Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Met Gala

Lauren Santo Domingo won the Met Gala this year:

(Photo courtesy of the New York Times)

It's not a contest. But she won anyway.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Project Runway - A Model UN

This is the best reality show of all time. I wish it were on year-round, but I have to be satisfied with Project Runway, and then offshoots (Under the Gunn, Project Runway Juniors, etc) to get me through the rest of the year. Project Runway AllStars is satisfying, because it's essentially the same as PR, just with a different host and judges. Alyssa Milano is a much cuddlier version of Heidi Klum, and Georgina Chapman and Isaac Mizrahi, as judges, have a knack for offering constructive and encouraging feedback without being hurtful.

The reality of the show is not forced. It's REAL. The designers have talent and vision and a tight time-frame in which to create designs, so the drama that comes out is genuine. I don't love drama for the sake of drama. When the designers are sleep-deprived and stressed it just happens. I prefer when it doesn't, which probably makes me an unlikely candidate for a reality show audience (an aside: I do love the drama on "Dateline", because Oh My God that sh*t is crazy, and really real).

I love how multi-cultural the designers are, and then how quickly you cease to notice that after the first episode. It's a racially-even playing field, which is not something you get to see on television very often.

This season of AllStars has one of my absolute favorite designers, Dom Streater. GOD ALMIGHTY she comes up with some of the most original and gorgeous designs, and I will love if she wins.

(She made this on last night's show and I WANT TO HAVE IT NOW!)

But, I also love the other two finalists, Kini Zamora and Ken Laurence.

The only thing I cringed about this season (tangent alert) was when Kini basically made part of Sam's outfit in the partner challenge, and Sam gave him no credit. This is a major pet peeve. You have to give credit where credit is due. Sam is a talented designer in his own right, but he really should have admitted to the judges that Kini made part of that look. Since he didn't, Kini got very prickly and the prickly carried over for the next several challenges. Then Kini and Sam were throwing all kinds of shade at each other during their single-camera confessionals, and in the workroom and I wanted to smack them both. Sam: APOLOGIZE TO KINI. Kini: BE THE BIGGER PERSON AND FOCUS ON YOUR WORK. (tangent finished)

Ken was drama personified in his Project Runway season, and he frightened me a little. His temper was off the charts. We see more of his personality in AllStars and I LOVE HIM.

He is hilarious and adorable, and I could listen to him say the words "Fabulous" and "Woman" on a perpetual loop, all day long. He says Fah-buh-lus, and Wuh-man. It is awesome. He brought a centimeter of drama when he called Sam out on his nonsense, flirting with the judges and letting his popularity carry him through challenges. But then, they resolved it. Like grown-ups! Sam actually admitted that he could be defensive and immature, and that takes a very big person to do. People on reality programs hate to show weakness, and most people see admitting faults as weakness, but it's really the opposite. Admitting when you've been less-than-admirable is actually quite admirable.

I like to think of PR & PRAS as tiny nations, where we could all learn a thing or two about how to interact and behave. For the most part, the designers, regardless of wildly different backgrounds and personalities, all come to genuinely respect and care for one another by the end of the season (and if they don't, they're doing it wrong and need to try again). In the single-camera confessionals, when I hear them praising their competitors and complimenting their work, it always makes me cry. The more diplomatic they are, the more I love the show. Don't listen to anyone who wants "more drama". Project Runway is better than that.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Winding Road of Writing

I've been reading. And writing. And reading a lot about writing. Reading about other writers' experiences is enormously helpful when trying to navigate some of the frustrating waters of publishing, particularly when it comes to querying agents for representation. I had signed with a literary agent for my memoir, and she helped me edit and shape it into something that sold to a publisher. Six months after the book was published I made the decision to leave her. Not because she was a bad person, or because she was a bad agent. She was neither of those things. But she also really wasn't right for me. Your relationship with your agent is much like a romantic relationship: you have to feel a connection, you have to feel like that person "gets" you, you have to feel secure and supported. And you absolutely know in your gut when it's just not right.

So, you put on your big-girl panties, and make the difficult decision after agonizing over it for several weeks, and then, you're single again. And getting another agent is not quite as simple as logging onto Match.com or OKCupid or Tinder. It's a lot more agonizing, and there's a lot of second-guessing and far too much personality-analysis you as a writer have to do, to make sure you're pitching the right person.

