Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dragonflies Appear

Like the fish bone skeleton necklace I wore earlier this week, this silver dragonfly brooch is a remnant of my grandmother's, Meemaw's, collection, excavated from the dark confines of some drawer by my adolescent self years ago. Since I was pairing the piece with a boldly patterned black and silver silk dress, I slipped it through a light chain, rather than pin it on the delicate fabric, for fear of tearing. Also like the fish bone skeleton, the dragonfly has a sculptural element to it, a dimension and a texture, which I enjoy immensely and find to be delightfully peculiar.

Dragonflies, as with all insects, journey through a physiological and developmental life cycle from egg to adult, where the final mature stage, and the most commonly recognized body form within the lay community, is frequently the most brief. The dragonfly is an exaggeration of this movement from egg to pupa to adult, the thin body and bulbous eyes and ephemerally translucent beating wings of the adult generally only lasting a few hours, a fleeting, transient existence to mate and to propagate. A brief and tumultuous reproductive dance, then a quick thrusting demise. This sturdy piece is a manifestation of defiance to that biologic cycle; it is the adult dragonfly forever encased, transience captured and encapsulated in a world of silver.

As for the black and silver silk dress, featuring this pattern, a shorter skirt, and full kimono-inspired sleeves, it was pulled from the closet early Wednesday with little to no forethought; it is a single piece and it is comfortable, ideal for another gray and dreary day in the northeast. My job, as of late, has become consciously and subconsciously consuming, even invading my normally bizarrely deranged but pleasant peaceful dreams, a rather unwelcome and disturbing succubus. Upon entering the conference room for an introductory meeting for a large new project, I was immediately and excitedly told that my dress pattern was indeed a mimicry of the corporate logo for one of our favorite bureaucratic behemoth clients. If you can guess which pharmaceutical dinosaur, you will win nothing tangible, but you will leave me bemusedly impressed and garner some admiration from myself.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Westoxification, Orientalism, and Why I Love my Father

My father is far from being a perfect man; like all other brothers and sisters of this species, across times and geographies and civilizations, he has his flaws: he is vehemently stubborn, he does not always listen first and can be quick to judge in certain areas, particularly emotional realms he finds uncomfortable, he can be a grouch, he can be afraid to try something new and different and potentially fail or be humiliated. That being said, my father loves myself, and my older sister and younger brother, more deeply than anything, organic or not, on this planet. Though his decisions and his actions, naturally, occasionally manifest his very human flaws, I always know this fact, this power of feeling; it is almost palpable, almost a being I can wrap up into my arms, tightly, when I am sad or lonely or frustrated.

Part of this intense love for his children, for his daughters, is a great amount of admiration and respect for us. Growing up, a young girl in a politically and economically stable nation, the most affluent and powerful in the world, within a respectable and educated upper middle class family, I was reminded constantly of my own potential, as blossoming bright and beautiful woman, and as a blossoming bright and beautiful human, my intelligence and inquisitive nature and my thirst for new challenges and knowledge always encouraged and bolstered. Though throughout my childhood we enacted and maneuvered through the traditional paternal-offspring roles of pedagogy and guidance, as enforced by biological and social histories, at the foundation, my father saw and continues to see me as an equal.

Every day, my father rose early, donned a tailored suit and tie, and worked his way through corporate America as a businessman, so that my sister, brother, and I could be permitted any educational opportunity we desired. Every day, he reminded me I could accomplish anything my heart and my mind desired, anything I could dream of, and was willing to work hard for. Every day, from an early age, whether I was entering the warm and maternal confines of an elementary schoolroom or running wildly across the grassy fields of the local lacrosse field, he infused me with self-confidence, always reminding me that I deserved the respect of any and all in my path, again, respect as a woman and as a person.

(image taken from The London Lounge)

The father-daughter relationship and the father's perception of his own daughter's femininity and humanity are crucial in the creation of communities, societies, cultures, and governments that foster equality. If a father treats his own offspring, his own daughters, as property, as pawns within the power struggles of political and economic exchanges, as a type of bartering system, permission is implicitly granted to all other community members to follow suit. She will follow suit, without experience or influence otherwise.

The fight for global female equality and sexual liberation is long, it is arduous, it is complicated with historical intellectual and tangible artifacts, and it is far from over; similarly, the proverbial fight for greater peace and stability in the Middle East is long, it is arduous, obscured with long histories and traditions and ideologies, and it is far from over. Inherently, according to the laws of genetics, half of any human population, without any intervening external forces, is female. Change of any kind, political, economic, religious, is severely hampered without the positive power of this other critical half.

(image taken from Eclectic Jewelry and Fashion)

In lending my support to my dear friend Diana sharing her personal story and her global, and Arabic world oriented, feminist and sexual views, I commented on her blog link on Facebook. Typically and traditionally, I view Facebook purely as a frustratingly and aggravatingly convenient modern social media tool, and not as an appropriate forum for intellectual and political dialogue; however, stepping away from naivety, and cognizant of the information technology movement and evolution, I recognize its inherent participation in these types of discourses, whether I like it or not. Her Lebanese born and raised cousin was quick to respond to my brief words elaborating on Diana's message of the importance of female equality and sexual liberation as a necessary parallel mechanism to political and cultural change in the Middle East, quick to instigate and call me out on my ideals and slander me with Western ignorance, with displacement and translocation of Western thought to a historically and culturally altogether different geopolitical arena.

