. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Throwback Thursday on a Tuesday: Still Charmed by the 1980s

Eye on Kawaii Charm Necklace

Dress: So, Kohl's
Skirt: Modcloth
Shoes: Betsey Johnson, Macy's
Bag: Fred Flare
Belt: Wet Seal
Sunglasses: Brigantine beach shop

Eighties Explosion Charm Necklace

Dress: Arizona Jeans, J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Payless
Bag: Betsey Johnson, Ross
Belt: Wet Seal
Sunglasses: Rampage, Boscov's

Summer Stunner Purse Charm

Dress: O'Neill, Macy's
Top: Bongo, Sears
Shoes: Penny Loves Kenny, DSW
Bag: Bueno, Marshalls
Belt: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Sunglasses: Brigantine beach shop

Just about every post I write is, on some level, a love letter to the decade of Bubble Tape, fanny packs, and Weird Al Yanovic.  But this week's post pays homage to a very specific piece of 1980s nostalgia.  And that piece is a bunch of little pieces collectively and fondly known as Flash Charms.  If you grew up in the 1980s or raised kids in the 1980s, then chances are you're familiar with these colorful miniatures of everyday items such as cars, soda bottles, daisies, whistles, hair dryers, and even trash cans.  And if you've visited Michaels since December, then you know that they're back!  I did a double take when I saw them, my heart beating faster at the sight of all those cheerful charms from my childhood.  For the grammar school set, receiving them was a right of passage; once you had graduated from (the inexplicably more dangerous) pop beads to Flash Charms, you knew that you'd made it (and also, that you could be trusted with Play-Doh).  Because gosh darn it all, they were mesmerizing.  An ode to the era of excess, theirs was (and is) an aesthetic evocative of Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Rainbow Brite all rolled into one.  Thirty years later, they've eclipsed other eighties accessories, outranking scrunchies, slap bracelets, and bowlers to prove that they're much more than just a flash in the pan -- the fried egg in the red skillet charm in necklace two notwithstanding.  Indeed, they've earned their place in the retro revival fashion canon, right beside back-in-the-day darlings Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony.  If toys had high school reunions, then Cake and Pony would be the lipo'ed and Botoxed former prom queens to Flash's still fresh-faced and wide-eyed girl next door (admittedly, a girl next door perpetually dressed for Halloween, but a girl next door nonetheless).  Still, even Flash has evolved a little, namely in the form of the googly eyes that peer so playfully out of her food-themed personas (I'm looking at you, necklace one).  Which is to say that time has only improved her weird beauty, allowing her to age gracefully and goofily, no eye lift necessary.  

I, for one, am game to go to this shindig (or reunion or child's birthday party or whatever it is), name tag firmly slapped against my pink polyester leopard-print blouse.  Because grown up or not, I can't resist the craftopia that is the Flash Charms endcap display, especially as it shamelessly courts my collector's craving.  Taking home an absurdly pink potty (and a turquoise elephant and a yellow umbrella . . . ) puts a spring in my step more powerful than any new pair of pumps.  At $1.99 each, Flash Charms are blissfully affordable, making them the ideal pick-me-up on a gray day.  After all, what says "hang in there" more loudly than a passel of dangling, fluorescent plastic?  Almost five months in, my spoils speak for themselves.

Now, if only the good people of Galoob would bring back Sweet Secrets . . .

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Moving on Up: Opening the Doris of Possibility

Top: J. C. Penney's
Skirt: ELLE, Kohl's
Shoes: Qupid, Alloy
Bag: Delia's
Jacket: Bisou Bisou, J. C. Penney's
Scarf: Mossimo, Target
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

 Emerald Empress Necklace

Tee: Merona, Target
Skirt (tucked-in dress): XOXO
Shoes: BCBG, Macy's
Bag: Nordstrom
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

Top: J. C. Penney's
Skirt: Candie's, Kohl's
Shoes: Betsey Johnson, Macy's
Bag: Call it Spring, J. C. Penney's
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

Some weeks ago, I mentioned that I was trying to buy less clothing.  Since then, I've decided to take my endeavor to the next level by not washing any of my clothes, either -- at least not until I run out (pajamas, underwear, non-colorful stockings, sweat clothes, and socks excluded).  Not, you understand, in a dirty bum kind of way (there's only so far I'll go for my art), but in a let's-see-how-long-I-can-keep-this-thing-going-before-I-end-up-in-a-muumuu kind of way.  So far it's been a month, and my closet's still full.  Not bursting, with dresses and blouses sticking out every which way like gas escaping from a buffet glutton, but comfortably full, like it just ate a delicious-but-sensible chicken dinner and isn't about to tempt fate by chasing it with a sundae.  This experiment has forced me to think about just how much stuff I have as well as how many more different ways I can wear it.  After all, if the yellow blouse that you usually wear with your green skirt is dirty, then you have no choice but to try a peach sweater or lavender tee.  On a deeper level, this whole thing has made me redefine my relationship with stuff in general, with the collecting of it, the gazing at it, and the making the most of what's there.

