Saturday, October 13, 2007

Monorail cat

Ok, I'm sure the majority of the planet has already seen this, but I've finally gotten wind of and LOLcats. I'm not normally predisposed to this sort of thing, but this is a winner:

monorail cat

Chain of succession

I'm sure there are plenty of evolutionary theorists out there who have already beaten this subject to death. What I'm about to write is hardly anything new. But for someone like me, an armchair theorist who has been out of college life for over ten years since grad school, my pursuit of knowledge is nowhere near as concentrated as it was years ago. I fit in my "intellectual" time when I can, which nowadays is mostly either on the toilet or on the train. In any case, on those days on the subway when I don't have the New Yorker or a Savage Love podcast, my thoughs wander and I find myself in contemplation.

This week, as I passed by from Brooklyn to NYC overlooking the Gowanus canal (which apparently has gonorrhea), I started to think about waterways and how things came to be this massive city, and how it took millions of years for us to be where we are right now, smack in the middle of advanced civilization. I started to wonder what the first man and woman were like, and whether they had any idea that this was what we would become. I really tried to feel those millions of years, and of course my little brain couldn't wrap its head around that much time (and if my brain is inside my head, then that phrase can't be logical, but I digress...).

I found myself awash in visions of Adam and Eve, cavorting in the jungle. Then it hit me: there never really was a first. Not explicitly, and not in a way that those "first" would ever have realized, nor would be possible to pinpoint. Humans didn't just spring fully-formed from the head of Zeus, er, God. No! As with all other living things, we are an accretion of those very first cells that came together somewhere in the water and eventually merged and divided until increasingly more complex forms of life were created. There never was a "First Man" or "First Woman." It was all a chain of succession where beings came to be, somehow reproduced, and continued to "refine" themselves genetically over millions of years.

If one could actually pinpoint the first "man," it's possible that he actually mated with a slightly genetically inferior version of a female (meaning that Adam and Eve were not genetic "equals"), which then maybe produced the first genetically superior female, or vice versa. And so on. There is no such thing as a first. Ever. We just came to be. But not out of nowhere. And the truth of our origins is a slippery, but not impossible mess when we realize that our human need to categorize, label and contain is both our weakness and our strength. There are times when we have to let go of our cultural fantasies that try to explain to us the unknowable. There is no Adam and Eve. But, we did come from an unplottable somewhere (from where we currently stand in time) and that is what we have to take on faith.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Apple apprehension

My iPhone touch screen broke. Half of it just stopped working--the bottom two inches no longer responded to touch. Which, in effect, turned it into the brick that so many others have experienced due to downloading unauthorized software (for the record, I think it's total crap that Apple is trying to prevent people from putting non-Apple software on their phones). In any case, between the horrible price-drop that screwed me, the Apple software fascism and my now-useless iPhone, I was really, really annoyed and concerned about my iPhone breaking. I assumed I'd wait in line for hours and from what I've read online, I'd have no phone for 3+ days while it was sent out for repair. V suggested I book an appointment at the GBar (I refuse to use their stupid name). I arrived 5 minutes early, waited about 5 minutes, was seen on time. The Apple employee was super-courteous, pleasant and replaced my iPhone immediately. I walked out very happy. Now I just have to go home and re-sync it to get my contacts back. Fantastico!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Burberry and Me

This Saturday, I was extremely tempted to buy a Burberry jacket for $400. The fit was far superior to anything else I've tried on. The only drawback was that it was a slightly lighter weight than I wanted. Still, the fit was so good that I was nearly ready to plunk down the money on the spot even though the price was greater than I wanted to spend. It hugged my shape in the right spots, and clearly could be dressed up or down, and wouldn’t go out of style any time soon. I’d consider it a legitimate clothing “investment” piece that would last for years. (And “years” it could give me--when I went up one size from the XS to the S, I suddenly was swimming in it and looked like a 50 yr. old well-to-do housewife.)

I held off, kept looking around, and picked up a nice but clearly inferior and more casual Kenneth Cole Reaction jacket, which I was able to get for $100 on sale on the assumption that I would just return it if I got the Burberry. I tried on the Burberry again for about another 30 minutes. In the end, I decided to pass for the moment because it was an item I coul
d pick up in the city (we were in a large suburban mall) and there was no need for an immediate purchase. V, on the other hand, found something a lot more unique—a Mackage trench coat. Mackage makes the hottest jackets around. V bought herself the “Lujane" in black and it's incredible--looks like she should be pulling major weaponry out from under the jacket and spinning in slow-motion a la The Matrix. It's better a) in person and b) in black

But back to Burberry. On Sunday morning, I opened the New York Times and saw an ad for some new development on the Upper East Side depicting a doorman holding the door for a woman with a stroller and two children wearing the very same Burberry jacket. I nearly tossed my cookies. Not because of the children. Because of the particular class and type of woman that was represented. Is this the Burberry-wearing self-image that I want to show the world? I have no doubt I can rock the Burberry. I have a Burberry bikini that I wear with irony because it's so not who I really am, yet it’s cute at the same time. I am naked with the bikini, my barest self--and yet I somehow feel I can “win” and be more than just $140 worth of skimpy tartan spandex.

But there's nothing ironic about the jacket. Per that advertisement, that kind of jacket says, "I have money. I am socially conservative and tasteful. I have a wealthy husband. I'm popping out the requisite 2.2 children so as to genetically replace ourselves in fulfillment of our reproductive duty. And I am flaunting it all in my Burberry way." Egads! This is so not the style in which I choose to live my life. That kind of grossly conspicuous consumption is sort of sickening to my ingrained Western sense of individuality, but clearly that’s just my own internal set point. Is my wearing the Burberry jacket a subversion or a sign of complicity that I long for a social status that is the envy of the majority of the population? I’m drawn to it, so in some way I must want what it represents. I do like representations of power through wealth. But at the same time, I’m frightened of being overshadowed by that very brand. This brand is iconic. I’m not sure I can subvert the implications of that jacket merely by my very existence. Do we control brands or do they control us? Is our individuality eroded? And to what degree? It’s never erased in the spiritual sense that what we are inside is indelible, but people make assumptions about us based on our style every day.

Style is important—what we wear can make a world of difference in our self-esteem. However, we risk being trampled by the meanings associated with brands. Take a brand like Mackage—it’s a luxury brand. No denying that. But, it’s also not a household name, and the designs are very, very stylized, which means it’s not something that will be worn by very many people simply because few can carry it off (and for the record, that trench coat looks a LOT better on V than me—it doesn’t fit my body). However, that trench coat can make a person feel powerful, but seemingly in a way that I personally find less threatening to my sense of self, or rather, sells me a version of a person that I want to be that is very different from Burberry. The trench coat gives the person a fantasy of looking like a kind of comic book hero—a high fashion maverick, full of autonomy and agency, imbued with super powers to save the world. Maybe that fantasy appeals to me more than the fantasy of an Upper East Side socialite, and my own personal illusion of control over a brand to augment or diminish my personality is really the arbiter of my taste and the appeal. After all, brands are castles in the sky, or co-ops on Central Park West or the Bat Cave. And through our brands, we show people where we emotionally live.


So, where did I decide to live? I couldn’t find an exact match online, but this will give you the idea.