Retrospectoscope

I suspect I must still exist, though the lights are out.  Or perhaps no one is really looking.

This wasn’t always the way.  Under your beam I was white; blue like the sky, green like an innocent.  I learned to burn of my own accord.

I suppose we were overconfident.  With curious eye to the sky (and bolstered by native adventurous spirit), we set sail for other worlds.

Though now, to my dismay, I find the stars have shifted place in the sky; indeed, there is no “sky” at all. I’ve shifted red in my head, my Dear.  And I am angry.  Angry at Times, and how they change, and frightened at the spread of All Things.

And I fear I shall go out like a candle -

An idea in the dark,

A flame without a wick,

The illusion of a star arcing its way across a sea of Time, long after the furnace that forged it has collapsed upon itself and vanished into the Infinite of Infinites, beyond the veil of that silent unconscious sentinel whose face is like the dark side of the Moon.

It’s a folly of our species to presume there will always be eyes to see, or heart to hear, waiting at the end of that journey; after all, the Universe is impartial, and doesn’t give a damn about that particular facet of reality we call “fairness.”

(Even less, perhaps, about “love.”)

But I do.  For myself, I never now take it for granted when I peer into the cracks, and find someone, or something, is looking back.

It’s all always a trick of the light.  For better or for worse, the nature of the Universe is perspective.

Today, however, I find myself dormant, in the Void.  Even the red is bled out, and there is nothing, nothing visible, adrift here at the End of All Being and Ideal Grace…

Only a blue marble in my pocket – a whole world in miniature under the scope.

O how I long to see those skies from the inside out! –

To allow your particular haze

To color my eyes

With the vision of the Divine;

And to think I used to imagine horizons were all a sham.

 

Once upon Time,

My Love, My Darling

(And I can still find dim outline, if I screw up the glass just right):

 

I liked myself when I was with you.

 

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The Little Apocrypha

Jennifer Blair, Jen Blair, Solaris, Madewell, Nasty Gall, Little Black Dress, Space, Change Machine

 “We have no need for other worlds.  We need mirrors.  We are only seeking man.”

- Stanislaw Lem, Solaris; “The Little Apocrpyha.”

This isn’t a calculated look; one day, I simply put on this black dress with this t-shirt and liked the necklines together, so I took pictures.  Clearly, this is what one wears when kicking back on the spaceship – very Solaris, or BSG.

(Solaris, in its triptych of forms, is probably my favorite work of science fiction.  Little things remind me of it all the time – the light in a room, an outfit.  An attempt to communicate with a man.)

I can’t say anything about alien life.  Insofar as my fellow humans are concerned, however, it has always been my firm belief that any attempt to communicate genuinely to your fellow beings – and to permit oneself the freedom to be affected in turn – is one of the most transcendent and valiant acts a person may undertake.

But I ramble.  Besides, what do I know of the transcendent, besides the compass of my own heart – which betrays me, with some reliability.  As the hearts of others betray me, too.  No matter, though.  Despite the fact that I try to keep one finger firmly on the pulse of unconditional love, I suppose it’s always possible:

“In his endless search for truth, man is condemned to knowledge; everything else is bullshit.”

- Tarkovsky

Jennifer Blair, Jen Blair, Solaris, Madewell, Nasty Gall, Little Black Dress, Space, Change MachineJennifer Blair, Jen Blair, Solaris, Madewell, Nasty Gall, Little Black Dress, Space, Change MachineShirt, Madewell.  Dress, Cheap Monday at Nasty Gal. 

 

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A Long and Winding Absence

It’s been a long time, kids.

One hurricane, several film festivals, and a universe of confusion and heartbreak later (it seems to be running rampant amongst the populace these days, don’t ask me why), I have returned to continue this project with renewed fervor.

(You know what Gary Oldman has to say about obstacles: “Fuck ‘em.  Shortest prayer in the world.“)

Much has happened in my absence from the blog-o-sphere; as for what, I intend to unwind and chronicle it here.  It’s a funny time in New York, that necessitates recording.  (Besides which, it is now wintertime – the best time of the year for fashion, as far as I’m concerned, and one that deserves to be writ down in pictures.)

All in all, I hope this note finds you well.

Much love from New York, that New Byzantium – and cheers to what is past, or passing, or to come.

Glasses: Burberry.  Dress, Helmut Lang.

