Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why you can't find what you want at the library: PART 2

For those who have already read this post, please note:
As I said, returned and loaned books DO remain in the BRANCH they end up in;
However, books belonging to the MAIN library on 42nd St. ALWAYS GO BACK.

(above: Aug 11, 2010):

awe of a child
It's exciting to walk into a library, it gives me that thrill I felt as a child discovering reading. As a child I didn't know what was good, what was bad. I was on my own. It was always a risk, an adventure. That's the thrill I get at the Battery Park branch.

If I go to the main library branch downtown, I am confronted with walls upon walls of books, that's a good thing. But I have never heard of most of them, I am lost in the wilderness. 

LOST: Shira Golding flickr link "Harry Potter Library"

In the neat little Battery Park branch, I’m only confronted with a few walls. But I know that almost every book I pull out is going to be a good one. Things seem almost hand-picked for me already. My job is easy.

I can dash in there running half an hour late and know that in five minutes I will find two spectacular books that I have never heard of. On the phone to my friend who has been waiting that half hour: “I’m in the library. I’ll be there in ten minutes!”

the fabulous Joan and Jackie, 1950s
Rex Features link

Monday, July 19, 2010

Anatomy of a Compliment

“How do I look?” I ask him, turning this way and that. Smiling shyly, holding my breath, hardly daring to look at his eyes. “I’m afraid the color isn’t right for my complexion. Do you think I can get away with the ruffles"?

You look fine, Come on, let's go
And then it comes: “You look fine, come on, let’s go.”

Have I actually reached the time of a woman’s life when people begin to tell me I look “fine”?

What does that mean, anyway? No we’re not going, first tell me what you mean by "fine."
image used by Koala Clothing
Tinker "Light Bright and Sparkly"

Do you mean “fine” as in silken, gossamer, fairies in cobweb slips, the first grade crowd’s sex symbol Tinker Bell?

Or do you mean a queen, rare, elegant?
Maybe you mean fine as in “I feel good! Rrawhr! I’m feelin’ FINE!!”?
Or does your “fine” mean “You look good enough, you don’t look as bad as you think, but forget about  gorgeous, come on, let’s go”?

What has happened to “Wow!”?

After awhile you begin to see the formula in the movies. Boy meets girl, boy and girl don’t get along. Then about two-thirds of the way through any movie comes what I call “the dress scene”: the girl shows up in an absolutely gorgeous form-fitting dress, or is in her underwear, or comes from the shower by accident; just as he shows up. He is speechless. Wedding bells.
"The Dress Scene"

That's how every Princess finds her Prince. Just ask Kate Middleton- the sheer dress that captured the heart of a Prince who will make her Queen.

"The Dress Scene"

I am exaggerating about myself a bit- I do still get a certain amount of Wow in my own way. But this is the Scylla to the Charybdis of “you look fine.” Known as “You look great for your age!” Recognize it?

What does this mean? Is it even a compliment? Do I look terrible for some other age? If I said I was 20 years younger, would people think (privately) how terrible I look? Do I look good by an objective measure, or submit only to a relative measure, a qualified measure?

My dress thanks you
Then there’s the “What a pretty dress!”
Oh, the dress is the thing that’s pretty here? My dress thanks you!

The correct answer, class, is “That dress makes YOU look fantastic!”

When she feels she must be polite and compliment you, but she doesn't think you look all that great, she casts about, desperate for something to compliment.

This is where your shoes come in, the color of your dress; this way she can feel sincere.

What a gorgeous pin
I have discovered the formula: the smaller the object she finds to admire (such as your pin), the worse you look.

Most women feel instinctively that it’s a bit of an insult; when it happens to them, they feel vaguely uneasy, but don't know why. It's a bit catty, this careful avoidance of a direct compliment. They don't realize why sometimes they do it to another woman.

Then there are your artist friends. Forget for now inquiring of the one who spends his life objectifying the world through a lens (photographer). The artist I mean is your painter friend, who looks at the world in terms of form, and the space within the form, and speaks in a labrythine vocabulary of color as “hue” and “saturation.” The one on a walk with you in the park who stops suddenly to whisper, “Look at the pattern of those tree branches in the shadow!”