I completely understood Diana's cousins cause for alarm, her disease with Diana's forthright views and calls for change, and was in turn quick to clarify my intentions, and responded in kind (much of this indeed is verbatim): it is an idealist statement, my expressed desire for the fetters of inequality to be removed from the female population; we must maneuver pragmatically in our environment, in its politics and economic exchanges, in its social relationships, in its history and culture, however, our ideals can aid as a true and powerful compass. Applying Western political, religious, and social ideologies, as well its subsequent historical lessons and stories, which like those of the turbulent Middle Eastern region, also continue to be written and developed, is not only irrelevant to a region rich with its own people and past, it is indeed toxic. Orientalism created and perpetuated by Western thought and media has served to only exacerbate the issues of inequality, at the base of other political and social ramifications, notably fostering a landscape and an image democratically nonviable. A visual manifestation of Westoxification, replete with genderized political undertones, can be seen in the above image of a vintage Harper's Bazar cover from 1915; aesthetically, it is stunning, an immaculate mix of illustrated patterns and colors, but it is not without impact on our cultural and political collective subconscious.

As a concerned observer to Arab political and economic happenings, and as an active member of the global feminist community, and the global humanity community, I merely want to raise awareness to the issues of female inequality as foundational to other social, cultural, political ills, both in the East and in the West; again, we account for half of any natural population, and certainly need to demand our own rights. Our fathers and brothers, our lovers, need to listen, to give respect and earn ours in kind, and work along with us in order to enact true change.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sex and the Middle East: Banishing Patriarchy with Sexual Liberation

One of my best, dearest, and oldest friends, as in we spent our childhoods together and met at the tender age of seven, and fellow writer, Diana, shared a painfully personal and geopolitically and culturally relevant story today, contributing to the ever expanding dialogue on liberating the women, and the men, of the Middle East. Her words are touching and poignant, and her argument is elegant and founded, echoing the recent waves made by Lebanese feminist and political and social activist Joumana Haddad. I will not tamper with her eloquence, please check out her post here .

Diana is a beautiful, intelligent, introspective, empowered woman, with steadfast ideals, an acute wit, and, naturally, impeccable style and aesthetic tastes. I am extremely proud of her, and all of her accomplishments.

(Joumana Haddad image taken from The Huffington Post)

Outfit for a Tuesday: The Stars are Beautiful

Feeling as of late as though I have been soporifically soaring in some dream-like trance, after a long weekend and desperate desires for spring weather, intoxicatingly tired and fruitless hopes, I chose this sheer silken top for my Tuesday look: speckled and dotted, the pattern is consistently erratic, like the spread of stars in the midnight sky.

The polka dots are ever so slightly different sizes.

This top has three-quarter length sleeves, which are slightly full and ruffled towards the end. Typically, I close-mindedly write off fuller sleeves, finding them matronly or uncomely, but these are slight and serve to add some flow and movement to the top.

The polka dots are a light cream color, so I paired the top with one of my favorite skirts, a light camel pencil; the skirt hem graces my kneecap and is fitted, thankfully without giving the stuffed sausage illusion. Pencil skirts are perpetually flattering, especially with a neatly tucked in top and a great pair of pumps, but only if the skirt is appropriately sized and proportioned.

The pocket and button details along the back of the skirt create another compelling reason to ensure the ideal fit, a bit hugging, without squeezing or pushing. These accents, along with a subtly suggestive and hinting slit at the bottom, draw the eye to the long lines of the female leg, again, further accentuated when coupled with some higher heels.

I purchased this necklace for a mere 5$ over the weekend while up in Providence; my original intention was to discard the farce cameo completely, and use the chain to repair my broken necklace, which I carped on and on about a few weeks ago. Much to my chagrin, the chain cannot be strung through a majority of the beads, and so, I suppose this necklace will remain intact. My search for a durable gold chain, and a slightly thinner one, continues.

Black suede pumps, with a tall tapered heel; I took advantage for the surprising lack of rain and precipitation this morning. With regards to the artistic allusion in this post's title, if you are at all interested in experimental or short film, seek out the prolific and fantastic Stanley Brakhage; his short "The Stars are Beautiful" is, simply, beautiful, for the romantic, the sentimental, the awe-and-wonder-filled. It visually and verbally depicts a flirtatious game, played between Mr. Brakhage and his wife. Naturally, the dear filmmaker shared this piece with me, and I was touched.

Tuesday morning commute soundtrack: "Lammicken" Braids; "Mad World" Tears for Fears; "The Slow Descent" Colder; "Smelling Cigarettes" the Fiery Furnaces; "How Soon is Now?" the Smiths; "Shine On Heaven" White Magic

Monday, March 28, 2011

Providence: Eats, Drinks, and Merriment

To start my weekend of gorging on delicious food, Rebecca and her beau took me to an intimate and sophisticatedly casual local restaurant, called La Laiterie; adjacent to a cheese shop, this establishment prided itself in small plates and entrees showcasing various meats and cheeses.

