a word a day

Yes, of course I'm going to tell you about London and Paris with the teensiest. Right now, though, I'm fighting the time change and trying to normalize my pulse. Our flight home from Paris was cancelled after we'd been in the air about an hour and we turned back and landed at Heathrow. There we learned that the only replacement part available for our plane's problem was in the US and would be overnighted to London. Where, I might add, no one expected us, especially our airline's customer service people. Baggage reclaim, customs and an endless line for a bus were followed by a buffet that had served partying Visigoths earlier that day without replenishment. More long lines the next afternoon, then another wait while the plane was checked over again. Like lemmings, we fearlessly (yeah, right) shuffled aboard.

So now I'm going through mail, etc, but I did have a smile a minute ago, and I want to share it with you. A disciple of our old acquaintance the Copywriter from Space has found employment at The Gap.

Or maybe whosis is cherry-picking talent from JC?


So after a lot of pinning and unpinning and repinning, the pinkish gauze skirt and I have said our adieus. The two extremes - shorter:
and not so shorter:

and all kinds of fugly in-between - none of them worked on me. By the way, the pinning was made simpler by not measuring with a tape, but by using a 5x8 index card.

And Happy Belated Independence Day -- yes, it took me this long to figure out how to add this YouTube video of the new Fourth of July "song."

A celebration of the First Amendment at its - um - most interesting. Well, chickies, good taste is truly timeless:

So here we are, all descended from people who came to this country or this continent from somewhere else, whether because their habitat disappeared, or because they were fleeing famine, persecution, prosecution, terror...  We are all descended from people who held on to hope, and who knew what to pack.
Hmm, that caveman's luggage looks familiar.

Come to think of it, so do his corduroy pants and quilted vest and duck boots.

Or maybe our forebears didn't pack - maybe the plan was to make do with what they found when they got here.
One last bit of shopping news, I bought a tube of LIME-AND-MINT-FLAVORED TOOTHPASTE. It's made by Crest. SAVE YOUR MONEY, it does not taste like a Mojito. It tastes like the morning after MANY MANY Mojitos.

the haul and the haul back

I haven't yet discussed our planned visit to London and Paris, because your intrepid correspondent and spouse will be accompanied by two rather young family members, and most of our computer time these past few weeks has been consumed by searches for things that they, rather than we, will enjoy. Example: climbing around an old castle is more fun than learning about Napoleon's triumphs. Including for us, because first we'd have to explain who Napoleon was. So, plan for summer: (1) organize trip; (2) take trip; (3) recuperate from trip and then - oh, look, October.

Age-appropriate activities and visits having finally been organized, I realized that in the heat of the summer, eating on the fly and picnicking, the old reliable travel togs were completely unsuitable. I have done what any red-blooded American girl would do: I have shopped. And I have returned.


probably this long skirt, but shortened to what used to be called midi length, except since midi now seems to mean "probably not a mini," I'll use one of the names that were in use before midi: ballet length or tea length.

this tank, which goes nicely with most of what will no doubt make the final suitcase cut.
this skirt - probably a keeper if it ever arrives, thank you, UPS Mail Innovations. Another pet peeve, why pay UPS to haul merch to the post office and mail it? Anyway, I caught a nice promotion and the print appealed. Plus, my brown silk tank with black piping is a sure thing here. I must have been having visions when I grabbed it last year.

these linen pants, in navy and in beige.

this cardigan, to award off over-enthusiastic airconditioning, and oh, look, does anyone remember this tee?

I thought a white jacket would go with most things, and my white jean jacket is getting a little tired. I tried a couple of linen blazers, but they seemed too dressy. This single-breasted cotton jacket - on sale at ralphlauren.com, on more of a sale at bloomingdales.com, with pockets works for me, and isn't something I'll want to toss at the end of the trip.

these sneakers:
discussion not required, they even look comfortable.

these pants, worn with navy silk tee or navy tank. They weigh nothing, nothing, I tell you, so ordinarily I wouldn't consider them for wearing at home or Out East, but for hot, hot days in a large crowded city, they'll work. And I got a great price. Navy tank, navy silk tee. Chie Mihara sandals that tone in with the coral design on the pants, how did that happen? I've had those shoes for 4 years.

