Travels With Gloria

Finding beauty mile by mile.

Month: October, 2012

Halloween Costumes For Global Culture Junkies

Halloween costumes for sale in the 1920 Sears Catalog. Ouch. Image via the excellent Man In The Grey Flannel Suit.

When I was a kid, it was completely normal to dress as a cultural stereotype for Halloween. Suburban streets thronged with black-wigged Geishas and be-turbaned Sultans. Uncle so and so brought back a sombrero from that weekend jaunt to Tijuana? Go as Juan Valdez! (Never mind the fact that Colombia isn’t Mexico.)

Obviously this sort of thing is no longer OK, even if well-intentioned. You can’t go as a nebulously iconic something from the foreign culture of your choice.

But you can still use your interest in travel and culture to inspire a perfectly appropriate costume idea. Here are some ideas.

Mexico: Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Malu Block photographed by Carl Van Vechten. Image via Wikimedia.

Wear a red shawl, chunky jewelry, and a long skirt. Put red roses in your long dark hair (which should be worn in crown braids or some kind of chignon). Draw in a unibrow with eyeliner, assuming you can’t achieve one by skipping tweezers for a couple of days. Check out Take Back Halloween for a full costume guide.

China and/or Korea: Ai Weiwei as PSY

Ai Weiwei and associate dance a la PSY. Image via Designboom.

Are all your friends sharing this viral video of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s take on Gangnam Style?


All you need is a pink shirt, black blazer, sunglasses, and a ZZ Top beard to get his look.

Screenshot from “Gangnam Style” via Idolator.

If your friends aren’t as tuned in to the art world, you could also just dress as PSY himself. You know, if you happened to have a powder blue tuxedo and a can of pomade lying around the house.

Russia: Pussy Riot

Seven members of Pussy Riot, photographed by Igor Mukhin. Image via Wikimedia.

Maybe you’re looking for a super easy last minute group costume. If you can’t find colorful ski masks (check Goodwill or an Army Surplus store), cut holes in watch caps from American Apparel. Hat tip to Bust’s guide to feminist Halloween costumes for the idea.

Norway: The Scream

The Scream, by Edvard Munch. Image via Wikimedia.

In too much of a hurry to cut holes in a hat? Throw on a bald cap and the flowing blue garment of your choice. Art Info suggests a Snuggie, but anything long, blue, and tinged with existential despair will do. (By the way, one of several versions of Munch’s masterpiece is currently on view at MoMA.)

Egypt: Hatshepsut

Fragment of a sculpture of Egyptian pharoh Hatshepsut, in the collection of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Image via Wikimedia.

Cleopatra is so over. Inject new life into the classic Egyptian costume by going as female pharoh Hatshepsut. You’ll need a white robe, miscellaneous Egpytian-esque accessories, and that Pharaonic headdress costume stores sell to people going as King Tut. Get the full inventory at Take Back Halloween.

And a bonus idea, assuming you’re not going to the same Halloween parties I am:

New York: Joey Ramone

A quick iPhone selfie of my early morning Joey Ramone test drive. I’ll be wearing a different shirt on the day, and these sunglasses aren’t exactly right.

I plan to achieve the look with a classic white tee, ripped jeans, Converse Chuck Taylors (photos show that Joey favored beat up plimsolls, but I couldn’t find any, so I’m taking poetic license), a motorcycle jacket, and dark shades. It also helps to have long dark hair with heavy bangs, but you could probably multitask the iconic Cleopatra wig found in any Halloween pop-up shop. If you’ve got the whole kit except for the moto jacket, throw on a black blazer and call yourself Patti Smith.

Happy Halloween!

Midcentury Modern: Pleasing All Of The People All Of The Time

Are these people experiencing an objectively higher-quality life? Vintage image from X-Ray Delta One, via Flickr.

Why do we love Midcentury design?

Is it because there’s some kind of absolute standard of Quality, which MCM furniture objectively meets? Is it because it’s trendy?

The Wirecutter’s Allison Gibson asks these questions and decides that midcentury furniture is inherently good design.

I’m not sure I agree with Allison.

Anyone trying to convince you that Midcentury design is objectively better is selling you something. It’s worth remembering that.

Don’t get me wrong. I love almost anything that evokes the early 60’s. I’m wearing a pair of Laura Petrie style cigarette pants right now. My resume is laid out in Futura. And, yes, I have a total hard on for Danish teak credenzas and Eames chairs. They’re gorgeous. Duh.

But that’s the thing. I like them in an individual way, because of my personal taste. I like Midcentury design the same way I love Bob Dylan and think tattoos are rad as fuck. These things are matters of opinion. Sure, MCM is a little more timeless than, say, Gangnam Style, but that doesn’t mean it’s objectively good.