Kathryn Stockett was rejected sixty times when she was querying The Help. This both inspires me, and pains me. I loved that book so much that when I finished it I tried to email Stockett through her website (no longer live). My email bounced back, so the email never reached its intended recipient, but I did try to let her know how much I loved those characters, and how sad I was when the book ended. To think that I might never have had the chance to read the book makes me completely insane. Sixty rejections. That is sixty professional literary opinions that The Help wasn't good enough to be published. I have read so many mediocre novels, represented by top-notch agents (although, to be fair, they may have had a difficult time getting published as well), and I just think, "So-and-So Big Mucky-Muck represents this slop? Well, missy, maybe you don't understand anything about anything." Indeed.

In addition to weathering rejection, writers must be able to incorporate useful feedback into what they're writing/pitching. Jennifer Tress hilariously suffered from "creative interpretation" when reading feedback from an editor:

"What my editor said: This is a fun and compelling read and you are an engaging, accessible writer. But story X is too long – you give too much weight to it – and I feel like you have more, maybe different stories to tell.

What I heard: This is great, you are great. Time to find an agent!" 

This made me laugh hard, and out loud, and reminded me of when I had queried a great agent for my memoir. I remembered the feedback as:

"There is so much I like about your voice, but ultimately I was hoping the book would be a little more like Eat, Pray, Love."

My reaction was exasperated bluster: "Well, SURE! Don't we all wish our lives were like Eat, Pray, Love? Who wouldn't want an agent/editor to send her off to Italy to eat delicious pasta and gelato and write all about it, and then end up in Bali having a passionate romance? Psssht."

When I revisited that email, months later when I had stopped huffing and puffing, what it had actually said was:

"There is so much I like about your voice and your energy, but ultimately I wanted more of an organizing principle (Like EAT, PRAY, LOVE)..."

And I was like, "OH, an ORGANIZING PRINCIPLE! She's absolutely right." The manuscript I had sent her was wildly disorganized and kind of all over the place. She was 100% correct in her assessment, but when I read her email that first time all I could see was the rejection and her wish that my book was Eat, Pray, Love.

The lessons I learn from the query process are the same that I apply to the writing itself. Read it, but then walk away from it for a while, then go back and read it again. And do this when you're having an awesome day (hair, body and otherwise), and are in a super-positive frame of mind, and with a little luck you can say "This is great! You are great! And your new agent is sending you to Italy to eat pasta and gelato!"

Monday, April 11, 2016

Our Lady of Perpetual Cat Ownership

Every day now seems to be National Something Day. National Secretaries Day, National Cheeseburger Day, National Talk Like a Pirate Day. Today would have been a major trigger for me. National Pet Day. Six weeks ago I took my little fur-monster, Herbie, to the vet.

 (This was when he was fat and happy)

He had been losing weight, and then just stopped eating altogether. The vet poked and prodded around, and said that he had a tumor, as well as issues with his kidneys. He was fourteen and a half, and the vet thought that was kind of "old age" for a cat anyway, but my last kitty cat had lived to be twenty-three. I had high hopes for all future pets. So optimistic, was I, that back in October I had ordered the 3-year rabies vaccine for Herb. It was not to be. So, armed with some prednilsone, and an appetite stimulant, Herb and I went back home. The vet had said the prednilsone might grant him an extra "couple of weeks". I was distraught. But, after starting the prednilsone, his appetite kind of came back on its own, and I didn't need the appetite stimulant.

I fed him deli turkey, tuna, whatever he wanted to eat, and he did put some weight back on. The vet called to check in on him the following Monday, and I was happy to report he was doing well. I had decided to just watch him carefully, and at the first sign of trauma or physical difficulty to call an in-home euthanasia vet. I did not want him to suffer at all. I got another four weeks of Healthy-ish Herbie, during which time his litter box habits were the best I'd ever seen from him. (He used to communicate in angry poops left around the house).