Jeanne Hebuterne, self-destructive wife of Modigliani

Painters do not see what other people see. Their world is broken down into form and void, angle, light, shadow, a world as dissected and rearranged as a Picasso. Painters surge past appearances—they can’t see it at all- straight into the structure and meaning and heat beyond it.
                                                                                                      Picasso, Girl Before a Mirror

What am I to make of a compliment from such a person! He is not looking at what I see. He is too busy calculating the panorama of my angles. Does he even know what I mean? “Ah, how wonderful! You are spectacular!” he cries out, in full sincerity.

When what he’s been caught by is the way the particular sheen of fabric emphasizes the curve of my shoulder, or how the shape of my hairline is repeated in the pattern of my hem. I have given him a moment of pure delight.

What you hope he will tell you, he has no opinion of at all. He scarcely sees it.
Alana, 'Frenemies' Flickr link
Hmm protests too much
Then there’s the overeager compliment. “Oh how wonderful you look! Your hair looks great! What a gorgeous dress! Where did you get it?!” Hmm protests too much.

In fact the older the woman, the more loudly she is complimented. If my complimenter feels so obligated to exaggerate, does that mean she feels sorry for me?

And the omitted compliment. This is the one that burns me up. You walk into a room accompanied by a lovely woman. She might be younger, she might be older; the point is that she is lovelier than you. Eyes upon her. Someone comes up to tell her “You look terrific!”

comes up to tell her
Have I actually reached an age when people think that I no longer need compliments?

To compliment one, and omit the other, is the equivalent of saying to the other "As for you-- you're not looking all that great!"

   Gugger Petter @JSauergallery.com link
   Newspaper and mixed media

Both the ignorer and the ignored don't quite realize this. "I was just giving my friend a compliment!" But the ignored feels it in her bones.

Surely it is courtesy to compliment everybody in the room. “My goodness how spectacular you ladies are looking!” Then steer her to the kitchen to whisper: “You are the most stunning woman in the room!”

People explain that they compliment young girls the most because in this era of covergirls, the young are very insecure. I disagree. It is the woman who is on her way out the door who most longs to hear a compliment again. The girl just coming in the door, no matter how insecure, knows there will be compliments to come.

getting all Simone
I certainly need a compliment! I know this sounds all 1950s de Beauvoir Second Sex, but isn’t it the ultimate irony, the ultimate practical joke, that those who are most valued for their looks- and who most value their own looks- (for the most part, women) are the very ones who as they age grow “invisible” as the saying goes?

I’m always tickled when an old-school fellow, who has seen a different era, often for example a middle-aged bus driver or bookstore clerk—we’ve all seen this—says to any woman, to a 93-year-old woman, without a trace of irony:

“May I help you, young lady?”
That is chivalry!

for life
He is not making fun. He has no arrogance, it doesn't lower him to see it and to say it. A woman’s self-image is formed while she is a young lady; there is a certain sense in which she remains one for the rest of her life.

Stand on any street corner and watch the parade of women every age and shape, and realize that all, all are “young women.” Our chivalrous knight not only knows this, he sees it.

From this, we can actually feel a little tug of compassion for Snow White’s wicked stepmother the Queen. The magic Mirror continued to answer the Queen year after year that she was the “fairest in the land.”
How do I look?

When asked a question, the Mirror could not lie; and so when Snow White came of age, the Mirror told the Queen the truth.

The Queen was furious to be dethroned by the ingenue; her murder plot serves as the archetype of the fears and desires submerged in both older and younger women. Exaggerated of course, that's the truth of a fairy tale.

The inner Queen keeps asking 'How do I look’; no matter what the answer, can she stop?

[Note: I do intend to keep my promise, to tell of the voting physicists.]
Please comment, below

Monday, July 12, 2010

Down go the pictures!

(This post is followed by an "Update" at end)

I am asking my loyal readers to please give me advice, suggestions, information, whatever you know about this!

I have been reading, and discovered that no, it is NOT ok to plunder the world of google for witty images to illustrate my blog with.

I thought- anyone would- that all I needed was to give credit to my source. I was so careful to do that, so very diligent. I felt so much more virtuous than the many bloggers who did not.
But I learned it’s not enough-- I need permission.

I read that almost any image online is off-limits. Even the guys who photograph book jackets!

I could be fined enormous amounts. Like $1000 an image! With such a crowd of pictures I so proudly stuffed my blog with, I could be in debt for life!

                         Alas, Benny, no more pictures!


Down go the Munsters! Down goes Marilyn..