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Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Burgundy, Fox, Fur, Hat, Headwrap, Merlot, Red, F/W 2012, A/W 2012

Greetings, comrades!  As you may have noticed on the nightly news, Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated his 60th birthday on Sunday, to all the usual fanfare and criticism.  Despite my opinions on the man himself and his policies (or lack, thereof), I have decided to honor the occasion here, in some capacity; after all, one has to take full advantage when such a character makes an appearance on the world stage, and if Mr. Putin graces me with the opportunity to dress up like a Bond villain and frame it as political commentary, then by Gods, I’m going to take it.

(And let’s face it: as the current crop of world leaders go, Angela Merkel just isn’t as picturesque.)

As you can see, the strength of this look is clearly on top: that is, this burgundy foxfur headwrap, purchased two autumns ago in New York at a mysterious, long-since forgotten Midtown sample sale.

Burgundy (or merlot, oxblood, garnet, et al) and fur are two of my very favorite trends for fall, and I am fairly excited about the way this piece hits the mark for the season.  I wear it with everything, from casual Sunday sweaters to evening gowns, though it probably sees the most wear just as you see it here: with a little black dancing dress and a lot of bare skin.  (The reformed raver kid in me loves a furry hat and a tiny outfit.  What can I say: it’s a very pragmatic approach, at parties…)

Though of course I have to admit that there is something about this outfit that might be more at home trolling for millionaires on the Internet or posing from the pages of the 2010 Vladimir Vladimirovich, We Love You!  Happy Birthday, Mr. Putin calendar than it would be wining and dining through New York’s finer establishments, I also have to admit that this is exactly what I enjoy about it.

(Besides: it’s the crotch dress that cements this look as firmly satirical.)

Just call me Foxy Tailova, or some nonsense.

SMOOCH!

Merlot Foxfur, Mystery NY Sample Sale; Dress, Nasty Gal; Necklace, Room Service Vintage, Austin, TX.

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Sexy Face

Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine, Fantastic Fest, Alamo Drafthouse, Shaky Face, Shakey FaceFantastic Fest 2012 Badge Portrait – Exhibit A.

Forgive my recent absence from the blog-o-sphere, ladies and germs.  I have been sleepless and busy.  (Why, you might ask?)

Every Mid-September, the nerd nation descends upon Austin, TX to attend Fantastic Fest: the annual Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror/Cult festival of everything wonderful, a weeklong, all-out celebration of strange and wonderful film, hosted by Tim League and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema (quite possibly the finest movie house in the nation, in my humble yet very-assured opinion).  Not one to miss a party, a geek-out, or a chance to see friends, I go every year.

(That’s right: take that, Milan Fashion Week.  The truth is, it is a very funny thing to be a woman striving very specifically to create “genre” cinema – as I am – and Fantastic Fest is one of the few “Ground Zeros” available in the nation to investigate and celebrate the cutting edge in the field.)

At any rate.  As you might imagine from the fringe-minded attendee base, a fest of this type is bound to spawn a few silly traditions.  Case in point, “Shakyface”: a perverse and ridiculous style of badge portraiture perpetuated by Festival Director League and embraced en masse over the years by Fest attendees.

Fantastic Fest defines the phenomenon as such:  ”Shakeyface* is simply the photographic documentation of violently whipping your head back and forth (or up and down for you daredevils) until it actually distorts your features into those of some unspeakable beast.” (For a more thorough explanation, please see Mr. League’s video tutorial on YouTube.)

I can never take a decent Shaky Face.  I’m sure it’s my ego acting as a subconscious block, but for one reason or another I’ve never been able to achieve the proper amount of distortion.  Besides which, I always refuse to pin my hair back to take the picture because I think it looks good in motion – which of course results in quite a few pictures where I just come out looking like Cousin It (see example, below):

Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine, Fantastic Fest, Alamo Drafthouse, Shaky Face, Shakey Face

It’s Fantastic Face – Exhibit B.

This year, I finally acquiesced to my ego and abandoned any “serious” attempt to take a full-on Shakyface (“serious” being a somewhat flexible term, here); rather, I have decided to instigate a new style of Fantastic Fest portraiture I am calling “Sexy Face.”

(Maybe one of these years, I’ll finally embrace the grotesque; in the meantime, Sexy Face it is.  I am posting this year’s portrait series here, just for yuks and the hell of it.)

This is an “Aesthetics” blog, of course, and I suppose cinema is a part of that.  As such, I promise a more thorough discussion of modern folklore, the demands of audience, and the once-and-future state of “genre” and Science Fiction film to come – once I’ve nursed my hangover, slept a good three days, and recovered my health and sanity.

Until then, be well, friends!  As ever, as always.

Hugs and Hisses from Fantastic Fest.

Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine, Fantastic Fest, Alamo Drafthouse, Shaky Face, Shakey Face

Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine, Fantastic Fest, Alamo Drafthouse, Shaky Face, Shakey FaceJen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine, Fantastic Fest, Alamo Drafthouse, Shaky Face, Shakey Face, ShakyfaceJen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine, Fantastic Fest, Alamo Drafthouse, Shaky Face, Shakey FaceA Series of Discarded Shakyface Portraits – Exhibit C.

* The Internet disagrees as to whether “Shakyface” is spelled with an “-e” or without.  I prefer without, but hey, it’s a bullshit term that we’re making up on the spot, here, so anything’s probably cool.  The bottom line of any language is pragmatic application, and – as ever, as always – first we make the words, then the words make us.

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Liquid Aether

Davines, Hair Oil, Absolute Beautifying Potion, Summer, Hair, Tim Dark, New York

Beauty deprived of its proper foils and adjuncts ceases to be enjoyed as beauty, just as light deprived of all shadows ceases to be enjoyed as light.

- John Ruskin

In honor of the last weekend of summer, I’d like to share one of my very favorite new products: that is, OI/Oil Absolute Beautifying Potion for hair by Italian sustainable-beauty range Davines, a light, golden elixer that’s just the ticket for restoring a bit of life and sunshine to your locks at season’s end.

(And what a long damned season it has been.  My first full New York summer in seven years has been admittedly glorious, albeit a sticky, filthy, exhaust-suffused strain on things like my bank account and my hair; suffice it to say, I’ve had to take a few extra pains to city-proof myself in all the implied, literal and figurative ways.  I am pleased to report I am making progress: the bank account still proves problematic, though at least my hair is looking pretty good thanks to a few well-chosen products combined with the fabulous, restorative qualities of New York’s genuinely superior tap water, and I am not being facetious, here, it really is the best).

At any rate.  You simply find ways to do something about yourself, as time marches on.  I suppose a re-calibration of one’s beauty routine has been an inevitable part of the process.

My hair is fairly fine and sensitive to heat, and so I do benefit from a bit of moisturizing product; that said, I can’t deal with anything even moderately thick or heavy, otherwise my hair just goes rather lank and limp.  I typically comb a small drop of the Davines oil into damp hair before blow-drying as a protectant, and finish with a drop more if things are looking particularly lackluster (Davines offers an excellent YouTube instructional with a thorough step-by-step on what to do).

Make note: when I say “small drop,” I do mean a small drop – I’ve had the bottle you see here for over a month now, and have used very little.  You could say that every drop is apparently “bigger on the inside,” in some kind of spatial-temporal way, or is comprised exclusively of heavy particles or some kind of superdense, distilled Aether…or, you could simply acknowledge that the product distributes extremely well when combed through the hair.  Either way, the effect is the same, and – ounce-per-ounce – is proving to be surprisingly cost-effective.

I bought mine from my most excellent new hairdresser/colorist Tim Dark, proprietor of Tim Dark Hair in the East Village (and the number-one reason my hair has survived the season); though non-New Yorkers and convenience-minded types may buy it online via Amazon.

En fin, for now. Happy Summer, friends, and – as we slip along the natural course of things to spend a bit of time in the darkness –  may you carry the torch of reflection forever in your hearts.

Davines, Oi/Oil, Absolute Perfecting Potion, Italy, New York, Sustainable Beauty, Light

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Canal + (Shopping the Street in NYC)

Watch, Canal St., Street, Bracelet, Friendship Bracelet, Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine

The watchful eye will notice the chronograph doesn’t work on this timepiece.  This could be because I bought it on the street.  Or, it could be due to the Great Temporal Incident of 1865.

Where exactly I found it, I don’t recall (again, the Incident seems to have generated some rather unpleasant physical ramifications).  That said, I probably bought it on Canal St., clearinghouse of all things plastic and artificial and a time-honored bastion of random crap.  It has to be one of the last places in the U.S. where you can still practically buy a fake Rolex out of some guy’s trench coat.  With full respect to the global economic consequences, it’s a glorious place in terms of being picturesque.

Watch, Canal St., Street, Bracelet, Friendship Bracelet, Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine

Watch, Canal St., Street, Bracelet, Friendship Bracelet, Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change MachineI don’t make a habit of buying fakes, but I remember I just wanted an all-black men’s watch, and I simply happened to like this one.  People mistake it for a good one all the time (though once you give it more than a passing glance you will notice it definitely isn’t).  Maybe people just don’t know or pay attention, but I get so many compliments on the thing that I am actually thinking of replacing the rubber strap with a leather one.

(I suppose the watch is also a pretty good example of my love for almost comically oversized accessories.  I don’t know where that preference comes from; maybe I feel that sizable pieces feel more purposeful.)