After spending about five hours bumping and being jostled in a large and rectangular public transportation vehicle, amidst some other upstanding citizens of humanity, and the expected flotsam and jetsam of society, I really wanted a nice, stiff cocktail. The bus ride was well worth it, as these images will depict, for it was a truly lovely weekend, but I am still thankful for the relaxation afforded me by this alcoholic concoction. Dubbed a Bee's Knees cocktail, it featured gin and lavender; if not a fan of potent floral overtones, beware. Such a pleasantly pink drink was a perfect start to a girls' weekend of eating and drinking.

The precise name of Rebecca's cocktail escapes me; it featured mezcal and an egg white, so was both frothy and refreshing. I always enjoy a single drink before dinner, to prepare for the meal, and offer some time to just sit and converse with my party.

Chicken liver mousse with some French bread crostini; very delicious and smooth.

Headcheese, or brawn; also very delicious. This was my first time dabbling in cured brains and the like, and I enjoyed the flavor immensely.

Medium-rare bacon wrapped skirt steak, in a light au jus, garnished and accented with mushrooms and thin slivers of sweet potato. Sinfully delicious; I cleaned my plate. I paired the red meat with a strong, rough, untamed red wine, a bonarda from Argentina. Somehow, in our zeal in devouring the small plate, the macaroni and cheese Rebecca and I shared neglected to be documented.

Following dinner, we gossiped and giggled with a boxed wine, for the record, the best box wine I have ever had; Rebecca's recommendation.

Saturday morning we rose early to head to the esteemed Providence farmer's market, which is indoors, thankfully, until it finally thaws. Live music played on what were certainly hand-crafted locally made instruments entertained young, future hippies.

Local soda, in all the traditional flavors; I sampled the root beer with my lunch, and it was divine, not overly sweet, a bit smokey, very full flavored. Ideal for a root beer float.

Local root vegetables, some of the only available vegetables at this time of year, and in this temperature, outside of green houses.

Believe it or not, this display of seemingly delicious baked goods is actually a display of delicious dog treats; I am almost certain humans would not be able to tell the difference. What sugary charlatan work.

Local plucked chickens, resting idly on some ice.

Some local jams and dipping sauces; I indulged in the blueberry-dark chocolate jam, a perfect and subtle pairing.

Deep red onions; I liked the color.

Both my older sister Elizabeth and my younger brother Adam have learned the art and science of bee keeping, and honey making, and for that I am eternally jealous. Maybe one of them will own a country home soon and can teach me.

Alpaca yarn is neutrally colored and always so soft.

This gentleman would sharpen your kitchen knives while you wait.

Buckets of shellfish, the pride of New England.

Very useful diagram of the various cuts of meat from a pig, found on the side of a great hot-dog truck.

Sausage topped with egg salad.

Ancestors hailing from Bavaria and Prussia, I was destined to choose the bratwurst with the curried onion sauce; it was handed to me steaming hot, freshly made with a large bun, powerful enough to encase and support the meat. I stood up and ate this wantonly, without care for utensils or napkins.

Honey cookies circling a thick and healthy layer of chocolate ganache; again, motif for this post, too delicious to be true.

True Moroccan mint and green tea, served with sugar cubes, in this glass cup that was initially too warm to lift.

The tea pot; after a day of meandering throughout the town, wandering in and out of various stores, Rebecca and I split this pot of tea. More gossiping and giggling ensued.

Rebecca snagged this quick shot of me, sitting in the center of the intense grasp of the sun's rays. I felt sort of lame keeping my sunglasses on inside, but it truly was uncomfortably bright.

Saturday evening, Rebecca invited over a group of her friends for a dinner party, in honor of a fun visit and the commencement of spring break, a very welcomed and all too brief respite from hours of critical theory and other texts, both sensical and non; she prepared a lovely meal for us all. Above is the marinated leg of lamb, without bones; this hunk of meat had basked in the flavors of some lemon and thyme for a few hours before roasting in the oven.

Paired with the lamb were some rough cut potatoes, also flavored with thyme. Rebecca also made a delicious carrot soup, from coconut milk and lime juice, which I intend to make later this week.

To drink while preparing food, or in my case, applying copious amounts of shimmering eye shadow, and waiting for the party, Rebecca suggested a pinot blanc; I do not recall ever trying this varietal before, and though Rebecca had only sampled some from Oregon, we opted for one from the Alsatian region of France. As would be expected, it had a slightly sweet finish to it, reminiscent of many German whites, but I found it to be quite suitable for drinking, especially without a food pairing.

Last, and, tritely, certainly not least, my beautiful, beautiful hostess, queen of her own independent cult of domesticity, looking radiant and ravishing in a wrap dress; she intends to stay in Providence for the summer, between semesters, so I will definitely be visiting once more. Next time, hopefully, it will be beach weather.