When I saw his hind legs start to wobble a bit when he went down steps, I knew his time was limited. No suffering for the baby! On a Friday, I called and scheduled the euthanasia appointment for the following Monday. I then made sure his last weekend was awesome. He got pork chops and lamb and junky Fancy Feast in gravy. I would lift him up onto the bed, and then down onto the floor, so he didn't have to try to jump. Sunday night, I didn't catch him in time before he tried to jump up onto the bed by himself. His claws caught the corner and he pulled himself up, and then his body started to convulse. I grabbed him and put him back on the floor, tucking his body in, because I felt like he might have stretched the organs or something. I didn't know - it was just an instinctive reaction, and the convulsions stopped. But seeing that was traumatizing, and I knew I had made the right decision for Monday. It was time to put him down. On Monday I took him outside and let him wander around and eat as much grass as he wanted, and then sat petting him until the vet arrived.

I was grateful for the four weeks of time to get used to the idea that he wouldn't be around. I cried at the first diagnosis, and one or two nights afterward, but then I would look at Herb, who wasn't suffering and just hanging out doing his kitty-thing, and I realized that I didn't really need to get upset until he actually died. What was the point of all the crying if he's right there next to me, pushing his whiskers against my shoulder and purring? He was still there. Once he was euthanized, though, I cried a lot. The Ugly Cry. Red-faced, puffy-eyed, numerous boxes of tissues destroyed crying.

The next day I drove about 40 minutes south to a cat rescue organization, and adopted a sweet little 4.5 year old longhaired girl named Minnie.

You can't do this with people, which is why losing a family member/friend is so much more devastating. But there are homeless animals everywhere, in need of care and love. You do need to make sure you connect with the animal, and I just knew Minnie was right. A furry, snuggly, purr-monster is something I have to have. She is the best: super affectionate, talks to me in her little mewly voice, and has the best litter box habits. When I'm reading, she shoves herself into the crook of my elbow and stretches her dainty paws out over my shoulder, then curls up and falls asleep. Without her, I'm sure I would have had further sobbing episodes as I drove past the vet clinic, where Herb used to go, or the pet food store, where I used to buy his fancy organic food (which apparently did not keep him from getting cancer), or when I looked at his scratching post and toys (which Minnie is enjoying), and definitely today, on National Pet Day.

I've had kitties since I was five years old. Mercy, I got as a kitten when I was five and named her all by myself, after my mom said "No" to naming her Cindy. Mercy had feline leukemia, and died my first year away at college. Kitty overlapped Mercy a little: I got her for my 13th birthday from two school friends. Kitty was the one who lived to be twenty-three. Then came Herb and his sister Laverne. I, sadly, had to surrender Laverne after a few years because I was afraid Herb was going to kill her - he was really Alpha and really possessive.

I am the Constant Cat Lady. I will, however, take solace in comparison. At the check-in counter at the Humane Society, the desk clerk asks you several questions, including, "How many pets do you currently have at home?" While I was sitting and waiting to see the cats, a woman came in and her answer to that question was, "Five cats, two dogs".

I patted myself on the back for not being a cat-hoarder. Oh, now wait. That sounds like I'm being judgemental. I am! Five cats is too many. Unless you have a farm.

I don't have a farm. And one cat is plenty for me.

My mom once said, "I can't picture you without a cat." And now she won't have to. R.I.P. to my little Herbie, and Happy National Pet Day to pet owners, everywhere!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My Happy Golden Years with Dateline

I don't know why everyone's so desperate to recapture their youth, or stay young, or whatever. Getting older is awesome. You get to complain more, you get to ignore all the improvements and updates in technology, and you get to watch 'Murder, She Wrote' and 'Dateline' as much as you want.

How, how, how have I lived this long without 'Dateline'? How? I am completely obsessed with this show, and this obsession is not making me a better person. I've been doing my part with all the introspective self-improvement, and appreciating the present moment, and have developed a profound love for Eckhart Tolle and everything he stands for. And then I forget all of that the moment the shaky photo frames appear on the television screen, accompanied by a heavy-handed ominous musical score.

'Dateline''s tagline is "Don't watch alone" exclamation point. This is nonsense. You can totally watch the show alone, because it's not that kind of scary. What you should not do is watch the show with me, because I am that kind of scary. Let me count the ways:

1) I become enraged if Keith Morrison is not hosting (but then calm down, because the other people are fine; just less hilariously over-the-top).
2) I start yelling, "The husband (or wife) did it!" before Lester Holt has even introduced the subject matter.
3) If the husband or wife did not do it, the rage returns and I start yelling at 'Dateline'. I genuinely want the husband or wife to have done it.
4) I yell at the incompetent sheriff, detective, local investigator, the accused, friends/family of the accused, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, and/or jury, depending on who is being the most idiotic. Sometimes, it is all of them.
5) I find myself unconcerned with the welfare of the characters if they are rednecks (it's okay, they won't read this).
6) I am ten times more upset if an animal is killed, along with the victim.

