Imogen Heap's "Half Life"

Imogen Heap released her new album, Ellipse, last week and it's great. It lacks the spunk and musical hooks of Speak for Yourself (with the exception of "Bad Body Double" and "2-1"), but one track, "Half Life," hit a chord with me. A few listens through, I sold the song short, assuming it was just another pretty, piano-driven track--a type of song Heap is prone to crafting. But it's one of the most beautiful tracks she's ever written or produced, instantly melancholy but never schmaltzy. There is an opening lyric that hit me like a brick wall a few hours ago and altered the course of my emotions today entirely:

The stickler is you've played not one beat wrong
You never promised me anything
Even sat me down, warned me just how they fall
And I knew the odds were I'd never win

Just as my sad self begins to reorient to the US, albeit bitterly, this lyric came in and crushed all superficial progress. I've experience these events more often recently, a perfect day shattered by a lyric, or a thought, a text (or lack of one), an image. And of course all the people I care about suddenly want to know what's wrong; I tell them, "I'm in a bad mood."

But I'm actually just a little heartbroken. I'm heartbroken because, like an animal making their march from barn to slaughter house, I've seen the greener grass--and it's the difference between life and death. That is, a happy life and an expected life.


The Easiest Way to Ruin Your Day: Guaranteed!

Here at Sherry Matthews I've been working on a presentation for a client involving doctors. Here's the gist: I search "doctor," "asian doctor," "hispanic doctor," etc. and pick out the most politically-correct images. This gets boring. A few minutes ago I started searching for more personally-relevant (versus project-relevant) images, and I came upon something profound.

Getty, being a stock photo resource for advertisers and companies looking for the most socially-recognizable types of images, only displays photos it believes advertisers (and ultimately, society) will find "normal." That is, images with the most easily understood message.

Searching for "gay men," images of gay cowboys and threesomes are the top results. Lesbians are even worse; apparently, a "lesbian" is either an old, overweight hag or an oiled up vixen in a makeout session.

Of course, "perfect family" takes the cake. The families are literally all-white, and pictured only in the most WASP-y of settings. The most prevalent motifs seem to be white picket fences, oak trees in fall and the coast of New England. Seriously, America? I'm not a politically-correct person. In fact, I find political correctness to be a poison, a reverse version of racism that's just as sinister as basic sociocultural prejudice. (Like "Ebony" and "Black Businessman Magazine.") But a day after a poll was published showing nearly 28% of the United States is "unsure" whether or not our president was born in the U.S., even the most basic cultural judgments seem like persecution.

This country isn't a horrible place. But even with the best schools of higher learning in the world, even as the center of technological and design innovation on the planet, we are still the least intelligent, most narrow-minded, frightened people to ever hold so much power among nations.


Lessons in construction

These pics, from this Flickr photostream, are pretty damn amazing. Late 50s menswear--or, really, boyswear--is exactly the kind of clothing I want to wear. But it's in the (sigh) style of wearing these pieces, the choice of color combinations and practical fabrics that set them apart from anything currently being produced. I hear Levi's bringing back their old denim construction (a la their European collections) and there are vendors like Billykirk and Gant that maintain a high standard of wearability over time, but will the era of rugged (but, really, flawless) clothing ever be replicated? Nah.

(As a side note, it's interesting to note that during the 50s and early 60s, women's fashion seems to have taken a backseat while menswear flourished: it was the during the evolution of bonafide American style, which is in fact male-centric. Anything "American" in fashion is usually a denim jacket, a paisley scarf, a leather boot...never a pencil skirt or silk blouse. Paris has always been the center for women. Italy is menswear, through and through [even their womenswear is masculine and hard-edged], and the U.S. is no different--albeit without the dark, sexual elements of Italian design.)

Anyone wondering where Ralph Lauren drew his initial fashion inspirations should look no further than pictures 1, 2, and 3.


Holy shit, "style!"

Quick little realization.

The term "style" is outdated and needs to be thrown out. It's connotations are too broad; if there can be good and bad "style," how can anything be "stylish?" Which is the worst phrase of all, because at one point in time Lisa Frank binders were stylish.

And "fashion," which is misused far too often within both the daddy's girls-with-money clique and the gay community, is so much deeper than style. And it is important. Fashion and clothing is important because it brings to the surface everything latent about a person. (That is, if they even care enough to get dressed, period.)

Are you religious? Slap on a Kabbalah bracelet, a cross necklace, the Star of David. Are you gay? It's incredibly easy to show your sexuality through clothing choice--or, as my incredibly dikey (yet entirely straight) friend Lauren puts it, "Let your rainbow flag fly." Are you smart? Are you a stoner? Are you a geek/into movies/into music?

