reality is weirder than you think

Month: August 2017 (page 1 of 4)

It’s my 100th post!

Quite a few days ago now (but not quite 100), I made the decision to post every day on this blog. No matter how long or how short, it didn’t matter what happened that day: I needed to post. So far, I’ve kept that promise to myself.

I’ve noticed some changes in that time. It’s not as difficult to squeeze out 300 words after a long day, and sometimes many more words seem to spring out of my fingers. My posts are starting to suck less, although they’re far, far away from where I’d like them to be. Occasionally I post original content. There’s even a few people who stop by. (Hello!)

I’m not restricting myself to one type of content, although I do have a general direction in mind for where this blog could go. We’ll see what happens — I’m excited for the future.

So here’s to the next 100 posts. May they be full of reason, creativity, and beautiful imagery.

The Truth about Melania’s Shoes

Melania can’t get the optics right, you say? A failure in optics for whom, exactly?

Let’s see…

Embed from Getty Images

Donald and Melania, striding through the night with a wind machine at their backs, like characters from an 80s action movie come to save the day in their matching jackets and kick-ass teamwork.

Embed from Getty Images

Donald and Melania, descending from the clouds along with blue skies and a break from torrential rains, showing unity as they draw attention, resources, and strength to the Houston area.

Huh, that’s some spectacular failure right there. Looks pretty good to me.

The divisiveness over Melania’s shoes is yet another symptom of the divide that has been growing wider and wider in our country for quite some time now. Scott Adams likens it to seeing two different movies on the same screen.

I see it as upside-down world and rightside-up world. In my world, up is up, and I orient myself accordingly. In a leftist’s world, up is down, and they also orient accordingly. But when I talk about “up,” and they talk about “up,” we both think we are talking about the same thing (“up” relative to our own self) but we are objectively talking about two entirely different things altogether.

As people the post-Trump world has gotten less and less inclined to talk rationally to each other, the poles pretty much flipped. Sometime in 2016, I would have said that they were at right angles to each other — or at least not so far apart that you couldn’t connect on some level — but there was a point, probably 2 months before the election, when something clicked and we’re 180 degrees apart in perception.

So you have two audiences for Melania Trump’s optics:

  • Upside-Down World, who will always hate her no matter what because she’s married to the evil racist scary bigot orange unpresidential monster, and
  • Rightside-Up World, who are inclined to like her or are indifferent — or won’t judge her harshly simply because of who she’s married to.

Citizens of Upside-Down World don’t like that Melania wore stiletto heels on the plane and wish she would have worn something more appropriate.

Citizens of Rightside-Up World are wondering what the big deal is, and why the media is detracting from important issues like, say, catastrophic flooding in a major American city, in order to talk about a woman’s fashion choice.

Embed from Getty Images

I like this photo of her both wearing the shoes and carrying her own umbrella.It’s satisfying. Upside-Down Worlders seem to think that if a woman is wearing stilettos, she can’t do anything for herself.

Embed from Getty Images

So which is more truthful?

“Hi, I’m Melania Trump, former model who speaks 5 languages and is married to an incredibly successful and wealthy man who also happens to be President of the United States. Like most former models, I like expensive clothes. I’m in a non-flooded area wearing the type of outfit that reads ‘utilitarian’ but only on a fashion runway. These are shoes I typically wear.”


“Hi, I’m Melooneeoy Troomp, a beaten and broke down woman who is trying to rehab her image in the eyes of ‘the people.’ Even though I’m not going to be anywhere near the Cajun Navy, and literally nobody expects me to do that, I’m going to dress up in a costume like I’ll be out on the boats rescuing people anyway. Because optics.”

People in Upside-Down World need Melania to wear the sartorial equivalent of a lie, because it looks better, rather than her wearing what she would normally wear as the person that she is. Perhaps it is less of a need than a want — they want the photographic illusion that someone is helping. (Really though, they just want to nitpick and complain.)

Most of the people in Rightside-Up World understand that the President’s help is mostly on a ceremonial level — he will not be helping personally, but with policy and money and manpower and influence — and that dressing up in honest-to-goodness work clothes for a photo op would be patently ridiculous.

What Melania wears in this situation is mostly secondary, but she — as always — chooses clothes that are tasteful, that suit the (real) occasion, that align her with Trump as a team, and that project elegance.

Her outfits are so well chosen it seems like her team is a bit prescient to how the press will react. If I didn’t know better, I’d think this was planned.

Embed from Getty Images

Melania would kindly remind you who she is, and — more importantly — who you are not.

Modern Renaissance

Every once in a while, you come across regular images that evoke an artistic spirit. These aren’t images where the photographer was trying to create “ART,” but simple photos that are nonetheless striking and aesthetically coherent.