This is not me at my best self.

But, Eckhart Tolle would say, "Resist nothing", and that includes the lure of the shaky photo frames, the ominous music, and Keith Morrison's exaggerated eyebrow furrowing and melodramatic suppositions.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

In the Olden Days

It has been four years since I've blogged here, and in those years I've ceased to think of myself as a blogger. That word has managed to morph into its own legitimate occupation, which seems crazy to me, and I wonder if I had kept at it, consistently, would the Firmdale Properties be asking me to write fabulous blurbs and copy for them and offering to fly me to London to stay at all of their hotels?

The word itself still makes me laugh. Blogger. Because it rhymes with "logger" and I immediately imagine a log-rolling scenario with 20-something hipsters in wool slouch-hats tapping away at their i-Devices while their skinny-jean-clad legs flail and scramble back and forth in an attempt to keep them from falling into the water.

 (But picture them holding i-Pads and little laptops.)

I have officially reached the age where I don't "get" the kids these days. All the social media stuff and the acronyms and short attention-spans just make my eyes roll, and they've been rolling so hard for so long I think I need bifocals now.

My beloved fashion magazines now put Nickelodeon and Disney stars on the covers, and ask me to scan my phone or visit the website to read more about whatever article I'm trying to read. Magazine people: I read the magazines so I don't have to stare at the glowing computer screen. They're doing studies. It's not so good for you, all the time. And, just when I was thinking I was finally ready to graduate to More magazine? You know, the one for (old) women of style and substance? They folded. After the April 2016 issue, it will be no More.

Then there's the TV. NOT NETFLIX, JUST REGULAR OLD-TIMEY TELEVISION. I am issuing an official challenge the judges on "Project Runway" to praise a look without referring to it as "young and fresh". I dare you. There are other adjectives that don't exclude seven other decades of demographic. Nina Garcia is fifty years old, for the love of Lanvin. And I like that! I'm afraid the producers might try to replace her with some eleven year-old with an "on fleek" podcast. (And, for the record, "on fleek" sounds like Gretchen Wieners was finally successful in making one of her phrases happen.) Fashion is not the exclusive domain of the young.

Urf. I've gone all ranty now (GET OFF MY LAWN!). It's not that I think Millennials, and whatever they're calling the ones younger than that (Mini-llennials?), don't have anything important to contribute. I just really miss hearing from people older and wiser than me. I want to see some "60 over 60" lists, talking about awesome achievements that have been made after people hit middle age. I'm sure the stories are out there, somewhere, but finding them is like finding healthy food at a grocery store that isn't Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. You have to read the tiny print on all the labels for ingredients. And I often forget my bifocals.

You should call more often. Sincerely,
Grandma Gretta

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dorset Square Hotel

It is no secret that I love London. It is absolutely, positively one of my favorite cities on Earth, and is also home to my favorite hotel chain (again, on Earth), the Firmdale Properties. They have just announced another reason for me to go back to London.

The Dorset Square Hotel opens this June (2012) in what just might be my favorite neighborhood (maybe not on Earth, but for sure in London), Marylebone. 

From the website:

Dorset Square Hotel has undergone an extensive refurbishment stamping it with Kit Kemp's signature style: bold colours and textures, bespoke and one-off pieces as well as original art collected from around the world. This beautiful Regency townhouse has 38 individually designed bedrooms many of which look onto the leafy private garden square which was originally the site of Thomas Lord's first cricket ground. There is a sumptuous guest drawing room with a fireplace and The Potting Shed bar & restaurant which is open all day long. The hotel is situated in Marylebone, one of London's most urbane and exciting residential areas. It is within easy reach of London's theatre-land and financial district and surrounded by fashionable shops, caf├ęs, restaurants and world-class galleries.

Since I have just returned from the UK and Ireland, I cannot justify another trip there just yet. I am just going to print out hundreds of photos of the hotel and wallpaper my bedroom with them in an attempt to recreate the effect.