Going - or gone - back:
       these skirts:

the green/blue floral is a great print, I love the length and the fullness, but sadly the material is so stiff that instead of draping forgivingly over my rear view, it juts right out and stays out. I tried on the poplin pleated skirt in navy, and the pleats behaved badly.

this purse:I wanted the small, and stalked it, and honestly I never thought I'd say this, but it has no capacity whatsoever. This is a disappointment, because the large version is large enough to hold whatever Himself doesn't feel like carrying, and I prefer to avoid the issue ...
this dress from the Gap - it's rayon, it has no straps, it creates lumps and bumps where I know I don't have any - I can't believe it's the dress I ordered, but life is too short to argue, it's going back.

this sweater, which was described as a drapey cashmere boatneck sweater. I didn't realize that the "drapey" part was most of the sweater, in fact every area but the neckline. I would have used the word "floppy" or "suitable for the female relatives of SpongeBob" because it's square. People might have been better informed.
I thought this silk tee would be nice, but it too suffers from squareness. It went back. However, I should note that it looks very pink on the web, but is a deep rich red in real life. At least the one that briefly visited me was.

An enthusiastic (fanatic?) statistician has tabulated and analyzed retail price patterns, and has computed how many days of the month J.Crew has a reduction, promotion, additional % off, and so on. I'm considering inviting that statistician to my Inbox which daily offers me great buys and once-in-a-lifetime reductions on everything from arch supports to hats to electronics, media, and clothing at all price ranges. I wonder if this can mean that consumers, on a large scale, are rejecting merchandise with inflated prices. If so, I can only say ¡Viva la revolución!

If I feel ambitious I'll discuss the study in greater detail in a future post. Essentially the study concludes that even if you don't want to be a "sale shopper," there are fewer and fewer days in the month when that's possible.

Someone please teach these people a little English. Just a little...

I can forgive sentence fragments if used to hint that the rest of the sentence is unprintable or that the logical conclusion of the thought is unspeakable. My pet peeve - well, the list of my pet peeves is long enough to be a peeve menagerie. Today I'm irked by the misuse of a common English expression. I copied this right out of my Inbox, which is why it's a little blurry. I meant to apologize, but, on second thought, blurry strikes me as appropriate.

Oh, dear. To beg the question does NOT mean to raise the question.

A few brave souls maintain a Web site dedicated to stamping out this abuse of the term. I direct your attention to www.begthequestion.info.

Here, taken from begthequestion.info, is a definition of the term:
"Begging the question" is a form of logical fallacy in which a statement or claim is assumed to be true without evidence other than the statement or claim itself. When one begs the question, the initial assumption of a statement is treated as already proven without any logic to show why the statement is true in the first place.
The site also tells us what "begging the question" doesn't mean, which for most of us ordinary mortals is probably a bit more helpful than the above definition. Examples are provided.

Finally, the site provides cards that explain the correct meaning, which you may print out and hand to strangers if you hear them misusing the expression. These people are serious!

If passing out cards to strangers doesn't appeal, you may buy the t-shirt.

Oh, if only we had a mailing address for the Copywriter from Space!

Madewell discovers cognitive dissonance as a sales technique

                                                  Well, it sure looks like something does.


Director: Look defiant but hopeful.

Wag the Dog, anyone?

Olé! cried the Copywriter from Space. And Ole! she cried again.

I've known for too long that gravity is not my friend.

(long sad sigh)
Imagine my chagrin when I detected the return of ruffles. And of overly vivid, implausible copy.

Spoiler alert: please don't be offended if you find a ruffled chest or a skirt composed of descending tiers of gathered fabric becoming to your smooth slender figure that I wish I had - just bear in mind that sooner or later the force of gravity will catch up with you. As it has with me.