One such photo was posted by the Portland Police’s East Precinct a few days ago. Officers were deployed to a Domino’s Pizza to stop drunk customers from fighting with the pizza people (who in their right mind would mess with the pizza people?), and someone snapped a pic.

The Domino’s, lonely in the night but lit from within like its trying to withstand the darkness, reminds me of an Edward Hopper painting. The saturated colors, the well-lit windows, the strategically placed figures and barely-lit cars in the parking lot, all evoke that lonely, desolate mood–that 2:00 am mood.

Sometimes I think of art as being completely fabricated by the artist, but this goes to show that good art–the kind of art that resonates–reflects reality. And the 2:00 am desolation is common across time periods.

Good composition is also common across time periods, and Antifa graciously arranged themselves into the golden ratio for this photo. David Burge remarked on Twitter about this “Renaissance painting of stupid,” and indeed, it is.

Don’t believe it?

Indeed, all the horrific things that Antifa throws, swings, drop-kicks, hurls, and spits wold not be out of place in a Bosch painting of hell. Modern hell, but instead of cracked out Medieval fever dreams, we have cracked out Postmodern feral rioters.

So thank you, Twitizens, for showing us that art can occur in the strangest of places, even among people who are actively destroying beautiful pieces of craftsmanship across the country. Say what you will about the Confederate statues, but most of them are beautifully rendered.

Perhaps someday we will have a grandiose statue or three commemorating the Battle(s) of Berkeley and the rout of Antifa.

Melania Trump double feature

I should probably post about Milo at the VMAs yesterday, because 1. HOW DID HE GET AN INVITE? and 2. his hair was, as usual, amazing. But why talk about Milo when you could talk about the Slavic Wife of our God Emperor?

First up, a green dress with orange pumps. In theory, that sounds ghastly.

Embed from Getty Images
In reality, it’s less ghastly but I’m still not totally sure I’m on board with it. I get that it matches the orange trim of the dress, so it’s not totally out of left field, but orange and green is a really tough color combination to pull off, for anyone. And, I appreciate her bringing some style to her shoes, unlike Catherine across the pond who wears the same boring shoes over and over again.

Overall, the look works. She’s giving off major MILF vibes.

Embed from Getty Images
Next up, an outfit that reminds me of Jackie O. It’s been worn a thousand times by a thousand different types of women, and really it’s nothing to write home again. Cropped pants, ballet flats, blouse.

Melania is doing shades of pink. She tends to stay within one color family for an outfit, the “column of color” idea (except for when she doesn’t, see above). What gets me is that she takes such a steady outfit idea, and manages to look COOL wearing it.

Those sunglasses were an inspired purchase. They add just the right amount of edge to an outfit without being too outside-the-box.

Embed from Getty Images

She also does a great job of setting herself apart from the two men surrounding her–both in blue and white.

PS. I kind of love that Barron is wearing Gucci loafers.

Salary commensurate with qualifications and experience

Of all the strange things that surround job hunting, this is one of the most frustrating.

“Yes, we expect you to put your best effort into applying for this job, but we won’t tell you if the salary range we’re anticipating in the budget will cover your monthly expenses should you get it. Make it work!”

I feel like this could be a beloved insight from everyone’s favorite Associate Dean.

The Power of Glamour: A Book Review

I have a rocky relationship with the concept of glamour.

On the one hand, “glamour” has the allure of glimmering lights, sexy satin dresses and sumptuous indulgence. As a young girl growing up in the ballet, I loved the contrast between the gritty concrete of backstage and the shining lights and velvet chairs in the front of the house.

On the other, I did a lot of reading on magic and rhetoric back in my school days which introduced me to the concept of glamour in magic–the idea that one could effectively bewitch someone into seeing something that wasn’t there. Applied sophistry, if you will.

Then, of course, there’s Glamour magazine, one of the trashier but still classy mainstream fashion magazines. I rarely read Glamour, even back when I was really into fashion magazines. It was one step up from Cosmo…but that’s not saying much.

With all that in my head, I had no idea what to expect from a book called The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion. Oh, I was certainly intrigued by a book that promised to talk about visual persuasion that was not written by a stuffy academic, but there are quite a few fashion-type books that promise a lot but deliver very little. Most fashion people are people- or thing-oriented, not idea-oriented, so their books tend to focus on the what, not the why or the how.

That is not the case for this book. Author Virginia Postrel is an idea person, and she delves into deconstructing the concept of glamour and what it entails, rather than simply defining it in stylistic terms and distracting us with a lot of pretty pictures. (That is not to say that there aren’t a bunch of pretty pictures, because there are. I’m very glad I bought a hard copy of this book, because some of the photos are well worth staring at in print.) She explores the idea of glamour in various ways, and traces it through history to show the ways in which it has influenced humanity (even before the word itself was invented).