I know for a fact that there are people who don’t like Midcentury Modern furniture. This blog’s namesake, my grandmother, is one of them. I’m sure she has no problem with it (we’ve never discussed it in detail), but when she and my grandfather built their house in the 60’s, the furniture they bought was NOT modern at all. They passed their traditional taste down to my parents. Our dining room table was lacquered cherry with curved legs that hinted at a vaguely Hepplewhite-ish Chippendaley influence. Our kitchen chairs were a copy of a style commonly seen in Living History museums. Dressers had brass pulls dripping with rococo detail. There wasn’t a stitch of bent plywood in any house I spent time in as a child.

Growing up, the taste I inherited from family told me that modernist furniture was ugly. When I saw Eames designs in antique shops when I first moved to New York, my first thought was, “People pay money for that?” I’d always liked it a little, in a rebellious way. But it didn’t seem to be of Objective Quality, to me.

In 1987, every bank in my hometown looked like this. It was hideous and dated. Image via X-Ray Delta One, via Flickr.

Which brings me to my theory on why people like MCM furniture so much. For a lot of people of my generation, it’s what they grew up with. Midcentury to them says home, family, and oddly enough, tradition. For people of a slightly older generation, it still looks toward an optimistic future, like a little piece of Tomorrowland you can sit on to watch TV. Midcentury furniture is both nostalgic and forward-looking. It has something for everyone. It’s iconic and unique, timeless and contemporary.

Then again, maybe The Wirecutter is right. Maybe good design means something that can be all things to all people. Maybe form follows function not just physically but emotionally.

Either way, you bet your ass I’m getting a bunch of fabulous modern furniture for my new apartment. Family tradition be damned. Stay tuned for the epic flea market posts!

Ay Arriba, Arriba

Musicians, Boyle Heights. Image via East Of West LA, via Flickr.

So I might as well tell you guys.

It looks like I’m probably going to be living in East L.A. Yes, that East L.A.

It’s a little bit freaky moving to a new city, telling people where you’re going to live, and hearing them immediately make gang jokes. Especially since I really don’t know Los Angeles. Maybe they’re right. Maybe it’s really dangerous.

When I moved to New York, I lived in Washington Heights. The Heights is nice now, but back in 2000 it was way off the radar in terms of places nice white girls should live in New York City.

The neighborhood was fine. I was fine. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have the same relationship with New York City if I had moved directly to Williamsburg, Park Slope, or Murray Hill.

So I’ve been doing my homework on East L.A. And so far, I like what I see.

There’s a feminist bike collective called the Ovarian Psychos! I won’t have a bike when I first get to town, but I’ll be sure to pick one up right away so I can ride with the Psychos.

There’s a place called Mariachi Plaza which is exactly what it says on the tin: it’s literally where all the mariachi bands hang out and jam.

It’s possible that my new neighborhood is the epicenter of Mexican food in the US.

Also, there’s these guys:

Searching terms that might lead to images of places

Watts, Los Angeles. From Doug Rickard’s A New American Picture. Image via Cool Hunting.

I think I found an apartment in L. A. Because this apartment is across the country in a city I’ve spent approximately one week in, ever, there is a lot of speculation happening. It’s in a neighborhood I’ve never been to. A neighborhood that is on the bleeding edge of the Angeleno version of gentrification, maybe safe and wonderful and full of colorful local culture, or maybe a godforsaken blighted hellhole.

I’m spending a lot of time looking at the building, the block, and the neighborhood on Google Street View. Does it look OK? Does it look terrible? Does it look like someplace I could live? Street View is like a magic eight ball in photographic form. It all feels a little like a nineteenth century immigrant contemplating the photo of his picture bride.

I’m not the only one who gazes deeply into the magic looking glass of Street View. There have been piles of online features highlighting the beautiful and surprising American landscapes compiled at random by Google. Most interestingly, photographer Doug Rickard used the images in his series A New American Picture. These are images of American desolation, places we sweep under the rug, revealed by the all-seeing internet eye.

Hopefully none of them are pictures of my new apartment.

An exhibition of these photographs will be on view at Yossi Milo Gallery in New York from October 18 through November 24, 2012. There’s an opening reception and book signing (yes, you can also buy the book) this Thursday, October 18. You should go!

Chicago. Doug Rickard, from A New American Picture. Image via Cool Hunting.

Detroit. Doug Rickard, from A New American Picture. Image via Yossi Milo Gallery.

Where I will be from?

Beaded Skull, made by the Huichol people of Western Mexico for Late Night Chameleon Cafe. Via TwistedSifter.

I’m back.

And I’m leaving.

I move to Los Angeles in three weeks. This is scary, and exciting, and very new. The move itself has been in the works for the last two years, as I’ve become less excited about living in New York and more excited about screenwriting and moving on to new horizons.

Stay tuned here as I talk about the last days of my New York life, the first days of my California life, Los Angeles art and culture, and furnishing my very first apartment!

(Want more beaded skulls? Check out the Late Night Chameleon Cafe! They are for sale, apparently.)

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