So, shamelessly copied from a would-be trend-setting website, we may observe - oh, by the way, we have a dress cloned from a blouse (or a blouse cloned from a dress, whatever), and the Copywriter from Space has economically used the same copy for both - overgrown ruffles and overstated enthusiasm.

And this:

Do we indeed.

adieu, not au revoir - random reminiscences on the 70th anniversary of a day that changed the world

Several old friends of the family belong to the greatest generation, they're still with us, frail, weary, proud. Early in my working days, my boss had actually been one of those who went ashore on D-Day. Immature and curious, I tried to reconcile this quiet man, his stooped shoulders, his little twitch, the tiniest hint of a limp, with the gallant boys of the documentaries. "We were all very ordinary," he said. Well, that's the point, no? Ordinary people becoming extraordinary...

It's been said that the Parisian craze for thinness derives from the influence of Coco Chanel. Being thin, like being tan from the sun, so the story goes, was for years a mark of poverty. The idle rich, the nobles, the aristos, stayed inside, didn't work, ate well and grew fat. This is nonsense, since rich people kept dogs and horses and had gardens and tennis courts, but Chanel never denied having been the one who was sleek in her scandalously comfortable clothes, which hung perfectly on her slender frame and set off her golden tan as she strolled the boardwalks in Normandy and on the Riviera - the girl everyone wanted to copy.

One of my old (really old) French teachers had a different explanation, which had nothing to do with Chanel (who never lost an ounce during the Occupation). France, she said, has a history of being invaded and occupied, then recovering and moving on. War and occupation meant, among other things, scarcity of food, rationing... and thus respectable law-abiding women - patriots! - were thin. Only if there was an enemy "friend" or a black-marketeer on the scene, would a young women appear plump and blooming. After many wars, the idea that a young woman of good character should be thin just stuck.

As I wrestle to reconcile my waist with buttons and zippers, I wonder if this is so. And the wondering made me think back to Mademoiselle herself, her large hands that never made the chalk squeak, her skirts that never hung evenly, her knurly sweaters, and her passion for France and all things French.

Mademoiselle taught French for years. People's parents had been in her classes. Her tenure seemed like an eternity to us, probably seemed like centuries to her and like aeons to her sworn enemy, the principal, whom she considered a Yahoo (that we even knew this!). Her dreams for us were modest, influenced by the years she had spent studying and writing in a France that was very different from the one I came to know years after our paths crossed in her classroom. She didn't want us to save the world, because she'd been there and she didn't want to believe that the world might need saving again.

Rather, she wanted all of her students to find joy in thinking and reading and speaking in a language other than English. Doing so, she said, would stretch our minds as well as our embouchures. She led us on unauthorized "field trips" - someone's mother was dragooned into driving us to meet an old friend of Mademoiselle's who had married a diplomat now stationed in New York. We were to listen to the latest French popular music, thumb through French magazines, have a lovely dessert, and under Mademoiselle's supervision, while she and our hostess chatted away in French for our benefit, we were to help unpack, wash, dry and put away an enormous quantity of china and pottery. This would increase our vocabularies. "Limoges," we said. "Quimper, Moustiers, Gien. Haviland." It seemed that everywhere these people had been assigned in France, they must have bought plates, bowls and cups. And serving pieces and cream pitchers.

I knew my parents would be furious if they learned I'd gone out and washed dishes for a stranger - I could barely be made to do it at home. So when asked what we had done all day, I truthfully said "They've worked in a lot of different towns in France, and they showed us a lot of their souvenirs. Souvenir means to remember with thought."

The Cloisters, the Met, movies with subtitles in little theaters that served coffee in tiny cups, and a few restaurants where elderly waiters or waitresses knew her and elderly owners knew that it was good business to give us a warm welcome that we'd remember down the years...

Rumors circulated about her adventures, the possibility that she had done secret work for the government, well, for a government, that she'd had a fiancé who didn't come back from the war, which war, look how old she is, it could be any war, anywhere - nothing stopped her. She mentioned that when her father gave her older brother the sword and pistols an ancestor had carried in the Civil War, she cried so much the poor man went out and bought her her first gun (her first? were there others?)

