Consumerism, Part II

From the Denver Post, 14 July, 2009, Style section: “For interns, looking good is part of job.”  I confess I read the article because of the caption accompanying the picture of a young lady in a sleeveless pink sheath:  Jen Murray, 20, a new business and public relations intern, hasn’t repeated an outfit in the three weeks since she started at Karsh\Hagan.

Wow.

But I should not have been surprised, because according to Mary Crane (a “workplace specialist and corporate lecturer”), “New hires and veteran employees alike should seek to consistently communicate through their attire that they are serious and successful professionals.”  But given the current economy, she allowed that “this is the year to opt for more conservative attire when dressing for work.”

And here I thought it was the high quality of work that communicated seriousness and successfulness, and that a more appropriate response to the economic crisis was to show the ability to be fiscally conservative by opting to wear the same outfit, say, every ten days or so . . . .  But what do I know — no one pays attention to what doctors wear under their lab coats.  And then, of course, historians are not exactly well-known for their sartorial splendor.

A few weeks ago the 21-year old next door (mother of Birthday Girl) had to do ALL her laundry at one time . . . .  Many hours and loads later, all the clothes were washed, dried, and . . . .  there was no room for all her clean clothes!  But there she was, a couple of weeks later, telling her mother that she had NOTHING TO WEAR, and NO MONEY to buy new clothes for the upcoming school year because she had spent the summer working as an unpaid intern.

Life is SOOOOOO unfair!

Opie, demonstrating why a white fur coat is appropriate every day of the week -- with perhaps a string of pearls for excitement.
Opie, with a string of pearls for wardrobe excitement.

Unpromising Start

Opie the Grumpy Pig
Opie the Grumpy Pig

And why not? A new school year, and not a promising start.  The Kid started junior high last Monday, and the first homework she had (which wasn’t assigned until Thursday) was in P. E.  Not math, not English, not geography … P. E.  And what sort of homework can a kid possibly have in P. E.?

“Oh, we watched a video about famous women athletes, and we’re supposed to pick one and write a paragraph.”

“For example?”

“I don’t remember their names.”

“Then how are you going to write a paragraph about any of them?”

“Well, one of them was Babe something …”

“Babe Didrikson Zaharias?”

“Yeah, that’s the one!”

Call me old-fashioned, but why weren’t the kids out there doing something, well, physical?  What was the point of watching a film about athletes?  If the teacher wanted to make P. E. a pseudo-academic subject, I can think of other things she could have done …  perhaps pictures of sagittal sections of the obese body compared to the athletic body, or pulmonary function tests of a smoker compared to a non-smoker.  But this might be too much to expect from a teacher who writes:  Students who miss a class will be expected to make up work by reading and summarizing “an interent” article.  First misspelling, just a slip of the fingers.  Second misspelling of same word in the same paragraph, and I think she has no business expecting anything from my child.

Knitting for the Winter: St. Patrick, Tweedy Aran Cardigan

At the beginning of summer I frogged 5 sweaters, because there are always new knitting adventures to be had with old yarn:

St. Patrick, designed by Lisa Lloyd, from "A Fine Fleece: Knitting with Handspun Yarn"
St. Patrick, designed by Lisa Lloyd, from "A Fine Fleece: Knitting with Handspun Yarn"

Pattern: St. Patrick, from A Fine Fleece: Knitting with Handspun Yarn, by Lisa Lloyd.  This is a beautiful, harmoniously-balanced Aran sweater, with hints of Alice Starmore without her insane gauge.  I wish I had designed it.

Modifications: I think I may have knitted the pattern more-or-less as written, although now that I look at it, I changed the ribbon cable slightly in the front.

Yarn: My favorite, Beaverslide Yarn worsted weight.  This yarn has held up remarkably well through its three previous incarnations.  Though it is a bit felted now, the cable work still stands out in gorgeous detail.

Size: Properly slightly-oversized.

Tweedy Aran Cardigan, designed by Norah Gaughan

Tweedy Aran Cardigan, designed by Norah Gaughan
Tweedy Aran Cardigan, designed by Norah Gaughan

Pattern: Tweedy Aran Cardigan, designed by Norah Gaughan, originally published in “Interweave Knits” Winter 01/02.

Modifications:  Made the body longer with more shaping through the waist, made the collar wider, and picked-up and knitted the set-in sleeves from the top down using short rows.  I knit pretty much all my sleeves this way now — it makes for a neater finish.  No button at the very bottom (although there is in fact a buttonhole), mainly because I only had 5 buttons, but I like the look of it without the bottom button.

Yarn: Rowan Yorkshire Tweed DK — first experience with this yarn, and it is a delight.  And I can actually wear it next to the skin!

Size:  Gently fitted — I’m sure I tweaked something to accommodate the lighter-weight yarn I used.