Which is, as luck would have it, a right nice tie-in for my discussion of Hello, My Name is Doris. Starring Sally Field as the outlandishly dressed hoarder with a heart of gold title character, Doris is about a sixty-something woman's burning, obsessive infatuation with her office's new, much-younger art director (John, played by Max Greenfield).  Or, at least that's what it's about on the surface.  In reality it's about a woman coming to terms with her mother's death.  Mild-mannered and imaginative, bow-bedecked, cat lady Doris is the thinking woman's Walter Middy.  Part librarian, part little old lady-little girl hybrid, Doris is utterly charming and the perfect foil for her hard-nosed, no-nonsense pal Roz (Tyne Daly).  She works as a data entry drone, slogging through her humdrum days by slipping into dream sequences starring her (sometimes shirtless) beloved, then at night retreating to her mother's clutter-choked, Staten Island homestead.  Even her name is old-fashioned, not to mention the moniker of one of America's sweethearts (one Doris Day).  According to her catty coworkers, Doris is a "weird, shy person."  It's John who steps up and defends her as a "good kind of weird," setting the stage for the friendship that grows between them.

Spurred on by vulnerability, boredom, and a visit to a self-help guru (a charlatan [Peter Gallagher] who endorses turning the impossible into "I'm possible"), Doris enlists Roz's teenage granddaughter to help her stalk, er, pursue John.  To that end, the film is filled with cringe-worthy, hide-your-head-under-the-pillow moments, many of which involve Facebook.  Yet it isn't long before Doris takes her mission offline and out into the world, ingratiating herself with John's basic yet likable girlfriend (Beth Behrs) and braving the underground music scene.  She's soon befriended by a circle of twenty- and thirty-something eccentrics who appreciate her eccentricities, too.  What's more, her yellow jumpsuit, rainbow visor, and acres of day-glo jewelry land her an album cover for John's favorite band, an indie electronica group called Baby Goya.  Yet despite all this new-found attention, getting closer to John remains her heart's desire.  Over dinner, the two trade romantic war stories, with Doris revealing that she was once engaged.  Her fiance was a journalist who got a job in Flagstaff, but she couldn't make the move, instead staying in New York to take care of her mother.  I couldn't help but wonder how much happier she might have been in Arizona, decked out in bright colors against the southwestern landscape.  Maybe she would've gotten a cool job or had a baby or mass-marketed her (albeit from a mix-except-for-the-blueberries) cornbread.  It's these countless what-ifs that render her tale as miles more moving than John's.  Up until this point their relationship has been lopsided, with John getting the sympathy. 

Directed by Michael Showalter (Wet Hot American Summer, The Baxter, "Michael and Micheal Have Issues"), this funny, sweet, sometimes hard-to-watch story is a commentary on ageism and sexism as much as on having the courage to let your freak flag fly.  Field is phenomenal as Doris, as convincing in her fears and foibles as she is in her epiphanies.  Despite the 30-year age difference, I identified with Doris, and not just because we have the same pair of Hue pink polka dot stockings.  As do we all at one time or another, I know what it's like to be different, to sometimes hold back and be afraid to do things.  

Bookended by the imagery of opening and closing elevator doors, Hello, My Name is Doris is about one woman's much-delayed social debut.  Doris begins as awkward and tentative, shrinking into the safety of her inner musings.  But by the end, she's claimed command of herself, embracing the power of pushing the buttons to determine her own destination.

Some cacti in honor of Flagstaff.

Monday, April 11, 2016

In the Palm of My Sand

Dress: Lauren Conrad, Kohl's
Tank: Worthington, J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: H&M
Belt: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

If that other tree is the tree of life, then the palm tree is the life of the party.  In a forest full of stodgy oaks, pines, and maples, it stands out as the only Arbor Day honoree to be feted on MTV's Spring Break.  Yet it's also paradoxically tranquil, exuding a sweet, exotic peace unachieveable under less tropical trees, boasting foliage that proudly proclaims you're far, far away from anything stressful.

I first became transfixed by the palm's heady power when I was just six.  My parents and I were at the Orlando airport, on our way home from Disney World, when I begged them to buy palm tree seeds (in retrospect, they may have been coconuts) from the weird guy hawking them outside McDonald's.  My parents gently explained that palm trees don't grow in New Jersey, for the moment sidestepping the lecture about hucksters peddling the equivalent of magic beans.