Glamour is not charisma (a personal characteristic) or romance (which implies hardship) or spectacle (which inspires awe). Glamour isn’t something one can be born with, or can purchase. Instead, glamour is much, much more.

Glamour is not a product or style but a form of communication and persuasion. It depends on maintaining exactly the right relationship between object and audience, imagination and desire.

Glamour is an effective rhetorical tool, which can be bent to the desires of the person wielding it. The effective use of glamour harnesses our desires to see what we want to see, which is often a heightened, non-real version of the world, or a “reality distortion field.” By focusing attention on what isn’t strictly Real, glamour is “always suspect” as Postrel points out, because it draws our attention away from honesty and transparency.

As I read past the definition and history of glamour into the section in which Postrel writes about its implications in the modern world, I started getting really antsy. There were a lot of connections forming around the edges of my mind, building up like clouds before a thunderstorm, of glamour and where the world has found itself. Of why, perhaps, the world has seemingly gone mad. Of why someone like Donald Trump, who surrounds himself by the trappings of glamour but who is not bound by them (case in point: his hair–not glamourous in the least), was elected President of the United States.

What we tend to think of as glamour is solidified in the trappings of the 1930s; Hollywood glamour, art-deco, and movies like Metropolis. Postrel draws a tight parallel between glamour and the Modernism of the early 20th century–the allure of central planning, globalism, and the shiny, sexy, atheist utopia.

All glamour is escapist, but not all escapism is glamour. The escape that glamour offers is of a particular type. Glamour is a way of “see what is not there,” not simply forgetting what is there. Although glamour does provide immediate pleasure, it doesn’t numb or distract desire. To the contrary, it intensifies longings by giving them an object. Glamour thus implies and fosters hope, from individual aspiration to collective utopian dreams.

To me, then, either glamour is in bed with the forces within history that are trying to draw our world into one centralized, pre-planned horror show, or those forces have done a stellar job of harnessing the power of glamour to propagandize for their own purposes. The fact that Postrel herself uses Barack Obama as an example of glamour, indicates that the latter is true. To further support that theory, Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue magazine, does her best to glamorize favored candidates like Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama. But is that to say that the Left is inherently glamourous? Or does it depend on glamour to stay alive?

On a more practical note, this book is useful both to understand the glamour in the world around us, and as a guidebook for bending glamour for our own purposes. I’ve enjoyed watching Mike Cernovich step up his style game this summer after he read and recommended this book. Idea people tend to dismiss artifice as unnecessary, even though the visual elements of persuasion are just as important as the ideas and worlds encapsulated in those visual elements.

The right pair of sunglasses, for example, are key:

Glamourous sunglasses, after all, highlight as well as veil. They call attention to the face, most of which remains visible, and even the darkest lenses allow a hint of eye to show every now and then, when the light is just right. (Mirror shades, by contrast, are less glamourous than intimidating.)

Good visual style, then, is as much about the ideas behind the style as it is about the next “must have” sunglasses or newest, hottest designer. Glamour can be cultivated in one’s look, posture, hair, clothes, style of speaking, and also in the words one uses–the picture one paints of the future.

Glamour is an extremely powerful tool that it seems we can’t live without, even though it focuses our desires away from what is real. We need hope and desire in our lives–what else would drive us forward?–and most of us are intelligent enough to understand where the fantasy ends and where reality begins.

Does that reconcile for me the problems with glamour? Is glamour rescued from its associations with sophistry and deception? Short answer, no. Glamour is alluring, but will always be suspect, because truth is hard enough to find on this earth without extra layers of perception getting in the way.

If used right, it could be the ultimate “lie that tells the truth.”

Go read The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion

Do you matter? (It’s a good question)

And that question is: did the person who posted these signs really think about what she was doing? I’m going to assume it was a she.

I keep imagining the story behind these signs. It’s probably some well-meaning SJW type, or an overly earnest do-gooder. She just wants to make people feel better, like they matter, because truly in her heart of hearts she just loves every everybody in the whole wide world. And that guy had these signs left over from the last protest and let’s put them out on the fence for the whole world to see and remember that they are loved.

When earnestness overtakes logistics: a cautionary tale.

Maybe it doesn’t matter how you read it or how it was intended, but what really matters is which message you take away, like the pithy saying version of a rorschach test, or that old lady/young lady illusion drawing (personally I usually see the young lady).

It’s a good reminder, at least, that 1. despite our best intentions, what we intend to communicate doesn’t always come across, and 2. people can look at exactly the same thing and come to two (or possibly more) completely contradictory conclusions about it.

People usually see exactly what they want to see. No more, no less.