School may not have been in session on July 14, but she saw to it that her classes paraded, chanting, through the halls on other French holidays. May, which has three, was particularly trying for self-conscious adolescents.

She was no Miss Brodie, let me be clear: she wasn't vain, she wasn't self-involved, she wasn't manipulative. She was tough, generous of spirit, intolerant of laziness and its ugly twin, conformity. "I hope that at least some of you have put aside some money from your holiday bounty. I will accompany a small group to the Museum of Modern Art and then to a restaurant for a civilized lunch on Saturday. I will be at the station at 9 Saturday morning." Inevitably, by Saturday, those who might have signed up but couldn't find the money would have won a prize for memorizing the most verbs ending in ir, or for listing the most words relating to weather... and would be at the station, holding prepaid tickets.

And ultimately, finally, she retired. The principal claimed to be shocked when it turned out she was at least fifteen years older than she'd claimed to be. A small group of us gathered, not for a reunion, but to help her clear out her classroom. We unpinned posters, unhooked framed maps, rolled up pictures and phonetic charts. She stopped to read a poem aloud, we finished it with her.

Adieu la peine et le plaisir. Adieu les roses
Adieu la vie. Adieu la lumière et le vent
Marie-toi, sois heureuse et pense à moi souvent
Toi qui vas demeurer dans la beauté des choses
Quand tout sera fini plus tard en Erevan.

A replica of the white silk banner of Joan of Arc still hung in the place of honor, to the right of the Tricolore of France. We thought it would be difficult to get the banner down, but all those years it had been fixed so that only one strategic pull would loosen it and it fell into her waiting arms. We stood, waiting for her to underline the lesson, but this time she only smiled. We were on our own.

I learned later that she had returned to her home state, a place of country music, small farms and sorrowful graveyards, and of all things, took a teaching job at a local military school. I told this to my mother, who was delighted and said to Grandma, "See? that woman is even older than you are and she doesn't sit around complaining, she went out and got herself a paying job."

Older than Grandma? was that even possible? Who could be older than Grandma?

I sent her Christmas cards, and ultimately, birth announcements, at the military academy. She sent Christmas cards in return, "hand drawn" by an artist I'd never heard of but locally considered a Fine Example For Young People. She called me after the first birth announcement, and told me that young people had less trouble learning the phonetics of foreign languages if they had become familiar with the sounds of foreign languages before they could speak or walk. "Bonjour, bébé," I murmured over the crib. "Tout va bien? C'est du gaz, ça?" I pictured my infant crawling through brush, radio wire clenched in her little gums, by her tiny example bringing hope to villagers...

I asked Mademoiselle what subject she was teaching, and she said: "French, of course, and strategic planning."

My first computer search was for her, and yes, she was way, way older than Grandma.

When she left the academy, I couldn't get a forwarding address, the academy was wrestling with the idea of co-education and noone was giving out any information about anything. Years later, on the way south, I insisted we get off the highway and find the little town and its military academy. I wanted to be sure that there was  a military academy, Mademoiselle having by then become a legendary creature.

There was. There was also a cemetery, where her remaining family had buried her. I was aghast - even the 9th graders knew that she wanted to be cremated and have her ashes scattered from a cliff in Normandy. Adieu la lumière et le vent...

Of course I wasn't a teacher's pet nor even a perfect student. The reason I can recite so much French poetry is because if you talked or ate or daydreamed in her class, you Got A Poem to memorize. If you caused real trouble, you got pages of proverbs and lists of historical dates and facts. That stuff sticks, trust me. She would never send anyone to the principal's office, to her that was the equivalent of informing. But I excelled in learning to love France and my embouchure has been widely praised.

History is written by the winners, they say. A spinster schoolteacher of ordinary appearance, who drilled selfish kids in phonetics as if their lives depended on it, may have been one of those ordinary winners. Or not.

An old attorney, a cherished friend, long retired, today lies in a hospital bed, waiting for the oldest enemy of all. He's not expected to come home. He's familiar with that, he's defied it before. He learned how to defy death in France, seventy years ago today.