Thursday, February 26, 2015


Dear all,

I know, its been ages. This blog is in the process of migration to Wordpress, but in the meantime I'm experimenting with a swifter, briefer, more smart-phone accessible format - Tumblr.

Here's the link:

Download the app, and stop by as often as you can!

See you...


Friday, June 27, 2014

A puzzle for your weekend; or, how is Hilary like Kim Kardashian?

Ladies, this is not a political comment. I actually have nothing against Hilary Clinton. Truly. It is just that she has been making the press rounds saying all kinds of really silly things about her personal income (just FYI her speaking fee is 200K per talk). Her daughter (whose spectacular multi million  apartment in NYC was featured in some design mag) made things worse by professing 'not to care about money'. Enter Newt Gingrich, himself a rather insane US political figure - who, it has to be mentioned, has quite the history with the Clintons - and utters the following gem:

Wait, what?! Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich compared former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Kim Kardashian on CNN’s Crossfire on Tuesday, June 24.
“You have to understand the problem Bill has,” Gingrich started while discussing how former President Bill Clinton came out defending his wife, Clinton, who recently revealed they were “dead broke” when they left the White House. “Bill is to politics what Fred Astaire is to dancing, he is just automatically amazing and he wants to have Ginger Rogers out there dancing,” the former House Speaker went on.
“Instead [with Hillary Clinton] it’s a little bit like watching Kim Kardashian get kicked off the stage by Prince because she couldn’t dance,” he concluded in reference to when the reality star was booted off stage by the iconic singer in 2011 at a concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (In case you missed it, Mrs. West was invited on stage by Prince, until she started dancing and he yelled, “Get off the stage!”)
Gingrich didn’t stop there. When it came to politics and the former First Lady, the 71-year-old continued his dance metaphor.
“I think there’s a big problem, because I don’t think, as a candidate, that [she] dances very well,” Gingrich said.


Archival porn

Stashes of porn hidden in dusty archives, stored but not fingered, are something of a lovely oxymoron, no?

Inside the Soviet Union's Secret Erotica Collection

Joy Neumeyer for The Moscow Times

In the depths of the Russian State Library, Marina Chestnykh takes the creaking elevator up to the ninth floor. She walks past stack after stack of books behind metal cages, the shelves barely visible in the dim light from the frosted-glass windows. This is the spetskhran, or old special storage collection — the restricted-access cemetery for material deemed “ideologically harmful” by the Soviet state.
She arrives at a cage in the floor’s back corner. When she inserts a key in the padlock, the door swings open to reveal thousands of books, paintings, engravings, photographs and films — all, in one way or another, connected to sex.
It was the kinkiest secret in the Soviet Union: Across from the Kremlin, the country’s main library held a pornographic treasure trove. Founded by the Bolsheviks as a repository for aristocrats’ erotica, the collection eventually grew to house 12,000 items from around the world, ranging from 18th-century Japanese engravings to Nixon-era romance novels.
Off limits to the general public, the collection was always open to top party brass, some of whom are said to have enjoyed visiting. Today, the spetskhran is no more, but the collection is still something of a secret: There is no complete compendium of its contents, and many of them are still unlisted in the catalogue.
“We chose to preserve it intact, as a relic of the era when it was created,” Chestnykh said.
Chestnykh, who traverses the drafty stacks in a purple knit poncho, is the collection’s main overseer. After joining the library in the 1980s, she only learned of its existence in the 1990s, when she was asked to help reassign its holdings to a different department.
Did its contents come as a surprise?
“Yes and no,” she said. “There was a special collection, so I knew something pretty special had to be kept there.”
The collection’s story begins in the 1920s, when the Bolsheviks turned what was once the Rumyantsev arts museum  into the country’s national library. As the newly anointed Lenin Library began amassing new literature, it also opened a rare book department to house compromising materials, acquired primarily from confiscated noble libraries.
One of the most stunning items seized from an unknown owner is “The Seven Deadly Sins,” an oversized book of engravings self-published in 1918 by Vasily Masyutin, who also illustrated classics by Pushkin and Chekhov. Among its depictions of gluttony is a large woman masturbating with a ghoulish smile.
Before the revolution, it was fashionable among the upper classes to assemble so-called knigi dlya dam, or “Ladies’ Books,” a kind of bawdy scrapbook. Anostentatious leather-bound album with “Kniga Dlya Dam” embossed in gold on the cover opens to reveal a Chinese silk drawing of an entwined couple. Farther on, dozens of engravings show aristocratic duos fornicating in sumptuously upholstered settings.
Erotica was also consumed by Russia’s masses, as evidenced by a set of pamphlets from the 1910s. A pamphlet labeled “Pikantnaya Biblioteka,” or “Naughty Library” containing a tale from the 14th century Italian classic “Decameron” and a story titled “A Consultation,” retailed for 50 kopeks. On the cover, a satanic figure grips a silky-tressed damsel in distress.
In the 1930s, increasing control over books led to hundreds of new additions. Items deemed inappropriate now extended to Soviet writings on sexuality from the previous decade, when abortion was legalized and Alexandra Kollontai, the most famous woman in the Bolshevik government, called for the destruction of the traditional family — a movement reversed under Stalin.
One 1927 publication provided a round up of scientific research into birth control methods. Another title from the same year looked at “Delinquency in the Sphere of Sexual Relations,” with charts on subjects such as “The Social Composition of Sex Criminals.”
The collection got its biggest boost from Nikolai Skorodumov, who began collecting books while at school, and eventually became the deputy director of the Moscow State University library. The librarian led a quiet personal life, taking on his maid as a common-law wife, but his appetite for books was voracious. Interested in rare Russian material as well as foreign acquisitions from France, Germany, the U.S. and beyond, Skorodumov kept collecting until his death in 1947.
Among Skorodumov’s treasures was a portfolio of drawings and watercolors by the avant-garde titan Mikhail Larionov. Made in the 1910s, they are no less scandalous in today’s Russia. One pencil sketch features a happily panting dog standing in front of a human, who is engaged in much more than petting. A watercolor depicts two soldiers having an intimate encounter on a bench.
How did Skorodumov amass such a collection when owning a foreign title could result in a Gulag sentence?