Besides, I wouldn’t call it a fake – it isn’t really pretending to be anything.  It’s just a big, cheap watch.  One day, when I am successful,  I will replace it with a better one – though in the meantime, this one warms my heart.  I wear it with everything.

It’s not Chanel; it’s Canal! 

Watch, Canal St., Street, Bracelet, Friendship Bracelet, Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine

Worn here with a pleather “friendship bracelet,” purchased on Prince St. between Broadway and Mercer.  There’s a lady there who has a great if overpriced selection, 2 for $20, in loads of colors – you can find her table in front of Lure.  Remember to haggle.  

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Pink Shift

Pink, Shirt, Buttons, Sunset, Madewell, Ombre, Transitional, Summer, New York, Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine

We have been blessed to receive a string of perfectly temperate days in New York this past week, launching the City and its living soul (the people) into the ephemeral realm of genuine transition.

A brief jaunt around Union Square on a gorgeous, 70° F Sunday Funday reveals a certain, subtle shift in the city’s sartorial hivemind.  Weekends are always telling, as the urban populace is generally free of the filter of workwear, with this week acknowledging a step away from the Dog Day-casual uniform of shorts, tanks, sundresses, and sandals.  There’s a faint, almost imperceptible edge on the wind, and people are once again starting to do things like wear sleeves.

For me, the change couldn’t be more timely.

There are some people who are completely enamored with this idea of “Endless Summer;” I am not one of them.  Years spent living in the South have gifted me a near “zero tolerance” for heat, and  - once I reset my clock on the Midsummer Solstice – I invariably find myself obsessed with a kind of annual countdown, ticking off the days till the wheel of the world clicks over and autumn at last arrives.

I only really understand myself in the cold, I think.

All the same, I have a special place in my heart for New York summer.  As the seasons begin their annual drift, I can’t help but get a bit sentimental:  something about that special, sultry scent of stagnant garbage and exhaust suspended in sunshine, emulsified with a dash of dirty hotdog water and “rain” from the air conditioning units, all bonded together by a perpetual blast of hot, piss-scented wind from the train…something about that whole shebang stirs a longing in my soul, a flickering pathway through the haze of heat and memory to selves and seasons past.  One whiff, and all at once I am heading off to acting school in Chelsea at age 18, or climbing out of a subway hole at the age of 6, clinging to my Grandma’s hand.

And as yet another summer sinks into luminous pink over the Hudson, I lament the passage of Time.

Certain constants remain through it all, of course.  Like the need to get dressed.  The weather is still too warm and unpredictable for a real autumn wardrobe, of course, more so than in years past (indeed, as of yesterday morning, the City has once again dissolved into a sticky, muggy cesspit); even so, it feels apropos to somehow nod at the impending change.

In my visual survey of the street I notice a lot of women looking good in button-down shirts – polished but relaxed, and concealing a bit more skin than would have been pragmatic just a month ago.  I like this pink workshirt from Madewell for a lovely transitional balance: loosely-structured, a tad oversized, and turned out in the kind of soft, midweight cotton that’s only going to get better with every wash.

Best of all, the faded, ombre-style shade of magic hour pink is perfect for the August/September cusp; come October, it will be time again for jewel tones.

But so it goes, friends.  Onward we march.

May every moment stretch, until it doesn’t.

Pink, Shirt, Buttons, Sunset, Madewell, Ombre, Transitional, Summer, New York, Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine

Pink, Shirt, Buttons, Sunset, Madewell, Ombre, Transitional, Summer, New York, Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine

Pink, Shirt, Buttons, Sunset, Madewell, Ombre, Transitional, Summer, New York, Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine

“I watch the sunset, which lasts three hours at this time of year. As if the sun, on the verge of leaving, had discovered qualities in the world that are now making its departure a reluctant one.”

- Peter Høeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow

Shirt, Madewell.  Lace boyshorts, Kiki di Montparnasse.

Listen: Amorphous Androgynous (AKA, The Future Sound of London), “Yo-Yo.”.  ”The world’s in transience.”

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Red: A Sine of the Times

Red Leather, Gloves, Glovettes, Fingerless Gloves, Imoni, Intermix, Driving Gloves, Kid Gloves, Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine

I bought these red leather gloves by Imoni at last year’s Intermix Christmas sale, in order to match my New Year’s dress (the open-backed merlot red gown you see here).  My hypotheses that both the gloves and the gown would prove themselves as worthwhile investment pieces seems to be holding up quite admirably this fall, as both red and leather have been all over the runway reports and are, it would seem, right on-trend.

