Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In Defense of Playboy

Because Dave and I are in a key demographic for certain publishers, we have been given the opportunity to receive several magazines free of charge. Intermingled with out complimentary subscriptions to Opera News, Women's Day, Allure, Shape and Baseball Digest, we also receive... Playboy.

Not to be snotty, but I feel it's necessary to start off with what I don't like: bad, "take my wife please" jokes; sexist, unfunny cartoons; the back tabloid-ish page where they gleefully post TMZ "oops!" pics of celebrity nipple slips; the girls represented are more or less lily white; and Hef is just creepy.

But is it porn?

The ol' "you know it when you see it" doesn't seem to apply here. The pictorals are artful, tasteful, and romantic, not at all degrading. This month's photo spread celebrates the playmate of the year in retro cheesecake that is playful and beautiful. And you can tell the girls feel beautiful in these pictures.

And that is one thing that is delightful about the overall tone of the magazine, is its love of women. While women of age, color or size are not always depicted, they are represented in advice columns, features, and celebrated for what they bring to mens' lives. By Playboy's standards, the girls may be here for the looking, but for them, there's nothing to compare with the warm body at home.

The advice column is also a plus. Instead of dealing with writer's issues like a snarky frat boy (Maxim), the column tackles issues with grace, dignity and frankness. Articles on grooming, etiquette and style steer readers away from stereotypical boorish womanizing behavior and towards being gentleman.

And the writing is spectacular. A recent short story about a man who marries his next door neighbor was thrilling and chilling. Interviews are conducted with intelligence for both audience and subject. And a recent sex poll was fascinating as well as on par with findings by the same-month issue published by Glamour magazine. It is one magazine I read cover to cover.

But the one thing that was both touching and surprising was a tiny bit on a Playmate from 1978 who had recently passed from breast cancer. This tiny obit mentioned her love of dance and if you saw a a star twinkling, it was probably her dancing. It was a lovely gesture and a touch of grace.

To judge a mag by its cover is to do Playboy injustice. If you can look beyond the sleazy duck cartoon, you will see something quite elegant.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why Art Matters - random acts of brilliance

For the last few months, I've celebrated art that is timeless, celebrated, studied.

Today is about the rest.

This is about one-note art. What do I mean by that? Art that was meant to be purely commerical, utilitarian, enjoyed then discarded. Some of it so bad, that it is celebrated for the attempt. Some of it is also genuinely inspired, and has found a fan in me.

The first example I have is above, an artists' punk impression of the heir to the British throne and his bride. Of all the kitschy mementoes created to commemorate the wedding of the year, this one by far was the most creative and humorous.

Matchbooks haven been collected since they were first produced, and it's easy to see why. So much information about an establishment can be crammed onto such a tiny space. In the biz, it's called the USP (unique selling point), and they did it so well in the 40s and 50s. This one is from lileks.com. What more do you need to know about a pool hall other than the fact you will like their beer?

While not a forgotten artist in the mists of commecrical art, John Held Jr. is still a name reserved only for enthusiasts of his work. I discovered him as a teenager when I was fascinated with the 20s and purchased an old copy of a Vogue cover he designed. He was a cartoonist that depicted the Roaring 20s youth culture with his lollipop figures in rain slickers, raccoon coats, satin ribboned heels, and cloche hats. There is a sense of sweetness and humor in his characters and a vividness one can appreciate nearly 100 years later.

I love the blog Cake Wrecks. It is the compete and utter opposite of all that confection mastery celebrated on Food Network. Preserved for all time on the internet are those sugary mistakes in judgement for our pleasure. The genius is in the humor and truth of these messes. I worked in an office that celebrated so often, I gained 10 pounds consuming cakes for various reasons. Had the business stayed in business, there is no doubt we would have eventually gotten a cake for any reason, like above.

The point is, artists are all around us, creating for one reason or another. The joy is in discovering it and celebrating that little explosion.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Gearing Up for the Big Event and What Comes Next

Training for the 5/3 River Bank Run has been a constant since November, when I was initially challenged to do the 5k. I'm not sure what I've learned about myself in the last 6 1/2 months as I prepared for the run.

The negatives: I still don't like running; my times didn't improve that much; preparing for this forced me to judge myself in a way that brought back negative self-esteem issues from my teen years; I didn't drop any weight; and I think I may have driven everyone crazy talking about it as I think I have worked like a dog to psych myself up for this event.

The positives? I went from huffing through a half-mile to huffing through the 3.1. I'm accomplishing something I never would have thought possible at 14, let alone 41. I'm bold enough to try a new sport, even having to grapple with the timid, self-esteem issues that tend to freeze me in my tracks. I did it alone, self-motivated, with only the training guide to assist me and the occasional email from an old school friend.

So what's on board for May 15?

I'm going to see how I feel about running after this. Figure skating coach Michelle wants me to continue, citing amazing skating results. And I like having another sport to fall back on. But I dropped my swim in favor of treadmill work, and I miss the water, esp. with summer coming.

But there's more than just athletic endeavors to consider. Fast approaching is the deadlines to apply to participate in ArtPrize and connect with an exhibitor. None of my three prospects from last year are participating, so I have to start new.

And what to make? I have several ideas sketched out, but I also have the paintings that are currently on exhibit at the Leep Gallery that can be used.

These are pleasant conundrums to have, and in addition to watching the boy grow, makes for an interesting summer.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

May Playlist - Rush!

Rush and the Runaways, 1976 - so many levels of awesome.

My affection for the band is based, quite honestly, in a love affair. Fate threw Dave at me several times before the two of us woke up to the realization that we would one day make a beautiful baby together.

The date was 1991, when he and I moved in next door to each other in college. He and his roommate came over under the guise of using our phone to hook their phone up, and he just never left. Drinking beer and reviewing my music collection, I believe it was noted that there was no Rush in my playlist. When quizzed, I vaguely recalled the MTV Saturday night concerts, Tom Sawyer, and spooky green lasers.

While my enthusiasm for the band is a pales in comparison to Dave's obsessive fanaticism, that doesn't mean I can conjure up a tasty playlist in honor of a long-time crush on guitarist Alex Lifeson.

In no particular order:

BU2B - "new" release from 2010's, Time Machine tour. Heavy, melodic, thought-provoking.

Caravan - one of the few songs released last year (along with Stone Temple Pilots' "Read Between the Lines") that proves rock ain't dead.

Driven - a charging, crazy futuristic tune from Test for Echo.

Freewill - radio-friendly to the point of overplayed, but with a distinct message about thinking for yourself.

New World Man - "a rebel and a runner, he's a signal turning green."

One Little Victory - My favorite Rush tune, with fantastic licks and great lyrics. One of the best live tunes ever. It is the base of my playlist for next week's River Bank Run. "Celebrate the moment as it turns into one more, another chance at victory, another chance to score."

Spirit of the Radio - a song about the joy of music.

Tom Sawyer - so fuzzy and buzzy at the beginning, then it just blisters.

YYZ - skated to it at my first-ever Adult Nationals as a way to have Dave with me as I competed on the ice. I remember someone yelling "yeah!" when the music started.

2112 - to complete the circle, I am planning on skating my gold freeskate test to this song. The premise behind the song is a little too sci-fi for me, but the music rocks.