First, he was careful to frame it within the discourse of communist ideology, receiving documents from a variety of organizations attesting to its scientific value. Ivan Yermakov, the director of the soon-to-be-disbanded State Psychoanalytic Institute, provided one such letter in 1926:
“Sexuality demands serious and rigorous scientific examination, particularly as it has played such an extensive role in the evolution of culture and daily life,” wrote Yermakov, who published many of Freud’s works in Russian for the first time. “It is highly important to preserve the collection in unadulterated form as a socially valuable work.”
There is also a second theory. Stalin’s secret police chief Genrikh Yagoda — a pornography aficionado whose apartment reportedly held a dildo collection — is said to have enjoyed viewing Skorodumov’s holdings. Librarians believe that he personally ensured the latter’s safety.
After Skorodumov’s death, the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB, raided his collection. According to a letter sent by library director Vasily Olishev to the Council of Ministers, a post-mortem search of his apartment revealed a staggering 40,000 items, 1,763 of which were “books of an erotic nature” while 5,000 were “pornographic or vulgar” brochures and magazines.
The Soviet state snapped up the collection from Skorodumov’s widow for 14,000 rubles, then a considerable sum. However, Olishev was careful to note that the money did not extend to the erotica.
“The library did not deem it appropriate to pay citizen Burovaya [Skorodumov widow] for the erotic literature, broadsheets and magazines, as this literature presents neither scientific nor historical value to the library’s readers, and is an especially harmful vestige of bourgeois ideology,” he wrote.
For just this reason, however, it was necessary to hang on to it: “The Lenin Library did not deem it appropriate to return literature of such a harmful nature to citizen Burovaya, as its possession in the home of a private citizen presents considerable danger.”
Safely ensconced in the spetskhran, the erotica collection became available for viewing by top Stalinist henchmen. According to legend, they included the mustachioed cavalry officer and civil war hero Semyon Budyonny and grandfatherly Mikhail Kalinin, the longtime figurehead of the Soviet state.
“They were supposedly interested in the visual stuff — postcards, photos,” Chestnykh said. A Politburo member did not need a pass: “No one could refuse them.”
The collection’s most recent additions date from the 1960s to the 1980s, when racy-looking materials — often in English — were confiscated at customs.
“There was no system to it,” Chestnykh said. “They just took whatever seemed inappropriate.”
They bear a variety of purple stamps from the state censor, the meaning of whose numbers — 170, 230 — is puzzling even for librarians.
What resulted is a truly random assemblage: an album of Beatles photographs, an anti-homosexuality screed called “Gay is Not Good,” multiple English-language Kama Sutras, popular 1970s memoir “The Happy Hooker,” a set of bawdy limericks, a coffee table book of Picasso paintings and Gore Vidal’s “The City and the Pillar.”
Years after its existence was revealed, the collection is still awaiting comprehensive study. While some books are now available for viewing in the reading rooms — the Marquis de Sade’s writings, Chestnykh said, are the most popular among them — rarer and more delicate artifacts, such as the Larionov drawings, linger in obscurity on the shelves.
The problem is not just a lack of resources, Chestnykh said. “The management have differing opinions. Some think this material is worthy of examination and display, and others do not.”
Since the collection has never been truly open to visitors, most items remain incredibly well-preserved, “like fine wine,” Chestnykh said. However, she suspects a few things may have vanished over the years — ferried away by unscrupulous librarians, or even heads of state.
“Innocent before proven guilty,” she said with a smile, locking the metal cage’s door behind her.