Buttons:  Vintage glass buttons — it’s not very obvious in the pictures, but the buttons are all different.

The Ex-neighbor

Mid-life crisis: Honda S2000
Mid-life crisis: Honda S2000

He came by today to help his daughter move into her college dorm, and left his mid-life crisis car in front of the house where he used to live.  Do they come in any other color?  Not a Ferrari — he is not a chiropractor, after all — but it IS red.

He had been our neighbor for over a decade — then he left four years ago after having an affair with a woman half his age.  Along the way he divorced the woman he had been with for 25 years, married the girlfriend, acquired a big he-man truck, and then bought this toy.  I saw him across the street and did not recognize him, this man with the  paunch and close-cropped grey hair.  With the brutal candor of a twelve-year old, The Kid says, “He’s FAT!”  Perhaps he should not have been wearing a sleeveless shirt.

DH thinks a better mid-life crisis vehicle would be this:

Cervelo P4
Cervelo P4

Not red, and a lot cheaper.

The Birthday Party

Pink and purple balloons, a “funfetti” cake with pink and white frosting, a roomful of indulgent adults …  The birthday girl clutched her new doll to her chest and looked overwhelmed; she turned two today.

In the living room were the chaotic remains of the party — abandoned toys and new clothes strewn amidst discarded boxes, extravagant ribbons and bows, glossy wrapping paper and bags.  “Mine, mine, mine,” she repeated over and over, as her Mom helped her open her presents:  “Look at this . . . . Isn’t that a cute dress?  Show Grandpa your new baby!  Look this way!  See the kitchen toys!  Oh look, sweetie, a pink cell phone!”   “Gender reinforcement,” her uncle said in an undertone.

Grandma came back into the room and reported, “She just sat right down in her new princess chair and started talking on the cell phone!”

“Must be genetics,” Grandpa remarked wryly.

That, and a healthy dose of consumerism.

Before 1890, American children were subsumed within the family unit — they were miniature adults, more or less invisible to merchants and advertisers.  And then they were discovered.  Between 1905 and 1920, the American toy industry increased by 1,300 percent, helped along by better manufacturing processes, protective tariffs, and the precipitous decline of German toy production during WWI.  At the same time, a new cultural and social shift was taking place that began to recognize children as children: not only did they need all sorts of protective legislation, they also needed to be nurtured with a myriad of goods and services.  Marshall Field advertisers declared in 1912:

Not every person realizes that there is a children’s demand for merchandise and service.  Yet there is naturally.  Little people’s interests, their desires, their preferences, and rights to merchandise are as strong and as definite as those of any adult portion of the community.

A hundred years later, it’s just more so . . . .  I wish Birthday Girl’s childhood could have lasted a little longer . . . .

Opie, who is not the birthday pig . . . .
Opie, who is not the birthday pig . . . .

A Book to Hate

Quote of the day, from Madame Claire, by Susan Ertz, 1923:

John, her husband, is as negligible as ever.  I cannot think what you found in him to dislike, unless you, like Nature, abhor a vacuum.

I had never heard of Susan Ertz (1894 -1985) until I got an AbeBook email commemorating the publication of the first ten Penguin paperbacks in 1936.  Madame Claire must have been a popular title, for it was one of those first ten, along with Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.  So I have now put in requests for some of her other books — no longer in active circulation, they appear to be “in storage” at various libraries throughout the state.

And then there’s Anthony Trollope, who lives on in no small part because the BBC keeps resurrecting him.  How else to explain The Small House at Allington?  I had been thinking about reading this book, and I am so glad I didn’t get around to it, because I would have had to stomp on it — and I was brought up to treat books with respect.  As it was, I listened to a radio production of it on BBC 7 — and that’s four hours of my life I am never going to be able to explain away.

I have always thought Charles Dickens something of a misogynist for crafting the most insipid of heroines (Lucy Manette springs to mind) — that is, until I encountered Trollope’s Lily Dale.  Her name should have set off the alarms, but silly me, I was thinking she would be lively, along the lines of, say, Lizzie Greystock in The Eustace Diamonds . . . .  BUT NOOOOOO!!!!  The idiot girl falls in love with someone named Adolphus (!), who ditches her when he finds out she is to have no marriage settlement from her uncle the Squire.  Adolphus  marries a titled heiress named Lady Alexandrina (!!) de Courcy, only to find — in a small bit of justice– that  there’s more title than money to be had from the alliance.  And does our heroine hold her head high and metaphorically kick Adolphus to the curb?  Of course not — her name is Lily, and in true Victorian “language of flowers” fashion, she is pure of heart and soul and mind — well, OK, it isn’t clear that she actually has a mind . . . .  but nevertheless, she declared she would henceforth consider herself a widow (!!!) and devote the rest of her days to nurturing the memories of her beloved Adolphus.

*Sigh*  Nothing like a morbid Victorian heroine to suck the life out of a book.