That makes it difficult to assess real, true judgements of things, because I see what I want to see just as much as everybody else, despite the fact that I endeavor to see things as they really are.

On the other hand, we can use it to our advantage, like creating and exploiting a good reputation.

Just bear in mind that there will always be someone who comes along and reads side-to-side instead of up and down.

Covfefe will bring us together

It’s been interesting to watch Trump-isms trickle into the general lexicon, especially of people who hate him. Twice in the past two days I’ve come across the infamous “covfefe” as slang for coffee. Both times, from people who are not fans of Trump.

One was in person, with some coworkers at breakfast. We had gone a little too long without the waitress’s attention, and one needed her covfefe fix.

The other was on Instagram, just two gals posting a selfie while they got some covfefe.

I’m used to Trump-isms being thrown around by pro-Trump people. What I’m not used to is anti-Trump people both using a Trump-ism non-ironically AND not also going off into a tailspin about how much they hate him.

Unlike, say, if an anti-Trump references making something great again.

One side likes him for using sometimes-inexplicable words; the other side hates him, especially when he uses inexplicable words. Perhaps the way to bridge that gap is by introducing an inexplicable word that has no meaning.

Except we’ve all filled in a meaning for it, and that meaning is COFFEE.

It’s slipped into people’s heads without triggering the normal anti-Trump defenses, and has stuck there. It’s been 3 months since the original tweet.

I’m curious to see if Trump can do that same thing with a policy, or an action, something more than just a word on Twitter. Some inexplicable, yet easily defined through strength of association, that both fulfills what each side sees in him yet allows all of us, collectively, to “decide” the definition.

If people can accept covfefe, maybe they really can accept Trump as their president.

Salad Days

It’s one of those days. You know what I mean. It wasn’t a bad day, but nothing went quite as planned. I’m a little discombobulated and a lot tired, sitting at my desk. It’s 11:52 pm. I’m eating prosciutto out of the carton and have no idea what to write.

Solution: I’ll name this post “salad days,” after the chapters in L.M. Montgomery books in which she strung together a bunch of journal entries from one of her heroines in order to signify time passing and convey a lot of small, random life updates.

Without further ado:

  • Today marks the end of my 3rd month eating only animal products. Moving forward, I need to continue to whittle out dairy and see what happens. Interesting side note: I had previously thought that I was eating too much fat in general, but it may be that I was eating too much cheese in general. Sad for me, because I love cheese, but probably good for my insides.
  • Not sure what day we’re on for the water-only washing method, but my hair is adapting nicely. I’ve been rinsing nearly every morning in the shower, and some days I can wear my hair down all day. The key is to comb out my hair every night before bed. I’m taking a page from someone on YouTube and bought some Orange Blossom Water (she used rosewater; I’m happy with the Orange Blossom because it has an element of bitterness to balance out the floral perfume) to spray on my hair and make it smell delicious. That’s one downside of not using haircare products: nothing goes in your hair to make it smell nice.
  • I’ve made steps toward a motivated mastermind group. Plans (real, live, executable plans) are in the works. This is probably why I didn’t sleep so well last night. My mind was too busy planning. In related news, sleep remains the most difficult thing to get in my quest for health.
  • This artwork for the making-of version of Taeyang’s White Night album:

From the archives: Illuminated Letters

Yesterday’s post of advice from the point of view of an illustrator got me thinking about what it would be like to be a freelance illustrator. It’s easy to romanticize that kind of life (the ~bohemian artist~ ideal) when you’re not stuck in the hustle and grind of the day-to-day.

It’s also easy to overlook the fact that it takes YEARS to get good at what you do. The smart ones of us start early. The dumb ones of us take 9 years into an office career to realize that administration is slowly killing our souls. (Ahem.)

One of the things that brought me great joy during a dark winter a few years ago was inking postcard-sized illuminated letters. I would work on these in my little studio apartment after dinner, sketching and erasing and painting with india ink.

The final product was more polished in my memory (that’s the problem with doing things in the real world–they never quite live up to your own expectations) but I’m still fairly happy with them. I realize in retrospect that there’s merit in using art supplies the way they were designed to be used. For instance, I used ink like watercolor. It probably would have worked better if I had used actual watercolor.

Overall I still like the idea. I’d love to explore what might happen if we ask the question “What if Edward Gorey did illuminated letters?” The combination of gothic style with Medieval symbolism could be really fun.

I’ve been plotting to break out my art supplies again, to get some ink under my fingernails. I dragged my work table out from storage and set it up in my bedroom, so I have dedicated space for projects. Tomorrow I’ll be stopping by an art supply store for better pencils and some inking pens and possibly a tiny kit of watercolors.

Art supply stores are dangerously full of possibilities. We’ll see what awaits on the other side.

Older posts

© 2018 Batfort

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