Oddly enough, we do have a few palm trees in Brigantine that, ahem, mysteriously sprout up every summer.  There's a pair bookending the welcome sign and another half a dozen or so surrounding the island's Sandals-like beach bar (a real cheeseburger in paradise situation.  You know.  If New Jersey were annexed to Florida).  Someone once asked me how those palms survived up here in Yankee country, and I admitted that I didn't know.  In hindsight, I should've said something clever like, "that's between me and the mermaids."  But that's okay, because I said it here.  I've always thought that writing is nature's way of making up for all those times when we find ourselves tongue-tied, paralyzed by the relentless demands of real-time conversation.

That having been said, this week's barrettes are a shout-out to these botanical beach bums, Technicolor-style, not a green frond among them.  They're the perfect thing to wear when lounging poolside and nursing a margarita or two.  Or even while grocery shopping, which is where I wore mine this past weekend.  It made me feel festive during our freak April snowstorm, like summer was just a sunburn away.

I like to think I owe it my mango yogurt.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Up, Up, and Away: Big Sky and Cloud Coverage in Store

Top: Express, Marshalls
Skirt (that's really a dress): Kohl's
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Xhilaration, Target
Scarf: A. C. Moore
Sunglasses: Kohl's

Fabulous Felt Balloon Bouquet Necklace

Tee: Merona, Target
Skirt: Material Girl, Macy's
Shoes: Christian Siriano for Payless
Bag: Bisou Bisou, J. C. Penney's
Belt: Apt. 9, Kohl's
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

Top: Material Girl, Macy's
Skirt: So, Kohl's
Shoes: Christian Siriano for Payless
Bag: Nine West, Boscov's
Belt: Wet Seal
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's 

Balloon Bow Barrette

Top: J. C. Penney's
Jeans: l.e.i, J. C. Penney's
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Nordstrom
Sunglasses: Michael's

Balloons are always cause for celebration.  Nina had 99 red ones, the guy from Up took to the skies with a bunch, and Jules Verne explored the world in one of epic proportions.  So, it's no wonder that I couldn't stop making accessories in their likeness.  Two necklaces blew up into a quartet of barrettes, a whole host of others hovering on the horizon of my imagination.  I think that one of the reasons these perennial partygoers are so popular is that they symbolize not just joy but possibility, their ultimate destination the proverbially limitless sky.  Indeed, whenever I drive home over the bridge into Brigantine, all I can see is sky and clouds, and it's like I'm driving up into the heavens.  All the houses look so quaint and small, putting everything into perspective.  It's a wonderful way to end the day and always makes me feel very lucky.  

On a less philosophical but nonetheless thought-provoking note, these same clouds remind me of NBC's new mid-season (albeit already wrapped) sitcom "Superstore."  It's about (what else?) a Walmart-esque big box store whimsically and perhaps satirically christened Cloud 9 (not to be confused with the defunct Ocean City boardwalk shop of the same name) and stars America Ferrera ("Ugly Betty," Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) and Ben Feldman ("Mad Men," "Drop Dead Diva").  Ferrera plays Amy, a sharp but jaded retail lifer who got married too young and, however guardedly, dreams of bigger things.  Feldman plays Jonas, an idealistic newcomer armed with ideas and an MBA.  They're at odds, but they like each other, their fledgling friendship revealing snippets of their backstories in each episode.  I didn't want to like this show, and initially I didn't (as per usual).  But like most sitcoms, it grew on me.  Its humor is sly but sophisticated, very relatable workplace stuff (as well it should be, brought to us by the creators of "The Office"), and the chemistry between Amy and Jonas is tense and tender, building over staff meetings and customer service snafus as naturally as a checkout line on a Saturday morning.  Their story may be stalled for now, but if the Internet predictions are true, then this duo will be back, price guns brandished, for a second season.

I saw America Ferrera talking about "Superstore" on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," and she said something that really spoke to me:  There are tons of shows about crime and intrigue, and those are all well and good, but it's the shows about everyday working class people, shows like "Cheers" and "Roseanne" that really teach us about life.  Or something.  I can't be sure -- I was downing Cheetos at the time.  Still, I agreed with her; humor is where the heart is, often offering the best insight into the human condition that TV has to offer.

I think that calls for a good old-fashioned grand opening-style balloon arch, don't you?  Maybe with a clown out front making balloon dogs and peacocks, dogs because everyone likes them and peacocks because of NBC.  The first hundred shoppers would get an America or Ben bobblehead and a free slushie coupon.  And just maybe, at the end of the day, some sugar-buzzed local would look up at the sky, sigh, and mutter, "My oh my, that's a whole lot of latex."