(As time goes on, I’ve noticed that the act of shopping increasingly takes on this feeling of forecasting; or rather, that of some practiced skill of calibrated, subjective probability, with a built-in margin of error.  You have a certain amount of money to spend, and certain choices to make in order to future-proof your spending; so you stick your thumb to the wind, guide your arrow at the target, and release.  With increased facility and a bit of luck, you find you are able sail your dart through time and space and change of trend to hit, ever and ever closer, to the mark.)

Red Leather, Gloves, Glovettes, Fingerless Gloves, Imoni, Intermix, Driving Gloves, Kid Gloves, Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine

Red Leather, Gloves, Glovettes, Fingerless Gloves, Imoni, Intermix, Driving Gloves, Kid Gloves, Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change MachineRed Leather, Gloves, Glovettes, Fingerless Gloves, Imoni, Intermix, Driving Gloves, Kid Gloves, Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change MachineI always make a preliminary sweep of available retail when we hit a new seasonal shift.  Before I buy, I assess what themes I like or dislike, make note of certain items I want.  Then I go home, open up the closet, and take stock.  Decide what to subtract (this year, I will also have to remember what I’ve got in storage), and determine how to wear the remainder.  Ultimately, I am guiding my arrow – myself – towards the target, the person I wish to become.  

And so it was that I made an obligatory trek down to Midtown recently, in this case to reconnoiter the new fall stock at the Barneys on Madison Ave. (I like midtown, I don’t care what people say, even in spite of all the tourists.  It’s always full of life, and everything smells of exhaust and those honey roasted street peanuts, the combination of which is one of my favorite smells in the world.  I often go to St. Pat’s and light a candle, not because I am particularly Catholic anymore if I ever was but simply because I’m a sap, I like the intention of candles, and I’ve always loved the building.)

Besides, they’ve got Barneys and Saks down there, and that giant new Zara.

And what better setting for a forecast than Madison Avenue?

So I made my trek down to Midtown.  I took stock of all the shops.  And I noticed, – simply but with a surging well of realization – that the color red was everywhere.  In every shop in Manhattan.  And that not only was it plentiful, that it was the thing.  The thing that looks and feels the best, now.  This was very exciting, especially in the wake of the personality crisis that invariably is (for me) “summer dressing;” at long last, with a stroke of Prometheal light I once again understood what was going on in the current, and that what was going on in the current was something that I wanted to be.

“Wearing red” – particularly red leather – was something I already liked and recognized and responded to in my gut.  Indeed, the feeling of knowing it looks good now was an intuitive kind of over-excitement, a warm rush in my core and a buzzing in my head, the kind of feeling I get when I am in the zone performing, or studying folklore or linguistics or various forms of esoterica, or reading the work of any author who simultaneously gets it with me and is well ahead of the curve, like Maxwell or Ellis or Dion Fortune — I mean to say, some combination of instinct and enlightenment, like understanding matrices for the first time...you realize that you were wired up to understand it all along.  Only now, some invisible hand has finally bothered connect the circuit, and – all of a sudden – you’ve got too many thoughts and too much of everything going all at once, so that any attempt at articulation results in the feeling that Björk describes as “trying to fit an ocean through a straw”…

All I knew was that I wanted something red.  Because – gazing stupidly at a rack of Lanvins at Barneys – I understood that red was and is not simply a “trend” this year, or even a color; rather, it is a frequency.  A sine of the times.

There’s a warmth and a sensuousness and a passionate, terrible magnitude to it all that I think we now collectively crave, and need.

This is how they get me to buy things.  Fascists.

Red Leather, Gloves, Glovettes, Fingerless Gloves, Imoni, Intermix, Driving Gloves, Kid Gloves, Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine

Red Leather, Gloves, Glovettes, Fingerless Gloves, Imoni, Intermix, Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change MachineAnyway.  I went home empty-handed, disgruntled at the fact that I am too broke this season to risk any big-ticket impulse purchases (though those are the only purchases I’m interested in making anymore, impulse or otherwise; I already own, as it were, plenty of “filler”).

Several weeks (and one red pleather dress) later, I remembered my pair of Imonis.  I dug them out, put them on.  They felt correct.  I had aimed well, with my shooting gloves: I’d invested wisely.

Already I am making a mental portfolio of red-gloved F/W outfits.

(What will I wear them with?  Everything, of course.)

Including nothing, as the case may be.

Red Leather, Gloves, Glovettes, Fingerless Gloves, Imoni, Intermix, Driving Gloves, Kid Gloves, Jen Blair, Jennifer Blair, Change Machine

Gloves, Imoni at Intermix.

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