Nostalgia Friday - Aeroplanes

This was, by far, the most fantastically silly, hilariousy and ironic dress ever worn to a silly ceremony that by-and-large rewards mediocrity. Think of how deftly it packed a myriad of cultural associations and hierarchies of value into one sartorial (ok, sartorial only by virtue of actually being worn, otherwise it was a costume, pure and simple) statement. It questioned vanity, beauty, and the plumage of fame.

Perfect, no?

The reason I thought of this is the woman who wore it, the pixie Bjork whose song, Aeroplane, has been swirling through my head as I prepare to board one along with kiddies en route to TLV.

Return to sender, ladies.

Here is the song, for your Nostalgia Friday enjoyment - it first came out around 1994... how time flies:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Herd of Independent Minds

I always wonder if art and design schools suffer from the same herd mentality that infects other disciplines. Based on the scouting of graduating collections at the Antwerp School of Design as undertaken by StyleBubble that certainly appears to be the case.

No, the bloggress herself, Susie Bubble (aka Susanna Laudoesn't make this comment - it is all mine. I'm basing it, however, on the images she so wodnerfully provides (and I repost).

The images on Lau's blog range in terms of the quality of designs - some (like those of Emmanuel Beguinot and Madeleine Coisne) are better, some (like that of an Israeli grad and former Bat Sheva dancer Eran Shanny) are worse. But what unites them all is an attempt to translate the simuloutaneity of the street into clothing. By and large this attempt can be boiled down to a replication of graffiti - either as pattern or as cut or both. Speaking of cuts - they are mostly uninteresting.

Graffiti is the one visual element that a spectator immediately perceives. It is everywhere, in the cacophany of graphic forms, clashing primary clolors.

I'm not sure what this means for the future of these students - graduation collections do not necessarily reflect future paths - but it speaks to a kind of shared Zeitgeist that permeates the school..

Here, take a look for yourselves ladies - each image is from a different collection - (and for a more detailed look go to StyleBubble):

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Structure for Summer

And by that I do not mean structured activities for your kids (although aren't they great?). What I mean, quite simply is this: while summertime clothes tend towards the loose and unfitted for reasons of ventilation there is something to be said about deploying structure when it is hot outside.

Why, ye may ask?

Well, for one, structure tends to mask bits better. Despite the natural inclination upon seeing your 'bits' to run for the sackiest thing in your closet, I would strenuously recommend reaching for structured items instead. They corral bits in while not adding bulk. So there, reason number one.

Reason two has to do with the fact, already stated above, that summer clothes tend to be loose. Most summer pants, for example, while delightful, can look like baggy, limp, and - god forbid! - hippy things due to their preferred fabric (linen is often featured), if paired with a slouchy top. Structure can come to the rescue.

Vests, or waistcoats, or as they are known in Europe gillets, are the best structure summer has to offer.

There are two options for vests:
1) Short, fitted, and worn closed - those are best when paired with looser cut pants or longer length  
    pencil skirts.
2) Longer, looser, and worn open - those are best when paired with mini skirts or skinny pants.

The basic principle here is to avoid repeating the same silhouette on top and bottom - if bottom is loose top should be fitted and vice versa.

With that in mind, ladies, here is a selection, in our usual categories:


- short: Rochas:

Rag and Bone:
Vera Wang (this is a longer one that could work as a short one because of its cut):

Phillip Lim:
Kenzo (a perfect short!):


See by Chloe: 
Robert Rodriguez:

* Theyskens Theory - and I think the perfect one! in all categories:




Monday, June 23, 2014

Costume Design

I do not watch Game of Thrones (I saw the first episode, hated the gore factor and the rather predictable storytelling - yes, predictable, despite the show's willingness to kill off its stars) but as a popular culture consumer I know enough about the show to have an idea about its characters and their looks.

And I have to say that the look below is inspired, conveying the military and the feminine that the Khaleesi embodies in one well-made dress:

And, after several trips through evening-wear sections of a number of department stores I can say with full authority that said dress makes for more interesting fashion - that is at the same time perfectly wearable and NOT costumey - than anything retail available at the moment.

Fashion people write a great deal about Janie Bryant, the costume designer for Mad Men, and with good reason - the looks she has created for the show have had a tremendous trickly down effect into high street retial, even launching her own Banana Republic collection. Perhaps Michele Clapton, the designer for Game of Thrones, is another, if less likely candidate for ready to wear translation. Sure, her fantasy show is medeival-like , but I stand firm - that dress above is perfectly on trend and yet innovative.