Thoughts, aspirations, admirations, sexual longings--these are all shown through how we dress, like organs on the outside of your body. Your heart, your brain, even your stomach (those Dr. Pepper tees need to die) is on display when you throw on your unwashed button-up and mussy slacks.

So why would I buy $100 Marc Jacobs track pants? Because what he as a designer values--simplicity, volume, French culture, multiculturalism, innovation, New Americanism--part of me values, and therefore I'm giving away just a bit more of myself when I wear them. Maybe it's subtle, even unknown to the average person (the tags aren't on the outside. Obvious logos make the process of analyzing an outfit way too easy), but for people who care about dressing, who have tapped into that third-realm of perceptive communication--your only target audience--they get it. For the rest of 'em, it's like writing a sign in Japanese and expecting the Chinese to read it.

Viewed in this light, clothing becomes part of the machine, one of the cogs that drive us to our ultimate self.


Listening to Owl City's Ocean Eyes on the way home tonight, (it's actually a decent record, once you get past the sugar coated Ben Gibbard-and-rainbows surface) I reflected on the idea of a self-concept. And self-worth. And, basically, the meaning of life. I'll try and keep the ranting to a mimimum and play hardball here.

Life is all about you. This has been one of the biggest realizations of my entire life, and it had never crossed my mind until my last week living in Paris. What freedom! Life is about you, so you can be hedonistic and selfish and self-loving (and hating) all you want, because as long as it is what you want, as long as it makes you happy, it is within the progressive channel of your life and is bringing you closer to the supreme You.

And it sounds so simple, but it isn't, because every other one-track-life stoner/trust-fund kid/sorority girl/whiny blogger can say the same thing: "It's all about me." But if they aren't progressing, if the selfishness is not validated by some sort of pain (and therefore growth) or revelation or new experience, it isn't really about you, because it doesn't benefit you. It may even hurt you.

So, basically know this: the most well-lived lives of all time were spent in search of the self. Shakespeare, Hemingway, Madonna, Ralph Lauren...(also known as "the first people Dustin could think of") all put themselves first. There are new examples. Lady Gaga, Donatella Versace, Scott Schuman...

When I start referencing Donatella Versace, it's time for Dustin to go to bed. So much for hardball.


Marc Jacobs is a god, duh

Madonna, Joan Miro, and Marc Jacobs. These are the three people I admire most in my creative life. Above are a few selections he's releasing this fall. His concept of structure has no equal, nor does Kylie (the model in the middle image). Kylie's modified kimono must be seen in motion to be truly appreciated.


Preparing for the M-SAT

Amid raving tweets and (restless sleep? twisted sheets? What doesn't rhyme with "eet?")...erm, an inability to fall asleep, my thoughts last night concluded in nothing. Seriously. I thought and thought and thought and tried to funnel whatever it was I was thinking into a singlular stream of conciousness, or even a few rivulets, but I ended up falling to sleep and dreaming my thoughts all over again, but of course with the darkly humorous tilt all dreams seem to have. I had sausage stolen and took the "M-SAT" (I took a picture of a cayote howling at the moon and "got an A?" What are the criteria for the "M-SAT," dreamworld?), neither of which helped answer my questions, which in turn weren't fully formed before I fell asleep.

Thoughts about hedonism, ultimate happiness, and faith--serious questions from the perspective of a new "adult." And not entirely unrelated. Since Paris, a period of my life still lingering heavily on a day to day basis, I have tried my best to adopt more hedonistic principles, which is fairly--no, very--easy, but allowing others to fit within the same standards is difficult. Honestly, just thinking is difficult. A life spent without deep thought is really a much happier life.

And that's what it's all about. Happiness. You can work, and play, and date, and love, and travel and do whatever but unless it makes you happy there is no reason behind it. Groundbreaking stuff, I know. But it's so much harder to implement into daily life than it seems. Sometimes I just want to normalize. I want to sit in my chair/on my bed/in my yard and take a deep breath, the kind of deep breath the sickly take in Advil commercials that says, "I am free of all pain and just so satisfied with my life/husband/white wraparound porch/the boat I'm painting in the garage here on the coast of Maine." Sometimes, though, you wake up feeling shitty, you can't find a single thing to wear, you forget to grab any food, you take two wrong turns on the way to work, and then you wait idly for hours because it's a "slow day." Give me a fucking slow day when I am stressed out, not when my mind is so clogged nothing relieves the itching of my thoughts pounding their little fists against my skull but disctraction. Warm, numbing distraction.

So what to do? My first thoughts: "I need a day off." "I need more money." "I need a partner." "I need to get drunk."


I hate these kinds of blog posts. Useless and indulgent. I wouldn't post it, but I feel like my "loyal followers" would "want" to read a "new update" because they "care about [me], man."